There’s an argument in business (and life) for persistence, perseverance and passion. Yet there is an irony I’ve noticed in almost three decades in business: The best results often arise from the least effort — and the harder you need to work/try, the more disappointing the final achievements.
This isn’t a justification for laziness or giving up early. But these thoughts invite you to rethink your approaches to business development and marketing, if you are pounding the pavements or spending a small fortune on various marketing initiatives.
I think there are several reasons for these seemingly daunting paradoxes, and they may give you some ideas on how to manage your affairs going forward.
If you enjoy it, it isn’t work.
Here is the argument for passion, coupled with talent. If you enjoy something, it doesn’t seem like hard work, even if you are effectively working hard. I’ve always enjoyed journalism/writing and have been gifted with an exceptionally quick keyboarding ability (80 words per minute, I won the typing contests in high school) and a deep curiosity about the world, coupled with some natural English writing talent. So I put in the hours and hours and more hours to learn the journalism craft. It just didn’t seem at all hard to do.
There are indirect correlations and results in relationship-building initiatives.
I was single for many years, much longer than most of my peers. I maintained a good friendship with a woman I dated for three times. (She said: “Let’s be friends,” and I took that brush off literally.) Then, with only friendship in mind with someone I had true attraction, I changed my perception about relationships and focused on character and not superficial qualities — and relayed observations to my friend. She went on a really bad date with someone with loads of money (I had very little money at the time). Then she suggested we could begin dating. Two years later, we married. We’ve been together 23 years. The observation here is that the actual process of converting from friendship to spouse really required very little stress or effort because I wasn’t actually looking for it at the time. Sometimes you can try too hard and the forces of change occur outside the orbit of the direct effort.
Since repeat and referral business remain the primary source of new clients, undoubtedly you will find the most new business simply by doing what you currently do, exceptionally well.
If you care about your work/clients (passion) and you have the ability to see beyond the immediate transactions, you build your connections and capture new naturally, without much effort or stress.
Community/association service, ideally correlating with your passion, provides a natural point for connections and communication.
Some of my easiest sales have been in association boardrooms. As an example, a successful engineer (who shared the board of directors seat on the voluntary association) was celebrating his 20th anniversary in business. It took me 30 seconds to suggest a feature profile, and five seconds for him to say “yes”. (This resulted in $10,000 in sales — and there has been other spin-off business.)
This happens of course because there is plenty of trust built when you work voluntarily to support a common cause and the community. It relates to the indirect effect mentioned above.
Conclusion here: Think about your talents, passions and interests, focus on community and charitable service, and engage closely with your repeat clients, and you won’t need to stress or struggle so much in business development, and you will spend relatively little on your marketing.