Friday, February 27, 2009

Tell them, and then tell them again

After graduating from college, I worked as a television reporter in Kentucky. Being a TV reporter was the biggest deal in my life to that point. I was on television. I was covering big news stories every day. Thousands of people turned on their TVs nightly, anxiously awaiting my balanced and comprehensive take on the noteworthy events of the day. At least, that was the warped perspective of a self-important 22-year-old. I assumed my exciting life was a big deal to those who knew me best back home in Missouri. But when I spoke to folks back home, the question always seemed to be the same. “So, how do you like working for that radio station in Tennessee?” And later, “you still a radio reporter?” It was a bit of a disappointment to learn most people weren’t sitting around the fireplace, wondering aloud what story I was reporting on the TV that night. I eventually realized that the things that consume my thoughts don't consume the thoughts of anyone else.

Admittedly, when I tell a lot of people that my company sells online registration software, their first reaction is something like, “Computers, huh? Maybe you can take a look at mine. Can’t figure out how to turn the thing on.” They may not understand the nuances of web-based registration immediately. But if I’m patient…

When you start a company, no matter how many times you’ve explained to Uncle Harris or cousin Diane what you do, explain it again. They won’t mind if you repeat yourself because they may not remember anyway. They have a lot of things on their minds and therefore don’t fully understand your business, but they may understand it enough to send a potential customer or two your way. They want you to succeed.

You can relate an anecdote that illustrates what you do. For example: “Boy, you won’t believe the size of opossum we extracted from the sewer the other day using the patented PossumGrabber® I invented in my garage.” When they have a passing understanding of your business, your friends and relatives might even know THE potential customer—the one that will make all the difference in your success. Unless you’re selling something that nobody in the world wants (in which case you have a larger problem than identifying prospects), you know somebody who knows somebody who could use your service. And unless all your friends and colleagues are doing hard time in maximum security, their word probably carries some weight with their friends and acquaintances, which just might be your future customers.

One of the best ways of getting your first customers is to be a blabbermouth. This may not be your style unless you are a born self-promoter, but it is exactly what you have to be. Nobody is going to be more excited about your company than you. If you can’t promote it, nobody else will. It is quite possible, depending on how narrow is the niche for your creation, that you do not know anybody who would want or need your service. But I'll bet you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.

1 comment:

Anh said...

"Nobody is going to be more excited about your company than you. If you can’t promote it, nobody else will." Those are words to live by for all entrepreneurs.
My parents know what I do, but really they don't know. They know it has to do with computers and the web and that's about it. However, they know enough to tell friends and neighbors that I may be able to help with the computer needs. Slowly but surely, these "leads" took on a life of it's own. I have a few clients now that I can trace back to my parents.