"We're all naked so we better be in good shape." — Diana El-Azar
Recently, the founder of a fellow agency reached out to me about something that seemingly all client services businesses struggle with: how to attract and close on significant contracts. Initially, this seemed like a question about sales and how to make them. But really, it's more a question about public relations.
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde
At dojo4 we’ve relied on word of mouth and referrals for the vast majority of all the clients we've ever engaged. Sometimes we go through cycles of doing some sales outreach, but 9 times out of 10, no matter how much effort we put into making sales, the contracts we end up engaging are with people that come through our door because they've heard of us from a colleague or because we've worked together, in some way or another, in the past. In other words, classic advertising and marketing don't seem to make much of a difference for us.
"People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” -Seth Godin
My suspicion is that it’s often a constellation of things that end up connecting us with clients. And, somehow it's worked because, here we are, still in business and going strong after many years. Here are a few of the factors that I think have been helpful, that I suggested to my fellow founder who had gotten in touch:
- Be vocal! Publish articles, do podcasts and videos, post blogs and images, take speaking engagements, participate in conferences and workshops, provoke others to write about you, get in the news when you can, make open source contributions, etc.
- Speak out about what you’re passionate about, whether or not it directly relates to your work.
- Publicize others that you think are doing cool shit - products, other companies and organizations, individuals - and they will return the favor.
- Donate your time, energy and money strategically - do only things you are excited about and prioritize those things that will give you visibility, if that's what you're looking for.
- Never undersell yourself - it helps clients understand your value, even before they start working with you. And always be generous.
- Host community events, parties and conversations that matter (in-person or online), and don’t limit these conversations to what may necessarily be relevant to your particular work.
- Being yourself! Don’t try to hide your company’s quirks - people are attracted to confidence and personability; you will lose repeat clients and referrals if those clients were to hire you based on a presentation that ends up being different than who you really are. Genuineness is the most valuable currency.
- Belong! Find communities of practice that you want to belong to and have reach within those communities - e.g. since we are a B Corp and a cooperative, it feels natural and easy to reach out to other B Corps and cooperatives to let them know what we’re about and that we’re available to work with.
The bottom line is that you are worth knowing about. Share yourself and your organization with your community and the world around you. Don't be shy. Do be creative, bold and genuine, and the right clients will find you.
"Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing." - John D. Rockefeller