What I am loving about the shift to delivering business services online is the opportunity to embrace the phone call and revert back to some more traditional methods to stay meaningfully connected with my clients.
I’m observing that clients who are navigating the changes well are taking more time to nurture their current client relationships, revisiting their focus on the online assets they own (e.g. website and email marketing) and staying focused on adding value. Many business owners are reviewing their sales funnels or pipelines and re-considering where they expect to get work from in the future.
When you sit down and analyse were your sales originate, what do you discover? I did this exercise a few years ago and was interested to see that a significant chunk of my business was coming from referrals or relationships (happy clients telling other clients about our services). This was a reassuring ‘tick’ for my marketing plan, as my focus is on writing a blog that answers people’s questions about using LinkedIn for their business and career, and I send regular thought provoking emails to my community with the latest news on these topics.
But then I discovered something else. I did further analysis into my revenue and looked at the most profitable parts of my business, uncovering a separate and smaller revenue stream that had slowly grown over time. It was for a service I’ve never focused on promoting.
How did this happen?
On reflection, I’ve traced this back to two informal catch ups. One was with a fellow Toy Library parent, many years ago now, who came along to one of my evening workshops. We grabbed a drink afterwards and chatted about her work and current challenges. My natural curiosity meant we chatted for some time about the issues she’d been facing. This led to an invitation to meet her team and explore what role I could play to help.
The second was an informal lunch a few years ago with a colleague. I’d trained her leadership team when I provided Diploma of Management training on a contract basis with a Registered Training Organisation. I’d just established Think Bespoke, and the contract work was a great way to help pay the bills as I got my business off the ground. My lunch partner and I share similar values and had stayed in touch over the years. Again, when I asked how everything was going with her team, she shared some of the challenges she was facing. As we talked through these challenges, I suggested she needed to find herself someone she could have regular accountability conversations with, perhaps a coach. She smiled warmly and said “Karen, why do you think I wanted to catch up with you for lunch today? I want you to help me with this.”
I’ve had this experience a number of times since and the lesson it’s taught me is a powerful one. Being yourself and doing the work is how you will attract some clients. And while I would like to think I’m largely in control of influencing my marketing messages, I’ve come to realise that there are potential clients out there for me who will find me when they are ready.
Focus on what you can influence right now
There’s no one silver bullet in business. It’s complex and there are many moving pieces. What you can control is how you show up. I’m sure you have a point of view, and I hope you are sharing it.
I believe the current times provide an opportunity to support your existing clients in ways you may not have before. Now may be a good time to make some observations about how you recommend your clients can improve certain aspects of their business, or capitalise on an opportunity you can see for them. It’s also a great time to consider how you can connect your client community to encourage collaborations so that all of your clients achieve the success they deserve and are here on the other side!
I also highly recommend you give some serious thought to how you’re showing up on your website blog, on the sales pages of your website and in your email marketing. It’s Dr Seuss that said . . “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”
My experience demonstrates that it’s your values and point of view that can inadvertently attract clients in a way that you didn’t document in your marketing plan! In many ways it’s also encouragement to be the best version of yourself you can be.
What I have consistently done is approach business interactions and decisions with a strong set of values and a personal mission that guides what I do. I genuinely like the clients we work with and care about their success. I ask questions and help them connect dots whenever there’s an opportunity to do so. I often bring in other service providers to help solve their problems or capitalise on opportunities. Importantly, I don’t pay much attention to my competitors and put most of my energy into serving our client’s needs.
Please consider how you can you do the same with your focus and clients right now.
What can you say yes to this month?
I’m sharing this story and my perspective with you because I want you to be as successful in your business right now as possible! There’s lots of research to support that it’s significantly cheaper (and easier) to get more work from existing clients who already know, like and trust you, than find new ones.
I’d like you to please make a list of the clients you’ve worked with in the past two years. Are you in regular contact with them? When was the last time you spoke to them? Can you arrange a coffee or Zoom catch up?
Don’t underestimate the value of just picking up the phone and calling them, with no agenda other than checking in and asking how they are.
And what about your email marketing plans? Are you turning up regularly in your email list’s inboxes? What value could you be adding to your email community right now? I encourage you to consider this as you develop and implement your plans for the next 6 months.
It’s simply because I got into the habit of saying ‘yes’ (something I recommend you do too) when clients I’d worked with would check in with me and ask for advice or guidance on decisions they were making in their business or career, that I was able to create additional revenue streams in my business.
Staying in my lane is important to me but I am learning to say yes to opportunities
I feel this is the part where I should say ‘everything Karen is sharing with you is general in nature and we recommend you seek professional advice for your specific circumstances’. If you listen to any ‘experts’ on the radio, you’ll know what I mean by this statement (did I just show my age – am I the only one who still tunes into ABC Radio for my news?). Please leave a comment below and tell me I am not alone!
As an educator, I am much more comfortable being perceived as a trainer or facilitator. Having said this, I’ve worked hard to cultivate my personal brand and am slowly embracing the idea that some clients want to access my services for reasons other than LinkedIn. I’m coming to terms with the fact that this is the evolution of my personal brand.
My reluctance to see myself this way reminds me of when I was first labelled an ‘expert’. My initial reaction was to reject this title. As a lifelong learner, being labelled an ‘expert’ somehow felt like I was required to know ‘everything’. I now understand this is not necessarily the case, and have learnt to be more comfortable with this label.
And so this may go part of the way in helping you understand that the idea of clients wanting me to coach them felt uncomfortable at first too. You may be thinking – “why is this uncomfortable for you Karen?” My discomfort lies in the high responsibility I believe coaches have when dealing with individuals who may be fragile, even damaged, due to life events they’ve experienced. I didn’t necessarily want that level of responsibility. It felt too personal.
I’ve also witnessed a number of new clients who’ve had previous experiences with implementing advice from their coaches that was inconsistent with their values or natural tendencies and, ultimately, didn’t achieve the outcomes they were seeking. For example, they may have followed the advice that ‘you need a video strategy’ when they in fact felt extremely uncomfortable with being filmed and could have created other content types first to strengthen their confidence. I don’t blame the coaches for this. It’s a problem most likely caused by the misplaced trust some people put in the role of the coach in their business.
For these reasons, coaching was not a professional domain I identified with. I’m an educator, facilitator, strategic content marketer, writer, thinker and entrepreneur. I believe in building relationships over making a sale. And I’m a passionate advocate for the individual, with a personal mission to help people unlock their potential.
I’m also a firm believer in psychologists and counsellors and point many people to these resources for expertise if they feel ‘stuck’. Invariably it’s our childhood that has an enormous influence on forming who we are. As we get older, it’s worth exploring this. Kinesiology can also be a helpful tool in this area for people who may have experienced trauma in their life and have not worked through the emotions associated with these events.
That just got really deep didn’t it! Here we were talking about how you might say yes to more opportunities with current clients, and somehow we ended up with me suggesting you have therapy!
If I’ve triggered something for you here . . . I hope you know what you need to do? Please consider getting some help. Self care is an essential tool that will enable you to build and grow a sustainable small business. Please do not ignore your inner voice. If you are feely a bit wobbly right now, so and see your GP and explore getting a care plan to see a Counsellor or Psychologist.
The current era is not an easy one to navigate and you’re not expected to, nor should you, do it alone.
The importance of taking positive action
My experience highlights how sometimes we can initially be unaware that clients may perceive us as someone who’s able to offer guidance and help to point them in the right direction. This is especially true when you work with a number of clients across a variety of industries and have the benefit of seeing multiple approaches and spotting trends.
I’m a natural problem solver and enjoy hearing people’s stories. My enthusiasm and energy are very encouraging, because I have great faith in the human spirit. My mentor tells me it’s my strategic thinking that helps people. Others tell me it’s my ability to listen and hear what people are really saying (with no judgement) and piece together the solutions in a way that adds a fresh perspective they hadn’t yet considered. I’m articulate and can be quite direct, saying what others will not. I’m comfortable sharing my point of view, even if it’s unpopular. Sometimes I stumble and forget to ask for permission and just blurt out what I think (like my suggestion for you to go and see your GP), but I’m getting better at this, I promise! I come from a place of kindness.
What’s your version of this?
What conversations do you find yourself having with clients that feel ‘outside of your lane’, based on the reason they engaged your services?
If you have the skills and experience to help them and could provide a solution to their problems, what would you recommend?
I encourage you to dedicate time in your schedule this month to mapping out how you can help your clients right now, in an effort to create additional revenue streams for your business.
And, if you’re willing to dedicate half a day or so to this, there’s also come questions I’d like you to consider your answers to.
- Why do you do what you do?
- Why did you start your business?
- Do you enjoy it?
- What parts do you enjoy the most?
- What are the most profitable AND enjoyable aspects of your business?
- How can you be doing more of this work?
- Are you working with great clients and doing great work?
- What other work can you be doing with these clients?
- How can these clients refer more clients to you?
I believe we are all capable of great things. However, I also believe it’s just so damn easy to get stuck in your thoughts. Action is where the gold lies! Take the time to look at your business and your clients and work out ways to do this better. You just never know where a simple phone call to a client you’ve done great work with will lead.