Dittmar: Create, update list of influential contacts
We’ve all been told since we were in school, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That’s kind of true. What you know – your job skills, common sense, etc. – are very important. But identifying and seeking out those people who are in a unique position to help you and your business are also key. Back when I was the grasshopper under the tutelage of a guru career coach, he taught me a marketing strategy I’ve used for decades. You can put it in place today and begin to get great results next week. It’s simple, your investment is quite low and the return can be quite high. It’s called creating your own sphere of influence.Find some quiet time with no interruptions – yeah, right – and list the 25 people you most need to listen to and be in a relationship with. Community leaders, vendors, heads of trade associations – think outside the box. You may not yet know these 25 people, but they are the ones best positioned to have an impact on your business. Those you don’t know are a priority. Find a way to get introduced to them, either in person, over the phone or through email. It’s best if you can be introduced to them by someone who knows you both. They can do a virtual handshake by making a call or sending an email on your behalf. Once you’ve been introduced, set up a tickler file on your calendar. Now here’s the key: Never let these advocates get more than 30 days away from you. Always be in their minds. Make sure they know enough about you and your business to present you to potential clients. You have five ways to communicate with them. Pick up the phone and give them a call. If they aren’t available, definitely leave them a message indicating you’d like a return call at their convenience. It may sound “old tech” but you can also shoot them a fax to let them know you’re thinking of them. I often come into the chamber in the morning, and there’s a fax from someone with special offers or just a reminder of an event coming up. If you haven’t discovered Send Out Cards, you need to find a local distributor soon. Your contact gets a real card in the mail, but you generate it and mail it out via computer. Send Out Cards has more than 15,000 designs or you can upload your logo or photos to create custom cards. Of course you can always drop them a quick email or make a personal visit. The latter is not recommended unless you make an appointment. Drop-ins are often an interruption and not always welcome. This strategy should cost you between zero and $50 per month. The investment of your time should average two to eight hours. If you’re spending more time and money than this, you’re making it too complicated. One last thought: You should periodically re-evaluate your sphere of influence to weed out those who are no longer active and add new people. So find that uninterrupted time and create your sphere. Who are your 25?
Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.