The following is a guest post by Richard Marshall, founder and CTO of Rapid Mobile Media.
London may be the sprawling heavyweight centre of the business universe, but not everybody wants to live there. There are sound economic factors for locating your business somewhere with lower costs and less pressure on staff. Yet the sad fact remains that most of your customers and best contacts will be in the London area.
Until recently the only tools for those remote from the centre were telephone, e-mail, virtual offices and easyJet. The explosion in forms of communication has changed this fundamentally, but you still need to follow some rules. Here are my top ten tips for using them:
People still work with people – so concentrate on building contacts, and sustaining them when they are made.
Do this by being visible – publish yourself via a blog, Twitter, IM, LinkedIn and other appropriate sites. Facebook and Bebo don’t count. Make sure you post comments on other people’s blogs to draw attention back to yourself and show off your knowledge and wit.
Ensure you are using the right channels – Twitter is great for letting people know you are around, blogs are great for showing your thinking skills, but nothing beats a phone call for direct contact.
Do this by defining your communications goals – do you want customers, guru status, consulting gigs, a job? Each needs the right comms style.
Ensure you pick your core audience to match these goals and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Establish a rhythm, don’t post five entries one day then none for a month – it’s better to post infrequently but regularly. Keep some topics in reserve so you always have something to say.
Don’t get into flame wars; keep it cool and professional. Remember that distance means that your readers miss the non-verbals and context. They’ll just think you’re rude and that’s a great way to lose respect.
Judge the required intimacy of contact – Twitter is great for open chitchat, but if you need to deal with a customer project or remote worker, use Messenger or similar to keep the discussion private. These offer great support to regular conference calls.
Remember that if you are an entrepreneur your goal is to make money, not to spend all your time posting and commenting. That’s being a professional blogger and you’d better make sure that you are getting enough ad revenue to pay the bills. Remember to keep the real work flowing as well.
Face to face meetings are still important. Take the train or plane and go to the big smoke and attend some networking events and press the flesh. Always hold project kick-off meetings face to face, and if things go wrong, make sure you are on the client’s doorstep as quickly as possible. Eventually, when your business grows, you can hire a local permanent representative.
These tips can help you maintain a profile remotely, and hopefully have the best of both worlds – quality of life, commercial success and the respect of your distant peers.