Update II: Have I caught you at a bad time?

This is the second update from a new series documenting the journey through my new business. This week I am focused on acquiring a handful of initial clients who will allow me to build a credible portfolio. With a portfolio of successful clients, it will be easier to acquire further business. However, right now it is getting those first few clients which is proving the hard part.

How does a 22-year-old start his own social media management company? Even with any of the experience he might have, there are plenty of other people with way more credibility and experience. On the face of things, I’m going to need restaurant and bar owners to take a chance. They need to trust my ability to deliver and ultimately see a return on their investment in social media.

This week the last of my print advertisement went out. 1,500 local restaurants, pubs and bars have received my offer of an initial free social media audit. I am now turning my attention to cold calling around 50 businesses a day, mainly restaurants and bars in the Greater Manchester area. I will do something a little different with this post. I will take you through a live feed of updates I made while cold calling one day. Partly because I needed the breaks to write and reflect in real time. Also, because I thought it would portray my experiences authentically. Below is that live feed of my experience with cold calling.

Live feed: Monday motivation

8:30 AM – I was supposed to start cold calling last week, however, I was reluctant to get started. I feared rejection even though I knew it was inevitable. I ended up putting it off all week. Making a larger and larger list of numbers to call, but never lifting the phone up. I also convinced myself I had more pressing things to do like tweak my website and begin writing some blog posts for it. In fairness to my excuses, I have been back and forth about launching my own social media strategy for my business. As I am presented with quite a daunting dilemma. What’s worse, having no social media presence, when that is the very service you offer. Or, having a somewhat weak social following which would damage my credibility and ability to run somebody else’s social media.

Realistically, it would take a lot of time to build a respectable number of followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for my own social media management agency. If utilised, this could be my greatest tool for reaching out to potential clients. With a good informative and valuable social media presence, and Facebook ads targeting business owners within my demographic, I would generate more leads.

Anyway, now for the calls.

11 AM – My old neighbourhood friend came around this morning. He lives in London now and it was the first time I’ve seen him since returning from Costa Rica. He was all for my new venture and it was the first real chance I’ve had to vent my frustrations and open up about the reality of it. Since he left I’ve had a renewed motivation to make this work. I need to be more aggressive in my nature, not towards clients, just towards the difficulties I will inevitably face.

My strategy is to simply put forward the free social media audit I am offering businesses. I feel more comfortable offering this over the phone as it has genuine value and is free. Offering a free insight into their performance, and how they can improve their strategy to optimize their social media channels to see a greater ROI. That all sounds very salesy but it’s true. Granted, once I have carried out the analysis and provided the feedback in an in-person sit-down with the client, I will pitch my service and show them how I would manage their social media channels. But this is just an option for them, I’ll still provide the free feedback and strategies to improve their social media nonetheless.

12:30 – About 15 calls in I have managed to schedule a phone call back and I have received and email address to give them further info on what I’m offering. I’m pleasantly motivated by the responses so far, even those who declined were polite about it. I have been focusing on an outlying city which is certainly not my ideal location for clients. This sounds like a stupid idea, but my thinking was let’s see what kind of responses I get. Before exhausting my opportunities closer to home. I would like to build confidence over the phone and tweak my ‘pitch’ where necessary. Then I will begin calling the potential clients in my immediate location. Current aim for the end of the day – 5 contact leads and one scheduled meeting for audit feedback.

Hardly the most insightful screenshot, but it’s going to take a lot more of this. Also, these numbers are public restaurant numbers you can get from TripAdvisor so no sweat there.

3:30 – Number 30. That round of calls was a little more disheartening. I had my first few disgruntled calls. I struggled to get across the value in what I’m offering. People automatically assume an agenda, which is an understandable judgement. Another thing I have noticed is that people assume social media marketing is going to be expensive, and therefore a risky or even an unnecessary investment which won’t see an ROI. I will give it another hour or so until restaurants will likely start getting too busy to deal with cold calls.

5:30 – I didn’t quite reach 50. But the first 45 calls have been made. I started to get through less and less during the afternoon, at which point I sent emails detailing the audit offer. In all, today has generated about 5 leads. If you can call them that. Three or four simply told me to call back when the manager was available. A couple of others gave email addresses and said they would pass the message on to the owner. I still await the first illusive audit. Am I offering the wrong thing? Does anybody actually care? An audit? That sounds boring, something you would usually associate with finance and accountancy. It doesn’t sound very appealing at all. I could phrase it differently, ‘analyse the performance of your social media?’ Still sounds quite boring, and what’s the value in it? What’s the genuine value to the business owner? I like to think I’m offering an insight into the ways in which they can improve their social media performance. But getting that across, and the fact that it is free with no obligations. That’s the hard part.

My attempt to add more visuals to this series of posts. I promise they will get better, especially when I actually have a client. 

I’ll start again tomorrow. This was the purpose of starting in outlying towns which aren’t realistically in the area I would like any business. But it would be a good problem to have, to have to commute the 30/40 minutes to go see them, that’s the way I see it. At least this way I’m allowing myself to improve my calling and ‘selling’ capabilities. Finding out what the best way to offer my service is before I try the clients I really want.

The rest of this week will very much focus on these cold calls. Targeting different towns including Bury, Bolton, Blackburn and Central Manchester. I would like to contact 300 businesses by the end of the week. That’s my aim. I am reluctant to put a number on how many audits/meetings I will have secured. But let’s say I would be happy with 5. Just under a 2% success rate. To think I’m still just offering a free service. I’ve not even begun pitching my real paying service yet. That’s scary. Who said starting a business was easy?

Sidenote – I wanted to find a quote of some successful entrepreneur saying it was easy to start a business. Funnily enough, I couldn’t find one, it was actually quite the opposite. But below are a couple of quotes which resonate.

“It’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.”
– Paul Graham (Co-founder, YCombinator)

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
– Henry Ford (Founder, Ford)

“As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every 2 hours and cried.”
– Ben Horowitz (Co-founder, Opsware).

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