If I were to ask business owners and professionals what they attribute their success to, the answers would probably include hard work and perseverance.  While those are true (along with countless others), I can assure you that professional connections and relationships would also rank high on the list. I certainly have come to realize that no matter what I know, who I know (and sometimes who knows me) is also important to the success of my business. The importance of establishing and building lasting relationships goes a long way in business efforts and can lead to positive promotion, unsolicited marketing, referrals and repeat business opportunities. Over my career I have relied on this practice and, now, much of my company’s business growth and success can be directly attributed to referral business. If you haven’t already realized its importance, make it a point in the new year to establish and foster new relationships and reinforce others you already have.

Relationship building is a strong marketing tool. After all, who better to champion for you than those people who understand your business and know firsthand the expertise you provide? There are a number of things to remember when building and fostering successful relationships that not only last, but are also beneficial to all parties. The following are a few things to consider when making relationship building a part of your marketing goals:

Know the difference between relationship building and networking. Don’t attend events just to meet people, increase your LinkedIn contacts, and market yourself with just an elevator pitch. Make it a point to meet people and to establish a connection – even if it’s unlikely that everyone you meet will become a client or a customer, there is still the strong possibility that the more that they know you and your professional capabilities (and successes) the more they will recommend your services to someone else.

What can you offer?  While we’re always meeting people and thinking internally of the ways that they can be an asset to us, we should make it equally as important to ask ourselves what we can offer them.  Consider how to make the relationship quid pro quo – and sometimes realize that it’s about who you can help and that it may not garner you anything but appreciation.

Make it meaningful. Ask for their stories and share yours. Schedule regular coffee or lunch dates and share experiences – how they got started in their industry, what their path has taught them, etc. If all is going well, don’t be afraid to touch on family and personal interests. Cultivate the relationships. Sometimes the more you find out about others, the more opportunity that is sure to exist for both of you. Remember, it’s a relationship. It can’t grow if you let it get stagnant. Marketing opportunities often happen organically when you keep each other top of mind. Regularly exchange information by ways of info you come upon/articles you’ve read/news that you’ve heard that might peak their interest and they are likely to do the same.

Accept the denial. Sometimes, despite your best attempts to establish a relationship, there are people who aren’t interested. Maintain an open door to future possibilities and/or connections, but respect their boundaries. You should still address them by name and greet them at functions where your paths may cross, but if you’ve proactively attempted to build a connection without reciprocation, sometimes it’s best to let that one be and focus on all of the other great things you’ve got going on around you.

Communication is one of the most important aspects of marketing, visibility, business development and sustainability. Your business is more than a project or a task – it’s also about connections and bonds that may be the key to helping you continue to increase your industry profile and your business growth. Make relationship building a priority in order to strengthen your connections and provide a two-way benefit for all parties, and everybody wins.

– Lori