Doesn't that sound fantastic? A real vindication that your marketing is working well, yet it is a dangerous place to be in your business and a crazy thing to say to anyone in your business network ...
Yet, if you're a sole practitioner or small business and getting your sales and marketing right, it becomes a real dilemma. What do you do when you run out of hours in the day to take on another client?
This blog post was inspired by three conversations I have had this week on this exact subject. The first is a warning and the other two hint at possible solutions.
- One was expressing concern that her work had tailed off so I reminded her that a few months ago, she had told me that she was fully booked and couldn't take on any more work. I had in fact encountered someone who could use her services since, she came to my mind, but I remembered what she said so had referred elsewhere.
- The second was a therapist who was also fully booked and was surprised that people were willing to go on a waiting list for her services and actually meant it. When she re-contacted them 6 weeks later they were still there waiting!
- The third was someone who is attending my own workshop next week and emailed to ask if she could bring someone with her. I was really tempted to try and fit her guest in, but as I am already oversubscribed and the room just won't take one more body, it's going to be snug as it is. Besides I am already pointing others to the next date in September, so suggested that instead.
So what is the way out of the dilemma? Well, there are lots of different ways of tackling this depending on your situation, inclination and aspiration. Here some suggestions:
Some obvious things to do ...
Plan your business and act as if you have that problem now. Anyone who has had any decent coaching will tell you that believing and acting successful is the route to success. It also means that when it happens you’re ready for it. No surprises!
Personal Efficiency. Are you really fully booked? Have you got your delivery time and business development time planned out. do you know which activities are successful and which are not. Where are the time wasting activities and can you plan them out of your life? Analyse your working week. How much time do you spend on the road, in meetings, or on social media generating nothing? I strongly recommend getting someone else to analyse this with you, it's surprising how easily we fool ourselves with our bad habits.
Forecast your workload. First, know how long your present high volume of work is going to last. As well as mapping out your cash and payments from all these lovely clients have you mapped out the delivery times. When is the current work going to tail off? Where is the slack for the unexpected? So when does extra delivery time become more available?
What is the risk for each client? Do you know what else is happening in their business that might mean they no longer can afford or need your services? If you provide outsourced services your favoured customer may have grown to the stage where they can afford to take someone on.
Act as the boss not the worker. You’re a business owner so your prime role is to generate business. So get others to do as much of the doing as possible. This may be outsourcing tasks or functions or employing someone. If what you love is the doing, then get someone else to do the business generation.
Put your prices up. There is obviously a demand for your services so find your level in your market. You may price yourself out of some customers but you’ll make more profit from those you do convert. Combine this with a strategy to refer work on.
Take on associates. Lots of people are great at delivering your types of services but not good or dislike having to generate business themselves. Bringing in associates is a common way to develop a consultancy, training or coaching business. They work for you under your brand and to your standards as and when you need it. Another version of this is to sub-contract to another company who delivers under your contract and maybe your brand .
Refine your offering and become a specialist. Are you offering a wide and diverse group of products? What about if you become super specialist and focused on what you really love doing? So instead of being an SME business advisor your become known as a specialist in family businesses or import/export.
WARNING: Becoming known as a specialist will increase your referrals and conversion rate even more. It may also mean you spend more time on more complex issues that require your personal attention with each client. So do this with other actions to manage demand.
Have a waiting list. This is a great marketing tool as well as managing your workload. I always remember queuing for a table outside the door of a café in a shopping mall and looking through the window at the empty tables in the café next door. Yet I stayed in the queue. As humans, we love social proof. If others are using this product or service, we read that as an endorsement that it is good and will wait in line. My client the therapist who inspired this blog post has discovered this.
WARNING: This only works up to a point and you should have alternatives to offer too.
Put on another event. If you’re running workshops and getting oversubscribed make sure you have another date ready for people to book onto. It’s another version of managing social proof. So I resisted overbooking my workshop by offering another date. So I filled August from being oversubscribed in July and am well on the way to selling out in September from people who missed out in August. (sorry, I couldn't resist the plug!)
Some Referral Marketing Strategies to apply ...
Turn your competitors into your referral partners. It may make you nervous but referring work on to others will generate more work for you. I wrote a blog post about this a few weeks ago so do visit this link for more on this. It’s best to apply this as part of a strategy around refining your offering and price and plans to bring in associates.
Discuss your strategy with your referral partners. There will come a time when whatever your plans, you just can’t manage demand. This is when having deep, trustworthy and productive referral relationships with key people in your network pay off. These are the individuals who are referring you all this lovely business so build your relationship so can you discuss with them your current issues and plans then agree a way of managing the flow and quality of referrals?
Remember that their relationship is with you. If they are used to referring you as the deliverer, they may need a lot of reassurance about your plans to bring new people into your business to deliver for you. They may need to meet that person and build their own confidence in what their involvement is going to be in the delivery to their referral.
They will definitely need reassuring that you will still find time to refer them too! The best way is to involve them right at the start as you formulate your plans. They may give you useful advice, information and insights that will influence what you decide to do.
In summary, I'll finish with two pleas and a tip ...
Please, please please build in time to take care of your referral sources. They are the reason that you are successful and they will carry on helping you if you help them to be successful too.
Please, please please never broadcast to all and sundry that you're fully booked and don't need any more clients. Your referrals will get directed elsewhere, and your work will dry up.
So my tip is to have a clear plan of action on how you will manage more work, then broadcast your success (your social proof) and how, as a result, you'll be able to offer an even better service to your contacts.
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.