As I’ve had my own business for over 7 years now, I often get asked by those who are just starting a new business if I’ve got any advice. The following tips are my favourites and I’ve meaning to blog them for ages. Sadly, nearly all of them were illustrated by the first episode of the new Chris Evans’ version of “Top Gear” last night, so that’s spurred me on to write them up. (Just for the record, I really wanted to enjoy the new Top Gear but ended up being disappointed.)
1. Be yourself
I like Chris Evans – he’s good at being Chris Evans. Unfortunately, last night he appeared to be doing a poor impression of Jeremy Clarkson, so even a Chris Evans fan like me didn’t enjoy watching him.
My advice for new businesses is: don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not for fear of putting off potential clients. You’ll just attract people who won’t be a joy to work with and possibly put off those who would’ve been your perfect client.
2. Manage customer expectations
With all the announcements over the last few months, including a whole host of different presenters, I was expecting something new and innovative. But what I saw was a show that appeared to be almost identical to the old Top Gear just with different presenters. If I’d understood that was what we were going to see, I perhaps wouldn’t have been quite so disappointed.
Whatever line of business you’re in, you need to under promise and over deliver, not the other way round. Sometimes it’s hard to do, especially when your business is just you and things don’t go to plan – I know I don’t get it right all the time. But that’s what you should be aiming for.
3. Copying the way other people do things doesn’t always work
Doing things in exactly the same way as other similar established businesses seems to make sense when you first start out. But if that way of working isn’t natural to you and doesn’t allow you to be true to your personality and values, then you won’t be happy or confident in what you do, which will be apparent to your clients and have a knock on negative effect to your sales. Plus it makes it hard for potential clients to differentiate between what you have to offer and what your competitors do.
You’re also making the assumption that that way of doing business still works, which might not be the case. It could be that the business you’re copying has got in a rut using methods that worked 10 or 15 years ago. Don’t be scared to mix things up a bit and try something new so you stand out from the crowd in a positive way.
For example, a couple of years ago, I completely changed the way I sell the photos from my family photography sessions. Doing face-to-face sales appointments the way I was taught and the way that the majority of professional photographers did then, made me feel like I was emotionally blackmailing my clients. Plus it was taking me away from precious time with my family and it was increasingly hard to justify doing it that way when modern technology allows photographers to easily share your photos online.
So now I give clients an online gallery for them to choose at their leisure. It takes away their fear of being subjected to the high-pressure sales techniques that some high street photographers adopt. They can still choose to have an in-person sales session if they want my input on which photos to choose and the best way to present them but it’s entirely optional. Yes, my order values are lower, but my clients are more eager to recommend me or book again and I’m happier now I can spend more evenings and weekends with my husband and kids. It does mean I need more bookings to make a living but I enjoy photographing families so that doesn’t bother me and it means more families benefit from having my photos. So it’s a win-win for me and my clients.
How is this relevant to Top Gear? Well, by producing a show in an almost identical format to the old one, viewers were inevitably going to compare the new presenters, who’ve had no time to bed into their roles, with the previous presenters, who’ve had years to build up a chemistry between them. The result was highly unlikely to be a positive one, and there’s also the issue that the previous Top Gear format was starting to become stale. A large proportion of the old audience seems to be anti the new team, so I doubt they’d be keen on anything Chris Evans has to offer on principle. He may as well change the format to freshen it up, fit better with his style of broadcasting and attract a new audience who values what he brings to the show.
4. If it doesn’t work, try something different
I’m being optimistic here because as I’m writing this there has only been one episode of Chris Evans’ Top Gear. But I would hope they’ll take the viewers’ feedback on board and adapt what they’re doing until it does work. Whatever business you’re in, you’re bound to make mistakes or find things don’t work in the way you’d hoped. But don’t give up. Use your experiences as an opportunity to learn and evolve into operating in a way that does work for you and your clients.
I hope you found those tips useful. If you’ve got any tips of your own that you like to share with new business people, do leave a comment below. By the way, the photo of the car has nothing to do with Top Gear – it’s one from a “James Bond” inspired shoot I did a while back at Compton Verney
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