Relationship Building 101: Have you passed?
'Tis the season. I'm not simply referring to holidays—now is the time to start making travel arrangements for some very important trade shows. Have you booked your flights? Your hotel? Transportation? Have I put you in a total state of panic? Try to relax. As I’m often told, “It always gets done.” Instead, focus on what matters most: building new relationships and nurturing existing relationships with your clients.
When I started covering the print industry seven years ago for our sister publication, Print+Promo magazine, I had never attended a major show. I was very green, still learning the trade vernacular and who was who in this particular market. My first project was our Buyer’s Guide, which I coincidentally am working on now. While that definitely made me familiar with many suppliers, I still had no faces to put to the names. Soon enough, it was time to attend my first trade show in Las Vegas.
It was great engaging with my peers without my computer serving as a barrier to block face-to-face connections. I was only in Vegas for one night/two days, but that trip will always be remembered as a positive experience thanks to a particular public relations (PR) specialist. Now, I know what you’re thinking—of course a PR contact paid attention to you … that’s what he or she does. Yes, a good one. As an editor I have been on the receiving end of both positive and negative experiences, so it might be unfair to make a blanket statement (i.e., that’s what they do).
This particular person knew I had never seen the exciting things Las Vegas has to offer. We went on a business dinner and conversed over amazing food. We visited some of the tourist sites, which I enjoyed even though a Vegas native might disagree. I saw the city come alive.
Sure, having our own personal tour guide was wonderful; however, that is not the lesson to take away. My contact and I certainly talked business, but the nice part was that he expressed an interest in my role, my goals and how we could work together to achieve them. I mattered. Since that trip, we remained in touch and I learned a lot about the industry and every conversation felt like I was catching up with an old friend rather than a mere associate—a win-win situation.
Think about this as you plan your itinerary for the upcoming trade shows. Check in with old friends. Perhaps make lunch or dinner plans if time allows. Lose the “me, me, me” mentality and ask about THEM.
Finally, don’t forget to visit company booths that you’re unfamiliar with and introduce yourself. That person might just be your next best client.