By Itzik Amiel
I had an interesting business development reflection last week.
I was participating in a networking event (one of my special SWITCH’s events I organize globally) with a group of entrepreneurs.
During the dinner, we discussed global expansion strategies and one of the participants mentioned that he is planning to expand his business to China this year and asked for a referral to a good lawyer.
Now, I know many good lawyers in China and even worked with many of them.
But here is the strange thing, the moment I was asked for a name of a lawyer only Ming’s name popped into my head and I sent the business her way.
It made me curious.
Why from all the names of all the hundreds of lawyers I know in China, I mentioned Ming’s name?
I must admit, I did not check all the alternatives in my network or recommended Ming after considering all the options.
I also did not choose Ming since I really know she will be the best fit for the client and his needs.
The only thing I do recall is that I saw Ming two weeks earlier in a global professional network (where I was the keynote) and the (hand-written) card I got from her a few days later.
I guess many of you had a similar experience. Interesting, right?
How many people a day do you come into contact with? A week? A year?
It’s safe to say that it is quite a lot of people – hundreds? Thousands? Or maybe ten of thousands?…
…and the same goes for all those people who in turn come into contact with you.
We’re looking into what makes you kept in the mind of those connections so memorable, and how you can make yourself an unforgettable person in your own network.
This is actually a very important business development goal that many times is being forgotten or is taken for granted.
You may be the best at what you do, but that doesn’t guarantee that your connections or referral sources will think of you every time your services will be needed.
Many professionals that I know use a lot of the “hope” strategy when developing business and build connections.
Are you one of them?
Do you also assume that just because your connections know what you do, they’ll send business your way?
In fact, it is not true. You also do not refer business to others this way.
When somebody asks us to give a name, we tend to remember whoever is easiest to remember, even if that’s not the most relevant expert for this specific need.
So, how can you expect people to give your name or to remember you?
This is exactly the importance of staying “top-of-mind” (TOM) of your connections.
It’s time to ask yourself a question: Have you done everything possible to stay top of mind with your connections, clients and prospect clients? Or are you still waiting until you “have enough time” to nurture those relationships?
What business development actions you took recently to keep top-of-mind of your connections?
“there will never be the right or the perfect time to start becoming more relevant.”
Although you are busy, there will never be the right or the perfect time to start becoming more relevant.
Here is the good news: one of the things I share with a lot of my clients and professionals is the systems that we can insert to position you “top-of-mind” to your connections. Consistently.
So I want to share with you some quick actions you can take as part of your business development efforts to boost your “top-of-mind” position:
BD TOM Strategy #1: Schedule KIP time
You as a professional has a lot of things on your ‘to-do’ list.
But it is also true for your connections. They are also busy.
Naturally, when they’re occupied by other things, they may not remember you, when they need your services.
So to help them out I suggest you use the KIP strategy. KIP= Keeping in touch strategy.
You need to keep in touch on a regular basis with your connections list. Schedule time in your busy agenda for “KIP time”.
“Schedule time in your busy agenda for “KIP time”.”
You can send them cards; invite them to events; schedule a lunch or a short coffee meeting with them. You can send them something of value – an interesting article, a book et.
Now, when they need your service, your name will be “top of mind” and they will be able to find your contact details easily.
Keeping-in-touch is not a waste of time but it is a time you invest in nurture your connections and relationships.
Your reward: Repeat business and referrals, because you are top-of-mind.
Tip: you don’t need to keep in touch with everyone on the same frequency. It’s good to have a few people that you connect with more regularly, but it’s fine to cultivate other relationships on a 3-, 6- or 12-month basis.
BD TOM Strategy #2. Add Value and useful information
When I asked once a professional – what do you do to keep in touch with your connections?
He replied: “We send our firm’s newsletter every month. Isn’t it enough?”
Are you one of these professionals who send a monthly newsletter to your connections?
In my opinion, this is not a way of keeping in touch with your connection. And most of the time it creates the wrong effect.
Let me explain.
Most of the newsletters of professional firms are a marketing and promotional material. They include only information about the professional firm, it’s achievements, the firm’s news etc.
But nothing about the things that interest their clients and connections.
I am definitely a warm supporter of (the right) newsletter. But for the purpose of keeping in touch to staying top-of-mind with your connections, whatever communication format you decide to use, you must ensure the content meets the needs of your clients and prospects.
Your content should be with a lot of value.
Your connections should look forward to receiving your information and not get annoyed or overwhelmed.
Otherwise, you will be top-of-mind with your connections but for the wrong reason!
BD TOM Strategy #3. Use Hybrid formats and frequencies
The fact is that keeping-in-touch on a constant and consistent basis helps a lot to position yourself as top-of-mind in the subconscious mind of your connections.
But, I assume also your competitors can use the same strategy.
So what will make the difference?
The frequency and the format you will choose to keep in touch with your connection should be unique to you.
In other words, how you contact your connections and how often you contact them, will make the difference of you staying on the top-of-mind of your connections.
Let’s take an example.
Let’s say you’re a tax advisor and an expert on the topic of international tax planning [that used to be my focus for over 2 decades ;)].
To stay in touch with your prospects and clients, you could:
Mail a card with a short (one) tax tip every quarter, send a brief monthly news brief summarizing a new tax planning idea or a mistake, and offer tax saving strategies on your blog.
Or offer a free monthly webinar, plus email a tax brief tip of the week.
Or deliver a video email tip of the month and send a quarterly case study by mail.
These are just a few ideas.
The important point that should guide you is – how do I add value to my connections on a regular basis? What information would my connections like to receive from me? How will my connections like to receive this valuable information from me (email, card, audio video etc.)?…
Please do not guess, ask your connections and make a list of their wishes and needs. You can use any upcoming opportunity you are going to interact with them to ask these questions.
In all times, you need to show that you genuinely care and that you consider how much time they typically have available.
Direct result: you will stay top-of-mind.
BD TOM Strategy #4. Be creative
Your goal is to be ‘top-of-mind’! You want to be remembered.
You need to create your special ‘signature’ way of staying in touch.
So think on creative ways to stay in touch with your connections (offline and online). What will make the difference between you and other professionals?
Of course, if you build your personal brand, this is your opportunity to shine with your uniqueness.
To help you, here’s how you can get started:
First, brainstorm and list multiple ways you could stay in touch with your connections. Go wild with your ideas and be creative.
Second, review your list. Do a few unique ideas stand out and you like more than others?
Third, go out and try them out and see the response you get.
Remember: Keep innovating and finding new ideas. The more creative you will be the more interesting and joyful the process of keeping ‘top-of-mind with your connections will be…the better results you will get!
BD TOM Strategy #5. Match your Connections Touchpoint Rhythm
Many of your connections already had their plan and tools to consistently engage with their network of connections and followers.
Try to find what it is and get on their list of connections.
Now, use their touch points to react and create reciprocative value.
That can be as simple as a reply email to an update sent by your connections by saying hello or thank you.
This is an easy way to use the existing channels of your connections to communicate and to get on their radar.
When you’ll do that, you’ll give your clients a message that you think about them and you give your attention to them. Your clients get to know you care about them…
…and of course, you keep positioning yourself on top-of-their-minds.
BD TOM Strategy #6. Seek & Share Feedback
To stay top-of-mind with your connections on your list, you need to seek and share their feedback.
If you decide for example to invite them to free monthly webinar. Your objective could be: asking for their feedback.
Connections love to feel appreciated. Ask for their opinion on new services. Collect and share testimonials from happy clients. A new client is encouraged to learn there are happy clients out there.
Connections and clients feedback is so important because it not only provides professionals with insight that they can use to improve their practice or services, it is also a great way to stay top-of-mind.
When you gather feedback from your connections, your connection will hear about you and you will find the “connections-advocates”. These are the connections that you definitely need to be top of their mind since most probably they will send you more opportunities and clients, your way.
Get Results now.
We must keep in mind that in today’s overcrowded world, long-term memory is a precious commodity.
What that means is that your connections need to see you, hear you (or hear about you) or have some contact with you at regular intervals.
So when the time comes and they need your services, you will be the first they think about, you will be top-of-their-mind.
Now, how can you start immediately see results, if you don’t have (yet) a system in place?
Try the following simple exercise that can yield a quick result:
Think of one of your connections who used to work with you or to refer to you fairly consistently. Why did they stop?
I assume they know-like and trust you, since they’ve already demonstrated that they have used your services, more than once.
Chances are you’ve fallen off their radar. They do not think about you, although you can be very valuable to them and to many of their connections.
Schedule a conversation with them to get back onto their agenda.
Do something that benefits and add value to them so that you become a priority again.
Then add them to your KIP time schedule and stay in touch on a regular basis, to stay top of mind.
Staying top-of-mind shouldn’t be an exercise that you put at the bottom of the pile, outsource to another consultant or delegate to your marketing department. It’s one of the most important components of business development of any successful professional practice or business.
Keeping in touch provides your connections with valuable insights into what you do and your services. These insights can help you stay top-of-mind of your connections and create an experience that exceeds expectations and keeps clients coming back for more.
Remember, there’s never too much being ‘top-of-mind’ – the more the better!
I suggest you check out these keeping top-of-mind tools and start using them in your practice today.
These tools can make you or break you!