Building Relationships for your Business By Volunteering
“…entrepreneurs need to interact with their target market and then communicate effectively with them in order to build any relationships that may lead to a sale. How do you reach your customer if you can’t afford well-placed advertising, need a larger budget to produce a radio or tv spot and want more of a connection than one night networking events?…”
Everyday, it’s important to keep your business in front of your audience because one of your biggest mistakes as a business owner is to allow people to forget about you. Creating opportunities for exposure is an important skill that you can develop in order to help increase the comfortability (is that a word?) of your company with its audience. Entrepreneurs need to interact with their target market and then communicate effectively with them in order to build any relationships that may lead to a sale. How do you reach your customer if you can’t afford well-placed advertising, need a larger budget to produce a radio or tv spot and want more of a connection than one-night networking events? Volunteering may be your answer.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of coordinating a portion of the Prized Pieces Film Festival held at the Schomburg Center for Reseach in Black Culture in Harlem in partnership with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC). Four days, 25 films, 25th Birthday for NBPC and close to 1,000 potential customers for my business. This was what I call networking! And the great thing about it is you get to help out an event and make it a success while also building on your own success.
But you can’t just start volunteering at just any event so, here’s what you need to consider before embarking on a 3-4 days volunteer voyage.
Will the event bring me in contact with my target market? – This may seem like a pretty obvious question but, it’s important to think of because if your service is making homemade dolls, then volunteering at a film festival is not going to help bring in more customers. Be clear on who buys your product primarily and then list those secondary markets. If your volunteer duties don’t bring you into contact with these people, then you shouldn’t bother (unless it’s personal).
Am I ready to promote my product or service? – When you report for duty be sure to carry your business card, brochure, flyer or anything else you may need in order to show your prospect that you are serious and ready for business. You may only have that one opportunity to talk to that major celebrity about your great makeup product, don’t blow it by not having any business cards or correspondence to give.
Does the event encourage personal networking? – The event that I recently attended was very open to networking amongst all who attended the festival. Check out any volunteering rules or limitations for your event or ask the person whom you report to is it okay to network, if your unsure. You don’t want to create a situation where you’re not asked to come back the next year, or more importantly, to any other affiliated events, because you were all over the panelists.
Make sure you have an interest in the event other than your business. – This is more like a statement because I worked my butt off this weekend for the film festival and I made sure that my duties were taken care of before I facilitated any networking. If you don’t handle your primary volunteering responsibilities, word may travel about it and you don’t want negative press about you passing throughout the festival. Also, if you’re doing a good job, you stand a better chance on getting introduced to the right people who may be able to help your business in ways you may have never even thought of.
Are you ready to follow-up on all your new contacts? – If you’re volunteering for a particular event and are at the right places, at the right time, you will have at least 10 new contacts to follow up on after the event. This follow up is crucial and should occur with 1-2 days after the event is over. The whole point is to increase awareness of your business and begin relationships. Sending an email to remind the person of who you are and why you may be able to help one another will place you one step closer to your goals.
Volunteering can be a very productive and fulfilling method of advertising because not only did I get a chance to participate in an historic event with some of the most creative independent filmmakers, I also got a chance to meet some great new people and share information about myself and the business. And those relationships that I’ve made I plan to foster them into something great. You can do the same too, so do it!
Dannielle Brantley, is the founder of Mocha Works, Marketing – Web Design, Print Design and Marketing Consulting for Start-ups, Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses. http://www.mochaworksdesign.com. Email at email@example.com.