If you are a new small business struggling to get clients, or even an established one whose business seems to have plateaued, you are not alone.  And, you probably do not have the resources to maintain a long term print or direct mail marketing initiative that will tell people about your fabulous product or service.  We have three relationship building suggestions that are incredibly effective for helping you land new clients or customers. You can do these with a little bit of time and energy – FOR FREE.

1) Join or create a business networking group. When we launched the small business consulting arm of our business, we created a Women in Business Networking Group. We knew that the most reliable way to get a steady stream of client referrals was to be a part of a reciprocal referral sharing network.  We invited 40 other women entrepreneurs who were running their own businesses to join the group and attend bi-monthly meetings. As the women business owners built relationships with one another at the meetings, they began referring each other business.

2) Build relationships with other businesses that share your target market.  If you join in a promotion together, or co-promote a PR event, both businesses double their outreach to potential customers.  Here are three examples of excellent co-promotions with businesses that share the same market that we have seen just in the past month:

A) A laser skin care business and a hair extensions business held an “Evening of Beauty” together.

B) A garden craft artist held a free workshop at a garden center for gardening customers. The event pulled in more customers to the garden center, and the artist sold five times more of her art than if she held the workshop on her own.

C) A nutritionist created a “Baking Yummy Healthy Snacks” workshop and held it at  Yoga studio – which resulted in more business for both entrepreneurs.

3) Re-establish connections with past relationships – especially institutional relationships.  Join Linkedin alumni groups not only for the schools you attended, but the companies you worked for as well. Offer a special discount for alumni.  Even if an individual does not know you, alumni tend to already feel a connection because you both shared a similar educational or working experience. Take advantage of that connection, and build upon it.

Every connection you make can lead to a new client or customer. So, think mindfully and creatively about ways to build new relationships.

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