One of the joys of running a small agency is that we get to work for all kinds of clients from the very small (literally Mom and Pop startups) to the massive (Ford, Chase, 3M).
I think we usually learn more from our work for smaller clients and that’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? When I was very young, I thought that knowledge and business experience flowed downhill from the lofty heights of executive boardrooms to home offices. I have since learned that just as often, the knowledge flow is uphill from the small to the huge. I should have known that, anyway.
My Dad used to say, “We’re leaving money on the table if we don’t follow up with every buyer who comes into our showroom, whether we got a purchase order or not.” In those days he owned a jewelry manufacturing company on 36th Street in New York City.
The plant was downstairs with the designers. My Dad stayed upstairs, in the showroom, where he’d display his jewelry on beautiful black velvet trays for buyers from chain stores and the jewelry equivalent of wholesalers.
He always sent each buyer a follow-up Thank You note, often with a small gift. His business flourished for years, thanks at least partly to his follow-up notes. (The power of a personal letter in making a company memorable can’t be beat.)
My Dad taught me a lot about business, though he didn’t have much education himself.
Do you do that kind of thing in your business nowadays? Does anybody? I used to do it a lot but I stopped for some reason, probably the Internet. I’m going to start again. Now that I think about it, I’m going to start tinkering with four more of my Dad’s “business secrets” and you might want to give some of them a try whether or not you’re responsible for a massive corporation or a sharp neighborhood operation:
- Always keep three business opportunities on your desk. This might sound difficult, onerous, but it’s not once you get started and keep the opportunity list top of mind. It’ll become a (profitable) habit. Usually I have several speeches and/or seminars in the works and they can be great new biz opportunities. A second source of opportunities comes from referrals. A current customer recommends you to another company. (Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, either.)
- Nothing matters much until money changes hands. My Dad always believed that you shouldn’t fall in love with your own product or service until your customers do – voting with their money and not just their opinions. My Uncle Ralph was my Dad’s jewelry designer. Whenever he fell in love with a design, which was often, he wanted to manufacture thousands of them right away. Instead Dad took the prototype upstairs to show the Buyers first. If he didn’t get orders, the new design just didn’t get made. “Nothing happens until we get the check” was his mantra. It stuck with me and it’s saved me a fortune over the years.
- Follow the 2-2-2 Rule. Every day do two things that will pay off in two weeks, two things that should pay off in two months and two things that might yield results in two years. The beauty of this idea is that it sets up a success cycle, even in rough economic times. Some of the ideas you begin to plant may not germinate, but the idea is that you plant so many programs, write so many queries, call so many prospects, speak to so many people via social media, that something good will happen.
- Communicate regularly with current customers without selling at them. Send thank you notes, holiday cards, newspaper clippings, emails with links that might help them in their businesses. There is something about a handwritten note that always gets it opened first. Try sending two or three a day. (And boy, does this idea work!)
- Figure out which customers will be good for your business and which ones won’t. This is a not an easy task and I’ve been wrong many times in my own business. There was one time when a client wanted us to develop a portal for him. He flew in to meet with us, and discuss the details. My radar sensed he wasn’t a real prospect though he had a private plane and all the other accouterments to actually accomplish this business. We met with him in marathon meeting for three days, and my General Manager was so excited about the program. Then the client started backing off when we told him about the development costs. We wasted all of our time, effort and brain power on a man who wasn’t able to pay for his idea. That is one reason I don’t do RFPs anymore. I often think that the selection committees pre-select and just have to prove their decision by showing other proposals also.
Bonus: Find experts who can actually help you with your business. Splurge on the best accountant, insurance person, business advisor. They will help you in ways you’d never expect.
Setting these ideas in motion can bring in new business, better business, and help you keep and grow current business. Once you get started, you’ll begin to project lots of positive energy. Then let me know how you’re doing!
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