Who Should You Like, Follow and Connect With?

by Sherryl Perry on January 12, 2011

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Some business relationships naturally tend to be more beneficial than others. For example, if you are targeting businesses that cater to the wedding market, it makes sense to develop relationships with people who work in businesses such as event planners, florists and caterers. If you’re a mortgage lender, good contacts for you include realtors and an insurance salesperson. By building business relationships with people who share the same niche target customer that you do, you are forming what is commonly referred to as a contact sphere. Contact spheres are generally formed by people who are in compatible but non-competitive professions. As you get to know each other and develop trust, you can refer business to each other and help each other to be successful.

Social Networking – Both Traditional & Online Websites Work

In the brick and mortar world, we network face-to-face in organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and within networking groups like BNI (Business Network International). Within these formal groups, we are taught to form contact spheres. We meet each other in person and exchange information and build trust in one another.

In this virtual world that we now compete in, we can be marketing our products and services internationally. Contact spheres are as important as ever. By meeting like-minded business people to support and collaborate with, entrepreneurs and small business owners can expand their reach. More than ever we need to find and build our support system.

Personally, I feel it’s less important these days to find like-minded people in non-competitive businesses. I believe that I can learn from other people who are offering the same services and products that I do. I definitely need to differentiate myself and convince potential clients that I have the best solution but I certainly can benefit from learning from other people in my field. I benefit from having relationships with other like-minded people who I can brainstorm and collaborate with. Each of us has our own specialties and by collaborating, we can help each other be successful.

Building Your Contact Sphere/Circle of Friends

So, in this virtual world where it’s not as easy to always meet face-to-face, how do we build contact spheres (or circle of friends as many bloggers refer to them)? If you’ve read my last two articles on Twitter and taken my poll about whether Twitter is a distraction or a referral source, you’ll see that there’s a healthy discussion going on as to which social networks work and you’ll see that many of us do not use the same social networks nor do we use them in the same way. Some of us have carefully planned strategies for social networking. Others suddenly found themselves tweeting almost as if by accident.

To meet other business people who have working relationships with your potential clients, start by identifying the types of businesses that your potential clients work with. What other needs does your target market have? Who meets these needs? Where can you find them? Commenting on blogs, participating in forums, and identifying the social networking sites that your potential customers are on is one place to start. Look for influential people who you can develop meaningful relationships with.

One of my favorite online resources is Social Media Examiner. I follow them, tweet and like them on Facebook. If you’re interested in learning more a developing a social networking strategy, I recommend reading “7 Steps For a Successful Social Media Strategy”.

As always, I’m interested in hearing your strategies too. What’s working for you? Do you have a circle of friends who you can turn to? Who do you highly recommend as a resource?

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Ana September 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I still have hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of having Facebook as tools for business. I guess it’s just the force of habit to use Twitter and LinkedIn for those purposes.

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Sherryl Perry September 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Hi Ana,
I am much more active on both Twitter and LinkedIn too. Although, I have been trying to build more of a presence on Facebook …. and then there’s Google+. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with that.

One thing that I have discovered lately is smaller groups of bloggers forming on Facebook. I’m not talking about the groups that are open (and you can find yourself a member because someone decided for you that you should be in it). Recently, I’ve received a few invitations to join small groups that are managed with clear expectations. I can see some real potential in joining them.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Should CommentLuv Premium be Part of Your Social Media Strategy?My Profile

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Ana September 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Perhaps you should check your privacy or account settings on Facebook, because it believe that you can stop people from adding you to those groups without your approval. I remember seeing that option, but I’ll check again and get back to you.

Facebook keeps changing things so fast that it rearranges everything every time I learn where the stuff is!

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Christian February 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

It seems I tend to connect with people who share my same interests, make me laugh, or might benefit me in any other way with a mutual relationship. There are SO many blogs and SO many people. Those I tend to like, I follow & the reciprocal is true.

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Sherryl Perry February 3, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hi Christian,

I just dropped by your blog and left a comment for you. You have a very nice style of writing. I agree with you that blogging is a wonderful way to connect with people and develop mutually beneficial relationships. To me, blogging is about building community.

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Joe January 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

There are so many SEO consultants who try to add me to their social network and I clearly state that I own a SEO firm. They do it just to get as many people in their network as possible to look good for Google or they use bots that search for “seo” or “internet marketing” and try to invite anyone who comes up. Bots almost always invite a large amount of competitors to your network.

These are some of the most counterproductive strategies I have ever seen. I would rather spend extra time creating a network of business owners and consultants who do not offer the same services I do.

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Sherryl Perry January 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Joe, There are a lot of counterproductive strategies out there and lots of people don’t have any sort of social networking strategy at all. I bet those SEO consultants are hoping that you’re one of those people who are looking for numbers and will follow back anyone who follows them.

What’s your take on people with thousands of followers and zero tweets? That one always makes me want to scratch my head and say “huh?”. Then, I silently thank them for following me and forget about them. :)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Does CommentLuv Leak Link Juice – Guest Post by Randy PickardMy Profile

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Valea January 20, 2011 at 4:19 am

I like your post as you clearly described the most useful social networking strategies. I agree with you about being friend with your competitors and stay in touch with them.

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Matthew January 20, 2011 at 12:44 am

Collaboration with people who are part of your business niche proves to be very beneficial. It makes certain jobs easier since you can contact them any time you need a hand at a task. I also have to agree that befriending your competitor can be helpful in a way that you can learn things from them which will help you strengthen your strategies and become one step ahead of them. As they say, keep your friends close and you enemies closer.

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Sherryl Perry January 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Thanks for joining the conversation Matthew! It’s great to hear that so many readers agree that befriending your competitors can be good for business.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Does CommentLuv Leak Link Juice – Guest Post by Randy PickardMy Profile

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Libby Fisher January 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Hi Sheryl,

I enjoyed reading this article for two reasons: 1) you make some excellent points, and 2) I wrote a post week or so ago that also talks about social networking strategies – Social Networking: Do you know who your friends are? – so we must be on a similar wavelength. :) I agree with you that social networking should be for a purpose and with an actual strategy in mind, as opposed to just “letting it happen.”

I also think you made an excellent point about networking with your “competitors,” although the value in that may depend somewhat on your field of business. For me, as a web designer and blogger, I really benefit from connecting with fellow designers/developers/bloggers. I have found that it’s a great way to learn new things, build friendships in the business, and get references.

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Sherryl Perry January 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Hi Libby,
I’ll have to drop by your post and read your take on it. :) Seems that you have a similar attitude on connecting and sharing. Networking with other web designers makes a lot of sense. A client that may not be a good fit for you may be a perfect fit for another designer and vice versa.

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Rob Berman January 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Blogging buddies is a term I have seen on blogs lately. It is a great idea that a number of us have utilized. I posted my article about Starbucks logo to a group on LinkedIn. I got an e-mail from the CEO of a multinational company who wanted to discuss logos. We talked this afternoon. I gave him some ideas which he liked. He is going out of the country. We will talk in a week. I am hoping it turns into a consulting arrangement.

Rob
Rob Berman recently posted..SWOT Analysis In ActionMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 20, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Good luck Rob! I hope it works out for you. I’ve had similar experiences with LinkedIn. Simply by answering questions, I’ve been approached by a few people to help them move blogs or add a blog to an existing site. LinkedIn is quickly becoming one of the best places to connect with professional. I’m glad to see so many people mentioning it here in the comment section.

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Catarina Alexon
Twitter:
January 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Agree with you completely that it’s a good idea to be friends with your competitors in a mutually beneficial way. Even if they are enemies it pays off to have a relationship with them, as Potemkin was in favour of.

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Sherryl Perry January 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Catarina, I always learn something new when I read your blog. Today, I learned something new by reading your comment. I had to Google on Potemkin. I had no idea what you were talking about. :) Thanks for always making me think!
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Kate F. Eaton January 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Nicely succinct overview of why we’re out there connecting with each other. I’m finding that being generous with information and mentioning other businesses I’ve found to be reputable not only helps my potential customers, doing so also strengthens my connection with both competitors and peripheral businesses.

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Sherryl Perry January 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Strengthening connections . . . that’s a great way to sum it up Kate. Thanks for dropping by!
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “Synergy of Business and Blogging” – a Collaborative Effort of 31 BloggersMy Profile

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Wes Towers
Twitter:
January 18, 2011 at 2:42 am

I completely agree with you about befriending the competition, Sherryl. Our competition will only be so if we are serious about giving them that label. We can opt to call them as colleagues and learn from them. They are invaluable sources of things that we may never discover on our own.

– Wes –
Wes Towers recently posted..The Ultimate Personal Trainers BrochureMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 18, 2011 at 10:40 am

I love your outlook Wes! Colleagues rather than competitors makes for a much more friendly work environment. That’s for sure.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “Synergy of Business and Blogging” – a Collaborative Effort of 31 BloggersMy Profile

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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
January 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I highly recommend Sherryl Perry :) seriously!. I obviously agree with you that networking with others in the same field that we are in is so valuable in sharing resources, ideas, suggestions, etc. Many small business owners are forming partnerships with complimentary product/service providers in an effort to be able to offer their clients and prospective clients a wider range of offerings. Rather than having to tell a potential client that they are unable to fulfill a specific need, they can now refer them to someone in their network. It is a very smart business model and one that I am working towards as well. For instance, if a client or potential client of mine is looking for graphic design, I would refer them to Dennis!
Julie Weishaar recently posted..Facebook Song!My Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 17, 2011 at 11:43 am

Thanks for the recommendation Julie! I recommend you back. :) Whenever I read your posts or talk to you, I’m reminded how much I need to incorporate video into my blog. I would recommend Dennis as a graphic designer too. There are a lot talented people who comment on these blogs. Whenever I can make the time, I follow the posts links and I’ve found some amazing posts. Forming partnerships and collaborating is definitely the way to go.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “Synergy of Business and Blogging” – a Collaborative Effort of 31 BloggersMy Profile

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keyuri joshi
Twitter:
January 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Sherryl, Thank you for yet another quality post. For me, the key words are “carefully planned strategies for social networking”. Many pundits advocate being all over the web as a jack of all trades and master of none. I have learned the hard way that that strategy doesn’t work. Building relationships absolutely does. I’ve been able to do that predominantly through LinkedIN and on forums where there are more direct question and answer arenas. Reading virtual stacks of blogs is so time consuming so I need to pick some favorites. Am rethinking my interactions (which are few) on FB & Twitter. The time factor however is often challenging. Great food for thought!

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Sherryl Perry January 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Keyuri, I believe in the old saying “You can’t be all things to all men.” I agree that LinkedIn is a great place to develop business relationships. You can’t really get to know someone with a 140-character limitation. I look at sites like Twitter and Facebook to be tools. They’re places to connect but sites like LinkedIn and forums definitely foster an environment where you can exchange ideas. I always think of those sites as resources than tools.

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Jeannette Paladino
Twitter:
January 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I have colleagues who offer similar services to mine and we collaborate on pitches. We don’t worry who might get the lion’s share of the business — that will become obvious if and when you get the account. And if someone doesn’t get to be part of the team she can always get a referral fee. I’ve always felt that two heads are better than one, four heads are better than two, etc. I’ve met people to collaborate with on LinkedIn and through my blogging course, and also have trusted “blogging buddies,” as I call them. In fact, one of them is making a special trip to New York between business trips this weekend so we can finally meet in person and I can show him around the Big Apple. Amazing how the Internet has connected us all.

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Sherryl Perry January 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Enjoy showing your “blogging buddy” around the Big Apple Jeannette. That’s a great example of a business relationship that has developed into a friendship. Thanks for mentioning LinkedIn too. It’s an excellent place to connect with professionals. (I believe that’s where we met!)

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Susan Oakes
Twitter:
January 15, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I agree with you Sherryl about connecting with others who offer similar services or products. I wrote a post, last year I think about key reasons why competitors are good for your business. A number of industry or market problems can often be solved when discussed together for example.

I have a few marketing buddies that I turn to for feedback and to chat with and invariably the end result is better than if I did it alone.
Susan Oakes recently posted..Get The Best From Your Marketing Service ProvidersMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Susan, I don’t understand people who are threatened by competition. If you don’t have competition, there’s either not a demand for your product/service or it’s so new that no one quite knows they need/want it yet. Either way, competition is good and we can always learn from each other. Having said that, there’s always going to be some people we’d rather connect with than others. The key is to find them.

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janet
Twitter:
January 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Well said, Sherryl. If we interact with virtual world connections as we do with those we meet face-to-face, I believe we will become more effective communicators. For instance, if I were tweeting this message, I would have already said what I wanted which is: Great post and comments. Thx for sharing. Aloha. Janet

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Sherryl Perry January 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Thanks for dropping by Janet. Well said! :)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “Synergy of Business and Blogging” – a Collaborative Effort of 31 BloggersMy Profile

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Catherine Lockey
Twitter:
January 14, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Twitter has been and continues to be an outstanding resource for me primarily because it has enabled me to connect with renowned experts in my industry. Iron sharpens iron. I LOVE Twitter!
Catherine Lockey recently posted..A Digital Marketing Study Primer for CEOs – Part IMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Excellent reason for using Twitter Catherine. You’re definitely someone who understands the value of a social networking strategy. I just read the post that you linked to about “A Digital Marketing Study Primer . . . ” and I’m looking forward to reading parts 2 and 3! Thanks for dropping by.

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Catherine Lockey
Twitter:
January 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Glad you liked it Sherryl. :)
Catherine Lockey recently posted..A Digital Marketing Study Primer for CEOs – Part IMy Profile

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Kimi January 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

Hi Sheryl,

I have not done much for online networking, as i guess i dont have time for it, i know it is not an excuse lol, but networking online takes so much of my times, as i am a part time blogger and a full mom of two.

Sigh.. I will keep on trying i guess, thanks

Kimi.

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Sherryl Perry January 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Being here and commenting is networking online Kimi! Plus, you have a Gravatar. As a part time blogger and full time mom, I think you’re doing fine. :)

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Kimi January 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Sheryl,

Agree 300%! yes, commenting is also networking online, though i did not thinks about it lol.. only social media on the head..

Thanks for your kindness!

Kimi.

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Patricia@lavenderuses January 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Hi Sherryl

I like how Rick puts it. A biz card in one hand and a mouse in the other lol That’s me now…yikes is that good?!

So new to marketing so on this steep learning curve. I still do lots of offline promotion as I have products to sell that are not digital. It all takes times and I am still working out how best to utilise the 24 hours in the day I have.

Twitter has been one of my favourite places for interacting and building those relationships. Also getting to know tons of other bloggers, some of whom have lifted my small niche blog to heights I did not think imaginable. They are the best :-)

I did not know when I connected with them that they would turn out to be my blogging buddies and my “unofficial mentors”. Treating all my connections with respect and how I would wish to be treated has given back to me more than I could have asked or hoped for.

Been challenged by a couple of my experienced marketer friends recently. Their work ethic is amazing and they are laser focused. I am now attempting to emulate them in that area.

Patricia Perth Australia

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Sherryl Perry January 14, 2011 at 10:19 am

“Blogging Buddies” – I like that term Patricia! Like you, I’m often amazed by how much some bloggers accomplish. I get so many great ideas online that sometimes, no matter how hard I work, my “to-do” list just keeps growing

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Rick LaPoint January 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Hi Sherryl,

My wife laughs about all my online friends. She’s always afraid I will freeze up with “real” people when go to functions.

With all the hype about Social Media being the Big Thing, it still comes down to interacting one-on-one and one-by-one.

A zillion twitter followers means pretty much nothing; to make it work you still have to “work the room” individually. Building the personal relationships with lots of commenting back and forth, private messages back and forth, ect. This takes as much or more and dedication in many ways than the old school. Instead of holding a business card in one hand and a drink in the other, now its a card and a mouse.

It still takes time. And it’s still a numbers game, working thru the stack until you find that one great connection.

Your solid point here is to make sure you spend your energies on the more probable stack.

Excuse my babbling. You always get me thinking out load :-)

Rick

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Sherryl Perry January 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

I don’t call that babbling at all Rick. I agree completely. I always think of networking online as having a “virtual cup of coffee” with someone. After reading Kimberly Castleberry’s comment (on my FB page) that Twitter was a lot like a bar scene, I started thinking that drink could be any beverage. :) (And I’m glad I make you think out loud!)

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Tia January 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Hey Sherryl,

I think you made a great point making connections with people who offer similar services. There is a lot we can learn. I’ve met a lot of people I’ve been able to refer business to because the client wasn’t a right fit for me – perhaps because of time zone or my workload – but was a great fit for them. This in turn builds even more trust.

Doing so also benefits people looking to market their services using a list. It’s easier to do a “joint venture” with someone who knows you and likes you already.
Tia recently posted..The Giffords Shooting Aftermath – Perspectives from TucsonMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Thanks Tia. Networking online is so important. That’s an excellent point about referring a client that’s not a good fit. It’s truly wonderful how we can build trusting relationships online to help each other grow our businesses.

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Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
January 13, 2011 at 5:17 am

I think Diane said it best. When a relationship is lined up nicely, it makes it so easy to be open and candid with the client. Because the relationship is now more of a frienships, you don’t feel weird asking for a lead here and there. I feel that in the last year I’ve established a circle of friends through twitter and linkedin. Facebook is not really a strong tool for me, but I still use it and it comes in handy once in awhile. Twitter really helps me to create some appetizers to the main course which is the blog and then hopefully, them visiting my site and contact page.
Dennis Salvatier recently posted..Inspiration Comes in the Middle of NightMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm

“Appetizers to the main course” – I love it! That’s a great way to describe your use of Twitter.

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redkathy
Twitter:
January 13, 2011 at 1:01 am

Nice post, great connection points. Hubby and I built our business that way. Of course back in the day it was phone calls and faxes but the advice still applies. Relevant connections whether digital or old school can make the difference between success and failure.

As for blogging, I’m just getting started on a new plan for 2011. Haven’t worked on adjusting the social media just yet but it is on the to do list that is for sure! BTW- thanks for the recommendation. I’m on my way there now.

Have a great day!
redkathy recently posted..2011 Top Women Bloggers – Inspired to ImproveMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Great! Good luck with your 2011 plan. Hope to see you back here too.

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Diane
Twitter:
January 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Hi Sherryl
Great post with some very sound ideas. I find that with my existing business and individual customers, it’s great offer them the opportunity to place testimonials onto my website and I’m amazed at how often they come up in my search information. This serves to work both ways.
As an online business with a bricks and mortor product line, I find taking the time to really get to know my customers, their business/work and their personal life (a little) helps tremendously to cement our relationships. Being interested in my customers has proved invaluable and then you feel comfortable asking them for referrals.
Once again a great post, thanks Sherryl

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Sherryl Perry January 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Excellent tip about testimonials Diane. (I really need to add a testimonial page to this site.) I agree with you about cementing relationships by really getting to know and understand your customers. I just got a referral today from a happy customer! It’s a good feeling. Thanks for commenting Diane.

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john May 23, 2011 at 8:20 am

I also noticed that my customers spend more time dealing with my company. It seems like with the help of social media they started to trust me more (and I am reliable, so they are doing the right thing!). I really like the way my customers interact with me. Thanks for the article – I’ll try to make my company even more famous using your tips!

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Sherryl Perry May 23, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Good luck building awareness for your company online John. It really is all about community building and engaging your current and potential customers. Are you active on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook? This month, the amount of traffic that comes from Twitter to this blog increased by 79%. Social media can be difficult to analyze but I do know what I’ve been doing (as far as Twitter goes) and I intend to continue concentrating on those efforts.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Can Bloggers Learn a Lesson From Watching American IdolMy Profile

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