How SMBs Can Make Friends and Influence People
BY: BRENT BARNHART ON THURSDAY, MAY 02, 2013
Sometimes, the most important aspects of running a stronger business are those which cannot be bought or downloaded.
Personality. Charm. Respect.
These elements of business are acquired, refined and perfected over time to help business owners make a name for themselves. Such elements have the potential to be more powerful than any marketing scheme or flavor-of-the-week software or social site. While your business' projects and initiatives come and go, your personality is something organic that cannot be forced or purchased. It comes naturally for some businesses, while others just don't seem it “get it.”
Is your business making friends or are you an island? Are customers flocking to you for help, advice and guidance? Do other businesses want to be around you? Consider the strategies to become a more popular face in your business' space.
How to Win Friends...
First of all, it pays to be friendly. While this may seem obvious, there are many ways in which business owners choose to carry themselves. Some entrepreneurs focus far too much on being “professional,” get lost in industry jargon and come off as being stiff. On the flip side, some business owners are flat out aggressive and intimidating. Others are cocky, operating under the belief that brash confidence is the key to success.
Although there's nothing wrong with being confident or taking an aggressive approach every now and then, it's crucial that your business is approachable in the eyes of your customers and peers alike. Don't let your business' personality freeze people out. There's a healthy balance between friendly and firm that your company can establish over time. Be willing to smile, yet don't be afraid to let people know that you mean business.
On your business' site, for example, be welcoming and let people know a bit about yourself. Don't flood visitors with jargon. Don't say you're the best if you can't back up your words. Let visitors know who you are and what you do, be specific and let your personality shine through.
Sometimes you can win friends simply by not making enemies. It's easier said than done but “being the bigger man” will help establish respect and integrity for your business. While you shouldn't let customers walk all over you, there are times where the customer is indeed always right. It's better to lose a battle or two in order to win the war. Although your business can't please everyone, it certainly doesn't hurt to try. Respect your customers and, for the most part, they'll come to respect you.
For example, if someone trashes you via social media or a review site, it's your responsibility to respond as cordially as you can. Being professional goes a long way, and showing people that you respond calmly to criticism displays that you have a cool head on your shoulders. It may seem subtle but customers will take notice.
In your pursuit for a more friendly business, make sure not to be an island. The phrase “put yourself out there” may seem cliché, yet it still rings very true for finding success in the business world. Looking for customers? Reach out to them. Considering prospective partners? Reach out to them. Put forth the effort and see what happens rather than waiting for such prospects to come to you.
Above all, be as genuine as you can as you approach your professional relationships. Remember, you can't force personality and your customers and clients will see right through you if you attempt to do so. Friendliness builds trust and gives customers a reason to keep coming back. Remaining friendly and open-minded will help open doors for your business that others have let close..
...and Influence People
Being friendly in and of itself is a fine way to influence others; however, you'll need something extra to show that you mean business and that you're an authority in your field. How do you establish yourself a true influencer?
The best way is by becoming a viable, reliable resource to your customers and peers. Being a resource not only builds trust among users in your space, but also establishes and proves that your business is really worth something. One of the most common ways to become an influencer online, for example, is through the creation of unique, compelling content. If you manage to regularly develop pieces and share insight that make a splash in your sphere, users will take notice. Remember that consistency matters when it comes to influence; you always need to be producing to become a player in your industry.
There's no doubt that personality plays a role when it comes to influencing others. Consider the “halo effect,” that is, the belief that our judgments of a person's character can be influenced by our impression of that person. What sort of impression are others getting from you and your business? Users will want to be around you if you have something to offer. Why would someone choose your business over another? What allure do you have? Another Internet Marketing example comes in the form of social media. Users have so many options available when it comes to what they like and want to follow; why would a user be tempted to follow you? Determining the answers to these questions may help iron out exactly what your business has to offer and how you can use your influence to set yourself apart.
It may feel like attempting to make friends and influence others is some sort of mind game; however, it once again comes down to how you approach your professional relationships. Being honest and genuine goes a long, long way when it comes to taking your business to the top. Be consistent in how you approach others, stick to your word and don't leave people hanging. This will help establish you and your business' reputation, keeping it clean both online and off.
The Bottom Line
You can't force being friendly, nor can you become a true influencer overnight. Such elements come from within, and it's important that your small business carriers itself in a way that's welcoming and makes others respect you from the start. Whether online or in-person, be sure that you're carrying your business in the best way possible.
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