But I Need More Clients Now!

    By Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist | Blog, Article |

    Talk to any marketing strategist worth their salt and they will tell you that building your brand - and your client-base - takes time.

    This thinking isn't unfounded - and they aren't "wrong".

    Look at best practices for growth from the likes of Prof Byron Sharp and other leading academic thinkers in this space and the research is compelling - need more customers? Grow your brand.

    But here's the thing - implementing better marketing practices for the future is only one piece of the puzzle for revenue growth - and to understand where the opportunities are, we have to look at the bigger picture.

    "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them" - Albert Einstein

    In the first few years of business, we learn to base our decisions on a set of observations that can lead to poor assumptions about how to govern a business.

    We haven't had the chance yet to try out the growth strategies that big brands use because they aren't (yet) applicable to our business.

    Play your cards right and one day they will be.

    But in order to get there you have to escape the trap of the reactionary feedback loop that almost every small business owner and new entrepreneur falls into...myself included.

    When we need clients - they suddenly appear

    Have you noticed that when you really need clients to stay afloat - you somehow, as if by magic, get enough paying clients to keep your doors open?

    Well it's not magic - and it's got nothing to do with the bogus "law of attraction" that so many coaches are preaching nowadays (seriously guys, 'The Secret' is 12 years old and was a load of hogwash to begin with...)

    So why is it that when we really really need clients we manage to make a few sales, but when things are going ok, and "it'd be nice" to have more clients we can't get a single lead?

    It's got to do with one of my favourite subjects: how our brain works.

    Our Lazy Brain

    If our brain was a cartoon character it would be Eric Cartman from South Park. Pathologically lazy, self-interested and surprisingly brilliant at making sure things stay that way.

    Our brain is essentially a pattern-recognition machine - when things are familiar, comfortable and ordinary we remain in our "autopilot" mode - our default lazy couch potato brain is at work.

    BUT when things are novel, surprising and distinct - our brain pays close attention - the status quo has been disrupted, and normality must be restored.

    A cocktail of neurotransmitters - acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine surge through our brain making us more alert, aroused, ready to react.

    (And to the scientists reading this - yes this is a huge oversimplification - I can't pack 4 years of brain science into a single article)

    What our brain really wants to work out is: "is this a threat, a reward or can I just ignore it?"

    If we perceive it as a threat, we change gears into "fight or flight" mode - our body's stress response.

    When we're alert and aroused we're more conscious of what's going on - often, if we're not too stressed out, it can actually help us in the short term: we do the urgent, important things we need to do to survive.

    So we're more likely to see an opportunity, pay attention to it and remember to use it to our advantage.

    We notice and engage with a conversation on LinkedIn, we put some feelers out via email, we remember that friend of a friend who needs help with the problem your business solves.

    Problem is - these are all short-term solutions that keep you surviving and stop you from thriving.

    The best time to get more clients, is when you already have "enough" clients

    For many small businesses, the need for clients only becomes apparent when there aren't enough clients to maintain the status quo.

    At this point we're in panic mode, and we start paying more attention to generating leads and making the sales we need to stay afloat.

    New business opportunities are always there - but when things are doing ok, we're literally not in the right frame of mind or emotional state to be acutely aware of them.

    BUT if you want to maintain an upward trajectory to continue growing from a comfortable 6-figure or 7-figure business towards multi-million dollar turnover, your decisions about revenue growth need to be based on best practices - not on whether or not there is an immediate threat to your business.

    That means you must always be out in market, always be selling, always be closing - keeping your marketing and sales efforts consistent and continuous. If you're not sure what this involves at a strategic level - you need to learn.

    And don't think you need a 6-figure budget for consulting services to get your business to the next level.

    At THE CHANGE MAKERS for instance, we provide a range of affordable services for small businesses to gain market share using high impact strategies rooted in marketing science. (We're a small business too so we get it!)

    A cocktail of neurotransmitters - acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine surge through our brain making us more alert, aroused, ready to react.

    (And to the scientists reading this - yes this is a huge oversimplification - I can't pack 4 years of brain science into a single article)

    What our brain really wants to work out is: "is this a threat, a reward or can I just ignore it?"

    If we perceive it as a threat, we change gears into "fight or flight" mode - our body's stress response.

    When we're alert and aroused we're more conscious of what's going on - often, if we're not too stressed out, it can actually help us in the short term: we do the urgent, important things we need to do to survive.

    So we're more likely to see an opportunity, pay attention to it and remember to use it to our advantage.

    We notice and engage with a conversation on LinkedIn, we put some feelers out via email, we remember that friend of a friend who needs help with the problem your business solves.

    Problem is - these are all short-term solutions that keep you surviving and stop you from thriving.

    The best time to get more clients, is when you already have "enough" clients

    For many small businesses, the need for clients only becomes apparent when there aren't enough clients to maintain the status quo.

    At this point we're in panic mode, and we start paying more attention to generating leads and making the sales we need to stay afloat.

    New business opportunities are always there - but when things are doing ok, we're literally not in the right frame of mind or emotional state to be acutely aware of them.

    BUT if you want to maintain an upward trajectory to continue growing from a comfortable 6-figure or 7-figure business towards multi-million dollar turnover, your decisions about revenue growth need to be based on best practices - not on whether or not there is an immediate threat to your business.

    That means you must always be out in market, always be selling, always be closing - keeping your marketing and sales efforts consistent and continuous. If you're not sure what this involves at a strategic level - you need to learn.

    And don't think you need a 6-figure budget for consulting services to get your business to the next level.

    At THE CHANGE MAKERS for instance, we provide a range of affordable services for small businesses to gain market share using high impact strategies rooted in marketing science. (We're a small business too so we get it!)

    Why Vision Statements are so Important

    The reactionary feedback loop - or business roller coaster ride - stops the day you decide to be proactive instead of reactive by setting bigger, bolder intentions for your business.

    We do this by creating a future-state business vision - a destination for where we want the business to be down the track - say in 10 years from now.

    We are telling ourselves and the people who work with us that we haven't reached an "equilibrium" that we can't "set and forget" our business.

    Instead, until we reach this future state we need to keep our eyes open, we need to keep challenging ourselves, learning, adapting, evolving. When there is no status quo to maintain, learning and innovation become part of our modus operandi.

    "When there is no status quo to maintain, learning and innovation become part of our modus operandi"
    A goal alone isn't enough

    Having a Vision Statement and setting goals for the future are part of the solution - but they aren't everything.

    We need to drive the motivation and behaviours that align with this vision - coping with change needs to be part of business as usual.

    Back in the days when books like "Think and Grow Rich" (Napoleon Hill) and "The Master Key System" (Charles Haanel) were written, the thinking was that our behaviour was driven by our cognition - our thoughts, ideas values and attitudes, were responsible for controlling and changing our behaviour.

    The idea was to use willpower to change our behaviour, to literally "think our way" into a new reality - something like this:

    Fast forward 50 years or so and we get Skinner's behaviourist theory - popularising the conjectures of philosophers like John Locke and even Aristotle who posited that at birth our mind was a "tabula rasa" or "blank slate".

    His experiments supported the idea that it is in fact our environment that shapes our behaviour and "conditions" us which in turn affects our beliefs, ideas and values:

    In fact - for a few decades now behavioural psychologists have known that this isn't a case of either / or - it is a case of and/and:

    We see these different lines of thinking play out in the world all the time - you know the "NATURE" vs "NURTURE" debate.

    In business we see a version of this play out it in the way leadership teams seek to attract and motivate their staff.

    Some businesses focus on using extrinsic recognition and reward (NURTURE). Others focus on developing a core set of values, ideas and beliefs as guiding principles to attract people who will intrinsically be the "right fit" for the business (NATURE).

    The best businesses, do both.

    To drive the vision and goals of a business, we need to come at it from both angles - intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

    To put it simply there are 3C's every business leader needs to remember:

    1. Confidence: Confidence is infectious. Not only do we like, trust and follow people who appear sure of themselves - we are inspired to act with more confidence ourselves.
    2. Culture: Set the standard for the beliefs, practices, patterns and behaviour that are required in order to achieve the business' purpose encapsulated by your vision.
    3. Community: Invite vulnerability and individualism so employees and customers can voice their concerns, share their ideas and continue to feel like they can belong without needing to "fit in" and mimic others.

    People aren't drones - but when we're working to maintain the status quo in the business, our brain stops learning and we fall into the trap of operating on autopilot, no longer engaged with our work.

    For me this is where it gets personal.

    I stopped working in an employed role the day I stopped learning. What had intrinsically motivated me to drive our 600% year-on-year revenue growth in our business was a need to learn, innovate and grow (my NATURE).

    But as the business needs changed to "maintaining the status quo" that drive was no longer recognised, instead I would be rewarded for doing what I was told, keeping things churning through the system (BORING!)

    Sure some people like routine, operational process, others prefer dynamic, sometimes chaotic work - I get that - but everyone needs motivation - to feel part of a team, to be part of the innovation, passion and purpose of your business.

    85% of people hate the job they're in right now. 79% of full-time employees are only getting 3-hours of productive work done each day. Over 40% of millennials plan to leave their job in the next 2 years. Most of the workforce in Australia - roughly 70% - are employed by SME's (47% of which are classified as small businesses).

    A business can't survive on stress and people need motivation to stay engaged with their work. Purpose-driven growth is the answer.

    It's not just up to the marketing and sales departments to grow the business - it needs to be top-of-mind for every single member of staff in your business.

    If you want to grow and scale your business, you need to decide where you're going, how you will get there and what will keep you and your team motivated at every step of the journey.

    Lauren Kress is a neuroscientist, growth strategist and CEO of THE CHANGE MAKERS. To find out more about Lauren, her team and the work they do visit: thechangemakers.org.au

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