Catalyst, my newly found company, is into its 100 days in operation in a week. Time flies when you are enjoying yourself. In this case, the three months felt more like three days.
We knew from day one that setting up a Marketing Agency is a step into an uncharted water, especially in a territory that is unaccustomed to paying for ideas.
What we have is the bliss of ignorance and the enthusiasm of a youthful mind, a perfect combination coupled with the relentless perseverance. While there is still much to do, I am happy to report that we are making positive progress.
Below are some of the lessons we learned along the way, we hope you will benefit from our learnings:
Sale is a Number Game
On an average day, I send out twenty to thirty emails to introduce our business and solicit interest for our projects. Of the twenty emails I normally get one or two responses. On a lucky day, I will get a few more. Over time, I have learned that phone calls are a lot more effective than emails. Hence, as much as I hated the phone, I make some ten to fifteen cold calls and follow ups.
Peter West, a legendary life insurance salesman once told me that sale is a game of numbers. It takes a big number of prospects to filter down into one sale. Nothing should be taken personally.
I didn’t think that it would apply to my line of business ten years later, I am glad I took note on this lesson.
There is no simple way of describing my job. My standard explanation is that, if I was to explain to a six year old what I do; I am in the business of helping other businesses to make more money. Quirky as it may sound, there is actually a difference between a snake oil salesman and my line of business. We deliver results.
I learned in the last three months that no one has the patience to listen about your ideas. The irony is that without convincing people to listen to your great ideas, your idea will not go any where.
Through tons of experiments, we came up with a solution to this chicken and egg dilemma by giving away my years of experiences for free.
I have since developed a module on Customer Service where I provide complimentary one-hour presentations to any organization that can spare me the time to listen. I have since given talks to more than a dozen companies, and met tons of people.
In the midst of it, I turned my speaking notes into a book called The Heart of Service, which is available for free (just send an email to email@example.com and you’d receive a copy). This strategy has opened doors for my business, which led to unplanned territory.
Network like Crazy
My strength as an outsider from Brunei for almost a decade; is my fresh of eyes and the ability to identify new business opportunities others neglect. This strength however is also my weakness. Being away for so long, I have lost touch with the business community here.
A primary goal of my role is to establish network as quickly as possible. I have to get out of my shell from being an introvert to putting myself in front of strangers week in and out, exchanging name cards and making small talks.
On an average week, I would attend a networking event or meet at least 3 new people that could potentially lead to future opportunities. To date, I have been to all three of the Asia Inc conferences (thanks to Stuart’s free ticket) in the last three months, two BBBF events and an FBBA forum.
I am one of those people who drag participating in ‘networking’ with total strangers during coffee break and lunch breaks. But for business survivor, I would talk to anyone and everyone who is keen to make eye contact with me during those punishing moments. Sure, there would always be those people who takes a look at you and decide that you’re not worth their time, and then move on. Occasionally, you’d meet some like mined people, with whom you would establish long-term interest, be it personal or interest. I am still waiting for the latter to come through.
Oh one more thing, I found that one of the most effective ways to get free publicity during conferences is to ask questions. The convener would often ask you to introduce yourself and your company before your questions. That way, people would get to hear about my company’s name, without having to fork out huge money for your logo to be on the banner. Of course, you must be tactful in asking relevant and interesting questions, or you’d look foolish and get backfired.
I try to limit myself to no more than one questions per conference, because like you, I get annoyed with those people whom unashamedly try to steal the thunder.
A stranger approached me once and asked if my company could help with their CSR strategy, after learning that I have a consulting business by raising my hand.
One of the most essential elements to succeed in any start up is to be stubborn! In Malay, we call it Kepala Batu. It is important to have the ‘head of a rock’ together with unwavering commitment to see your vision through.
There are no shortages of nay-sayers that I meet on a daily basis. These people include those who have been there and done it and of course, failed. And there are also those who cannot imagine anyone would want to buy ideas off thin air because of their lack of exposure. The doubters are the impetus for us to work extra hard to prove them wrong.
I must clarify that most doubters are those who are well intentioned and are genuine in sharing their experience and their much appreciated wisdoms. We just have a different set of values and share different path.
Of course, stubbornness will not be nearly enough to pull you through if you do not have a solid team who believe in you, who back you up on good days and the bad. This will be a long very list if I start naming each of you. You know who you are. Thank you and God bless.
Innovate and adapt
One of the key success factors that will determine the future of Catalyst is our ability to experiment with various ideas and pursue them with zest. Some will work, and other won’t. From there, we will craft out a niche and focus in being the best in that area.
True to our prediction, some of the noblest ideas we had from day one fell short of delivery; on the other hand, others took off and surprised even myself in providing a stream of revenue.
We are small enough to be flexible, and will keep on experimenting different avenues in the next few months. With a bit of luck, your continuous support and a lot of hard work, we will get there.
My avid blog readers would have read about some obstacles I faced along the way. I mentioned earlier that I provide talks to a dozen of companies. Not all of them went well. I am glad I stumbled early in one of the talks, and made a pact with myself never to repeat the same mistake again.
It is quite all right to fail, what is not acceptable is for you not to pick yourself up. You can learn more about my failure on this on the blog; Stumbled (www.visionforabetterasia.com).
Making a Difference
If Catalyst ceases to exist tomorrow, will the community miss our service? The answer very frankly is, NO! Not now, anyway. We clearly understand that in order for us to thrive, we have to provide a service that makes a difference to the society.
Ken Blanchard, a respected management guru once said, every organisation needs to follow the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) formula in setting their goal. Our BHAG is crystal clear from day one. To Spark The Economy by empowering individual businesses to do well.
We are determined to be committed in this area, starting with infecting customer centered mindsets one person, one organization at a time through our corporate presentations.
Next, we are embarking on several initiatives to stimulate the economy. One that we are excited announce upfront is our partnership with BiG Magazine to drive their business development and growth.
The very first thing we do is to pull together all the restaurants, spas and entertainment venues within Brunei to provide irresistible discounts that we can advertise within the magazine. Voucher marketing is a proven strategy that worked well throughout the West, with a 90% record in attracting first time customers. If you have a restaurant, and have not thought of a strategy to tackle the off peak period between January and March next year, we must talk!
Not only will the restaurants benefit from new businesses, as a frequent diner, you and I will benefit from the discounts we help negotiate!