The greatest asset your business has isn’t its products, your experience, the equipment in your studio, or the technology that makes it all go ’round. The greatest asset you have is your ability to connect people.

Business has a unique power to bring people together. We have the sense that we have more than a little in common with the person at Starbucks who orders the same drink that we do. And we may strike up conversations with other regulars at the neighborhood bar & grill. Main street businesses band together to create community activities that bring together whole towns. A simple ebook can spark an ongoing discussion on Twitter.

These person-to-person, customer-to-customer interactions are important.

No matter how trusted the business, no matter how respected the brand, a business-to-customer relationship will always have an air of quid pro quo about it.

I experience this firsthand all the time. I’ll be having a drink with someone at a conference or lunch with a friend I’ve met on Twitter. The conversation inevitably winds its way towards business. Once the other person realizes what’s happened, they often apologize and explain that they value my take on things but don’t want to take advantage of the situation. Take advantage? I love this stuff! No one needs to goad me into talking about business and I’m happy to lend a fresh perspective at any time.

But there it is, that sneaking suspicion that our personal connection may require a greater investment down the line. Not so, but it’s something I’m always aware of.

Instead, facilitate conversations within your tribe. These are genuine, peer-to-peer, incredibly enriching connections that help you do your job better.

How can I create conversations within my tribe?

First, look for opportunities for external connections. These conversations & relationships happen in the public sphere. They happen on social media, main street, book clubs, community events, conferences, etc… anywhere people are gathering is fair game for people talking to each about what you do.

Your aim here is for your customers or potential customers to be talking about your ideas or product, not the business itself. It’s not that that’s bad, it just doesn’t make for as meaningful of conversations.

How can you encourage external connections?

  • Make an extraordinary product. Products that change people’s lives – even in small ways – give people a reason to talk to each other. Yes, this is classic word of mouth advertising. But it’s also spreading special tricks & techniques or creating a product culture (look at the conversation around Apple’s press conference this week).
  • Offer up a symbol. Paul Tillich defined a symbol as something that “points beyond itself” to something mysterious or unknown. My iPhone is a symbol of Apple brand culture but it also points to an unbound sense of creativity & love of design. The #youeconomy hashtag is a symbol of my philosophy of the New Economy but also points to a sense of hope in the future.
  • Deliver an innovative idea. Your rallying cry, manifesto, or great ambition is nothing if it can’t spark conversation & connection. Almost every day, I spot a conversation on The Art of Earning on Twitter or Facebook. The idea that “making money is beautiful” is fresh for many people and it’s a reason to celebrate, talk, laugh, and share.

Once you’ve nailed some opportunities for external connections, take a look at how you can foster internal connections. These conversations & relationships form within your tribe in secret or private places. If your business was a tree fort, these connections would be on the other side of the secret handshake.

Internal connections work because there’s a sense of exclusivity. Not everyone is in on these connections and the people that are feel a sense of shared purpose.

While this has always been a part of the way I craft offerings, never have I seen this come together more beautifully than in the program I’m running with Adam King, Make Your Mark. It’s a fairly small group and weighty material so everyone in the group is helping to each other accountable, witnessed, loved, and moving forward. It’s downright inspiring to watch. I feel privileged to be able to witness the conversations & connections happen every week.

The Make Your Mark participants will each be more successful in what they produce from the program because they are now a tight-knit community.

That’s the beauty of internal connections: they amplify the work you’re already doing.

Facebook groups, forums, in-person meet-ups, phone calls, Skype groups… you can create these opportunities in a multitude of ways. Experiment and find out what works best for your tribe.

Never underestimate the power of your ability to connect.

Connection is one of the major touch points of the You Economy. Moving forward, connecting with others through business will be a non-negotiable. In your business, you have no room to ignore the power you have to facilitate meaningful, positive connections between the people who use your services or buy your products.