Get Personal with Business Contacts

Sunday morning in Piazza del Popolo, Nov 2009 - 46The web is a beautiful thing. It allows us to connect with a much larger group of people on a much more personal basis than any traditional marketing method. But before we decide that this kind of mass, quasi-personal, communication is the end all and be all, lets take a moment to remember the importance of real personal communication. Yes, I am talking about one on one communication, perhaps the only important part of business that is not scalable.

How Much Communication?

While one on one communication is not really scalable, it can be systematized. Indeed, it needs to be. You should be planning personal communication into your regular work week.

The number of personal contacts depends on the size of your business and your customer base. But a small business should plan on at least 5 personal touch-points per week.

What Counts as a Personal Contact?

A personal contact is when you take time to connect. Form letters with your signature do not count. The best form of personal contact is face to face. This doesn’t work for all businesses, but if it does for yours, take advantage of it. If not, plan in phone calls. Personal notes and emails are nice, but they don’t work if you want conversation. Use those as part of your personal contacts, but don’t let them supplant the real thing.

Who Should You Contact?

You should build a system for staying in personal contact with customers, of course. Not just sales contact, either. I’m talking about relationship building. Make your customer interactions more meaningful by caring about what is going on in customers’ lives, and by going out of your way to be helpful.

Besides customers, you should be building relationships with colleagues, other business owners, mentors, vendors, professionals, and the like. Good business is built on solid relationships. By taking time to reach out personally to the people that matter to your business, you will be improving your network and your business opportunities.

What Should You Talk About?

For me, this is the hard part. Putting a system in place where you reach out to people on a regular basis is easy. But what should you be talking about? Well, don’t make these contacts your sales calls. These are contacts above and beyond your sales calls.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to just plan on catching up. Call a customer and tell them that you were thinking about them, and just wanted to check in. Maybe this works better for business to business relationships. If you are business to consumer, maybe all you can do at first is place a thank you call. But that’s something.

With some of your other relationships, your calls can lead to deeper relationships. Just don’t be shy, because it doesn’t get you anywhere. When you reach out, you will be surprised at how many people are very happy that you did. Talk about things that matter to the person you are contacting. Work on remembering things about their families, their business, their life. Treat people like friends, and before you know it, they will be.

The Benefit

Making personal connections in your business has great value. It may be hard to put a dollar amount on that value, but that is not the point. With a plan, you will be consistently building relationships that matter in and around your business. You will connect better with customers and be able to see things from their angle. This will help you improve your business. You will also build friendships with people around your business that will help you gain insight and inspiration for your business.

Beyond that, you will have a new confidence in who you are and what you do. Doors will start to open up that you weren’t even sure existed. This is a result not of fancy business skills, sales expertise, or anything like that. Its the result of the very human thing at the heart of life, relationships.

Have any thoughts?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed Yourdon

Bradford Shimp helps small businesses understand the power of the web at

Bradford Shimp is the publisher of All Business Answers.

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