For many thinking of starting their own businesses, the fear of finding clients can paralyze them enough to sabotage their efforts. Cold calling prospects can make some of us break out in a cold sweat. One of the things that I learned early on in my business start-up days is that there are other ways to find clients.
When you have worked in corporate America for your entire career, one of the skills you didn’t learn was how to network. As a business owner, networking is one of the best ways to get clients. And today, adding social networking to the mix makes your ability to find business that much easier.
Learn how to network in person
One of the first things I did when I launched the business was to join BNI (Business Network International). Some people feel that it doesn’t work. But when you are starting a business, BNI gives you many benefits:
- Meeting new people
- Gaining a support organization
- Having a place to test your marketing message
These are really valuable to a startup business,
The next thing I did was to take a course on networking. The course taught me the basic principle of growing your business, called the VCP model – Visibility + Credibility = Profitability. Dr. Ivan Misner developed this three phase relationship development model: Visibility – Credibility – Profitability or VCP, to help business owners understand how to generate profitable relationships.
- Visibility – Be seen otherwise out of sight, out of mind.
- Credibility – Develop the relationship so that people understand your value and how to refer business to you.
- Profitability – Cultivating relationship with the right referral sources will result in profitable business relationships.
Works both Offline and Online
The principles of networking transcend to social networking. How does the VCP model work in social networking?
Building visibility and credibility using social media takes time but is worth it as it provides the venue from which you can create visibility and demonstrate your expertise. In many ways, it’s easier to develop this reputation online since the tools enable you to build your reputation on a daily basis. In person networking events happen frequently, but not 24×7.
Implementing the Visibility – Credibility – Profitability model
- Create a blog and develop a content strategy
- Create profiles on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networks that relate to your area of expertise
- Link your blog to your profiles and look for other opportunities to get backlinks
- Comment intelligently on other blogs
- Answer questions on LinkedIn
- Create videos and presentations and upload to YouTube.
You get the picture!
So why do we do it?
- It’s just a whole lot more fun to pick up the phone and have someone on the other end go on about all the great things they have read, seen and heard about your products and services.
- (And I think this is a really big point) Prospects that come to you by way of your information machine, that have logically progressed down a path of education, are probably ten times more likely to be ideal and equally more likely to close than those that you go out and try to convince to buy from you. In fact, your marketing system can be one of the greatest ways to qualify leads – if a lead won’t go down your education path, that might be a red flag that they won’t be an ideal customer either.
What other ways do you recommend people get visibility and credibility using social media?