creative with creative services
doorways to building business
simple, really. Whether you're an artist, an entrepreneur or a combination
of the two, marketing your services or products is key to the survival
and growth of your business.
Yet with all the available books, articles and lectures on the
seemingly endless ways to get customers, it can be a mind-boggling
and overwhelming process to figure out a way that is best for you.
But grow you must. And the method needs to suit you. Otherwise
you either won't do it, or you'll do it with limited success.
What I invite my clients to do first is look around. Notice who
is really building their business. How do they meld their vision
with their customers' needs? How do they bring people to their business?
A perfect example is New Seasons, Portland's locally owned grocery
chain. The company clearly has a passion for food and a commitment
to making good food accessible. They began as a neighborhood alternative
to other health-food stores by creating a welcoming environment
and building committed partnerships with community businesses. Even
as they grow they continue to engage in a grassroots way.
When all is said and done, building a business is not rocket science.
It simply demands that you build meaningful relationships and that
you're very clear about who you are, what you offer and how you
Imagine for a moment that there are five doorways each with
a distinct purpose for connecting with people. You might take a
moment and actually draw five doorways. As we go, write notes in
each one. It's a great way to get ideas out of your head as you
begin to see how to move your business forward.
Doorway No. 1: Where
If you're like me, you avoid formal networking. As I frequently
mention, I'd rather get a rabies shot than network. Yet, building
a community of support and camaraderie is central to success.
To begin with, instead of thinking about where you "should"
go, consider ways you already connect with people ... or ways you
have connected in the past that come easy to you. In the first doorway,
write down a handful of places and environments where you enjoy
connecting. For me, I'm most at ease and connect best
when there is a focus to the interaction.
A class. A creative project. Even shopping. While writing this,
I realize that I've made some of my best connections while shopping.
When I have a context, my nervousness recedes. I relax. I enjoy
finding out about people and, in turn, make meaningful connections.
By knowing this I can begin to think of things I want to do because
I enjoy them.
Doorway No. 2: How
How do you stay informed about life? Do you surf the Internet? What
newspapers do you read? What magazines? Do you have a favorite radio
You might notice that these first two doorways are about you. What's
key is to simply recognize how you interact in the world. These
can be great resources as you begin to reach out to your own potential
In this doorway, take a moment and write down your favorite "information
highways." In a word or two, mention why you like them.
To be successful you'll need to step beyond your immediate circle.
Online publications, newspapers, radio shows and magazines need
people to write or speak. Making such use of the media you enjoy
is a great way to connect with prospective clients in the context
of your business. These outlets offer a low-key yet highly effective
way to get yourself, your ideas and your persona out there.
Once you start writing or speaking, you'll gain confidence and
credibility. And you'll meet people who want to know more about
what you do.
Doorway No. 3: Who
This third doorway is the one I'm partial to: Who do you like to
It's time to get beyond your interest and into the life of your
prospective customer or client. The traditional model is to choose
customers by their demographics. You might also want to consider
the qualities of people you enjoy working with. For example, I love
working with independent, creative, highly motivated people building
businesses they are passionate about. When I go into a room I can
immediately sense these people. I am inspired to work with them.
It becomes a mutual partnership.
By naming the qualities of who I work with I can begin to shape
how I talk about what I offer. It's an important stage. Being clear
about "who" prepares you for how you reach out and what
Doorway No. 4: What
Once you've decided the "who," a fourth doorway awaits.
It focuses on what your prospective customers need. A Web designer
I know believes that many business owners don't feel confident in
their writing. But they need a compelling Internet presence that
clearly and appealingly expresses what they do. To support his clients
in an affordable way, he offers no-fluff sites that combine a strong
visual presence and a well-written description.
The clearer you are about the specifics of what you offer, the
clearer it is to your potential customers. We often want to be so
sophisticated with our message that we lose prospects in the process.
Usually, the simpler your message, the more inviting your business.
Take a moment. Write down what you offer. What programs do you
provide? Diversifying your offerings provides multiple opportunities
for people to come to you.
By combining one-on-one designs with group seminars, that Web designer
can give people a chance to find out who he is and what he's like.
Bottom line: People like to test the waters before they dive in.
It's great to give them a chance to do so by offering easy ways
for them to try you out.
Doorway No. 5: Help!
This last doorway is about recognizing what skills, support and
resources you need to connect most effectively with your potential
customers. It may be technical skill, ways to fine tune your promotion
or honing your own focus.
What's important is to make an unflinching assessment of what you
need to get out in the world. Write a list and keep it simple. Then
find the people or resources to accomplish those things.
And remember typically, it's not the skill-set that people
lack, but the confidence and clarity of where and how they want
Your business may grow by hoping it will. But most likely it won't.
Read parts one
and two of Carolyn's series on creatives.
Look for more in coming months.