Vision + Consistency = Tonnes of Clients!
Why do you think that top business consultants advise you to build your new business as if you were going to sell it? To answer that, let me share how I learned this the hard way, with the very first business I ever owned.
Back in the early 80's, I had the tremendous good fortune to have been invited to build a small food outlet in a new and trendy area of Vancouver called Granville Island. The concept of having a public market on a man-made island which had previously been a foundry, was the beginning of moving consumers from mega grocery chains back to shopping at Ma & Pop-type shops. My shop was profitable from day one, which was quite a feat, as at that time you expected to be two to five years into your business before it was in the black.
I remember as if it was yesterday, a conversation with my accountant right after he had gone over my balance sheet. I was a little nervous because although I knew we had really good cash flow, I actually had no idea if I was making money or not.He put down my paperwork, took off his glasses and said to me, "Okay, now's the time to dump it." I was horrified! I erroneously thought I had had a really bad year. However, he went on to explain that this was the very best position I could have been in and that it was the ideal time to sell.
But do you know what? The business was my baby. I had no idea what I would do if I sold it and I told him so. Want to know what he said? "Who cares? Take the money, go chill out on a beach and figure out what you want to do next."
The end result is that I didn't sell that business, and it languished for another two or three years, at which point I was burned out and needed to sell it and didn't get nearly the price that I would have if I'd sold earlier on. Why do you think I procrastinated on selling and moving ahead? Lack of VISION. If I had been building that business, knowing I was going to sell it at its most successful point I would have been much more aggressive in developing my marketing, keeping it in a highly profitable position and I would have had a succession plan for myself.
Even if you are in a highly personal consulting-type business, where you are really the business, always be thinking – what would I be doing in my business if I was expecting to be bought by a successful company? Besides having that VISION, the second part of the equation is how are you going to build the client-base or goodwill that will become your best asset? Which brings me back to the business consultant I talked to earlier this week.
As was my experience with my retail store, he had found himself in the fortunate position of never having to market his business. In his case, he worked solely by referral and up until a year ago and actually had potential business slipping through his fingers because he was too busy to follow up. In fact, he brought a partner in for that very reason. Nice problem to have, for sure.
Well, guess what happened? The economy changed and people started to pull in their horns. Although he is still doing very well relative to his competitors, he now realizes that he needs to start marketing. And he's starting from scratch at the worst possible time – when he needs clients! It's a bit like going to the bank for a line of credit when you need it rather than planning in advance and putting it in place when you don't actually require the money.
The sad part is that this gentleman's situation is not unique. In fact, I would say it's pretty well the norm. Most solo-entrepreneurs and professionals spend so much time working at their craft and doing what they do well, that they typically don't give marketing much thought. Sometimes they differentiate marketing their business from sales or advertising. However, the reality today is that marketing is all of those things and in order to avoid going to the well when it's dry, you simply must have a marketing system that operates automatically.
Marketing Assignment (Part 1)
The good news is that your marketing system can be put in place fairly quickly and with relatively little expense. Here's Part 1 of your marketing assignment for your own business or practice:
1. Focus on your vision for yourself and your business.
Why did you start your business in the first place? Over time, do you want to work more on your business than in it? Do you want to stay as a sole practitioner or do you want to expand and add staff? No matter the answer, pretend that you're going to one day be bought out by a hugely successful organization, and build with that in mind.
2. Determine what you need to do to add to or change your product mix.
For example, if you want to stay a solo-entrepreneur (without expanding locations or adding staff), what products or services could you develop that would add more value to your customers? Focus on knowledge and expertise that you already have, rather than reinventing the wheel. One of my clients who owns a wine-making store decided to rent out his luxurious RV and designed driving routes his customers needed to take wine-tours. It has worked phenomenally well!
3. Reconnect with your clients and prospects.
Take advantage of high-tech tools to become high-touch – things like a weekly or bi-weekly ezine, blog or a simple email that provides tips and tools that your market would find helpful. Save customers the time and money they would otherwise have to spend to get that information for themselves. If you're not sure what they would find valuable, use a survey service like Survey Monkey(it's free and easy to use) to find out. Just be sure to keep it to no more than five or six well thought out questions that only takes a couple of minutes to complete. Alternatively, send an email asking, "What is the #1 challenge that you are experiencing in your business today?" My favorite is: "If I could give you one gift that would help you in your business today, what would it be?"
Be sure to read my next article, Discover Your Ideal Clients and Charge More. It will help you build on this plan and learn how determining your value attracts more IDEAL clients. Until then, remember to market authentically and attract new clients by design!
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