The cake thing

One of my best ideas ever was my invitation for potential clients to buy me coffee and cake.

A few years ago, I noticed that some people were a bit nervous of getting in touch with me to talk about working together to improve their business. They sometimes thought that they didn’t have impressive enough businesses for me to look at, or they weren’t sure that they wanted business advice. Sometimes they weren’t sure if I was the right person to help them, and didn’t want to waste my time.

What they didn’t quite get of course is that it’s my job to help make your business more impressive.

It doesn’t really matter where you’re starting from, or if you’re making a terrible mess of it right now, it’s what you want to create in the future that’s important. Plus, of course, if you’re willing to invest in that, and do the work to make something amazing happen.

People kept saying things like, “I’ve been putting off getting in touch with you for ages”, and, “I wasn’t sure if you worked with businesses like mine”. I think they were worried that if I met with them to talk about their business, they’d have taken up my time, and then they’d have to buy something. It’s the reverse of the reciprocity principle.

So I started asking people to buy something. They have to buy me a coffee and a cake to get the hour of my time. Having done this, they don’t feel so bad about ‘taking up my time’. I now have lots of people who want to make me eat cake and drink coffee while talking about business issues. Which is just about perfect for me, particularly if Cafe Delice have just cooked up a batch of their pain au raisin.

What if they don’t buy?

Some of those people are never going to buy business mentoring and coaching. In fact, about 20% of the time, I tell people that they don’t need me. They just need to do more of action A, and less of action B. Or they only want a part time, small scale business, so it just wouldn’t be worth the investment for them to pay me to work with them on the business.

But having those meetings is still worth it for me, in marketing terms, as well as getting paid in cake. Because the people I meet get to know about me, my thoughts on business, and they recommend other people, who do become clients.

How do you deal with the time wasters?

One of my competitors asked me about the ‘cake thing’ and said that they’d be worried about all the time wasters. And sometimes I do get people who have zero intention of becoming clients, but just want a specific answer to a specific business question. They should really have booked a one off decision making session.

But I’ve got used to these folks, and I’ve trained myself to give them a brief answer to their question and encouraging them to recommend me to other people or to buy a proper session. I used to get all fired up and answer all the questions (probably the effect of the coffee and cake) as if they were a paying client, but I don’t do that anymore.

I don’t get cake from Skype clients

Now that I’m seeing more clients from all over the UK on Skype, I just have to work out how to get online cakes.

Would you like to buy me coffee and cake?

If reading my blog has made you think about getting some help with your business, maybe you’d like to get together for a chat about how I might help you move it forward.

If you’re in Brighton, Cafe Delice does a lovely Americano and pain au raisin, and if you’re not in Brighton, book in for a Skype chat, and bring your own coffee.