This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the formation of Jester Creative. For 10 years, we’ve been able to consistently provide production services of all sorts – video, web design, digital marketing, print design and training – to a wide variety of clients of all kinds, across many different industries. We feel very fortunate to have worked with so many great people over the years.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 10 years about business, it’s that the development of the business never stops. You continually need to seek out new opportunities, and it’s a lot of work. We’ve tried many different approaches to drum up business, from traditional marketing to some of the newer ways of doing things. We’ve worked with many clients that found us via Twitter. A lot come from referrals through tools like LinkedIN. Once, I even found a client by having a conversation in the chat tool during a webinar!
Owning your own business means you are continuously looking for a job. You have to pound the pavement, put feelers out, respond to opportunities and network all the time. It never stops. Every pitch is like a job interview. But to even get to the place where you’re doing pitches, you have to take a step back. Because you can’t just sit and wait for opportunities to present themselves. You need to find them. And often the road to the perfect opportunity is never a straight line. It requires the ability to recognize the possibility of an opportunity, and then act accordingly.
Always be scanning.
There are lots of ways to drum up new business. Networking events, content marketing, and searching RFP databases are one way, and they are definitely effective. But there are lots of other places to look too, that might be less obvious. Start with friends and family. Now, I don’t mean going and asking your Uncle Eddy for a job, necessarily. But I do mean being aware of the people you’re close to. If you don’t already know, (and I find a lot of people don’t), endeavour to find out more about the kinds of work your family and extended family does. Check in with friends that you don’t have a work connection with. Keep an eye on these people. Have conversations with them about the kind of work they do, and about the kind of work you do. Go back and revisit former colleagues that you had a good relationship with. Invite them for coffee and a catch up.
The secret here is not to pitch them on your business directly – of course, that’s the temptation. The secret is to know a little bit more about what people do, so down the road when they might be looking for someone with your skills, you’re already in their mind. If you don’t talk to people for years, and just sort of fade into the woodwork, they won’t know how to find you when they need you (or they don’t even know to look for you in the first place!).
This is one of the reasons I like to stay so active on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I want to hear about what my friends are up to, so I’m always scanning the territory, checking in and asking questions. I do it mostly because I’m genuinely interested in people and want to know how they are doing. But this type of networking has the secondary benefit of allowing me to be in their minds (and them in mine). Making regular connections with people is the best way to drive referrals. So never stop scanning, but do it from a place of genuine curiosity. It will pay off.
When you least expect it.
Have you ever had the experience of feeling the pace of your business slow? It’s freaky, eh? Every business goes through peaks and valleys. Some months are insanely busy, and others tend to be slower. The slow down always makes me a little bit nervous. But the thing is, it never seems to last for long. The minute I start to get nervous, the phone starts to ring. The emails start to come in. Is it a miracle? No. It’s the payoff. All of that scanning and questioning and networking and prospecting we’ve been doing helps to ensure that when there is a dip, it won’t be for long. And often, the new opportunities will come knocking when you least expect them. And if they don’t, repeat step 1 until they do. Ideally, you want to be making the calls and having the coffee dates BEFORE you get to the dip. But if you need to, keep scanning until the new opportunities come along. But sometimes….
Patience is a virtue.
The most challenging part of being in business, I think, is having the patience to stick with it. At any given time, we are waiting. Waiting to hear back about a proposal we submitted. Waiting for a client to sign a contract. Waiting for deliverables to be approved. Waiting for a cheque. This is all normal, and all just part of being a business owner. But if you think of your business as being a cycle – sometimes you’ll be doing the work, sometimes you’ll be waiting for others to do theirs – it makes it easier to be patient. It doesn’t matter what type of business you have, “hurry up and wait” is just the name of the game sometimes. But I firmly believe that those that have mastered the art of patience are the ones that will prevail. So be patient. Be in the moment. Anticipate the unexpected, and you’ll not only be more successful, but you’ll have a lot more fun along the way.
And how about you? What secrets have you learned about marketing your business and bringing new clients in the door? Share your thoughts in the comments.