For new business owners nothing is more critical than cash-flow which keeps you on the constant lookout for sales you can make today.
Yet one of the most important things you can do as a new entrepreneur is to make the decision to build a following in your early days.
Sure, there are people who will do business with you right now because they
- Came to your booth
- Met you at an event
- Really need / want what you offer
But there is a much larger group of people that most business owners completely overlook.
- People who will eventually do business with you if you stay in touch
Let’s call this pool “Eventual Customers”.
These people are like fruit that will ripen in just a little while, they need just a little more time on the windowsill.
The business owners who win over the long term are the ones who
- Recognize the need to nurture these Eventual Customers.
- Do the nurturing that needs to be done.
Why Building a Following Can Be So Hard
What can make this so hard is the continual hunt for customers who want to buy today. If you have set up your entire business around the quick hit, the sale where you happen to be in the right place at the right time, then you’ll most likely miss the value in building a following for future sales.
I’m thinking about one entrepreneur I interviewed earlier. She was the perfect picture of an entrepreneur who was after the quick-hit sale. Her business-to-business day consisted of having at least 10 conversations per day with business owners to get them to sign up for her service.
No interest? No problem. “I’ll be back in this area in 6 months.”
It took some time, but she eventually saw the value in longer-term relationships.
She now openly embraces the Eventual Customers mindset, and has seen huge returns on nurturing followers over the long-term.
How to Get Started
- One of the simplest things to do is to just start collecting people’s information. It is easy enough to do. All you have to do is ask. See Lisa McShane’s example here.
- If you have a booth-based business, then buy a mini clipboard (see this 6″x9″ one from Staples or just Google “mini clipboard”) and place a small sign up sheet. Consider providing a freebie (promotional pen, example of your work, etc.) for signing up.
- Make it a habit of exchanging cards. Yes, this means that you will need to get your own cards printed. See Vistaprint for free cards just to get started.
What This Isn’t
Keep in mind here that you are NOT obligating yourself to starting a website, building a blog or starting some huge social media campaign.
Some business owners make the mistake of investing too heavily in ongoing nurturing. Some feel the need to update their followers every day. For some businesses this can reach overkill quickly.
Building a following is different than building a list, but could certainly lead to that in the future.
What To Do Next
Instead just think about reaching out to people once a month with a short email that says
- Here is what I did last month
- Here are a few of my products / services that are selling well (get yours now)
- Here is what I’m looking forward to next month
You are probably looking at a whopping 10 minutes to write your email, and you’ll become the top of people’s mind.
Here’s a hypothetical example from my training world.
Last week I was in Raleigh, NC with a class of entrepreneurs. We had a blast figuring out new ways to take our products to market. My Sales Workshop classes are my biggest seller, and I can't wait to see you in one of my sessions as I travel around the state. Next month I'll be in Columbia, SC teaching my newest class The Inner Roadmap to aspiring entrepreneurs. In the mean time, if you have any questions about getting your business started, just hit Reply and I'll do everything I can to help. Talk to you soon, Jason
Feel free to tailor that to your business.
From here you can grow this practice in any one of a thousand ways — a monthly newsletter, a featured-product-of-the-week email, you name it.
Have fun building your following. This is one of the most productive long-term investments you can make in your business.
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