About 12,000 years ago, human beings discovered that it was easier to farm than to hunt. Sure, they kept hunting, but they also began to settle down into villages, clear land and plant. This cleared land could be planted over and over, and kept giving new crops. This discovery led to civilization and life as we know it. If you are an entrepreneur or a professional, you should discover it again.
Every business needs customers. Every entrepreneur or professional is regularly looking for customers. Many of us do it the old-fashioned (as in 12,000 years ago) way – we hunt individual game. We spend our time and our marketing dollars seeking that individual who has a need we can fulfill. And we should do some of that – as my partner Allen Robinson says: “All we need is a payin’ gig”. But hunting each client, while rewarding, is a lot of work.
Farming is easier than hunting. Consider those clients for whom you have successfully completed a project as your cleared fields. Time spent cultivating those cleared fields is time well spent. How do you farm:
- Stay out Front: Your customers are busy, and they are not thinking about you. You need to stay on their minds, so that it is easy to remember you and contact you when they have a need for you, or can refer someone to you. You can do this in many ways: a blog, a mailing list, an active Facebook business page. Take time to keep yourself on their minds.
- Give Value. When getting yourself in front of your customers, don’t sell – give value. Helpful tips and advice are the best things to put in front of people. Often, someone will see your advice and it will be timely for them, and that will generate a phone call.
- Make it Easy: Remember to put your contact info on any communication. Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. Clickable links are best.
- Use Tools: Blogs, newsletters and other social media tools allow you to contact many people with one effort. Neat tools like Nimble help you maintain meaningful contact with your customers. Farming is easier than hunting when you use tools to help you.
- Target Feeders: Identify people who can send you business, and make sure you are regularly contacting them. Who is a trusted provider of goods or services that do not compete with yours, but have the same customer base? For John Emery’s local game store, it is the local independent bookseller. For Ralph Gleaton’s boutique business law firm, it is the local independent accounting firms. Make sure these feeders are on your contact list, and stay in front of them, with good content. I often offer to answer questions or give short pieces of advice for free to such feeders, because I want them to call me with their questions so that they will refer me their customers.
Like your ancestors 12,000 years ago, put your spear down for a minute, grab a hoe, and farm those successful contacts. The rewards are great. After all, it was when your ancestors starting farming that they invented beer . . . but that’s another story.
Have any tips on how you farm? Leave a comment!