When I started my own business more than 20 years ago (I know, that makes me sound old!), most of the tools I use today didn’t even exist. I remember being so excited that I figured out how to sign up for AOL – and then being immediately discouraged because nobody I knew was using email at home. Very few of my friends had computers outside of work. Social media hadn’t been invented – in fact, Mark Zuckerberg was in elementary school. We had yet to discover the vast capabilities of the World Wide Web. But there I was…a new bride in a strange city, with no contacts, no history and no job. Yet, remarkably, I managed to grow a successful freelance writing business from my apartment with nothing more than a computer, an old fashioned portfolio of my work, handmade business cards and a whole lot of determination. Of course, I’m grateful for the evolution of technology and the ease with which I am able to do business today. I don’t know what I would do without smart phones and virtual assistants…without Quickbooks and online bill pay…without CRM databases and shared calendars…without web conferencing and screen sharing. But I think we’ve forgotten some of the basics. I think there are a few tricks from the “old days” that we need to incorporate into our digital lives.
Six Old-School Ways to Grow Your Business
1. Pick up the phone. Not the one you use for texting – but the one you use for speaking to other human beings. You would be amazed at how effective a 20-minute phone conversation can be in qualifying leads and working with clients and business partners. Now I’m not suggesting you chat the day away. But I do want to encourage you to take conversations offline every once in a while. After all, business is really about relationships and you’ve got to nurture those relationships if you want them to grow. If there is a prospect, or a client or a potential business partner connecting with you via social media, email or texting, then consider scheduling an appointment to talk on the phone. (If it’s appropriate, then take it a step further and meet in person – in real life!)
2. Create a list of prospects. There are all sorts of fancy database programs (called CRM for Customer Relationship Management) that will help you keep track of information and conversations with customers and prospects. Those tools are helpful for automation and organization but for most of us, they fall short when it comes to mining the field for customers. That’s because those programs are often too robust for what we need – which is a simple list of prospects. You can use a Word document or Excel spreadsheet or even a legal pad to keep track of leads. Just add a name and email address to the list each time someone expresses an interest in your product or service. Then, make it a priority to reach out to those folks on a regular basis. Keep the list updated by making notes about your conversations and removing or adding people frequently. If you make it a simple process, you might actually use it!
3. Give yourself quotas and deadlines. These strategies are alive and well in many successful organizations – they just seem to get lost when you are self employed or running a small business or ministry. It’s so easy to ignore the numbers and let things slip another day…or another week…another month…another year. We’re too busy putting out fires and managing the daily operations that we don’t accomplish the bigger goals. But if we’re racing the clock, trying to meet a quota or a deadline, we tend to perform better. So instead of saying you want to “get more clients” and “make more money,” go ahead and quantify your goal and give it a deadline. Then write it down and post it on the wall where you can see it every day.
4. Ask for the referral. If you are not comfortable with sales then you probably find it difficult to ask for business. And unless you come from a sales background or the direct sales industry, you’ve probably never been trained in the art of sales. But you have to start somewhere. I think the best place to start is with people who already know, like and trust you. Make a list of 25 people (they don’t have to be clients or customers but they should have access to potential clients or customers). Write a personal letter to those 25 people telling them what’s happening in your business and mention the successes your clients or customers have experienced. Then ask them to pass along your name to someone they know who would be a good fit for your product or service. Write the letter from your heart…make it personal and authentic. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many people respond positively!
5. Keep a journal. This is totally old school. We’re talking pen and paper here! But if you’ve known me a while then you know I’m a believer in the power of the written word. In fact, I’ve written a lot about how to use a journal to boost your business. And I’m in good company – successful entrepreneurs and business gurus such as Oprah and Stephen Covey have been sharing the benefits of journal writing for decades. Something fascinating happens when you take those creative ideas and map them out in a journal. You clear up all the mind clutter that’s preventing you from taking action, and you start to see the possibilities that exist for the future. If you don’t have a business journal, give yourself a little Christmas gift and write your first entry today!
6. Find a mentor or accountability partner. Anytime we make a change or attempt to grow in some way, we can feel a little lonely and confused. We start to doubt our own ability to reach our goal. It helps to have someone we trust to guide us along the way and help us stay focused and motivated when we feel like giving up. Unfortunately, the right person for the job is not always in front of our noses. So we have to search a little. We have to pray for divine intervention. We have to look for someone who has done what we’re trying to do…or is currently trying to accomplish the same goal. It may take a while, but I promise you it’s worth the effort. Once you find the right person, you will be unstoppable! How “old-school” are you? Do you use any of these offline strategies to grow your business? What other tips do you have to share?