Once upon a time I had an active business relationship with quite a few members of this forum. I was getting anywhere from 1-3 calls per day from PWRA small business owners. Some called to place orders or check on orders. More called just to get my opinion on marketing ideas. One called pretty much just to bust my balls for liking the wrong football team. But it was all good.
But sometimes life happens. Kids and families and other business commitments are pushed to the forefront, and choices have to be made. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality. I was on this board less and less and then never. Email and call frequency became less and less and then never.
Eventually the tangential distractions abated. The tide went out. And I realized I missed this place. Not the printing work so much, honestly, but the conversations. The discussions and debates. I really enjoyed using the successes and failures I encountered in building my business to help others build their business. I was reminded of it last night around 10:15, when the kids were put to bed and I noticed a text from a member on the left coast.
“Too late to call?”
My wife probably thought I was talking to Jake from State Farm when I walked outside and sat on the porch for a 15-minute late night marketing convo, but she knows I’m nuts so it’s all good.
I guess the point of this rambling is as follows…
I am not special. Any printer can put ink on paper.
You are not special. Any guy with a credit card can rent a machine and wash a driveway.
It’s the little things that make the biggest difference. It’s doing something completely unexpected just because no one else is doing it. I see so much on this board about marketing in order to acquire new clients, but see so little about marketing to retain former clients. If that’s the right path to go down, then Coke and Nike and McDonalds wouldn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars in a marketing budget. But they do.
I lost my way and forgot that little slice of business 101, and for that I’m embarrassed. To anyone I was unresponsive to in the past - you have my most sincere apologies. I let you down, and you deserved better .
Don’t assume that just because you did a fine job cleaning a house in the agreed upon timeframe and for the agreed upon price that you’ll be remembered. That’s the expectation the customer has going in. Take the time to make yourself stand out in other ways. Ways that for you have nothing to do with washing something. Ways that for me have nothing do to with putting ink on paper .
Over the last 20+ years I’ve heard every business cliche in the book, more times than I care to remember. Silly sales managers talking about filling funnels. Overpaid consultants preaching synergies and paradigms. You’ve heard them all too. But the 2 greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard, I heard when I was young and stupid and thought I knew everything. Now I’m older and I’ve realized I don’t know anything, but these just keep getting truer and truer:
“Ask for the customer’s three biggest concerns - but price can’t be one of them.”
If you find out what the customer’s true ‘pain’ is, price becomes irrelevant. And price can always be negotiable if the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is big enough. This one was from the greatest salesman I ever saw. He was selling $20M+ a year in commercial print in the late 90s. He died last month. I hadn’t seen him in 15 years. Still hurt.
“People will find a reason to buy from someone they like, even if they have to pay more.”
This one was from the owner of the first company I ever worked for. Great guy. Took a $10K wedding gift and bought a crappy 2-color press he put in his garage. 20 years later that old press had transformed into a $200M company. He knew what he was doing.
If you’re a reader, take a crack at “Selling at Mach 1” by Steven Sullivan. It’s an easy read, and not what you’d expect.
Best of luck to all. No greater sense of accomplishment than watching something you’ve cobbled together with blood and sweat and prayers turn into a viable business. Don’t get so focused on where you’re wanting to go that you forget to look back at where you’ve been. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made.