The other day I was talking to a friend. They were just in the early days of starting their own business – straight out of corporate.
They’re currently a one-person outfit – although they hoped to grow larger, add more people. But fair crack, they’d only been up and running for three months. And they were up and running. Clients were starting to come in and cash was starting to flow. Success!
But the downside is that they were running around like a blue-arsed fly, barely keeping up. They had some business process issues that needed sorting out – like trying to do it all themselves.
So, I was a tad surprised when they told me they were adding an expensive, marketing automation bolt-on to the front of their brand new site. I asked them what they were hoping to achieve. They wanted more customers – and remember in mind that they were barely keeping up now with two or three customers. And they wanted something to make managing new business enquiries easier.
I asked how many new business enquiries they’d had via their website? Um, none. So, how would this help? And was this the right time to spend money on this? To which the answer was, “Oh, a friend who’s really techy told I should do it.” For pay, of course. Except that’s not a friend, not really. That’s someone using a friendship to make their own money – very possibly to the detriment of the friendship.
Sure, time to add something is just before you need it. But she’s probably years off needing technology like this. And let’s face it, she doesn’t needm (or can handle) hundreds of clients.
It will be a cost their fledgling business shouldn’t and doesn’t have to afford. But like so many people I speak to, they’re seduced by the technology. Because technology is sexy. People want to believe the technology does the work. It doesn’t. People do. The technology merely helps – when it’s appropriate. A bit like a gym membership helps you get in shape, but merely owning it does nothing unless you do the work.
Can technology help you land more business? Undoubtedly. Is it the answer to every revenue/new business problem? No, not at all.
When you’re a small service business, like my friend is, potential customers want to hear your voice, see the whites of your eyes, learn what you’re about, check out your team, not be automated. Plus let’s not forget, no-one’s actually visiting the website yet. So what’s my friend to do? She needs to focus on outbound marketing and that takes effort. And given she’s barely keeping her head above water time for effort starts by freeing up some of her time.
Perhaps she can outsource some of her admin, or if she’s really serious about increasing her sales, she can hire an appointment booker and a virtual receptionist to answer when prospects call back. Then it’s about sharing what she does with people that look like her ideal clients. That might be online through social media, driving traffic to her website, or it might be offline – yes, mixing with real people and encouraging them to call, meet or visit her website to check out who she is and what she offers. It is not about adding them to a mailing list and hoping that they’ll do all the work.
She needs to do the work. Professional services is, well, human service intensive. And that means human help on the front line, not tech, no matter how shiny it is.
Roland Farrugia, SOI Virtual Receptionist & Virtual Office Solutions Advisor, Serviced Offices International