The leadership speaker Simon Sinek once said, "I don't care how good your product is. I don't care how good your marketing is. I don't care how good your design is. If you don't understand people, you don't understand business."
As small businesses continue to proliferate with 27 million entrepreneurs in the U.S. alone, it is more important than ever for entrepreneurs to take a step back from their businesses and focus their energy on what matters most.
Living in the Golden Age of Facebook and Apple, entrepreneurship is often associated with technology, and it can be tempting to think that the perfect SEO strategy or new app will unlock your success as an entrepreneur. However, one of the most overlooked and valuable contributions that you can make to your business is something that is best done offline - that is understanding people.
Here are four tried and true tactics for staying high touch in our high tech world and engaging with customers in a more meaningful way.
1. Establish rapport.
Customers are constantly bombarded with offers in an online marketplace that never sleeps and they have developed increasingly shorter attention spans as a result.
One way to break through this cycle of overstimulation and lack of responsiveness is to work on building trust with your customers over time. It often takes multiple interactions with a potential customer before they are ready to engage with you.
Be patient and focus on understanding what their challenges are before telling them what you can do for them. Take a genuine interest in who they are and what their lives are like instead of just seeing them as a "target."
2. Build trust.
In addition to building rapport with your customer, you must show that you are willing to invest in the relationship upfront. Many entrepreneurs are so excited about their own product that they forget that a customer's attention has to be earned.
You can demonstrate your commitment by sharing resources that help them address their challenges such as an ebook or white paper, or even something as simple as a handwritten letter expressing your appreciation for their time.
These gestures will go a long way to building a solid foundation of trust.
3. Talk to the right people.
Every conversation you engage in has a multiplier effect. If you are talking to the right people, they may tell their friends and generate positive word-of-mouth for your business, and conversely, if you are talking to the wrong people, they may write unfavorable blog posts about you and generate negative word-of-mouth.
It's just as important to know when to walk away from a conversation as it is to seize an opportunity. Be selective about who you spend your time with and focus on those customers that have something to gain from what you have to offer.
4. Keep the door open.
Even if a conversation with a potential customer doesn't result in a direct lead for your business, it is important to keep an open mind. You never know where a good conversation might lead in the future. They may come back in one month or one year, or have a connection that might be a good fit for you somewhere down the line.
Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk says, "I always say that the real success of Wine Library wasn't due to the videos I posted, but to the hours I spent talking to people online afterward, making connections and building relationships."
It has never been a more challenging or rewarding time to be an entrepreneur, and it is the people that you meet and the relationships that you build over time that make the journey worthwhile.