Tag Archives: customer relationships

Why Business Networking is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread


If you’ve been in business for as long as Aidan and myself have individually, you’ll remember the period when a lot of marketing was word-of-mouth through business networking backed up by some element of traditional advertising.

The basic tenet of marketing has not changed but needless to say technology has influenced how we can be smarter about our marketing activity. Attending events that provide an opportunity to network, however, is still an important element of growing your business and, we would argue, still the best thing since sliced bread.

This is indeed good news if you find it easy to build relationships through networking but unfortunately not everybody does. We’ll outline some tips throughout this post to help those with the fear and to refresh those who haven’t.

If business networking is not a problem for you, great, but I think we all know somebody who absolutely hates the thought of attending face-to-face meet-ups. As an alternative, these people might resort to building lots of connections online – Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections etc. and argue that they don’t need to attend offline gatherings.

Unfortunately, this will not help grow their business. The danger is that they might fall into the vanity figures trap. Usually, social media / technology is not the answer to creating meaningful connections unless the relationship is brought offline. In our experience, to rely on online connections is a lost business opportunity as it excludes engaging real people, face-to-face.

Furthermore, if the commonplace belief that people buy from people first, is true then attendance at exhibitions, conferences, expos, networking events etc. is extremely important. Does the thought of this touch a nerve with you and get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? If so – read on.

Develop habits that will conquer your business networking fears

In a previous blog, here, we proposed 11 good networking habits that will grow your relationships. We also suggested in other posts on networking that attitude and being prepared are the two main routes to getting over the fear about meeting people in business networking scenarios.

The personal hurdle to get over is to understand that you’re not attending to ‘sell yourself’ and not all attendees are going to welcome you with open arms. You should not take this as a personal rejection. It might be simply that both parties have nothing to offer each other.

Here’s my personal tip for business networking – just be yourself. People will always be attracted to authenticity, in others and in businesses.

If it is your first foray into the world of business networking, go to one on the recommendation of a friend or colleague. It might be one where everybody is allocated a table to mingle, or one akin to speed-dating i.e. a 30-second window to say something about your business. Whichever one you choose, do a bit of research before the event. Usually, there will be a list of attendees available by the organiser. Go through the list and see who you would like to meet for a chat.

Here are some habits you might want to develop when networking during events:

  • Single out people standing on their own – usually, they are as nervous as you are
  • If approaching two people look for the ‘V’ formation rather than the closed 1:1 set-up
  • If it is a group of three or more people – avoid the closed ‘O’ formation and look for the open ‘U’ formation
  • If you know somebody in the group – don’t steal them away, use them to introduce you to the others
  • Be friendly, add value to the conversation when appropriate and do not lead with your business card
  • Do not start conversations by talking about your work – keep asking questions

The thing is – for aeons now people have always been doing business on a face-to-face basis – we doubt that the glow of a warm computer screen is going to change that.

What about business networking for start-ups?

SMEs, founders or entrepreneurs, being caught up in the day-to-day operations of a business, can sometimes take a while to realise that building relationships is essential to future growth. You might argue that you don’t have the time or, as outlined above, you just don’t like the thought of it. Unfortunately, everyone has to do some form of networking or will have to be very lucky to grow the business.

We have come across examples where, as a means of networking, start-ups offer to do a service for free. If you can afford to do so initially, you will build word-of-mouth for an area of expertise and might even be able to move on to a barter scenario. This would involve offering some of your expertise (say website building) in exchange for expertise you don’t have (say brand design). Another way would be to agree to promote each other online.

In any of the above roles, the one thing that you will find out for yourself, and if not you should be aware of it – is that you are always networking. Whether with family, friends, colleagues etc. you never know who might be looking for what your business offers.

It’s why I always carry business cards in my wallet, even on holidays (Don’t judge …….).

One caveat here, though, there is no point in making a positive connection if you don’t follow up on your first meeting. Deliver what you promised, or at least acknowledge that you enjoyed meeting.

The more you network the more you build connections

Well, to be honest, more networking may increase your chances of making more relevant connections but the time element required to do so must be factored in. If you haven’t got that time as an entrepreneur or business start-up there are a few other ways of business networking that we would suggest trying:

  • Host your own business networking event – in your offices, in a local bar, a client’s premises etc.
  • Get more active in the community – volunteer at a charity, help with a local event,
  • Collaborate with other business owners / entrepreneurs on a project that requires your skills
  • Introduce yourself to new business entrants in your locality
  • Make sure you list your business in online directories
  • Help local media with content creation in your area of expertise
  • Build referral relationships with local influencers (not politicians)

Tips and Timesavers for Business Networking

The natural approach to increased networking is to attend more events and talk to everybody with a view to making new connections. Quite often we forget that we have a lot of existing connections / relationships already.

When is the last time you looked through your connections on LinkedIn, for instance? Did you connect with them recently? Probably not. The danger is that you’ll only touch base with them – when you need a favour / introduction.

The thing is you never know when you’ll need somebody’s help to make an introduction – so keep in touch.

Here are 10 tips / timesavers that might help you to become a better business networker / to polish up on your networking skills:

  1. Think of the bigger picture – networking is part of your business marketing activity
  2. Almost everybody attends an event to meet new people – make it easy for others
  3. Give something first without expecting anything in return
  4. Only offer your business card after a conversation – or wait until asked for one
  5. Be a bit more inventive than asking “what do you do?” Find a common topic first
  6. Listen carefully to determine what their need is
  7. If you can’t be of assistance, introduce them to somebody that can help them
  8. When you do get around to talking business, let them know your target audience
  9. Be able to describe your business in one sentence that explains a value to be gained
  10. If you promise to do something – let them know when you will follow it up and do it


There are a lot of tips in this article so feel free to record them as a reference. If you are to memorise just four things, though, we would suggest: a) be yourself – don’t attend an event with hidden motives, people will see through them, b) before you ask for something – give something, c) only ask for advice in their area of expertise and not for something they would normally charge for and d) avoid the usual pitfalls e.g. politics, religion or personal details.

Building a network can not only help to grow your business but also to improve it. Embrace the opportunity and have fun in the process.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K


16 Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 3 – Using Social Media To Build Customer Relationships


In this post we continue our look at how marketing can help build customer relationships. Part 1 is here.

As a business owner, do you remember the good old days when marketing options only consisted of print advertising, cold-calling and exhibitions? Looking back now, we can see how limited these options were when trying to build customer relationships – not ineffective, just limited.

Then the great marketing saviour arrived on the scene – social media. Of course, we were thrilled with these shiny new tools but were flummoxed wondering how best to use them. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. certainly drove connectivity through the roof and brands wanted in on the act.

Businesses tried to be social (kind of) and started measuring how many ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ that they could amass. However, in the early stages, social media was not providing the sales expected – not because of the tools, but because of how they were being used by brands. Purchasing power had finally moved to the people.

As a result, it is only in recent years, I believe, that brands have started to distinguish between ‘social media’ and business social media. Nowadays, a lot of businesses are including social media in their overall marketing strategies. It appears that it has finally been accepted that social media is not a passing fad but needs to be treated differently, as a marketing activity.

Finally, brands have realised that they will never be a customer’s close friend, but they can be of relevance to them.

What we like about social media for our own business is that it affords us the same opportunities that larger organisations have for brand visibility. It also allows us to listen to what our audiences are talking about as well as trying to engage them, on their terms. Finally, it not only helps to build our visibility online but can help build awareness offline also, due to networking and increased brand recognition.

Yes, the pace of change in social media can be frightening at times. Recently, we have seen a timeline algorithm update from Instagram (similar to that of Facebook and Twitter), Snapchat 2.0 (integrating voice and video calling – without a mobile number), and Facebook is enhancing their video metrics (daily performance metrics).

The bad news is that change is constant but the good news is that the upgrades are usually better for brands to build customer relationships. A good example of social media being good for business and relevant for the customer will be the introduction of the buy button on social media sites.

Four social media marketing techniques for you to consider.

  • Use it to build your brand.

This is a long-term strategy that builds and engages with a specific audience. As mentioned in our last posting on this blog (Part 2), trust, built-up over time, leads to a brand that customers genuinely like to engage with.

  • Use it for sales and conversions.

This technique has a short term focus. It entails using platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn to identify a specific need that an individual / business may have. After connecting with them on social media a request for a meeting is initiated. Care is needed that your activity is not considered spamming and accordingly, must be based on correctly identifying a need that you can satisfy.

  • Use it as part of a multi-channel campaign.

If you are planning a short-term marketing campaign, social media can be used to create extra excitement for a large audience. You can get people’s attention with polls, competitions, hashtags, videos etc. and with a bit of luck, your video or hashtag might go viral!

  • Use bookmarking sites for reach.

Social bookmarking sites can help you to drive traffic to your site. We use Scoop.it on a daily basis which is a really good curation and distribution tool. The only downside is that these sites are not targeted per se, so they are more suitable for reach instead of sales. Here’s an oldie but goldie list of such sites from SEJ.

What’s changed for businesses trying to build relationships with customers is that they must do so using many types of platforms and strategies. As alluded to above, the pace of change is extremely fast and it is important that brands keep up to date with online developments. Sometimes it’s best to outsource this element of your business strategy.

As with all tools and techniques, there are right and wrong ways to use them. Here are four signs that you might not be using social media in the right way.

  1. You spend a lot of the time talking about your own business and its offers
  2. You have no consistency of voice across your different social media platforms
  3. Your audience isn’t growing or worse – is not engaging with you
  4. You find being on social media to be a chore so you don’t bother measuring results

When done right, social media can be a very effective element of your efforts to build customer relationships. Consider the above warning signs and change your approach if needs be.

Tips and Timesavers

Some businesses have considered it good practice to have documented policy and procedures for their social media activity, in-house. We would recommend that all businesses do so – there are many templates online that can be used.

There are also a few basic principles of social media marketing that should be adhered to:

  1. Respect your followers and don’t provide them with less than 100% quality content
  2. Give freely to others because what goes around comes around
  3. The customer isn’t always right but at least, move the discussion offline by way of customer service
  4. Paid for advertising on social media is acceptable, as it is targeted – spamming is not
  5. Building relationships with and using social media influencers is fine, if mutually agreed
  6. Review your analytics (usually free) weekly and learn from mistakes
  7. Be consistent of voice and be positive in attitude
  8. Don’t become a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Pick a platform where your audience is


If you decide to use social media as a tactic for building customer relationships remember that it must form part of overall business objectives. It is not a good idea to be on social media because everybody else is. Determine your customers from your marketing plan and use the channels where they are, to engage with them. In this way, they are more likely to respond to your calls-to-action.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

16 Reasons To Be Cheerful – Part 1- Marketing Builds Customer Relationships


When non-marketers refer to marketing, it is understandable that they equate it just to advertising. Most of the time this is because they feel that the sole objective of marketing is sales. In fact, this misconception is probably more a marketing industry problem, due lack of clarity in our own communication, more than anything else. What we don’t clarify enough is that marketing is a management process to build customer relationships and advertising is just a part of that.

Good management is critical to all aspects of a business, and it is just as important that marketing is included and managed in a smart way if opportunities for, and threats to relationships are to be identified. Business growth results from increased customer relationships – fact.

Every business, of whatever size, needs a marketing strategy to build customer relationships; otherwise, their business will not grow.

Time and time again, when we meet with potential clients for the first time there are some obvious signs that they may not be focused on building relationships with their customers.

Here are some examples: 1) No planned marketing activity online and even if there is a website created – it might not have been reviewed for mobile friendliness, SEO, conversion optimisation etc. 2) Not being on social networks where their customers engage with each other, 3) No specified marketing budget or if so, still investing it all in conventional advertising, 4) Sales figures dropping due to lack of brand awareness or ineffective / outdated promotions.

A less obvious sign is that the brand identity is not unique anymore or has become stale. I say less obvious because it probably requires some research to determine brand perceptions. My final example is signs of a lack of real customer relationships, evidenced by one-off buyers, no repeat sales, high bounce rates online etc.

In the current volatile business environment where the customer really is the king, the most worrying sign alluded to above, would be the lack of engagement with customers. As consumers – nowadays we all expect personalisation, customisation and excellent service so the business that is not providing these is going to lose out in the long run.

The Difference between Strategy and Execution.

If you are a business owner reading this, you are probably aware that you can have all the strategy in the world, but unless it is executed, it will just gather the proverbial dust-on-the-shelf. What is required is a commitment to turning your marketing vision into a reality. If you are a one-man business then this commitment is your responsibility. If you are a small to medium enterprise (SME) owner – then it is still your responsibility. As an owner, you are the one with the vision and a strong sense of self.

Here are six thoughts that might help you focus on the execution of your strategy:

  • Stay true to delivering your brand promise / value proposition every day and every way.
  • Focus on your capabilities. Don’t try to be the ‘best in class’ at everything.
  • Leverage the strength of teamwork. Get your working colleagues to strive for the same goals.
  • Save money by smarter investing. Cutting costs might lead to a mean and not lean operation.
  • Don’t wait for things to happen. Embrace change constantly.
  • Remember who you are. Don’t just focus on beating the competitors.

Moving from strategy to execution by just doing it means a focus on marketing tactics. You could argue that big businesses have big marketing budgets and, therefore, better advantage. Well, if the big guys use their budgets in a smart way, yes they absolutely may have an advantage. As the saying goes, though, – In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king – meaning there is nothing wrong with being a big fish in a small pond (sorry about the clichés, but you know what I mean).

SMEs can be more agile when it comes to relationship building.

One of the advantages of being an SME is the ability to make changes to strategies and their execution, on the run. Decisions can be made by a smaller team without the bureaucracy (and politics) of corporations / large institutions. It is imperative, though, that owners focus on what’s important for growing their business and how marketing can help in that regard.

Loosely based on the warning signs outlined above, here are 5 relationship-building tactics that SMEs can use:

  1. Increase web traffic by providing relevant content to your audience, e.g. blogging.
  2. Ensure that your business can be found by people through an online search (and encourage reviews).
  3. Engage with your audience on an authentic and human level. Have a social media programme.
  4. Build your database with an email marketing campaign. Provide information etc. through a newsletter
  5. Build a team culture. Reward hard work and dedication – loyalty will follow.

Tips and Timesavers for building customer relationships

Most marketing guides will stress the importance of building customer relationships. Unfortunately though, businesses still focus on short-term gains rather than long-term relationships. Why? – Because generating short-term cashflow is paramount to keeping the day-to-day operations functioning. However, without a marketing strategy to gain customers, the business won’t last.

Here are five tips that may help business owners grow long-term relationships.

  1. Engage with customers on a regular basis. Use email, but make sure it is relevant and not a sales pitch (people won’t mind communication if they believe that you are interested in them)
  2. Identify with your customers. Find out what challenges they have in their lives (keep updated through local media, network at relevant events, and listen on social media)
  3. Try to make a difference to a customer’s life. How can your product / service help them solve a problem that they have (make information accessible)
  4. Understand that relationship building is a marathon and not a sprint
  5. Continue the engagement long after the purchase (this will show authenticity)


In the current connected world, information on brands is in everybody’s pocket. Therefore purchasing decisions are becoming more fact-based and in a sense, less brand identity based. Customers will still value strong brands, but more and more that value will be based on a relationship. That relationship will be determined by their engagement with (who / why) and their experience of (what / where /when) a brand.

As Peter Drucker said, well before the advent of the information age, “the sole purpose of a business is to create a customer.”

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K