One thing that has absolutely changed from 20 to 30…
Years ago, launching my first startup, an Internet marketing consulting business, I targeted top notch International clients (not Canadian). Yes, an amateur, but for my first business, it was a fairly decent success. I did what I was passionate about with a vision of the CEO/CMO I wanted to attract.
It wasn’t about money. My driving thought was about being important to someone. I wanted to be wanted, and to have the freedom to deliver maximum value, without interference. That wasn’t possible in my previous jobs, but as an independent consultant (and entrepreneur) you have the FREEDOM TO make the biggest contribution possible — results an employee won’t achieve.
Benefits of Being Independent Consultant
- work/life balance
- no commuting
- less commuting costs
- freedom to pursue optimal workstyle and results
- more time for everything
- more quality time for work
- less time stress
- choose your clients
- no office politics
- freedom to travel
Your freedom from scripts and rigid role playing, to produce top notch results is the catalyst for star performance. You’re free of office politics however, the downside is you may not have a transparent view of what’s happening in their office. That’s solved with frequent visits.
As a consultant, you can have a dramatic effect on a business’s success. In fact, you have some power to lift a negative client and make them successful despite themselves. But, should you do that?
I was fortune enough to be able to do that for a number of clients. Using my website (my main business development tool), I positioned myself as a search engine optimization expert. I’d written a couple of books in 2002 and gained a solid grasp of Google’s search algorithm. I attended some big events in California and portrayed myself as a professional who could add serious value.
I got calls from some flaky people wanting something for nothing and calls from big brand names. I actually turned down Virgin Mobile because I couldn’t see how I could help them. And I got another call from a big hotel and thought, oh ya, I can help them. I had dozens of other good quality leads too, and they’d wait if I wasn’t immediately available. They wanted me and no one else. That’s when you know you’ve done your brand positioning well. You’re almost fascinating. (However, I made an error in committing to a few good clients and neglected to grow the business).
Your Initial Meetings – Are You Satisfied?
Things don’t always go smooth though. There were indications right off the bat with the hotel marketing team (lack of firm commitment) and sure enough years later that issue would return. One dour manager wasn’t impressed and he wasn’t too enthusiastic during meetings. He controlled the finances and was orienting my results to his purpose.
Long story short, I took their website traffic from Google, from 1.2 million visits per year to 2.5 million visits per year. Huge isn’t it? They did very well. Every prospective company has people and technical issues. This was a client with technical issues that made my job difficult and an accountant that was never on my side. The hotel wasn’t converting visitors to the degree they fantasized about, and that was the real issue.
The accountant may have thought he could outsource my work to India through some of his connections perhaps. In any event, his lack of appreciation put a strain on the relationship with my direct client. For some reason, they didn’t buy my “supreme” services package which was actually underpriced. They chose the middle option which made it difficult to get top notch results. And getting top notch SEO services in those days was almost a guarantee of big $$$$ success.
So, not having that backing from the prospect/client where it was needed, foretold the obvious; that projects would be underfunded and under-supported. So this client was good and bad. It’s not always clear cut, but if it leaves you with a sour taste, then it’s bad. Long term, that will wear you down.
Who You Choose as Your Customer Will Determine Your Success
The most important thing for any consultant or service business is having good clients. Internet marketing services, air conditioning repair services, manufacturers, and even retailer’s future depends on the quality of their client/customer.
Serve the wrong customer and they could ruin your business and take away your health, enthusiasm, and future. From that initial meeting you may have all the information you need.
Bad Customers will ruin you. Identifying them quickly and weeding them out is a vital part of your business plan. Take a look your plan, does it mention a “weeding out bad prospects” task? If you’re in business long term, position your brand, so that only quality prospects will call you. Your marketing communications tells them whether you’re the right one for them. That’s good branding and power positioning.
- Don’t pay you what you’re worth
- Don’t communicate or provide feedback
- Don’t express appreciation for what you have done for them
- Think the worst when some issue crops up
- Don’t express enthusiasm about you
- Don’t enable you to achieve goals
- Underfund projects
- Tell you what to do
- Create stress that will affect you later
- Pay you all they can because you return more than you cost
- Communicate openly, uncritically, and provide essential feedback
- Continually express appreciation so that you will produce more value
- Think the best of you when some issue crops up
- Express enthusiasm about you as a friend and service provider
- Do anything to enable you to achieve goals
- Properly fund projects
- Let you discover what works and how to get it done
Here’s an entrepreneurial credo to live by: You Are Your Customer.
Treat them as though you were doing for yourself. Whatever you produce comes right back to you, so in reality, you are the end customer. Be generous, supportive, encouraging, effective, and create value. When a prospect looks like they will resent your productivity, support, and effort, don’t get involved with them. The prospect that wants to help you help them is your bulls-eye target. Get that right and your life will be very good.
Good customer/clients care about you just like your best friends. They support you completely because they know it’s going to benefit you and them. Mutually supportive and you’ll both be better for it.
There’s a lot of politics in some companies/corporations and you’ll never know what’s going on behind the scenes. Yet, that will have an effect on your future. If there’s issues, prejudices, and corrosive elements, and if you’re sensitive, you’ll pick that up. It could save you from making the worst mistake for an entrepreneur – choosing the wrong client/customer.