Building quality relationships with employees, co-workers and customers alike is a primary way to develop professional networks. Although the digital interface has increased significantly over the past two decades, face-to-face communication and traditional methods to develop these relationships remain popular. That is until the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an unprecedented, rapid movement to adopt online networking for businesses of all types.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Virtual Relationships
In a way, this shift has proven once again what many eCommerce business owners have known for some time—the internet presents you with a way to reach out to associates and clients around the world, broadening your reach and helping you grow your business. Via eCommerce platforms, social media, and other online communities, you can make connections never before possible. Unfortunately, among all these highlights lies one major downside—the sheer difficulty of building genuine relationships digitally.
Developing connections on a personal level with clients and business associates alike can be much more challenging than doing so in person. To your online clients, you exist primarily in two-dimensional form, and it can be challenging to feel like you’ve kept a connection that will continue to promote business growth. As a result, you’ll need to put additional effort into engaging in interactions that build professional, productive relationships.
So, how can you foster a relationship when you can’t look your clients in the eye and shake their hands?
Utilize a Human-Centric Framework
In your efforts to forge a deeper connection when interacting online, it’s crucial to showcase the qualities that not only make you human but set you apart from the competition. Developing a business framework that shows your users some TLC is a great way to start:
Ensure your clients and employees know the overarching goals of your business, and freely share the information necessary to collaborate and develop a relationship built on open communication. Allowing people to get to know you can help you develop a mutual accord.
No matter what the sector of business or the type of relationship you’re attempting to build, it’s essential that you remain likable. Respond genuinely, earnestly, and kindly in your online interactions, and you’ll continue to build a corresponding reputation.
Along with transparency and likability, credibility is the number one factor that leads to trust. If clients, employees, and business contacts like you and realize you operate a transparent, credible business, they’ll trust you to handle their most essential tasks—and clients will continue to pay you to do it.
Virtual Networking Strategies
Once you’ve become accustomed to the TLC framework, you can mesh each of the three properties in a way that can help you build real, professional relationships online. Start with these three strategies for translating TLC into action:
- Humanize your business.
This is one instance where you don’t want to present yourself as a large enterprise with an eye on market domination. Instead, let your online contacts know you empathize with the current world situation—even post-COVID-19. Communicate the steps your business is taking to improve life for your clients and do so frequently.
One way you can achieve this is by adjusting your business bios on social media with an eye toward humanity. Utilize a friendly, relatable voice, and tell a story that assures your clients and associates that you understand their needs and struggles. Be sure to include your values and communicate a positive first impression that resonates with your users.
- Foster engaging discussions.
Online relationship building consists of far more than a list of your products, services, and accomplishments. Instead, you need to utilize your online presence in a way that substitutes for the thoughtful discussions and interactions you usually have in the meeting room or the business lunch. Aside from providing thoughtful, quality content on your business blog, and engaging clients you speak with via the phone or video meeting, what can you do?
One great way to reach professional contacts and clients alike is via social media. Forums like LinkedIn groups give you an outlet to connect with professionals in your industry. Similarly, your business social pages can stimulate discussion by regularly liking and sharing quality, thought-provoking content that aligns with your business values and keeps you front-of-mind for your clients.
- Build social awareness of your brand.
Your social media pages and website offer you a perfect opportunity to showcase the positive effect your business has had on others. Client testimonials on your website prove that your business has reached others personally. Similarly, professional recommendations on your personal profiles on LinkedIn and other sites demonstrate that you’ve developed personal connections with others in your industry.
In addition, including video can help you tell your story in a way words cannot. Whether it’s a virtual face-to-face connection, a video bio on your social media page, or a client connection story on your website, video simply allows you to connect more deeply. Enhancing virtual relationships with video encourages users to share your interactions with others, spreading your brand awareness to more and more individuals.
Nurture Your Online Relationships
It’s essential to keep in mind that virtual relationships require nurturing just as face-to-face connections do. Pay close attention to your online interactions and ensure that you are presenting a human, engaging face for your brand. Developing meaningful virtual relationships can be tricky, but with dedication and TLC, you can continue to connect with professional contacts of all types.
Hungry for more insights? Reach out to us for additional information regarding how to shift your networking and customer relationship-building efforts online.