“Can we have a coffee to chat about Facebook?”

by Natalie Alaimo | Follow Her On Twitter

nespresso Let me start by saying I love love love coffee.  I have a Nespresso coffee pod machine and it’s not unusual for me to kick back 2 – 3 cups before 11am.  Maybe it’s my Italian heritage but it doesn’t affect my ability to sleep.  I remember for years when I was working at the family restaurant having a espresso at 11pm after all the customers had left and being able to fall straight to sleep when I got home.  I find it funny now when people order a skinny decaf coffee – I think why bother? Anyway, I’ve diverted off topic here!

For some reason (maybe it’s the message I’m sending the universe) I get emails from people asking me to catch up with them for coffee to chat about Facebook, Social Media or whatever (you get the idea). And I know this approach works for many businesses but not mine – any more.  Years ago when we had a printing business we sold most of our work via networking and word of mouth referrals.  The same was true for our web design business.

I remember one day spending four hours (I know ridiculous, right?!?) with one potential client.  During this free meeting I had explained the whole process of online marketing: building an email database, blogging, providing a taste of your services, keyword optimisation  – really the lot.  I then left the meeting feeling confident I would get the website I quoted on – and from memory it was really cheap – like under $2000.

A couple of days later I saw an email in my inbox and got excited – fully expecting it to be the go ahead for this amazing website we had spent so long talking about.  I’m guessing you know that I didn’t get the order – otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you this story – but what is even more surprising was the message.

I’m shaking just thinking about it now – it’s even hard to write after all these years – but she basically asked me to look at a website she built – FOR FREE – using VistaPrint (or some service like that) and the comment was something about using her dollars most effectively.

I was devastated to say the least – but after my initial shock – came anger – and in true Gen Y fashion (I’ve learn better now) I shared it on my Facebook Profile (before Pages in those days) and asked how I should respond.

It was then that one very smart man – Gulliver Giles – commented back and said “Coffee Dates are for Friends”.  I really think – looking back now – that was a very defining moment for me. And really the catalyst for changing my business model.

Was it the right decision? Would we get more clients if I had more ‘coffee’ meetings? Maybe – but I’m really loving the business I have now and not spending hours and hours spending time with the ‘wrong’ people.  I’ve made the decision that I’m going to build my brand online + position myself as an expert in my industry (personally I think I’m doing a good job of this) and use my own Social Media Blueprint model to attract clients to me.

Making the decision is one thing – but sticking to it can be a whole new ball game – which I’m sure you can appreciate.  At times you feel that you should – maybe just this once – met someone – but it just never works.  A few months ago I meet with a lady as, based on our emails, I thought it would work out better and she would become a client – but no.  Every time I go back on my word – and cave into ‘what someone else thinks i should be doing’ – it doesn’t work out in my favour.

I honestly believe that as business owners we need to set up our businesses and ‘teach’ clients how we like to operate and be treated – then the right clients for us – will want to work with us on our terms (because it suits them as well).

To help combat this “let’s meet for coffee approach” I’ve done the following in my business;

  • removed my phone number from my business cards
  • list only the office number on the website (where I’m not based)
  • coached Leonie (my wonderful mother – who also has to answer the phone) on the best way to deal with enquires – this really frees me up to focus on my online community and creating outstanding training for my clients
  • create a series of standardised responses to send back to people – this way I don’t have to feel bad, think about what I’m saying or potentially cave into something I don’t want to do.
  • changed my mobile message bank to a very long message asking people to send me an email (my friends and family know that I’ll call them back and most ‘other’ people will send an email)

Whatever the process are in your business, make sure they are on your terms + you stick to your decisions (as hard as it might be).

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