Building Your Best Relationships

Part of excelling at designing the image of your business, no matter the size, is knowing the allies and advocates who can speak to your expertise. Over the years, as I've watched businesses grow or struggle, it’s become clear that having a "Top 25 Relationships" is a key strategy to expanding reach and ability to drive results.

The Top 25 isn't exclusively customers. They are key people and organizations who can expand your exposure even when you’re not around. They're the people who say your name when they hear someone talking about your business area. They could even be a trade magazine that writes an article on your company.

Let's say you make high-end videos for mobile phones and your lawyer is having lunch with one of her other clients, who comments that he's thinking of making an app for a new product. This is where your lawyer would mention your name. The advantage of the Top 25 is they know what you are working on, and the top three services or products you provide.

Here are three steps to identify and develop your Top 25 Relationships. (Note, your list may not be solidified. That is why you will need to expand your relationships to maximize your network.)

1. Take inventory to start the list

Where does your business come from? Who knows what you do best? Who do you pay money to who could refer you business or keep you top of mind?

Consider your personal network and their knowledge of what you or your company does.  Do they know what you are capable of doing? If this list is a challenge to create, review who you have met, emailed or spoken with in the past month. Are these people advocates for you and your business?  Also consider the magazines you read and the key players in your industry.  Spend time being strategic to figure out who can help you increase your profile and credibility.

2. Rank the List

Once you have the Top 25 list started, be ruthless in your assessment of each person's knowledge of your business and his or her ability to advocate for you. Can they deliver you your own elevator speech? Do they know who your ideal customer is? Do they know your success stories?

Give each person a rank of one to five, and if someone is a three, what can you do to move that person up to a five? Have they seen your latest brochure or website? Have you shared your new product and the rave reviews your customers are giving you? Equip everyone so they can keep you top of mind as they network themselves. 

3. Realize that the Top 25 goes both ways

Your list is a very relationship-based strategy and the key is to be as much of an advocate for your own Top 25 as they are for you and your business. Several of the people on your list may not need you to advocate for them now, but always assume they have a cause or area where they would need you to be present for them. Maybe it's attending a fundraiser or hiring one of their relatives, but you want your Top 25 to know that they matter to you. Specifically be polite, be generous, be helpful and help your Top 25 reach their goals. If you don't know what they are, then it's time for you to reach out and be a reciprocal networker.

I may sound a little direct on this, but I can't reiterate enough how many people take their closest relationships for granted. People get busy, they are preoccupied and they lose their manners. Your Top 25 is special. These are the people who can move you faster towards your goals. They are special and if you nourish these relationships, everyone will win!

Cathy Paper is president of RockPaperStar, which coaches, develops and markets select business owners, authors and unique speakers to national status. The 91-day RockStar Plan impacts marketing plans, career coaching, and business development. Her clients include Harvey Mackay — the No. 1 New York Times best-selling Author of "Swim With The Sharks" — Lifetouch, Best Buy, and Paramount Studios.


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