This year, I decided that I would need to evaluate my progress, toward my goals, more frequently not just every quarter but monthly. In various areas I am not making much progress and I have figured out why and this month I am working differently to achieve those goals.
Now on the business front, I started to ask more pertinent questions like, “how effective is my referral system?” I started to list all the various businesses I make referrals to, for various services that I cannot offer, and then I checked to see just how these businesses reciprocated. To my surprise it didn’t match up at all. At that moment I knew what some developed countries feel like trading with Kenya. The trade deficit was huuuuuge!
Here I was sending work to businesses whose work I believed in, some now enjoying retainers and constant business growing their bottom line. And not once did I receive any work at all from them. It did anger me, I went through the emotions; anger, betrayal, irritation then I finally calmed down and looked at the facts. I asked myself brutal questions.
- Was it that my work was not up to par?
- Was it my cost; was it too high for the kind of clientele this business would refer my way?
- Was I horrible in my customer service?
- Was I failing to follow through on projects?
- Was I failing to meet my deadlines?
- Are my services not clear, making it hard to sell what I offer?
- Or is it my target consumer just isn’t there?
I asked myself these and several other questions about the businesses I referred work to. Some businesses had received more referrals from my referrals.
I moved from one entity to the next and I realised the businesses that frequently referred my services to others, had actually enjoyed my services in one aspect or another. They had either paid or I had rendered free services for experiential purposes.
I had a conversation with a series of other friends who also shared their challenges to grow their business. And these were some of the top things they did that shifted their business venture from struggle to profit:
- Free – Yep! They give their product or service for free. The aim of this is to get exposure, in some cases, to clientele who would never have known of or even considered them. This makes sense when you do it strategically. Give for free where you are more likely to get a return. Don’t give for free unless the intention is charity.
- Consistency– they use a single social media platform, mostly Instagram, and post new content DAILY. No day passed without a post. They build discipline. It has nothing to do with whether they feel like it that day or not, they keep at it relentlessly.
- Networking – they attend many social and business events. No matter the day, they ensure they have a business card at hand, and speak to at least one person they can stay in touch with and update.
- Communication – they keep the communication lines open. They email friends on mailing lists weekly or monthly, others use Whatsapp. The main aim here is STAY TOP OF MIND. Most of the time people won’t respond, but you know they know what you are up to. That makes it easier for referral. You want a situation where when someone asks for a certain service or type of skill you are top of mind. That ensures business referral.
- Events – They organise events and invite people. Unless you are Blankets and Wine or Safaricom’s Jazz Festival manage your expectations. Thousands won’t be banging on your doors initially. Create a simple event and inform your network about it. Take pictures; share the high of the event. You are now shinning your light brighter. For anyone who may doubt your legitimacy, they are now more likely to take you serious if you run an event.
As you can see, from a simple personal evaluation of my business, and conversations with those businesses, I found a solution to my rut. All I need now is to show initiative, employ a strategy and execute. I believe it is essential to constantly take breaks from the hassle of business to sit down and evaluate where you are, where you are going and where you really need to be. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me.