The holidays are quickly approaching, providing a golden opportunity to actively reach out to current and prospective clients. There are a number of seasonal strategies that you can employ to enhance your business relationships, boost your brand and strengthen your bottom line. The holidays are a time of personal connection, after all, and personal connection is one of the few advantages small businesses have over mega corporations. As a small business, you have the ability to establish strong face-to-face relationships, and the holidays are the perfect time to leverage that advantage. Most local industry organizations and business associations host holiday networking events. This is the perfect opportunity to go out, have fun, meet people and identify business opportunities. Here are a few networking tips to help make the holidays even better for business:
- Take the time to talk to people. Don’t rush from person to person in a desperate attempt to gather cards. When networking, your goal is not closing deals, it is building relationships that inspire trust. Be sure to ask questions and listen - this is not the time to launch into a long sales pitch – unless of course they specifically ask for one.
- Bring enough business cards. A friend of mine who is a networking wizard always keeps an extra box in his car just in case. Make sure your card features your direct contact information as well your website and social media identities. After any sort of meaningful conversation, always offer your card and ask for one in return. If possible, discretely take brief notes on the back of their card so that you can better remember your conversation.
- Be helpful. Offer assistance and give referrals whenever appropriate. Referrals are the heart and soul of networking. Offering helpful solutions to others (that do not directly benefit you) sets a good tone for the relationship and establishes you as a valuable ally.
- Always follow up! After every network event, be sure to follow up. A follow up can be an email or even connecting on Linkedin or Facebook, but never under estimate the power of a personal call or a thoughtful note.
- Send out greeting cards. Speaking of thoughtful notes, holiday greeting cards are a great way to register on your client's radar. Try to send holiday cards out a bit early as many people take time off work around the holidays. In most cases a religion-neutral holiday card is appropriate. I recommend personalizing the note whenever possible, because “Bill, I hope you and Melissa enjoy Barbados this holiday!” is much more effective than a generic “Happy Holidays”. Due to time limitations, you probably cannot personalize every card you send, but add personal flair when it matters (i.e. your big clients and large prospects.) You can always print your card in house which allows you to quickly type in a personalized message. Buy discount printer ink cartridges online and significantly reduce your costs compared to a professional printing services.
- If there is no party, be the party. If networking events are limited this year, consider throwing your own. A charity fundraiser is not only in the holiday spirit, but it can enhance your brand and widen your business circle. It’s also a great excuse to reach out potential clients and high level decision makers.
- Appreciate Your Employees. I always recommend putting together a holiday celebration for internal employees. This does not need to be a big bash - even a small pot-luck where you thoughtfully (and sincerely) thank everyone can improve morale. As I said earlier, referrals are the heart and soul of small business, and happy employees are fantastic referral generators. Plus happy employees who feel appreciated are better workers and reduce (costly) turnover.
About the Author: Andrew Yeung is president of CompAndSave, a leading online provider of premium printer ink cartridges, including remanufactured and compatible printer ink cartridges. With deals every month and a 1-year guarantee of quality, CompandSave provides an easy way for people and businesses to purchase printer ink and accessories.
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