Here’s the thing about being an entrepreneur. Whether you realize it or not, you slowly begin to submit everything to an internal accounting system that calculates what you put in versus what you get out. In business parlance, it goes by the name of ROI, or return on investment, and it’s not just limited to the financial decisions you make. It’s not just about your marketing strategies, your advertisements, or your newsletters. Like it or not, as an entrepreneur, everything from your time, to your tweets, to your talks with strangers is mined for potential return.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “well, I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m a doctor.” Or “I’m a therapist.” Or, “I’m a writer. I don’t have to worry about ROI.”
First of all, the number of clients I’ve had who fully accept the fact that they run their own practice or sell their own service, but still fail to see themselves as entrepreneurs is astounding. If it’s your show, if you manage it and run it and benefit when it does well and suffer when it doesn’t, then you are an entrepreneur in addition to whatever else you are.
And once you accept that you are this thing called an entrepreneur, you suddenly become very conscious of your activities, and in particular, the ends that those activities serve.
So, let me be overly schematic for a moment and break things down into two separate kinds of activities.
On the one side, there are activities that promote general business development. In my own case, these include: editing my web content for the seventy-five thousandth time, taking a programming class because, in some very obscure way, it makes me better at practicing my craft, or burying myself in a painstakingly detail-oriented activity, such as endlessly fine tuning an image on my site, even if no one on God’s Great Earth will notice it except me.
These activities are good. They are fine. They may lead to better brand. Or maybe a classmate from web dev 101 will introduce me to a new client. Or maybe one day someone will land on my site and think to themselves, “oooh, I really like the shadow effect on that photograph,” but I probably won’t know about it anyway, so who really cares?
Although these activities may legitimately improve the quality of the company, and although they may incidentally bring in clients, they, nonetheless, differ dramatically from the second category of activities, which we’ll crudely call “revenue producing.”
These are the no bullshit activities, the ones that directly lead to new clients, new customers, new accounts. In my case, they include: cold calling, following-up with prospects, setting up speaking engagements, scheduling meetings with potential clients, sending out offers, organizing workshops, directly pitching my work.
I think the whole thing boils down to this: As much as we’d like to believe that creating and offering an amazing product is enough to bring the clients in droves, it’s simply not enough to bank on. The truth is, you have to create beautiful things and then you have to sell the hell out of them. These are two separate jobs, not one.
And although it might be an oversimplification, it seems to me that everyday, you must constantly ask yourself, not simply, “is this a revenue producing activity,” but “HOW is this a revenue producing activity? How does this generate new business?” Because, truth is, your answer may make all the difference between sustaining your business and shutting it down.
Share your best practices on revenue-producing activities? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?