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Archive for Monday, April 10, 2006

Networking key to getting clients

April 10, 2006

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Q: I've read books on starting a business, but they are too complicated for what I want to do. I want to offer bookkeeping services to very small companies. My ideal would be to have five clients and spend one day a week with each of them. How could I go about it? - Shauna

Dale: While it's always good to be clear on what you want from your business, it's also good to remember that the marketplace doesn't care what you want. Your ideal work situation is relevant only if there's someone willing to pay you for it.

Will little companies have a space for you to occupy one day a week? What if a company wants you to work offsite? What if they want just two days a month? The fact is, the work situation that you're describing is not so much a company as five part-time jobs. So, let's cut through all the complications: Instead of thinking about starting a business, think of getting one customer. Once you have a customer, you are, of course, in business; however, there's a difference - the latter approach inspires a mind-set focused on your customers and their needs.

Kate: That first customer gives you credibility and a reference. But how do you get Customer 001, and the others that follow? We asked ourselves: What would be the simplest, least complicated way to market your business? That would be networking and direct selling. You'd start by getting involved with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. You'll want to meet owners of small businesses and the people who provide services to them. They are called "influencers." For instance, you could visit local banks and make your pitch to those who handle small-business accounts.

Dale: Most people starting a business think of running ads or getting lists and doing mailings, but the simplest and most effective way to find customers is to meet them. Go to office parks and hand out business cards. This will be an education, the kind you don't get from reading books. You'll soon earn an MBA - Master of Been Around, bestowed by the University of Curiosity. You'll hear what small businesses need, and pretty soon you'll have figured out a nice niche for yourself, one tailored to your talents by the marketplace.

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