It’s been a while since I was dating, but when I met my husband, the dating guide, The Rules, was all the rage. I must admit, I never read it, yet somehow managed to find and marry a man without it. But when I was recently browsing through a bookstore, it caught my eye.
While some of the advice in this book may be a bit questionable in application, it does contain some pretty good advice. I’m not dating anymore, but meeting with a lot of new people in an attempt to grow my business. I’m struck by the similarities many of these meetings have to first or blind dates. And with that in mind, I found many of the “rules” in this book apply well to the task of converting and keeping clients. Here are a few that stood out to me.
Be a creature unlike any other
I’ve always said it’s more important to be different than to be the best, and in professional services firms, it’s hard to really stand apart from the crowd. However, if you want to be seen as more than a commodity provider, you simply have to be unique. Are you faster, cheaper, more detailed, fun to work with, conveniently located? Do you serve a particular industry or niche? I’m amazed by the sheer number of firms that introduce their Website with a phrase that goes a little like this, “Our firm provides the best
Show up at parties, dances and social events, even if you don't feel like it
I realize most of us aren’t going to business dances, but this rule absolutely applies to networking events. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked myself out of going to an event because I was tired or just preferred to sit on my couch with my dinner and dog. But if your goal is to meet people, suck it up and go. And remember this, the vast majority of people hate networking events as much as you do. Nearly everyone I talk to would rather have their eyebrows plucked out than attend one without someone they know as a buffer. So march in and go up to the first person you see, introduce yourself and start a conversation. You will not only meet someone new, but will probably make his or her day. And who knows, he or she may turn into your best client. It could happen.
It's a fantasy relationship unless you go on a date
Yes, this one applies too. We meet a lot of people, some that look like they could become pretty hot clients. But unless you actually do some business together – and get paid for that business – they are still prospects. I’ve met with some people that talk about all the work they do, but when pressed, it turns out that are not really doing that work, but hoping to one day. Sell what you actually do well. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep nurturing those relationships that look promising. But be honest with yourself and quit pursuing those that will never turn into real business. That will give you time to go after those that will turn into actual clients. They may not be quite as sexy as the dream client, but they will pay the bills and help you grow your business. And ultimately, it’s usually not the super sexy client (man/woman) who turns out to be a long-term relationship anyway, right?
What are some of the dating rules that you think apply to a business environment? I’d love to hear your ideas, and it may turn into a future blog.
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk has 20 years of marketing experience working with a diverse range of industries and people. In 2009, she created her own firm, BBR Marketing (www.bbrmarketing.com), which provides marketing advice and services for professional services firms. Through her creative thinking and distinctive approach, she brings unique ideas to her clients that differentiate them from their competition and give them the tools needed to reach their audiences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.