There may be times when you’re looking at the business that is coming in (or not coming in) and you start to wonder if you should:
Lower your prices
Work with customers who are outside of your sweet spot
Fire your staff
Spend money you don’t have
Live on even less than you are already
…Or some other version of sacrifice that feels kind of awful, but somehow necessary
Remember in January, when we talked to you about financial resilience? Sacrificial behaviour and a scarcity mindset isn’t going to help you get there. But what will?
A great pipeline.
Sure, Admin Slayer, we can hear you thinking, Easy for you to say. We agree. Saying things is easy. Doing things - that’s much harder. Yes, of course, we have some things that you can do. They may not all be easy, but they will build a resilient, powerful pipeline for your business, full of the customers you love to work with, and the work you love to do.
We actually mean that. Excellent service is your best marketing tool. It’s one of those slow-burn activities that takes a long time and a lot of work to build, but a great reputation with the customers you love is bar-none the most powerful form of marketing you can ever work on. It’s the first, and by far the most important, tool in your kit.
Invest In Business Development
Who is already working with your customers? Get to know them. Where do they hang out? What are their pain points? What can you do to make their lives easier? Identify these folks and reach out to them with clear goals on what you can do for them.
Don’t walk in asking them to send you business. That’s icky. Walk in telling them how you can help. Build true, powerful, lasting relationships with people who operate reciprocal businesses. Take them for lunch. Send them information that will help them build their business. Send thank you cards and holiday presents. Remember their birthdays, their children’s names, and their favourite drink. Treat them like your best customers - because they will see that as a reflection of how you will treat the people they send you.
Remember to make this an ongoing part of your business. Too many people have a couple of great lunches, get some clients, and then forget to work at maintaining that relationship. Make relationship building and maintenance part of your regular process.
Create a Referral Incentive Program
Want to encourage great referrals? Give your referrers a reward. Everyone loves presents! Whether it comes in the form of fat dollar bills, prizes, discounts, swag, charitable donations, or some other special thing that your people just love, incentives work. They create motivation and engagement, and demonstrate your appreciation.
Get really clear on who you would incent - it can’t be everyone, just like your best customer can’t be everyone. Think about how the incentive will impact your goal, what will engage your referrers the most, and what will create the word of mouth you’re trying to build.
Some things to consider when building your reward structure:
What event triggers a reward?
Are there different incentives based on number of referrals or timing of referral?
Should every referral trigger a different reward?
How much should you spend? Remember you will still need to make a profit.
Are there terms and conditions? Having clear rules will avoid disappointed referrers.
How will you prevent fraud?
What type of reward will lead to more referrals?
Referral incentive programs aren’t right for every kind of business, but it could be right for yours.
Invest in Promotions and Public Relations
Now that you’ve focused on the one-to-one pipeline building, let’s get out there with the one-to-many. Building your visibility, whether for you as a person or your company as a whole, can pay huge dividends. Many business owners aren’t all that comfortable with self-promotion, but know this: it isn’t really about you.
Getting the word out there about your business is about getting the word out there about your business. Being a visible representation of that business is just one of the ways you’re doing it. It’s not to feed your ego. It’s to build your pipeline.
Social media, despite how many treat it, is not just another way to run an advertising campaign. It’s actually a way to connect with people who might not be in your circle IRL. Having a presence on social media isn’t about pushing your business. It’s about making connections and building relationships. Treat it right, and it will treat you right.
Publish a Newsletter
Many people complain about having too much email already, so you may feel hesitant about publishing a newsletter. However, if you have valuable content, and provide it consistently, a newsletter can be a great business-building tool. Trust us - we spend a lot of time and effort on our newsletter because it works.
As a follow up to your newsletter, and in concert with it, create regular, useful content. Definitely create it for your own website and the audience you already have, but branch out. Write insightful pieces for other publications that are in your field, the publications your customers - and the customers you wish you had - are reading on a regular basis.
Networking events can be a slog for anyone if they’re doing it wrong. First of all, know yourself - if you are not actually interested in talking to strangers ever, under any circumstances, you may suck at this. If that’s the case, go write some content. But if you like making friends and socializing, start showing up at events that interest you. That’s the ‘second of all’ - if you’re not interested and are just showing up in the hopes of making a sale, everyone will know, and no one will talk to you. Instead, attend events that you would attend anyway. If you’re nerdy about your business, there are talks and seminars and education activities that are out there, built just for you and the people you want to connect with. Show up regularly, show an interest, and consider it a win if you either (a) learn something or (b) meet somebody new.
Connect with Media
Journalists, influencers, podcasters, and other media folks are looking for great stories and ideas. Reach out to them and make yourself known as someone who will respond quickly, intelligently, and provide great sound bites. If you want to pitch a story, pitch a story, not a sale. Treat these folks like your best customers, and your best referral sources. Think about how you can help them and make their lives easier. You’ll be repaid in full.
Sign up for HARO to get a daily email (or a few daily emails) of reporters looking for stories and respond rapidly - their deadlines are tight. If you’re a woman, get listed on Informed Opinions, a resource full of ladies just waiting to share their expertise.
Square yourself in front of the microphone and start telling the world what’s up. Conference organizers and non profit educational groups are always looking for entertaining, useful speakers. Do a half decent job and everyone will remember you.
If you love your community, and authentically believe in giving back, get out there and do it! Dig into the areas that are incredibly meaningful to you and you’ll not only enjoy yourself but you’ll also meet other awesome people who share your values - a great way to build long-term business connections. Whether it’s mentorship, volunteering, or just throwing down a few dollars, showing up and participating fully in the organizations that mean the most to you will raise your visibility, while doing stuff you love. Get out of your bubble and give back!
Just like every other part of your business, systemization and automation are what will create reliability and consistency. Your pipeline needs a process, a tracking system, and regular review to keep it shiny and healthy. A great CRM (one that you like using) can help you maintain those business relationships, track the effectiveness of your pipeline building activities, and help you determine how to spend your valuable time.
Tracking and reviewing will also help you determine where your growth is coming from, the rate of growth you’re dealing with, and when you might reach capacity - which can inform everything from hiring decisions to vacation time. Of course, if you hate tracking but love reports… yes, of course: we do that.