As business owners, professionals or entrepreneurs, we are always looking for new opportunities to network and build new relationships. The growth of our businesses and professional profiles are reliant on the relationships we create with new connections, and more importantly, with our current clients.
One of the best ways to create new connections and improve your client relationships is through client-to-client networking. This form of networking focuses on developing a knowledgeable community for your clients to share expertise, advice and a reliable referral system. By providing your clients with a strong network, you help them improve their businesses and in turn, your own.
The first step to creating a successful client network is to map out your networking goals for both yourself and your clients. Here are a few starting points to get you thinking about how to set goals for networking through your clients.
1. Develop new connections and potential business opportunities for you and your clients.
2. Maintain strong relationships with your clients.
3. Increase collaboration and referrals among current clients.
4. Target new clients and business connections that are in similar industries to your current clients.
5. Build new relationships via referrals from your clients to their connections.
Once you have clear goals for your networking efforts, you can start creating your client-to-client networking community.
Communication is Key – Successful networking starts with excellent communication. Before you start introducing clients to one another, communicate with them individually to thoroughly understand their goals and how you can help them achieve them. You can build stronger, more trusting relationships with current clients by following these communication tips.
• Listen – Give clients your undivided attention and show you understand their needs.
• Ask – Ask questions to develop an open and trusting communication channel.
• Know your benefits as a networker – Understand how your services and connections are beneficial to your clients so you can understand their needs and the needs of future clients.
• Be patient – It takes time to develop relationships. Let your relationships grow naturally and work consistently to improve them.
• Be memorable – Know what makes you and your clients unique and how you can use that uniqueness to your advantage or to theirs.
Build a Client Network – Act as a networking facilitator. Bring clients together and start the conversation to help set the stage for positive communication and feedback. A simple group introduction can help get conversations started.
Match clients together who can benefit from each other’s services or expertise. Analyzing how your clients’ collective knowledge can benefit you and your clients will help you create valuable, mutually beneficial relationships among them.
Choose the Right Networking Platform– Creating the right environment is essential. Introducing clients in person is the best way to forge strong relationships. If your clients can meet in person, host a small networking event where they can all come together. If possible, consider having networking events regularly to encourage communication among them. Once you’ve established relationships among your clients, ask them to invite their clients to expand the networking group.
If you’re not able to meet in person, consider a digital forum or networking community where information can be shared. Platforms such as teleconferencing, Go To Meeting and private social media groups will keep your clients connected and allow you to facilitate communication.
Make Introductions – Make connecting easy for yourself and for clients by using LinkedIn or email introductions. If you’re asking a client for an introduction, provide a short introduction paragraph about yourself that the client can forward to your potential connection.
Highlight Shared Value – The goal of client-to-client networking is to increase your clients’ value and your own. Help clients build positive, symbiotic relationships with one another. If clients help one another by providing expertise or services, their businesses will benefit.
Successful client-to-client relationships not only create a collaborative advisory board for clients, but a trusted source for referrals and the exchange of new ideas. Once you have formed a network for clients, maintain those relationships by continually highlighting their shared value through networking discussions and meetings. If your client’s appreciate the support you provide them, they will definitely reciprocate your efforts and help your network grow as well.
Featured image courtesy of StockMonkeys.com.