Elisabeth Garbeil's blog

Looking for Clients in All the Wrong Places

Who doesn't need more clients?   Isn't it great when you've good a full practice and can't take on any more clients?     But then, you get too busy to market, finish up with a few clients and all of a sudden you don't have enough clients.  What do you do then?  First off, don't ever STOP marketing & business development, but that's a topic for another day.   Most of the people I meet with start networking a whole lot and drive themselves crazy.  They are trying to find clients from people they don't know and groups they've never been involved with.  This is good if you aren't a member of any groups and don't know a lot of people - but if you've been in business for more than a few years that isn't going to be the case.  It also really takes time to build quality relationships and become known and respected in an organization - more time than you probably have if you really need clients.  It's a very good long-term strategy and can sometimes pay off in the short-term, but it won't reliably get you clients NOW.

So where is the best place to start if you have been in business more than a few years?  Your desk!  That's right, the file of your existing clients, friends and contacts that's on your computer or your rolodex.   This sadly neglected area is where most businesses fall flat.  They don't do a good job of staying in touch and following up.

Following up with people is how you maintain and grow relationships.  It's also the best way of getting clients quickly.  Start having conversations with people who you know and who already know (and hopefully like) you.    Catch up with them and find out what's going on in their lives.   Rekindle and strengthen that relationship.  See if there's something that  you can help them with (not making a sale).  Who do you know that can help them?

You're a lot more likely to get business from someone who already knows and likes you than from a complete stranger.   If you haven't talked with them in a while, there's a good chance they really need some reminding of what you do and what  you're working on right now.  Once you remind them, it's also a good chance that they know someone who needs something similar, or perhaps they could use some services from you themselves (especially past clients and people who have referred you before).

Make it a point to talk to good clients (past or present) and referral partners at least quarterly on the phone or in person.  Send out newsletters.   Send personal cards for major occasions.   Keep in touch.   It's fairly easy to do once you get in the habit of it, and it pays huge dividends.

Endless Referrals, by Bob Burg, is an excellent resource if you want more information on how to follow up.

The best place to find new business quickly is people you already know.


A Good Example of BAD Customer Relations

Facebook has been all over the web this week with their unexpected and sweeping changes to the user interface.  Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be any rationale for the change.  And talk about really poor client communication - no one knew until they looked and their feed had been changed to stories that facebook chose based on something other than the user's desires.  I don't know about you, but I had to go in and make some changes to get back what I wanted to see.  Even worse, on the iPhone where I check facebook most often,  they changed the feed today and I have no way of changing it back. 

I saw a lot of people moving to Google+ this week.  This is not a good way to grow your business, especially for a company very dependent on ad revenue - where the more users you have, the more money you make. 

It was a great move for Google+, that's for sure.

Lesson:  talk to your customer base and find out what things they would like, or ask them what  you think they might enjoy before you change their services.  Test it out first with a smaller group of volunteers to make sure the customer experience will be a good one. 



Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber Community Leadership Luncheon Was Inspiring

I was very moved by Molly MacDonald's story (Every time I talk to her,  I am reminded of how amazing a person she is.) and her commitment to helping other women through the situation she faced when fighting breast cancer.   I am also very impressed by Huntington Bank's commitment to Michigan.  I was aware of the 2 Billion commitment to small business lending through my relationship as a coach to GLEQ, but that's quite a bit different than listening to Mike Fezzey, the regional president of Huntingdon Bank, talk about his passion for helping the community.    Check out the story in today's Birmingham Patch.

Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

One thing you can always say about Seth Godin's books:  They're always very readable.  Tribes is no exception.  It was an enjoyable read, but disappointing.  The book did have some good points, but I think it focused too much on saying you can be and you need to be a leader.   People that take initiative don't need convincing to do so.  For those that do need convincing, this book won't do it.  Godin's treatment of how to handle the fear of risk (or losing your job) is simplistic at best.  What he describes as "factories" still drive most of the jobs, even though many of them are smaller companies.  The idea that you are guaranteed a better job if you take risks is unrealistic in this day and age.  

The sad part of it is that there's really good concepts in Tribes that get buried by his focus on leading.   I really appreciated his definition of a tribe as anything 1) possessing a shared interest and 2) a way to communication.  The next point is that the internet allows people to create and join tribes in an amazing way - there are no limits on what tribes can be and how big or small they are.  

The idea of being able to join or create a tribe around something that you are passionate about and get involved and active is the gem of this book.  Small numbers of people can have an amazing impact, where 20 years ago, it might have taken a huge organization to make a difference because of the logistics involved.  Modern technology (i.e. the internet) has eliminated many of the barriers to communication and resources.  

I enjoyed the examples Seth Godin gives, but I have a better one from just this week - my husband created a group to support a little girl with a terminal disease who was being harassed by a neighbor.   Within a day of creating the page, it had over a thousand members and growing.   If you look around, you could probably find hundreds of examples of that.

It's now much easier to find groups around your passions, no matter how unusual, and become active.  GET INVOLVED with your passions.   It doesn't have to be in a big way or really risky.

So what did you think of Tribes?

NAWBO 2011 Satellite Chapter Award Winner

I was awarded the 2011 Satellite Chapter Award by the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) at the NAWBO Annual Meeting on June 9, 2011.  It was a great honor.  It is also a pleasure to be recognized for all the work I do in organizing and planning the NAWBO Central Satellite.  The NAWBO Central Satellite is currently on hiatus for the summer, but will start again in October.  The Central Satellite meets the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 8:30 am at Zuma Coffee House in downtown Birmingham.  If you would like to be on the mailing list for the NAWBO Central Satellite, please email me at egarbeil@efg-consulting.net.

2011 Satellite Chapter Award - NAWBO Annual Meeting


Book Review: What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith

I found this book a little difficult to get through, as it's kind of all over the place, but it's really well worth it.   Harry's style in this book is similar to an experienced salesman mentoring someone new - he is imparting advice and concepts that made him and could make you successful in selling services as he thinks of things and not necessarily  in a particular order.

There's lots in What Clients Love, from what to call yourself, how clients perceive you and what they really buy when purchasing a service to how important the relationship is to selling a service (everything).  He also talks about what goes into building a relationship and how to maintain it.   He addresses issues like how to deal with mistakes and how to listen.

I'd recommend reading this book, and then going back and focusing on a section here and there slowly until you really absorb his points.   Mr. Beckwith isn't correct on everything - His predictions on the Internet were certainly off and you can tell that his target audience is white middle aged men, or white male wannabe's - a normal bias for most traditional salesman.  And yet there are pearls of wisdom, even in that. 

So many things struck me in this book, it's hard to list them all so I'm not going to even try.  Here's just a few highlights.

  1. From page 129 - "Prospects choose service providers who share their tastes."  Remember the advice - "dress like your clients, just a little bit better."  It's excellent advice, but not if you pretend to something that you aren't, such as dressing like a farmer if you aren't one.  That ends up offending worse than the silk suit.  Mr. Beckwith addresses this very nicely with a clear story and better advice "Dress honestly and a little up."
  2. From page 182 - Imagineering's Six Commandments.  These are great reminders of what's important when designing a space, a sales presentation, or anything affecting your image or marketing.  My favorite commandments are "Avoid overload" and "Tell one story at a time."
  3. From page 237 - The Ten Rules of Business Manners.  These alone will make a big difference in growing your business and developing relationships.  If you do nothing else from this book but practice these, you will have made a huge impact on  your business.  My favorites are #1 - Wait until the other person has finished talking before you speak. and #9 - Be kind.   These all seem to be so obvious, yet very few people really practice these behaviors.
  4. I'm a coach and trainer, so I really like great questions.  The questions in the appendix starting on 260 are wonderful.  If you answer them yearly, you will really have a great guide to growing yourself and your business.

In short, buy the book, read it and re-read it.  Then start practicing bit by bit.  You'll really notice a difference in your business and your clients.

I'd love to hear what you get out of What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith.  Leave a comment here.

Book Review: Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

Meatball Sundae was not as easy a read as most of Seth Godin's books are.  The book as a whole was messy (The title should have warned me) and definitely not up to his usual quality.

The main point of this book is that running your business the old way, which Seth defines as selling mass market products targeted at as large a demographic segment as possible does not work with what he calls the New Marketing - online and social media marketing.  An example of the old way would be Walmart or Coca-Cola.  Amazon and Google are excellent examples of New Marketing, as is Seth's own Squidoo.com.   The meatball sundae is two things that don't work together at all, even if they're both good. 

While I agree that most traditional brick and mortar companies aren't structured to really benefit fully from what online and social media marketing, I disagree that they can't benefit at all.  As a matter of fact, one of the points Mr. Godin makes later on in the book, which I fully agree with, is that any company ignores social media at their peril.  With social media, everyone becomes a critic of the company, for good or bad as many examples illustrate.  And you never know what story will catch the attention of the public, whether or not it's true.  One damaging story can have a huge impact on the company's bottom line.   Seth gives the example of Delta throwing a woman off a plane for breastfeeding, among several others.  If we thought about it, we could all come up with similar examples.  Your company may not be posting anything on social media, but they should be monitoring at the very least.

He also makes an excellent point  that you can't use online and social media the way TV, radio and print advertising work.  It's a completely different medium which requires a completely different strategy and orientation. 

Another difficulty I had with Meatball Sundae is working out how to apply it to my target market, independent professionals and small service firms  who traditionally don't benefit from traditional advertising or marketing campaigns such as direct mail.  

What I concluded is that what he describes as the trends of the New Marketing actually favor the independent professional and small firm. You don't need a huge budget anymore to make a substantial niche.  Online and social media allow a small company or independent professional a much wider voice and outlet than was ever available before.  He goes into detail on what he calls trends of the New Marketing.  These trends, such as the long tail, outsourcing, infinite communication channels, amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities work in the favor of the small independent more than the big firm.

According to Seth Godin, the small businesses with very high quality service,  like those that were put out of business by the large discount houses (Walmart, for example),  can now compete against the big firms by having a much more targeted audience that is both large and more dispersed than ever.  A great example would be Blendtec (you can check out their videos on YouTube).

All in all, Meatball Sundae did have a fair amount of useful information, even if it didn't seem to tie together well enough to support his main point.  It's worth reading, even if it's not what I would consider among his best. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Meatball Sundae as well.

More on Why You Should Have a Narrow Target Market

I had a very short conversation with a salesperson from a sales training company last week.  It was less than 5 minutes.  He listened to me describe my target market and only heard as far as attorneys, independent financial advisors and chiropractors.   He heard those three word and only saw that he had clients that were attorneys and financial advisors.  At that point he stopped listening.  He really didn't have a target market and focused on everyone who sold anything - which is everyone, by the way.  Even if you work for a company you are a free agent who sells their services to one client.  Because he only saw the overlap in our demographics, he didn't see any opportunities for us to help each other.

He lost out on the referrals I could give him, and by trying to appeal to everyone, he loses other opportunities as well. 

There's two parts to this - you have a brand and an image whether you like it or not and you develop that image and brand every single time you interact with anyone in any way, whether it's direct contact, personal, email, mail, word of mouth, etc.  Your brand will attract a certain kind of client, whether you want it to or not.  Nothing works exactly the same way for everyone.  There is no single product on earth that appeals to everyone.  If you don't create your brand deliberately, the world will create it for you and you will have an extremely difficult time changing it.

The second part is this - by trying to appeal to everyone, or thinking that your product or service works for everyone, you will alienate people instead of attracting them.  People are much more attracted by the idea of being a member of an exclusive group than by being treated just like everyone else.  It's the other side of the same principle that Harry Beckwith states in Selling the Invisible (see my last blog post).  Narrowing your position ( another word for brand) broadens your appeal.  So trying to have too broad a position or brand limits your appeal.

Wouldn't you rather be seen as belonging to an exclusive club?  Think about all the restaurants and country clubs that thrive on this principle.

Had the sales training person spent more time with me and seriously considered whether we could work together, he would have found out that in reality there is no overlap at all.  Our clients might have the same demographics in general, but they differed greatly when you looked closer.  My clients would never hire him and his clients wouldn't be interested in me at all. We appeal to very different segments of the same market.  I was very clear on that, he wasn't. 

I make much more efficient use of my time and pick up clients that aren't related to my target market at all because they get the appeal, even though I don't market to them.   And I have other associates that do what he does and get the referrals that I might have given to him.

That's one of the side benefits of being very focused.

So how can you further focus your marketing efforts?

Book Review: Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is not aimed at the small or solo professional.  It is directed at salespeople and marketing in organizations that sell services.  And by services, he's talking about companies like Federal Express, American Express, Levi's and Dayton's (The book was written in 1997, so you need to make some allowances.).  

So why am I even bothering to review this book, when it is clearly not aimed at my target market?  

Because Selling the Invisible should be required reading for all professionals. 

Mr. Beckwith has a clearer understanding of what is going on in the minds of your clients and prospective clients in regards to your service than any other author I've read.  In order to really be successful, you need to understand what people are thinking before, during and after they do business with you.  Most marketing books focus on product, and even the ones that focus on servicea don't really do a good job of explaining WHY people prefer one service over another or what can impact the decision, or why they buy or don't at all.  Selling the Invisible not only explains what's going on in the minds of your current and prospective clients, he also details what you can do about it.   Some of the things he says don't apply to the independent professional, but the reasoning and understanding do.

The examples Harry Beckwith gives are also clear and explicit, so that you can easily understand the point he's getting at.  This is especially important for things like branding and niche marketing, which are often the opposite of what most professionals believe.  Narrowing focus (Harry calls this positioning) is probably one of my favorite examples in the book because it's one of the main things I work on with many of my clients.  He gives the example of Scandinavian Airlines in 1980.  They decided to position themselves exclusively as "The Business Traveler's Airline" after sustaining massive losses.  The airline focused it's marketing and advertising on business travelers and developed their brand in that direction.  As a result, they gained not only business travelers, but more tourists. They had the highest percentage of business travelers and the lowest tourist fares in Europe.

There are many other great examples for understanding marketing and business development for services in the book as well.   You will really be able to understand what works for you and more importantly, why.  This book won't tell you how to market your practice, but it will give you a much better understanding of what works - which can only improve your business development and growth.

Read this book once, twice, even more and you will really grow as a result.

Let me know your thoughts here on Selling the Invisible as well, after you've read it.

21st Century Leaders Program "Apprentice" Presentations

This past Wednesday night, I had the pleasure of serving on the  Panel for the "Apprentice" portion of the 21st Century Leaders program sponsored by the Birmingham Community House.  The program runs from September through April and is modeled on the Leadership Oakland program.   3 seventh grade students are nominated by about 10-13 schools in the Birmingham & Bloomfield area to participate in the program.  It was quite an amazing experience.  For this portion of the program, the students were broken into 7 teams to get a crash course in entrepreneurship, culminating in a presentation to request resources.   The Panel was responsible for determining what resources each team would receive based on their presentation and what they requested.  All seven teams were amazing.  We had a wonderful time seeing what products they came up with and how they put together the business cases. I was very impressed.  It was really quite an accomplishment - this four-session process was the first introduction that the majority of the students had had to everything that goes into a business plan -- marketing, operations, product development and finance.  These are not things that are taught in school, for the most part.  Each team was impressive and did very well.  The products were unique and innovative and the presentations were very good.  I had a wonderful time.

George Marsh, Elisabeth Garbeil and Phillip Seaver

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