Relationship Building > Sales Process

Relationship Building > Sales Process

Relationship Building > Sales Process

Many people hate the word “sales” with a passion. It brings to mind images and feelings of sleaze, dishonesty–like you’re trying to trick prospective clients. People hate it for good reason.

Some time back, I (Matt) was meeting with my business coach and saying that same thing, “I hate sales!” His suggestion? Stop using the “S Word” completely; just refer to them as relationships.

If you’re doing business the way we are–focusing on your strengths and how you can be of value to others–that’s an easy fix, and it should come pretty naturally, because that’s exactly what you’re building; relationships. We can do relationships a lot better than we can do “sales” usually. It can change how you feel about sales, which in turn can change how you approach them, and it might gain you more business. If you’re hesitant about something, even if it’s just because of simple semantics, modifying it can sometimes be a game-changer.

When I first started Day Creative, my first thought was the same one that most small business owners have; “How do I get paid?” However, I was so focused on how to get clients and how to make money that I was hurting myself without realizing it. I was looking at my business more transactionally than relationally. Need a logo? No problem, BOOM! (Invoice, wait for check, cash it, thanks, next!) 

I went from project to project, thinking “MoneyMoneyMoney”…but I didn’t build relationships. About a year and a half in I realized there was a hole in my business. Many business owners will tell you that repeat business is how you grow, and I was lacking in repeat business;  I needed to transition from just getting a sale to being the “go to” company for repeat business. I needed to develop a relationship. Become a trusted advisor. And you do that by going beyond concern about the one job to answering an ongoing need. I learned that by doing a great job and building rapport, I could pick up future work with them–I’d built a relationship. If I’ve done my homework, found someone whose struggles I can understand and address, then answering the need and having a relational mindset positions you as a potential trusted advisor. People return again and again to a trusted advisor.

Most successful businesses develop processes for the important things, so that’s what I did with this. A process is ideally a set of instructions for a practice you need to repeat, that the dumbest person in the world  could follow. I made a relationship process, which sounds counterintuitive and possibly sales-y, but think of it this way; all of your important relationships, business and personal, fall back on certain procedures, whether you know it or not, or whether you’ve codified them or not. This is simply taking a natural process and making it followable, repeatedly. 

I decided I was either going to be onsite or visit them once a year or twice a year, maybe monthly depending on the client. I didn’t want contact to have the effect of, “Oh, great, here’s Matt bugging us again.”; it needed to be positive, engaging and friendly, not always a sales call, or asking for payment. I didn’t want it to be unpleasant when they picked up the phone or read an email from me. One of the ways I did that (I stole this from a client), was to, twice a year, do a customer appreciation event. Nothing big, easy in and out, and a way to say “Thanks”. This ensures that the ONLY reason they get a call or email from me isn’t asking for money…sometimes, it just might be a thank-you gift for them. Positive association. Who doesn’t like free stuff?

One easy method I have for this, that has low overhead (not a hosted, expensive event that people have to attend at a certain time) is to contact a local establishment and ask if I can open a tab for a customer appreciation event. I make a flier for a free drink, cupcake, etc., send them to my clients, the local establishment gets some business (and more positive association with Day Creative), my clients get a treat, and everyone wins. I just pay the tab at the end of the week or whatever. It’s a way to say, “Hey, we appreciate you”.

I have reminders set to do that, to automate it, and no matter how busy I am, I make time to do it. 

Another thing I try to do is get to know the client. What are they interested in outside of work? One of our clients is really into triathlons (weirdo), and so if I see an article or meme, I send it to him. It’s a positive touchpoint that isn’t sales-y. Might seem like a small thing, but again, it’s a positive association. I don’t do it often–you don’t want to bug people–but just an occasional contact.

The overarching goal in business is business, and I’m not trying to conflate that with friendships, It may seem like a small distinction, but I do believe that even though I’m making sales-focused contact, ultimately, I’m not focused on the hustle. I’m focused on providing value and positioning myself as a trusted advisor, and it’s proven to be a great business strategy.

Creative Sales Ideas to Grow Your Business

Creative Sales Ideas to Grow Your Business

Creative Sales Ideas to Grow Your Business

Our focus is typically towards online marketing strategy, but there are other facets that can’t be ignored when looking at how to grow your business. How do you think strategically about your sales? First, you want to define who you’re targeting. Who is your target customer? Where are they? Try to empathize; put yourself in their world. Don’t stop at thinking in terms of, “A business owner with ___ sized company”, with a certain cap, this many employees, this industry, this region…those things are helpful and they’re a good place to start, but the next level of strategizing for sales is truly entering their world.

 

Empathize.

Think about their day to day experience. If it’s a large company, they’ll have several roles; they’ll be busy. They’ll be looking for a certain type of customer or company to partner with, and you want to flesh that out to understand if it’s a good fit for both of you. At Day Creative, we’re looking for owners of companies who are still doing everything from HR management to day to day operations. They’ve reached a growth point where it feels overwhelming to do their own advertising and they’re ready to branch out and partner with a company that can fit into the plan. They want more leads, they want more sales, they want to get better at closing on leads, and they’re open to partnering and outsourcing some of this, but they’re wondering how to find the right people. We’re perfectly poised to take the marketing burden off of them and be a good partner because we’ve done the groundwork and evaluated their needs, and grown our model to provide solutions. If they grow, we grow–we get in the door by providing value and stay involved by continuing to do so. 

 

Educate.

You can learn the pain points of your target customer, but you also have to know how to speak their language. Find out where they are, who they are..and what will sound awesome to them. What’s in it for them, if they work with you? Not “Here’s how awesome we are and all the awesome things we offer”, but “Here’s how working with our awesomeness makes your life easier, better, etc.” There’s a two-way education taking place; you learn about their process in enough depth to provide deep solutions, and you educate them about you.

 

Explore.

Once you have an idea of who you’re targeting and what’s going to move the needle with them, you ask, “Where are they?” and what’s the best use of your time? It may not be worth it for you to drive around town and find people one business at a time to cold call…the thought is, “Are there strategic places where you can get in front of a whole bunch of new prospects, potential partners, all at once?”

There are professional associations–like home builders associations, financial planner associations, etc.–show up to events. Provide lunch, give a talk, set up at one of their trade shows…find the ways you get in front of them. Sometimes associations have committees; you may be able to contribute to the success of these associations which would tell a prospective customer that you understand their industry. (You need to actually understand the industry in order to do this, obviously. See “Educate”, above.) Having conversations about their world, their concerns, is key in demonstrating value. 

At Day Creative we prefer to frame ourselves as “trusted advisors”. When you work business to business, as we do, you look at the relationships any business owner has, and trusts as potential sources. His banker, his insurance agent, his attorney, his HR company…could you build relationships with those ancillary connections to find clients that have problems you can solve? Build trusted relationships across a spectrum of “Gatekeepers”. Business coaches, incubators, lenders…how do you get in with them? Anything that serves the function of qualifying leads for you will work. Whatever keeps you from relying on going door to door–those sort of interactions have their place, but you need to focus energy and attention on what gets you qualified leads that can benefit from your service. By the time it gets to you there’s someone who is actively looking for what your business does.

 

Extend.

An unexpected source of sales for us has been…other companies in our industry. It’s worked well for us, as a media/marketing company, to extend offers to other companies, either to support their efforts when they need extra help or take on contract work if there’s overload. If your industry is similar, consider abandoning the cutthroat mentality and look to other businesses and say, “Hey, if you need someone to step in, either behind the scenes or as an option when you can’t help someone, keep us in mind.” Doesn’t work in every industry, but it’s likely that there’s more openness to that model than you realize. You can also find companies in your industry that may be lacking where you’re strong; maybe they provide service or maintenance, and you provide sales, or actual strategy. Do they install a product you service? Maybe you specialize in someone that’s of less priority to a competitor and you can help each other out by partnering and increasing each other’s sales.

However you do it, developing strategy for your sales is key to continued success.

The Value of a Business Coach

The Value of a Business Coach

The Value of a Business Coach

I (Matt) didn’t set out to start a graphic design business after college. I completed my film degree in 2003, and I wanted to travel the world and shoot video, or figure out a way to travel the world indefinitely. 

After various jobs in the non-profit and corporate world, I went full-time with DayCreative in the fall of 2012. I had no formal entrepreneurship experience, education or mentors, but I was fortunate enough to have built enough side design work and enough courage to give it a shot. Shortly after I started, the “no idea what I was doing” aspect became something that had to be addressed. I learned that business coaches existed, and figured that would be the way to go. I began searching for one, and met with a few around Norman and Oklahoma City.

What I learned, initially, is that there isn’t just one type of business coach. There are several variations. Most of us are familiar with the “private consultant” business coach, the one associated with large corporations and hefty price tags, but I also learned during my research that there are other (more affordable and helpful) options as well.

For example, the Small Business Administration of the federal government, in the interest of funding economic development, fuel a few business “incubators” in each state, which you can usually find in business/technology centers. Low cost or free business coaching is often a part of these incubators.

I reached out to one such coach, named Henry Dumas, through the Moore/Norman Technology Center, and I am 100% convinced that I am still in business today because of that decision.

At first, the guidance I needed was pretty broad. (“Help me!!”) Henry started by asking me the questions that many entrepreneurs don’t ask themselves before jumping into business ventures.

“What are your margins?” “What services that you provide have the best margins?” “What has your actual production turned out to be, compared to your pre-planned estimates?”

My knowledge and experience was so limited, I didn’t even understand a lot of what he was talking about. (“What’s a margin?”)

The first year or two was simply me tracking things. I didn’t enjoy it (to put it mildly), it wasn’t exciting, but it was necessary, and Henry helped me see why.

Keeping data about the margins for each type of project helped me see which were most profitable. By looking at all of the various services we offer– logo design, printing services, website design, social media–I was able to see how our time was best spent, and how we could keep the most money. Those things guide the direction our business is going now, in 2020.

The projects that drive the best revenue, that we’re best at, are the ones that build our success.

If you’re considering starting a business, or if you were like me, and have already started a business but instinctively know that there are some things you’re missing, or steps you need to take that you might not fully understand, and you’d like someone to get in the trenches with you, I strongly recommend engaging a business coach.

A technology center in your area will likely have a business incubator that offers some amount of free coaching, if finances are a concern or if you’re in a time where you need to be frugal. You’ll get solid, foundational guidance that can mean the difference between life and death for some businesses. And a partner that is committed to your success.

If you have the revenue to afford private coaching, you can consider it an investment in your business, one that could pay important dividends in the future. The high level strategy a private business coach can provide is well worth it. (Vet them by looking at references, case studies, etc., of course, just as you would before hiring any professional). They should have significant corporate experience in a variety of sectors, even if they specialize in one area. (Sales, accounting.)

Initially I met with my business coach every month. Now, 8 years in, it’s dialed back to check-ins every few months. Quarterly progress checks once you’ve gotten the basics down might be enough, but as a business owner, you should ideally consider your development ongoing, even if you’re flourishing. There’s always more insight and coaching, no matter what level you’re at.

Every time I meet with Henry now, he asks a question. “At the end of this meeting, what should have happened for you to feel like it was a successful meeting?”

My go-to response? “That’s easy; I just want you to solve all my problems and do all the work for me!”

All kidding aside, just knowing that if you need specific help is available in areas of business that you don’t understand…that can be a huge relief. 

The life of a business owner can be a little daunting (and lonely) sometimes. Even if you’re not reinventing the wheel, or you’re in a business segment that’s well-established, this is still new to you. In addition to finding out what you’re missing, you may be encouraged to hear what you’re doing right, and a business coach can provide that encouragement as well.

The question isn’t really, “Why Do I Need a Business Coach?”, it’s…why wouldn’t you want one?

If you’re in the Oklahoma City metro area, here are a few suggestions for finding business coaching: Moore Norman Technology Center, Francis Tuttle Technology Center, REI (Rural Enterprises Incorporated), OSBDC (Oklahoma Small Business Center), Action Coaches (business coaching franchise).

Lessons From Failure: Part Two

Lessons From Failure: Part Two

Lessons From Failure: Part Two

In Lessons from Failure: Part 1 we talked about lessons that helped DayCreative grow by finding our unique quality as a company and setting parameters for money matters. This time, we’ll delve into some different lessons we learned from mistakes.

Lesson 3: Sometimes You Fire the Client

It may seem counterintuitive; the whole point of business is that you make money. Getting clients is good, so you should do anything to keep them, “The Customer is Always Right”, etc.

Right?

Wrong.

Sometimes you need to fire clients. Disclaimer; in the almost eight years we’ve been in business, this has only happened twice. 85% of our clients are still with us. We have satisfied customers most of the time and we prefer to have a model based on sustained clients, not just one-time customers. But there have been two cases where it was just better for everyone if the client went elsewhere.

The first instance was a client who had a corporate background, and seemed certain that he knew how long media company projects should take and how much it should cost. (Instead of believing what we, the actual media company, told him it would cost and how long it would take.) 

On more than one occasion we would tell him up front the time expectation and cost, and he would repeatedly become impatient before the deadline, or question the price. This conversation happened over and over, until once we were working on a project that was more substantial. It kind of slowed down, due to some matters on his end, and to his credit, he came to us and said, “Hey, I’ve gotten bogged down, I know this has stalled, if you want to just bill me for the time you have in it so far, I’ll pay you and we’ll shut it down.” So we did. 

It was double what he thought it should be and he wasn’t happy. This was the most dramatic instance, but it made me realize that it stressed me out to deal with him. I felt anxious, it was crazy-making, so basically I fired him. I told him I appreciated the business he had given us, but he always seemed to be upset. His expectations didn’t match the reality of what our business does and was capable of doing for him. 

Since then I’ve done it one other time and that time…I did it sooner in the journey than I did the first time. Every once in a while, it’s necessary. Your productivity is enhanced by peace. You might think you can’t put a price tag on it, but you probably can. And it’s probably not as profitable as you think to have stressful clients.

Lesson 4: It’s Okay to Lose Winning Strategies

I started DayCreative in the fall of 2012, and six months to a year in I got involved with Henry Dumas, a business coach. (An all around great guy. We’ll talk more about Henry and business coaches in general in another post soon.) I told him I wanted to grow. I was hitting a ceiling, and needed to hire people to grow, but needed money to hire those people.

We came up with a plan to get clients on retainer, paying us regularly for a variety of services so that we could project our future finances. So I did just that, I performed a variety of services for clients, on a retainer model and…I hated it.

I had a developer working with me, but it was just me at the time. What I found was that people were willing to pay retainers, and it provided regular, dependable income, but it was for doing things I hated, things I wasn’t good at. I didn’t like it, but I thought, If I don’t do this, how will I grow?

During a coaching session with Henry, when I was complaining about this, he said, “Well, what if you just do what you’re best at?” He redirected me and we worked out an alternative route, and even though we weren’t doing traditional retainer work, we ended up getting repeat business for the things that I did want to do. The things I did best. That led to the same outcome I wanted before; reliable income.

We came to know that we could put this client or that down for this amount on an annual recurring basis, and that gave us the financial ability to build a team to do the things that I wasn’t great at. Once we offered those services, done by skilled professionals, in addition to what I did best…we grew even more.

Sometimes a practice makes sense financially, and allows for growth, but the real power of a successful business is people loving what they do, and being good at it. That should be the ultimate goal, and if a strategy works on paper but takes energy away from everyone doing the things they do best, it won’t be a winning game plan long term.

And the best strategy isn’t just the one that wins, it’s the one that allows you to keep winning.

Innovating Your Business in the Face of COVID-19

Innovating Your Business in the Face of COVID-19

Innovating Your Business in the Face of COVID-19

There are several examples right now of businesses pivoting in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the challenges that it has brought along with it; some have changed their models completely, others have simply modified their services to address social distancing-induced needs.

It can feel a little questionable, looking at ways that your business can potentially profit around a pandemic. People are losing loved ones, and it’s natural to struggle with unfamiliar emotions, or the sense that it’s somehow wrong if this time presents opportunities for you to adapt your business to a need that is in place because of COVID-19.

That being said, if there’s a way your company can be beneficial to your customers in this time, you have to realize that it’s not helpful to anyone to wait until life returns to “normal”…not only because you could lose the chance to be helpful, but also because there may not be a return to what we knew before. There may really be, as so many have said, a new “normal”, and if you wait too long to act, you may not have a business by the time these new limitations are gone.

So, once you’ve dealt with the feelings, and realized that you need to pivot, what are the practical steps?

 

Re-evaluate Your Purpose.

The value you provided customers before may be different in the face of working from home, managing kids who are also at home, and being disconnected from previous resources. Is there a NEW way you can lean into what your client base needs now? How does it look different? Where are their new pain points? Find those, and you’ll find your purpose. Once that’s done…

 

Create New Solutions.

Could you consult about the products you previously offered? Offer subscriptions to services that were purchased piecemeal before? Leverage technology by offering online video options? We learned that one of our clients who offers software solutions is pivoting away from that approach to consulting, to help their clients navigate issues around cleanliness and recovering lost revenue. I think this is a brilliant apporach, because that has got to be the number one thing most businesses will be considering in the near future. Almost anything is possible when the world is still connected via the Internet, which brings us to the next task on your list…

 

Establish or Update Your Online Presence.

For businesses that have been based in a brick and mortar location, the impact of not having an online presence will be a hard one. A current projection is that one in four small businesses will go out of business during this crisis; social distancing has already closed several, and if you don’t have a vibrant online presence, you can’t maintain the contact you need with your customer base in order to provide services. If you have a website but it’s out of date, bear in mind that ease-of-use is a high priority, and the competition in the online marketplace is steep. Getting or updating a website is crucial to engaging clients and keeping them engaged, especially when more time than ever is spent looking at content. The bar is higher than ever.

Adding an online store (with a do-it-yourself platform like Shopify) can save sales. The addition of a chat bot makes a tremendous difference in customer engagement. Creating short videos and posting them to a YouTube channel can capture worldwide exposure. A digital makeover can be a huge difference-maker for your business.

And once the digital presence is there…what’s your social media strategy? Your blog and email marketing content? This is another area that will change; helpful, authentic content is going to be even more important in the online marketplace. With the over-exposure to content, since people are so focused on online content right now, dynamic content will stand out, and set you apart. But make sure its about helping them; not how awesome you are.

The change in definition for “normal” doesn’t have to mean the end of your company or the services you offer. But business adaptation in this environment is definitely something that a majority of entities are going to need to adopt in order to continue to be of service, and since the foreseeable future is one based on social distancing, that means finding digital solutions.

When you’re ready for direction and practical help, reach out to us. In the meantime, stay safe, and plan for a productive future.

Lessons From Failure: Part One

Lessons From Failure: Part One

Lessons From Failure: Part One

In business (as in the rest of life) some of the best lessons you learn can come from mistakes.

Our next two posts will feature some ways that we at DayCreative have learned specific lessons from a few key mistakes, and how those “failures” have translated into better business decisions; moves that have made our company stronger.

 

Lesson 1: Find Your Uniqueness

When I (Matt) first started out, one approach I took early on to find clients was reaching out to business incubators. I remember making a call to one of these incubators somewhere in a different part of the state, and while I was talking to the decision-maker about who I was and what services I was offering, she asked me, “Well, who are you? Why should I use Day Creative?” No one had asked me that. I stumbled through an answer, something like, “We’re great, we’re affordable…” and her response is, “Well, we have someone great and affordable doing that already.” I fumbled a response, “Well, keep us in mind!” and that was that. 

But that was the impetus for my consideration about what makes DayCreative different. It forced a question on me that was necessary, and that helped me define what differentiated us and articulate it for the next prospect. It also gave birth to a hallmark of the way we operate; part of our discovery process for clients is helping them discover what makes them authentically unique, in order to bring that out in their design and their marketing endeavors to help them grow.

I bombed on one phone call. But it brought growth that developed my business in a big way.

Lesson 2: Set Parameters for Money Matters

Dealing with issues about payment and how that relates to creative endeavors like marketing can be tricky. Some of my most poignant lessons have to do with money, and one in particular came from a time when I quoted a prospect totally wrong. He was a craftsman, and I was excited to work with him; he did great work, and had beautiful products. I gave him a quote, didn’t really give a timeline for it, and through the course of a year, we went back and forth a little, never really going anywhere, until finally he contacted me and was ready to do it.

I was running a special at the time, and he had made his decision based on the percentage this sale would give him off of the quote I’d made initially, almost a year prior. I went back and looked at the quote and realized that for me to do the project in the present, as opposed to when I’d quoted it at the time (with what my overhead had been back then) it would actually cost me money. I had to tell him I couldn’t do it, and I also started putting time limits on quotes.

Some other good money lessons have led to changes in how we receive payment for work we do. In the beginning my contracts called for 50 percent down, and 50 percent at completion at completion of the project. Seems straightforward, until you realize that very often in this process, the client is the one who ends up holding up progress. Whether it’s reviewing content, getting customer reviews, or something else, we may have finished as much work as we can, and then end up waiting for the client to do their part.

Generally the process of our website completion takes six weeks; when we had the 50 percent down, 50 percent at completion model, we had projects that were taking 6 months. In discussions with my partner about how to mitigate this slowdown, he suggested changing to a model where 50 percent is paid up front, and 50 percent is due in 30 days. When the process is paid for, clients are less likely to delay measures to get the project finished. We get paid, the project is completed quickly…everyone wins.

Clients may not realize initially that’s what they agreed to, or get a little grumpy about paying before completion, but years of struggling to pay people (and myself) to finish projects taught me that it’s worth the grumpiness in the beginning to provide quick completion and great results. Good work finished quickly can take away the sting of paying upfront.

Another issue related to money is setting time parameters on projects. (Time does equal money in business.) Some clients have the view that contracting us means that we’re employees and they can indefinitely tweak the project without consequence, because we’re working for them. Until we modified the way we make contracts, that’s exactly what happened much of the time; we repeatedly got stuck because of not having limits on revisions. I don’t like putting hard limits on revisions (and a good process for figuring out what the client wants before you start will forestall a lot of the need for endless revisions), but our contracts do reflect that after a certain point, if it’s substantially increasing time, then they’re subject to extra cost.

Our goal is happy clients, and completed work makes for happy clients. Honing the discovery process helps streamline content creation and design, and this can reduce revisions (and cost). These lessons not only taught us about ways to protect our business and be as profitable as possible and value the work of our team members appropriately by setting limits, it also helped us refine the way we work, and increase our client satisfaction.

Everyone wins.

Next time; Lessons from Failure, Part 2