Find Your Customers

Hello again, readers! Thanks for coming back to my blog. Today I wanted to share a success story with you. I have a friend named Geoff who went to school for graphic design. The graphic design field is incredibly competitive, and he was having a really hard time finding a good job. Instead of giving up and taking something that would work “in the meantime,” Geoff borrowed some money from his parents and bought a paint sprayer, an air compressor, and posted to some websites that he was available to do custom paint jobs on cars, murals, and similar projects. He got a few jobs this way, but nothing close to making a living even though his work was high quality and his customers were happy. This is where a lot of startup companies fail: they have a good product and do high-quality work, but in a market where it might be hard to distinguish yourself, it is hard to really get your name out there.

But Geoff knew all this already. He developed a new plan, deciding that what he really needed to do was expand his customer base. There had to be people out there who were looking for someone with his skills, he just couldn’t find them. Geoff didn’t know it yet, but he was thinking EXACTLY like a CEO—he identified a problem with his business model and was determined to come up with a solution. He talked with fellow classmates, several of which were also having no luck finding employment. Nobody had any actionable ideas other than things Geoff had already tried. According to Geoff, that was when he realized that he needed to set himself apart from the competition and try harder to meet his future customers. He decided to narrow his focus to the thing he liked best, custom paint jobs on cars. So he went to some car dealers and they took his business cards but it didn’t seem promising. Then he went to a local auto parts store. They weren’t interested, but they mentioned car shows that a lot of their customers attend—aha! A real lead! He also went to a few service stations that offered routine maintenance but didn’t have their own body shop. Some of them definitely wanted his name so that they could direct clients to him if they needed paint work done. Geoff went to a few car and bike shows and got to talking with many of the people there. It was frustrating to do so much legwork and not be getting paid, but it was groundwork to get his name out there. He decided not to stop there, either. He went to boat shows, too! If you could drive or ride it and there was a show for it, Geoff was there with his business cards in hand.

Weeks went by. Geoff continued to attend vehicle shows and would show off designs on his own car to potential clients. The slow trickle of customers he was getting turned into a few more, and then a few more, and as word of mouth—and Geoff’s integration in with the motorheads of his area started to stick—he eventually got enough clients to support himself. Yes, it was discouraging at first when he couldn’t find a job, and it was difficult to gain momentum for himself, but he did it. He got there because he did what the other guy wouldn’t: he went searching for his customers rather than waiting for them to find him.

Now he has his own shop with several employees. He is his own boss and does what he loves. He was able to upgrade all of his equipment and now has the best paint spray gun money can buy to put out high-quality work to keep his business going strong.

So if you are just starting out, remember my friend Geoff. All he had was a paint sprayer and an idea, and now he’s a CEO. Find something you are passionate about and don’t get discouraged if it isn’t a slam-dunk right from the get-go!