The core of your business is building relationships. If it's not then it should be.
Whether your business is transactional based or large scale project oriented you need to take time to ensure you're getting personal. I'm not suggesting you set up mailing lists to send cards for every bar mitzvah and dance recital, but going a bit beyond the, '"Hey I've noticed you haven't paid your invoice," email is necessary. Gone are the days of task focused clients content with paying for a service at a good rate/quality ratio then moving on.
The era of Quality vs Quantity is experiencing a shift; Facebook is involuntarily personalizing feeds, your browser tries to think ahead of you, your television asks for your preferred ad experiences. What does this have to do with you? Lots. The people you are working with are experiencing personalized interaction in nearly every other part of their lives; you can't afford to not jump on the bandwagon.
I'm not suggesting you go out and employ gazillions of dollars worth of market research and technical tools to interface with your clients. Being personal in a way that fits your budget but also comes across as genuine is cheap, costing only a bit of your time.
**For those of you who equate time with money, and those who don't, you can actually measure the return on this hourly investment by watching your recurring income improve and referrals increase.*
Think out of the box and keep it simple. Start by ditching email formality every now and then. It will create a stark contrast to the carefully formatted proposals and status reports that we spend so much time crafting.
Found this article on beekeeping, I remember we did a section on the site about bees and thought you might find this interesting.
What's makes a person feel more comfortable than talking about themselves? You don't need to know anything in particular about anyone to use this technique. Just ask an open ended question about something they mention, and offer something about yourself as well.
"You say you updated your computer to the newest mac os? How'd that go? I've got friends who are reporting issues, I'm afraid to take the leap myself."
Dynamics in consulting change, as do proprietary approaches and named systems, software and other tools of the trade. The one constant is YOU. The relationships you create can propel you or limit you, if you're not working on establishing them and growing them the lack of them can even suffocate you.
Being personal is not about gathering sensitive information, it's about establishing comfort and familiarity. The largest of companies are finding ways to connect personally to people, so much so that it's becoming the new standard for attracting brand attention for everything from cereal to cellphones.
Relationships have always been the key to good business. Corporate America is figuring out how to get on that bandwagon, but that doesn't mean it's any less valuable now. If anything, it's even more important now that you stand out as genuine in the sea of commodity consultants. Your clients deserve personal attention, prospective customers will base their purchasing decisions on your personal touch as it compares to your competitors. Don't fail for lack of trying, it's too easy to succeed here.
How do you get personal? Do you find it makes fielding your relationships harder? Have you seen any rewards from this? I'd love to hear your experiences here or you can send me an email!