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Networking "Touchpoints" - Make Memorable Impressions to Create Engaged Networking Relationships

By Benjamin Suggs

In my small business consulting practice, I sometimes sound like a broken record speaking to my clients about the importance of customer touchpoints, especially in the work that I do developing Relationship Marketing & Customer Experience Management Plans. A customer touchpoint is defined generally as any interaction that you have with a customer: invoices, service calls, sales calls, your website, every time they use your product, a random encounter in the local Applebee's, etc.

Now, I am sure that all business owners out there understand that it is critical to make a great impression on your customers at each and every touchpoint. If not, why would we spend so much time developing our 60-second commercials, refining and branding our marketing materials and improving the usability of our products and services?

However, as I tell my clients, if you want to create truly engaged and loyal customers, you need to take it a step further. Every customer touchpoint should be viewed as an opportunity not just to make a great impression on a customer, but also as an opportunity to sell (upsell, cross sell, resell), incent usage from, educate, service, delight or learn from a customer. Utilizing touchpoints to make a great impression creates satisfaction; utilizing them to deepen your relationship or create an emotional bond with your customer creates engagement. In other words, customer touchpoints should be leveraged for more than one benefit to you or your customer at a time.

But it was only recently that I realized that this approach was also transferable to the business networking that I have been doing. I dreaded the networking events - the awkward conversations, the monotonous elevator pitches, and the continuous passing of business cards. But by applying the same "touchpoint" philosophy above to my networking activities, I have recently gained a new appreciation for the art of relationship building.

Here is how I would apply the opportunities above, in order of importance:

Make a great impression. This one can never be overlooked. I won't bore you with the details, because we have all heard them a million times (be on time, dress appropriately, professional business cards, etc)

Learn. None of us know it all, and there is always information out there that could help each and every one of us. We have all had it happen, when you walk into an event and after the first 10 seconds of our first conversation, we realize that we are talking to someone who is our competition. The natural reaction is to want to walk away and find potential buyers to talk to. But, remember that this is a great opportunity to for you both to learn from each other (just because you are competition doesn't mean that you cannot collaborate). The other great benefit of the "learn" approach is that it forces you to ask engaging questions, aside from the standard "What do you do?". There is no better way to start building a relationship than by asking someone questions about themselves.

Service. Can you quickly and easily solve a problem or answer a question that the other person has? If so, do it, especially if it requires follow up.

Delight. In the course of a conversation, if you realize that there is something you can do or offer (for free) that will help the other person, you will only delight them by offering that information up. It's Givers Gain(1). Help someone now and you will be reciprocally benefited later. It can be an introduction, a referral, an invitation, etc.

Educate. Always be ready to explain what you do. But remember, if you have gone through the steps above already, you will be able to tailor your educational pitch to what you have already learned about the other person or their business.

Incent. Now I will admit, incent is the least applicable to my little theory here. Generally, someone needs to be a customer before you can incent them to use your product more often. However, I have seen business owners who attend networking events with referral incentives, e.g. Refer me a customer who bills a $20K and I will give you a $1K referral bonus. My only advice here is, only do this within networking events or groups to which you formally belong. Another note on this - I once had another consultant ask me about doing a "joint venture" before she had even told me what she does. Needless to say, I was confused.

Sell. There will be time for selling later. Make the connection first. The fact is most people attend networking events to sell. Delivering your sales pitch in a first time conversation will likely be followed by the other person's sales pitch. In other words, they will be waiting patiently for you stop talking.

If you use these principles in your networking, you will move from making great impressions to truly memorable impressions. What is more impactful? Handing your card to someone and saying "Give me a call if you want to learn more about my products or services" or "Give me a call if you want to talk more about that problem you are having, I think I can help you."

And that is what it is all about, right?

1 Givers Gain is registered trademark of BNI International.

By Benjamin Suggs - Due North Business Advisors, The Business Revitalization Specialists

Re-vi-tal-ize: to give new vitality or vigor to.

Revitalize your Marketing. Revitalize your Customers. Revitalize your Employees. Revitalize your Profits. Revitalize your Business.

An Entrepreneur with an idea, a startup company in need of a success plan or an established business looking to expand or improve operations - Due North Business Advisors works with them all to produce results. Connect with us today for an initial consultation to discuss your opportunities and issues and how we can create value for your business.

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