My 3 habits for small-business growth.
What if the little, unsung habits made the difference?
Good morning on this lovely Thursday. It rains a great deal here in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For once we’ve gotten 3 days in a row of sunshine, and I don’t take it for granted. Summertime is a pretty fun time of the year. People go on vacation, blasting social media with postings of themselves on a beach or lake. It’s part of many highlight reels that either boosts egos or rubs salt in the wounds of insecurities. It can be very easy to get thrown off course of your tangible career and life goals when you feel like you’re on a break from life. By all means, vacation and rest is essential for our spirits and bodies. It keeps us out of ruts and helps us to introspect and heal. However, if we get too disengaged for too long, we start tossing aside the little habits that help us with follow-through.
I get asked frequently how I get the clients and business that I get. The single biggest means that I’ve been able to serve whom I’ve served is through networking (also known as “getting your name out there”). Sure I’ve gotten some jobs here and their through social media, but vast majority of them have come through networking. This can also be called “relational marketing”; building business and working tenures through meet-ups and communication with the foundation of trust. However, its the little habits that have played just as big of a role. And they all revolve around CONSISTENCY.
The first habit is research. Research encompasses many things, but universally I would say researching your competition should be a top priority. My target clients is a start-up, self-employed, small business and non-profit organizations. They are my clients because I’m able to offer them all sorts of graphic design, web design and social media page management at much better price points than the average marketing firm. It took time, experience and research of other firms, designers and general business practices to know what exactly I could offer and for how much. This knowledge then led me to research the networking groups and events I attended just to begin to build my connection base in business. It involved trial and errors through tweaking my sales pitches, wardrobe, my mannerisms around people I interacted with and ultimately the kind of people I was meeting through these. I’ve networked very consistently for about 3 years and it’s paid off immensly. It’s a cliche saying but it’s very true, “It’s not always about what you know. It’s about who your know.” Keep getting your name out there and meeting new people in business. You just can’t always predict who or what it will lead to.
Second habit is craft. Your craft, whether it’s designing, producing, acting, retail etc. is a habit. You should never reach the point where you stop asking how you can make your craft better. I always ask what I can do to make my practice and craft a better experience for everyone involved. Have I made mistakes? You bet I have. But I’ve learned a lot from them. Or for instance, when a proposal I sent gets rejected, instead of getting offended immediately, I take a step back and reflect. Did it get rejected because they didn’t understand something? Did I not communicate what they were getting clear enough? Did I overestimate how much time and money it would take to undertake their project? How can I streamline by process better? These are all questions I’ve asked myself and it’s led to much better results for my craft and client’s experience working with me. You might have just completed a job at a satisfactory rate, but out-do yourself on the next job. Never stop wanting to get better! You’re going to be serving high-end people someday and thank yourself consistently challenging yourself to get better.
Third and final habit I’m sharing is following-up. Did you meet someone and have a good conversation with them on what they do and how you can help them? Did you exchange business cards? Great! What are you going to do about it now?. Take the initiative first and follow-up with your lead by the next day. Through my experience, I pretty much live with the expectation that if I don’t take the first step, there’s a 90% chance I’ll never hear from anyone I’ve ever met at networking events. I’d like to think it’s not because I rubbed anyone the wrong way but who knows (just kidding). Anyways, email them. Let them know how it was nice to meet them and talk about what you talked to them about. Point them to your site or social media (unless you have illegal activity shown on your Facebook or IG then don’t do that). Ask to have an appointment with them to further discuss how you can be an asset to them through your services and NOT through your services. Tell them about other networking events you attend and give them the information (as long it fits in the guidelines and rules of the networking event/group). Let them share how they can help potentially help you with their services or someone they know who can be a great resource to you. Didn’t hear anything back after the first email? Don’t give up. Check back in a week or 2 later and follow-up. DO NOT come across like a money-grabbing salesman. No one likes that. I get it, we all are just trying to make a living, but I don’t know anyone who likes a pushy salesperson. Be persistent yet gentle. NEVER follow-up out of desperation. Show confidence and value, like you have a really great thing to offer. Build from relationship and trust first on a consistent basis. I promise you, that you will get much better results and develop a good name with others in business.
Think outside the box and explore how you keep mastering the lost art of follow-through in a world that seems to be more characterized by fluff and no substance. Do your research. Perfect your craft. Consistently (not harrassingly) follow-up with your leads. You got this! I believe in you!
This concludes the “miniseries” of “The Lost Art of Follow-Through”. If these have helped you at all understand how to grow your business or just given you more help with how to go about job searching, please let me know in the comments below!