After selling his office products business a couple of years back, Ford Henderson was keen to start a new company but he needed help to move into a completely new field.
“I had spent 15 years or so selling office products and I wanted to try something new. I thought about the kind of challenges I had faced as a business owner – lead generation – finding new clients and better ways to reach my target market.”
From his many years of experience in sales and marketing, Ford knew he needed to find a ‘hungry’ market – people who were desperate to buy the client attraction solutions he could provide. His research revealed that professional service providers were the most in need of his skills since they often found it difficult to find a steady stream of clients. Many suffered from the effects of poor marketing so they’d have plenty of work one month and then nothing for the following couple of months.
He knew for his new business consultancy to be viable he needed to reach as many potential clients as fast as he could. There was a slight hitch however – Ford didn’t have an existing network of professional service providers.
“I was starting from a blank slate,” he recalls.
He realised the internet provided the ideal way to reach his new audience but internet marketing wasn’t something he was familiar with. He also wanted to develop his coaching skills so that he could impart his knowledge to his new clients in the most effective way possible.
“I really needed to fine-tune my coaching skills. I was about to launch a new marketing business and knew that I would need a different set of skills. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.”
About that time he was offered a place on a free Digital Lighthouse marketing seminar.
He was however a little dubious about the value of a free event, and was suspicious that it could turn out to be little more than a sales pitch for an expensive follow-on event.
“To be honest, I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing. I had never heard much about Jonathan Jay [Digital Lighthouse’s Founder] before.
“I actually went with a completely closed mind, determined that there was no way in a month of Sundays that I going to sign up for anything. That wasn’t because I thought I knew it all but because it felt really uncomfortable for me to go to something like the Digital Lighthouse event and to be tempted to part with, or to invest in something which was unknown.
“I thought there had to be a catch somewhere, and I was kind of waiting for the catch. There was definitely something in my mind there that suggested that this was going to be a little bit of a waste of time.”
That scepticism evaporated within the first 30 minutes of the seminar starting, he says.
“From the first half hour I thought, ‘This is just going to be so good.’ Jonathan came across as extremely knowledgeable.
“He was absolutely an expert; he spoke from the heart; and he had loads of experience. And the key thing for me was that he explained things in a way that I could understand straightaway.
“I thought it was extremely relevant. And that was the key thing for me. It was relevant, it wasn’t pushy and the content was first class.”
He was so inspired by what he learnt during the rest of the weekend that he signed up for Digital Lighthouse’s Business Development Programme.
“I have been in sales and marketing all my life; I have worked in large corporations, and I’ve run my own successful business for 20 years… I realised that Jonathan’s knowledge would help me to grow my confidence and my business more quickly at less cost. I thought at that point that I would be a fool not to do it.”
And the effect on his new business was, and continues to be, dramatic.
“I launched my new business Ford Henderson Marketing and didn’t expect to pick up any work at all for the first six months but I used what I’d learnt from Digital Lighthouse and within four months I had five clients.” His client list has continued to grow rapidly which has accelerated his progress.
It meant he achieved results 50% faster than he’d hoped. “It’s allowed me to beat the target I set when I first started the business by 50%. Without Digital Lighthouse, I would have been thrashing around for a strategy to grow my new business. Bottom line – it sharpened my skills and I’ve grown the business in half the time I thought I would.”
Using what he’d learnt from subsequent Digital Lighthouse seminars, Ford created a website, wrote an e-book “7 Marketing Strategies To Attract More Clients FAST” and a book, “Get More Clients In Less Time” which he now uses as lead generation tools, set up an autoresponder sequence, and launched a fortnightly ezine, “Inside Edge”.
He’s held seminars and given business building presentations to local business in Newcastle.
He has just formed an online joint venture partnership to offer his tips booklet to another company’s professional service clients. “We’re doing a test run by emailing a thousand clients. They’ll be offered PDF and printed versions of my tips booklet. I’ll follow up with emails and offer them invitations to attend my seminar.”
Although a late convert to online marketing, Ford is now an avid fan. “In my last business, we had a website but it was really just a static brochure. But now, I use social media, an ezine, emails, and autoresponders – everything to drive traffic to my website. Businesses have to be visible and the internet is an inexpensive way for them to achieve that visibility. Businesses that don’t understand how online marketing works will be dead in the water before long.”
Being part of the Business Development Programme has been hugely beneficial, he says. “I have learned a lot of new and different marketing techniques that I had not really been exposed to.
“I’ve realised the need to give people a clear message as to the benefits of working with me. The number one lesson that I’ve learnt is that it is all about your clients’ results.”
He’s also discovered the power of follow-up.
“People will only buy your services after you’ve established a relationship with them. That only happens if you continue to contact them and offer them high value, relevant content. If you don’t nurture those fledgling relationships, you’ll never get conversions.”
Having learnt so much about creating a range of products and services, Ford is now intent on creating more information products and workshops for his existing and future clients. “I’m looking for ways to reach more people – giving one to one consultations is really enjoyable but it’s very time-consuming.”
There have been other intangible benefits from the Digital Lighthouse programme. “It really has given me an extra boost and an extra confidence. From my own skills point of view, it has certainly toned those up and given me lots of things to think about in terms of trying to help my clients out.
“And I have met a great bunch of people. I look forward to going down to Buckinghamshire every month because I know I am going to learn so much and work with people of a similar mind-set: they are ambitious people, they want to grow their businesses, they have an open mind to learn and it just rubs off. There is a great buzz in the group.”
In fact, the prospect of turning up to the group meetings every month has spurred him on to achieve even more than he thought possible. “When I turn up to the meetings, I don’t want to be the person that hasn’t done anything in the past four weeks. I don’t want to be the guy that has got nothing to contribute. I want to be one of the people who’ve achieved something really big during the month.
“I am a one-man band, an independent person. I need that accountability. I value their input. We do have the opportunity for people to critique in a ‘tough love’ kind of a way. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, but I think most people do see it as being pretty robust and constructive criticism. They take it on the chin and they probably get their feathers a little ruffled. But they dust themselves down and you can see that they are better for the experience.”