I read some great blogs this morning, and they inspired me to talk about one of my favorite things: keeping it real. With the advent of social media many people think that there is a “next great thing” that will make their business easier. Right now that thing is social media.
Social media is great – it’s fun, it’s available 24/7, it allows us to connect with industry experts and colleagues, and maybe even find new clients or customers. But it is a mere tool we have in our arsenals, not a “quick fix” that will allow us to take a day off or relax our tried an true methods of doing business. The fact is that RELATIONSHIPS cannot be trumped. We simply need to understand that our relationships with our clients, customers, colleagues and friends are the most important tool we have in our business, and in our lives. Social media cannot replace that, but it should still be a part of what you do each day.
I have blogged many times about the importance of phone calls, meetings, visits to clients. In fact, this is the aspect of my work I truly enjoy the most. Sitting down with a client or colleague for lunch or coffee is actually fun. I get to learn more about him or her, and if talk turns to business hopefully I can educate, share knowledge and answer questions. There is no substitute for one-on-one connections, in my opinion.
Many business people complain that with the advent of social media there is simply too much to do, too much to keep up with, and unfortunately I hear all the time that relationships are left out in the cold. One Realtor friend of mine recently told me that she just doesn’t have the time to connect with past clients. This should be her number one priority!
Here are a few ways to make it easier to keep in touch with people every day:
1. Schedule a time of day to connect. By this I don’t mean sit in front of your computer or phone and email someone. Spend an hour a day: call a past client, meet one for a cup of coffee, stop by their home. It doesn’t take much! If you can’t schedule a meeting every day then make a phone call and plan one. Try to plan at least one meeting a week, but still spend an hour each day calling or doing the next activity…
2. Handwritten notes. Sending an email doesn’t show much effort, but if you write a note to a client/customer it shows you care. Many people don’t understand the value of this, but trust me, people appreciate this. Try to write several notes a day. You can do so on birthdays, anniversaries, house anniversaries, holidays and just about any time. But don’t let this be a substitute to a visit or call – you need to do both.
3. Party. What better way to thank your clients than to throw a party for them? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. You can do a dessert party, or a cocktail hour. You can have it at the beach or a park. The message is more important than the price tag. This obviously is not something you do all the time, but you can plan it and send out notices about it in advance to get people excited.
4. Educate continuously. This is something that you have to strive to do, every day. You are your local expert, so you need to show that to not only your clients, but the locals! If you don’t have a blog, start one. You don’t have to be a writer. You can do a video blog, interview people in your area or do a photo blog. Post calendars on your local blog to keep people informed of local events. If a client asks you a question, turn the answer into a blog. You can also create a monthly or quarterly newsletter for your past and current clients, even highlighting a different person in each one (get their permission first, of course) – this is a great way to keep people informed about the local market and get them excited to read your content. There are many sites you can go to to do so, but it is very easy to create yourself. Once you have a template made you simply have to fill it in with new stories, which of course are easy to find online and by creating your own content.
5. Social media. Yes, you should engage in social media as well as the old basic methods, but you need to do so in conjunction with them, not as a replacement. Try to limit your time spent on social media so that it doesn’t consume you. Use it to post your blogs, connect with industry experts and share area knowledge. It is a great learning tool not only for those with whom you share, but for yourself as well. I definitely do NOT advocate overlooking social media, as it is very powerful if you use it correctly.
It is much easier to keep up with your clients if you make a schedule and stick to it – but you have to keep up with it. It took me 2-3 years of blogging to really see effects, but amazing things have happened and opened up to me because I am vigilant. People start to notice that you are an expert in your field. Besides, it’s great to share with others and helps keep you on your toes too, so make it fun! Remember that nothing can replace relationship building, no matter how shiny it is or how wonderful it may seem. So, the answer is no – social media cannot ease your workload. But if used in conjunction with the above tools it can definitely make your work more fulfilling and likely more profitable.