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Guest Writer

Getting creative with creative services
5 doorways to building business
by Carolyn Campbell

t's 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 offer it.

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 station?

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 customers.

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 work with?

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 you offer.

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 to connect.

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.

Carolyn Campbell is a life vision and leadership coach in Portland. Read her previous work in our archives, check out her profile in Sketch Pad, visit her Web site, e-mail carolyn@thecoresource.com, or give her a call at 503-493-9497.

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