The concept of “leads” has developed a much broader definition over time, but the tried and true method of simply being where people are and developing good relationships within the community are still among the most powerful ways to get people interested in both you and your brand. Successful people understand that the success mindset follows them everywhere. They never let their guards down, and they are always coming up with new ways to reach people and develop lasting business relationships with them.
We talk a lot about how to get this done online and, yes, it is very important to know how to navigate your way through cyberspace and reach people. I would never attempt to discount that. I think, however, that we tend to forget about a huge market that we engage with every day: real people in the real world.
When we discuss ideal avatars (aka “buyer personas” – see our previous blog article about “Are You Still Waiting For Your Dream Client?“), it is easy to fall into the rut of viewing the avatar as a virtual entity. The problem there is that ideal avatars must be built around real traits exhibited by real people. If not, you are left with a fantasy customer with fantasy traits through whom you are attempting to market to real people with real lives. The problem is, there is a huge disconnect between fantasy and reality that one must bridge in order to reach the right people.
If you haven’t gotten around to creating an ideal avatar or if marketing around your existing avatar isn’t getting the results to want, it might be time to step back and realize that, perhaps, you need to spend more time interacting with real people. Doing so will help in several ways:
- It will help you develop a clearer understanding of who your customer really is.
- It will improve your visibility to your customer base, especially if yours is a small, locally managed business.
- It will provide you with a host of opportunities to engage with people in real-time – something that is often lacking, even in social media.
Let’s take a look at all three of these benefits and see how they can help us capture more leads, either directly or indirectly, using just the power of meaningful human interaction.
Getting to Know Your Customer
I used the example of a coffee shop earlier, and it’s a good place to start if your ideal customer likes to hang around in coffee shops. It is your job to be where the right customers are and there is a great deal to be learned by observing them in pleasurable, relaxing environments. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on coffee shops. Feel free to insert the venue of your choice as you read. Some people feel more at home at Home Depot than Starbucks.
The point is that it’s time to start observing how people behave and start interacting with them in real-time if we want them to help us build our businesses. Doing so will give you a sharper insight into who your best potential customers are and will help you generate leads both on- and offline.
There is one key element to getting to know people that you might want to get used to: Talking to them. As a local business owner, being outgoing and friendly can only serve to help you generate leads. If you strike up a conversation with someone about your business, even if that person isn’t the customer you’re looking for, he or she can help boost your business via word of mouth. Don’t discriminate; just start talking. You also want your interactions with your barista or cashier to reflect the type of treatment that others can expect from you if they decide to do business with you.
Start trying this today in places that you frequent. When you stop for your morning coffee on your way to work, for example, start interacting a bit more with the staff. When they say hello, respond. A “How are you today?” is also a nice touch. Ask it before they do. It shows that you take an interest in people and that you have a desire to be liked. I cannot think of two more important things that you could communicate to potential customers or clients on a cold contact.
Make no mistake about it: Your future customers are all around you, and they are judging you by the way you carry yourself and by the way you deal with other people. If you treat your barista poorly, pray no one in the shop recognizes you when walking into your place of business a few days, weeks, or months from now. Remember what I said about word of mouth? Well, it can work against you, too.
People are also far more prone to remember negative experiences with people than they are positive ones (at least on a business level). You can make a poor impression in an instant, but making a good one takes an investment of both time and effort. It takes a consistent attitude and consistency in character. It also takes being consistently visible, which brings me to my next point…
Meet the Customer on Common Ground
Coffee shops and the like are good places to network because they represent places people actually want to be. Places where people go to be social in the first place are easier and more conducive to conversation. Don’t come across like a barfly hitting on patrons, but don’t hole up in a corner with your latte either. You want to attract a little bit of attention, but you don’t want to cause a scene. How does one pull this off? Here are a few suggestions:
Speak clearly and with a pleasant tone of voice.
Also speak loudly enough to be heard above the din. Projection and good annunciation communicate confidence and authority, just be sure you don’t cross the line between confident and cocky. No one likes loud and arrogant, but they do respond well to confidence and positivity.
Carry yourself with confidence and authority.
Stand straight, shoulders back, be very deliberate with the way you move, but don’t be menacing. Your average coffee shop is likely to be crowded, especially in the morning, so don’t go piling over people to retrieve your order. Be polite, but speak with authority and wait for people to clear a path.
Showing yourself as an authority is foundational to building trust. If people have a good interaction with you in a coffee shop, they will be far more likely to want to do business with you should the need ever arise. It’s time to stop thinking about lead generation as an immediate thing with instant results. If someone simply observes you in a coffee shop and sees someone who is warm, personable, and confident, you have taken the first step in making a customer out of him or her. Isn’t that the definition of a lead?
Keep your actions and attitude in check.
This is an important point for two reasons: First, you never know who is watching or listening. Remember our conversation about word of mouth here. Second, when you speak with the right balance of authority and respect, people become more compliant. Never be rude or overbearing. Never be passive-aggressive. If something goes wrong with your order, be discreet about it. Communicate your desire to see other people be successful and don’t point out their flaws in a manner that creates undue attention or embarrassment.
Leverage the Advantage of Real-Time
Always be ready to talk about your business with people when you’re out in public. Yes, you very much should carry business cards and other promotional materials, but don’t rely on them to do the selling. In most cases, handing someone a card should happen after you’ve established communication and determined that he or she is a viable potential lead. There are, of course exceptions to every rule, depending on the conversation and the level of interest someone takes in you.
In certain cases, you will find that people will like you but won’t necessarily want to do business with you. In these cases, your business card can augment the effectiveness of word of mouth. Give your card to your new friend and ask him (or her) to pass it along to someone who might need your services. If that person already likes you, he or she will also want to help you be successful.
There is, however, another very important aspect of engaging in real-time with people in the real world. The experience of interacting with you in person needs to translate well to what you show people online. If you hand someone a card that leads them to a website that was last updated in 1997 or a social media page that hasn’t been updated in weeks, months, or more, you are sending mixed messages about yourself and your business.
Maintain consistency in every area of networking, whether you’re standing in line for coffee or delivering content for your website or social media channels. The leads you generate are only as good as the way you frame your product or service. The worst thing you can do is get someone interested in your business and then prove that it isn’t what you made it out to be.
A Few Parting Thoughts
Don’t waste the time you spend out among people. Take the time to observe and interact. This is going to help you in many areas, including:
- Developing a deeper understanding of who your customer is.
- Learning how to more effectively communicate on both personal and marketing levels.
- Re-evaluating your ideal avatar and aiding in its evolution.
- Increasing your visibility in the community via positive non-business related interactions with you.
- Positioning yourself as a likable, trustable authority in your line of work.
Also remember that while the point of all of this is to attract attention to yourself and your business, the conversations and interactions must remain focused on the potential customer. Don’t talk up your business as much as you listen and understand the customer’s needs. That, combined with the rest of the above tips, is a recipe for successful networking in the real world.
What are your favourite business networking places? Please share your experiences by leaving a comment on the website or in our closed Facebook group. 😉