By Regina Young, Meant2Be Events
Before I got married in 2015, I liked to joke that I had my “online dating pro-card”. I was on every site, had dates weekly, and have more crazy stories then one would think possible. From building an honest, yet ridiculously flattering profile, being memorable, to being available just enough to keep them interested, I had the technique and got the results I wanted.
But no, you didn’t come to this website for those stories. Although they are wildly entertaining, those are better shared over cocktails and in person. What I will tell you is the relationship savvy I had to keep my dance card full is also the model I use for business relationships.
Think about it. Dating is the perfect analogy when networking for profit and it certainly makes it more fun. From the first impression to the walk down the aisle, you are in essence taking the same journey with your business partnerships.
Creating the Perfect Profile It goes without saying, you should always put your best foot forward. The best dating profile pics always included a picture or two with “activities” like hiking and water sports. The idea of me doing either of those on a regular basis is hysterical, but I wanted a date who was active. So I was appealing to my audience in order to attract what I was looking for.
In business, you should always appeal to the business you want, not just the business you have. My Wedding Planning brand has always been more casual than most in my area. You will rarely catch me in high heels. But when you are setting up a meeting, lunch or attending a function, dress for the client you want. This may mean you invest in a few designer labels or an updated hair style. The idea of being the best dressed in the room is always appreciated.
Making a first impression Oh the delicate balance of being memorable, but not annoying. Usually online the one word, “hey” was enough to at least acknowledge someone. When networking it takes a lot more effort and maybe even a few attempts. It’s important to be respectful of each other’s time while also making your introduction. I always suggest when wanting to meet someone new, drop off or mail your marketing materials with a little treat. Now you actually have a reason to follow up. “I just wanted to check in and make sure you got the chocolate truffles we dropped off last week. Hope it sweetened up your day”. Viola, the door is open.
Getting the First Date So in dating maybe you’ve been flirting via text message for a while. You know they love dogs just like you, love to travel just like you and they have passed the “you’re not a creeper” tests. The Facebook photos seem harmless and no criminal record. Great! Time get make the first date. You know that first date has to have an easy exit option, just in case it goes bad. It doesn’t take long to know if the “spark” is there!
In this case, maybe you have seen your contact at various functions, maybe had a casual conversation.Or you took my advice and did a drop off + follow up. You have discovered that they have similar business goals. Maybe they have the client demographic you are after. It takes more than just professional similarities to seal the deal on a partnership. You have to actually like working together- that’s the “spark”! Setting up a coffee date or lunch with the goal in mind to find that common ground shows you’re invested not just in what they can do for you, but who they are and what you can do for them.
It’s Getting Serious Just like in dating, it takes a lot of effort to become “exclusive”. You know that crazy girl that immediately talks about marriage and babies on a second date. You know what happens there? No third date. When you are building up a referral network, trying to “close” that opportunity out the gate rarely ends well. While we know that time is money, a referral is worth it’s weight in gold.
My golden rule is 5. Five one on one meetings, lunches, coffee dates or happy hour drinks. We both know each other way beyond the professional boundaries of day to day business.
TIP: If business referrals come up naturally in conversation, for example, “what photographers do you work with?” Don’t talk poorly about that person- ever.
Saying I Do You’ve gone on dates, enjoyed a few ups and downs, and it’s time to make the commitment. The first thing you might think of is “how well does this person know me? How important is this relationship?” You marry someone who has your back and who provides value to your life.
Just like that relationship, a referrals come not from a place of need, but of desire. There are “plenty of fish in the sea” as they say. Your partners could really send their business to anyone, but they choose you.
Here are a few of my favorite tips to staying on the favorites list:
First, every year those people we have a relationship with get a survey from us with 2-3 questions like: when is your anniversary? what’s your favorite vacation? favorite halloween candy? any pets? That way when we do have a chance to acknowledge our partners it can be in a more personalized way. Like on their birthday for example! Think about it, would you “marry” someone who didn’t know your birthday?
Next, newsletters. Creating a monthly or quarterly newsletter is an easy way to stay relevant in between the lunch and the next association event. Be sure to include something fun or personal, not just business.
While the first two action items were focused on communication, this final one is all about gratitude. After the referral, we are always quick to thank our partners immediately. We send an email and a little gift in the mail. Greetbls have become my new easy favorite. Then, after every event all the vendors get a thank you in the mail from us as well.
So whether you are brand new to the industry, new to your market, or are wanting to up your professional game, try the dating comparison. It’s a heck of a lot more fun and it becomes much easier to determine what your next step should be while working your pipeline.