Build a community around your business

Last month I attended a course at the City Rooms in the centre of Leicester. I parked in an NCP car park at the edge of the city and walked to the venue along a mixture of busy streets and pedestrianised shopping areas. Leicester is a vibrant, multi-cultural city and the people I passed were of all ages, shapes, colours and styles. I really enjoy walking through cities and watching what goes on. But I found it quite hard too.

Back in Coleorton, the rural village where I live, when I walk to the Post Office or go for a gentle jog around the lanes every person I encounter along the way returns my smile and bids me good morning. We exchange brief comments on the weather, the flowers, their dog, whatever. But walking through a sea of people in Leicester no-one returned my smile, looked me in the eye or said “hello”. I felt very isolated and a bit sad.

It’s understandable you don’t want to spend all your welcome and energy on people you haven’t met before and with whom you have nothing much in common.

The same with business. It’s much easier, more productive and more fun, to engage with people you already know.  Standard sales practice is to concentrate efforts on existing customers where you are likely to get more business from less effort and cost. And you can extend your community a little further by keeping in touch with prospects who have made enquiries, signed up to your newsletter, visited your Facebook page, etc. Like my village community, keeping in touch is welcomed and you have something in common to talk about – their business challenges, the market and hopefully your products or services too.

So rather than spending a lot of effort and budget on cold-calling or wide, unfocussed advertising, try building a community of clients and interested people (don’t necessarily label them as prospects, it may take a while and their buying cycle might not be in step just yet) who you can send news about products, market updates and deals and expect a welcome, maybe a smile and perhaps eventually an order. And don’t forget that in a community you must listen as well. Answer enquiries promptly, take note of suggestions and respond to complaints (never quite so hard with people you know).

In any event, enjoy building your community, smile and have fun!


Take Time

Halloween! and the clocks have gone back – so it’s officially winter, albeit the warmest Halloween since records began apparently. And – really scary – it’s 8 weeks to Christmas. (Pause for panic…)

I have no idea where the time goes.

Working from home means no commute time (I used to do an hour drive each way ), very little work-related travel, no pointless meetings or office politics. Looking back at old (paper) diaries I can see I used to do 3 or 4 meetings each day often at 3 different sites. How I managed to get any real work done I have no idea – and I had kids then!

I’ve been to countless time management courses and read many books on the topic. They generally reckon you should prioritise and do the tasks that are most important or that will make the biggest difference to your career or life generally. “Eat that Frog!”   by Brian Tracy recognises that sometimes stuff gets in the way of the exciting, life-changing projects and you should get those done.  Mark Forster in  “Do it tomorrow”  proposes a scheme where you put off all absolutely non-urgent tasks till tomorrow (by which time some just go away) and make a little time each day to work on the big project.

But we still have a finite amount of time to spend on work, projects, family, relaxing etc. and we just cannot do everything.

An alternative is not to care whether things get done properly. That’s not an option for most of us. We care about our clients, colleagues, families and our self-esteem and want to complete a job well and if possible on-time. We don’t want to disappoint them. But there isn’t enough time to do everything we have to and want to and also to give time to the people we love.

We have to TAKE TIME.  Prioritising tasks and the use of our time means deciding what’s important and doing those as efficiently as possible – and NOT DOING the rest of the things on our “To Do” list.  We must take the time we could be spending on things lower down our priority list and spend it on what’s important to us. This may mean some hard decisions and can be difficult if our goals are too ambitious. We have to decide what we want (what we really, really want!) and be brutal about leaving the rest. If this sounds defeatist it at least at the end of each day, week or year we can look back and count what we have done (our “Done” list) – and be happy with our achievements rather than worrying about what ‘s still on our “To Do” list.