I recently wrote a blog about how I Created A Six-Figure Brand In One Year By Identifying And Filling A Market Gap. That article was about the steps I took that put me in a position to recognize a market opportunity, how I solved problems by creating a brand, and actionable tips to help you to cultivate an ‘awareness for opportunity’.
The next conversation I want to have is about the steps I took to attract brands such as Forever 21, H&M, and Macerich (the third-largest owner and operator of shopping centers in the United States) with zero dollars invested in marketing or cold outreach.
(This doesn’t mean there was no ‘marketing’ performed. This means that actual money was not invested in marketing strategies such as paid search or a salesperson.)
This article will cover the ONLINE and OFFLINE actions that were taken to establish a brand, generate high-quality inbound leads, and create a six-figure-business by leveraging ‘free’ tools and actions that we all have access to.
OFFLINE STRATEGIES: 3D CONNECTION
The first year of your new venture is a crucial hustle period. This is not the time to over-plan, over-think, or over-strategize. This is when you want to be in the trenches getting dirty and completely immersing yourself in your market, your business, your industry, and your clients. Doing this will provide you with two invaluable things:
2. Raw data
Be the Buzzing Bee
Visibility: You can’t build this company by hiding. Now is the time to get out there, meet people, tell everyone what you’re doing; family and friends included, and get in front of the people who need your services. Go to events, network, and just put yourself out there.
“Hustle first and be visible” should be the motto for your first year in your service business (or any business, really).
Capitalize on the Newness to Build Momentum
Being new to a market has INCREDIBLE benefits to it. Think about the honeymoon phase in a relationship: The first 6, 9, 12 months are mostly pure bliss. Sexual tension. Excitement. Newness.
It’s the same for a new business venture. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s raw. And this is a potent breeding ground for momentum. You have permission to get lost in the whirlwind of it all by connecting, creating, and delivering quickly and repeatedly.
This is how you get noticed and collect a lot of data about the problems your business can solve.
Raw data that you acquire from being in the trenches is more valuable than any plan or strategy will ever provide. Your first year or so, you are so new you can’t possibly know what you need to know without being very active inside of your market. You can’t build a house standing inside another house. You must immerse yourself.
If there is one word to describe my first year or so with Philadelphia Zoning it would be: Obsession. Pure obsession. No shame whatsoever about what I was doing. Just movement.
Do Great Work and Continually Get Better. And Fuck Up A Lot
Your delivery is obviously so important in the first year (and always): But especially in the first year because if you suck, then you won’t get referrals or build momentum. Doing great work and continually get better. And also fuck up a lot. The clients you have in the beginning won’t always be the same clients you have 2, 3, 4 years in so make sure you make your mistakes in the beginning to lower the impact of those mistakes over time.
Make Mistakes to Innovate
I definitely made mistakes in my delivery many times. I honestly didn’t have many mentors around me to tell me how things are done in the industry. I wasn’t interested in how the industry has always done it. sometimes this may have hurt the business because I had to learn the hard way, but honestly – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t Adapt to How It’s Been / Being Done
There is a quote that I searched forever for online to speak to this. Since I couldn’t remember it or find it anywhere, here’s one I created to get the point across:
Not knowing how things have always been done gives you the chance to do them completely different, and better.
When we receive advice and learn from others how things have been done, it can rob us of our completely untouched and uninfluenced innovation and creativity.
That’s what I was going for.
After the first year, translate to Processes to Replicate Effective Delivery
After the first year that momentum can start being translated into a process for delivery. Now you know how to deliver tangible results You have made lots of mistakes and learned on the ground. It’s time to systemize and crate processes to mitigate the mistakes and re0create your successes (but that’s for another post).
Final Offline Takeaways and Actions
- Go to industry events and TALK to people/ get people’s contact information and always follow up
- Ask for referrals from clients that you delivered for
- Network online and offline
- Ask clients for feedback (always do this)
- Introduce yourself to people online
- Put on workshops
ONLINE STRATEGIES: DIGITAL CONNECTION
Create an Attractive Brand and STAND OUT Dammit
From the start, a major portion of my approach was to create a brand identity that was attractive in an industry that was otherwise mundane and mostly saturated with law firms. My goal was to be the attractive, creative operation in an industry that was so used to not having that.
This was the branding strategy: Be colorful, be different, be ME, and do not look like a law firm. Have marketing messages that speak to people’s pain points; not just tell people that were a permit expediter that can help you with your zoning.
BRANDING: Speak to people’s pain points, be different, be colorful and fun (or at least pleasant) to interact with.
Build-out Your Damn Website
SEO: Search Engine Optimization: Every one of Philadelphia Zoning’s services ranks on the first page of Google. Immediately upon launching the business, each service page was built-out with clear and educational copy about what those services are and how they will help the end user. This allowed us to be recognized within Google’s ranking algorithms and show-up high on Google so people could find us and reach out. This is ‘free’ Inbound lead heaven.
VALUE, CONTENT, VALUE, CONTENT. VALUE…CONTENT!
Value, value, value via content, content, content: We wrote at least one blog per week for the first year+. This creates value to the end user by giving them free content they can use and leverage.
It shows the end user who may want to work with you that you care enough to educate them about what you do.
It demonstrates that you know what you are talking about, which builds trust within the market and primes people to be prepared to buy from you.
It also adds to your SEO efforts because additional pages that rank on Google have been created, and when linked to your services pages, will eventually lead to additional inbound leads.
Consistent online content creation is an invaluable strategy to create a sustainable online presence that earns your business inbound clients over the long-term.
All services and content should always be shared via your company’s Instagram, stories, highlights, Facebook, etc. to further the reach.
Optimize Your Damn Website
And of course, all of this online work should be done in tandem with a clean, highly optimized and user-friendly website. Otherwise, all of that value you create through our content won’t convert down the line into paying clients. You need to create online feng shui so people actually want to stick around.
It’s like inviting guests over to your home when it’s a disheveled mess. It’s not polite and your guests won’t feel as relaxed and comfortable than if they were in a clean, fresh, and inviting environment.
Feng Shui the shit out of your website and people will want to hang around longer, will respect your work, and will be motivated to work with you.
I get comments almost every day from online leads who are just in love with the website: The look, the usability, the design AND how useful the content is. People (who aren’t even clients) often share with me how useful an article or resource was. Do I care that they didn’t buy from me? NO! I am glad they leveraged the free content as that is also what it is there for. Plus ONE DAY they may need our services and it is highly likely they know someone that will. Value and content always pay dividends.
But I digress.
Some additional tactics include posting all projects and success stories on your website, including all involved parties in the post such as your client and anyone else you collaborated with posting that on socials, etc. Your client and all of the others involved will want to share the posting. Always try to get creative for featuring success stories and other people in a way that will motivate them to share as well.
In a Nutshell…
Look Great: BRAND.
Educate people for free by adding value: CONTENT.
Get out there and get seen online & offline: CONNECT.
Do GREAT work- DELIVER.
Strategize and plan less: MOMENTUM.
Work hard- Period.