Business development doesn’t have to mean using the same old expensive tactics. Holding seminars, doing mailings and buying advertising can seem more of an expense than an investment.
Replace the word “business” with “relationship” and step back for a moment. Can you see the difference in the way this activity can be approached? Most of the revenue your business receives now is most likely because of the relationships that have been built over the years. People will buy from, hire and refer people they like. There are dozens of ways to create profitable relationships without spending a lot of money.
Many business owners stop investing in their success when the economy is in the dumps and revenue streams are drying up. You don’t have to spend much if you re-think your business development efforts. Here are several suggestions for low cost business development.
Much like the advice financial planners give to those who have lost their jobs or experienced a significant decrease in income, business owners need to be careful how they spend their limited cash by thinking strategically and in new directions.
Take advantage of your downtown office location or your office building. In all likelihood, you know the owner of a restaurant, bakery or coffee shop. Why not host an “open house” or “happy hour” at your location and invite all the local business owners and professionals to stop by? Have some fun with it; create a theme that is a play on the dire economy that we are all experiencing. To pay for it, barter with the restaurant/bakery/coffee shop owner for services in exchange for the exposure. Be sure to mix and mingle with the guests. Here’s a bit of advice—don’t talk business, just get to know them.
Another inexpensive idea takes you out of the office, every day for the next ten days, to meet another business owner. The goal is not to sell them your product or service but rather to find out what is important to them. Most people are delighted to tell you their story. Start by asking how they came to be in the line of work they’re in and what they like most about it. Ask what advice they would give to someone who was entering their line of work. Finally, just before you’re ready to head out, turn and ask them, “How would I know when I am talking to a good prospect for you?” Can you imagine? You’ve just offered something valuable and made a friend, all without asking them to buy what you sell. As a follow up, send a handwritten note saying how much you enjoyed the conversation and look forward to the next talk. Invite them to your “happy hour” while you’re at it!
Paying attention to relationships during stressful economic times is crucial. Creating opportunities that allow you to expand your network will continue to pay dividends as you build your business.