I remember 2 years into my henna career, I got a phone call from a blocked number and being the curious I am, I had to answer. It was Yelp at the other end of the line congratulating me for setting up my new account and even garnering some views and clicks in such a short span of time. I was over the moon, thinking I was truly special to have them go out of their for a congratulatory call.
Little did I know, it was a sales call in an attempt to make me purchase ad space across their platform and even be showcased in my competitor's profiles. They used super fancy statistics and a guarantee of enhanced exposure. The offer was just too good and had a very short expiration window too. I figured, I never really invested in my business and I had a few extra dollars laying around so I took that leap, considering I was in an entirely new country and wanted to let my exposure shine. Of course, you know where I'm going with this. It was a major flop! While my Yelp activity grew, this did absolutely nothing to land me clients. Looking back at it is actually causing me a huge moral dilemma because I intentionally showed up in my competitor's pages - such a BIG NO NO FOR ME NOW!
What was a bad opportunity really camouflaged to be a good one, and this is not only because it failed to get me clients but for many other reasons too! This tactic doesn't let me build any kind of relationship with my potential clients. It becomes extremely one-sided, where I just try to push to sell, sell, sell rather than developing a give and take with my clients. I know what you're thinking... (A) how in the world can I develop a relationship with them? and (B) that sounds like an extreme amount of effort and time - and yes you're right! But I've always been an empathetic person, so why not adopt that in my business too? By using a tactic that helps people without pushing a sale down their throats, we all win. It does take time and effort, but anything good in life does.
Understanding a good opportunity from a bad one will take a lot of trial and error. But trust what your gut tells you and don't be driven by money, but by forming relationships with your clients.
This took a lot of hit and miss on my part. There were bad opportunities coming along my way one after the other. I thought I was just not spending my money in the right places so I had to invest more and more. I started investing in very expensive fairs. There was one wedding fair that was a little beyond my price range, but I figured that's where my clients are. It was a free event and took place at Union Station - a central location which is a pass by, not a destination. So literally people would be going to catch their busses or trains and this fair was just on their way. While I thought this was a good opportunity to land some clients because it was a wedding fair, that actually proved to be wrong. It didn't solicit any clients, but it was a huge step in developing relationships with other wedding vendors. I even joined forces with Caitlin Hillier, an amazing baker and owner of Cakelaine, who specializes in wedding cakes and I agreed to intern for free in exchange of learning about baking: thus my new henna themed desserts were born. So the moral of this, sometimes we'll go into a bad opportunity thinking it was a good one, or even go into a good opportunity with a specific goal in mind but have another achieved instead.
So through my own trial and error, here are my general recommendations on how to differentiate between a good opportunity and a bad one...
1) DO THE RESEARCH
I know this seems basic but it's crucial. If you see an opportunity coming your way and you dive head first without looking around you, it's a big mistake. You need to put in a little research before agreeing to it no matter how good it seems. I know this is especially hard when you got sales people calling you, pushing to close the deal now, but be adamant on taking a breather to think about it.
I was really excited to take part in my first ever fair in Boston (when I was still there for my Masters Degree). It seemed pretty cool. It was cheap and in a very central part of town so it was a no brainer for me. I did no research whatsoever and when I showed up I was completely shocked. It was a metal and gothic scene - nothing that aligned with the services I offered whatsoever. What would already heavily tattooed people want to do with henna? I'm honestly disappointed at the organizers to not have warned me that I don't really fit the bill and I now realize they didn't have my best interest, they obviously just wanted the funding. So I was basically stuck to this commitment, sitting foolishly while my headache grew and grew from the vocalist's screaming on the metal tracks that were being played.
While this fair was literally a few dollars, I have wasted an entire day, my subway fare, developed an extreme migraine and not I haven't even mentioned the inconvenience of the 3 luggages I was pushing around the city. If I had done just a little research, I could have spared myself from all of that. I felt like such an idiot to not have done something as basic as that.
2) MAKE SURE IT ALIGNS WITH YOUR GOALS
Another obvious point, right? Again, this is really important. If an opportunity comes your way and it doesn't align with your goals or overall values then it may not be a good opportunity after all.
Not too long ago, a radio station reached out asking to have an on air phone interview with me to talk about my henna business. It was absolutely fantastic and I can literally talk about henna for days and days.
So we conducted the live interview and it was truly thrilling. The next day the producer of the show rang me. He was super friendly and motivating, applauding my bubbly personality. So why was he calling me? He wanted to offer me an entire 30 minute in person segment being interviewed by some guy who's actually interviewed major celebrities like Robert Di Nero (his words quote unquote). He also wanted to offer me a number of press releases to be handed out to all their listeners and followers. That sounded ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
So why didn't I jump at this opportunity? Because I had to pay for it! This is not to say I'm cheap, I'm all for an investment if it was the right one but this just wasn't it. If this was a show that forced people to pay to be on it, then I know it's not an authentic show and I wanted no part in it. But the show also didn't serve my audience or demographic. So I strongly urge that you're completely sure that the opportunity caters to your purpose because other than that it's just not the right one.
3) ASK YOUR COMMUNITY
Here's another proven reason, why I believe the power of "community" is stronger than "competition". Asking your peers will shed light on things you may not see or even find in your research. They might have undergone that opportunity after all and it may have worked or not for them. Asking someone who's in a similar industry will help you a long way.
Last year, I was considering taking part in this huge fair by the water front. A very popular destination in the short summer months of Toronto. I thought it was an easy crowd gatherer because it had my demographic and henna perfectly aligned with the fair's mission. So I talked extensively with the organizer and asked about the other vendors who took part and what their general audience head count was like. It seemed like it was a perfect fit. Heavy foot traffic of hippie minded people like me. I almost paid my booth fees but thought of asking in one of the many henna facebook groups I'm in.
The feedback was not positive. There were many artists who participated in the very same fair previous years and while they got long lines of clients waiting to be hennad, the return on their investment was close to nothing because the booth fees were so high. They hardly broke even. I understand money isn't everything, I'm sure you're thinking "but the exposure must have served them well". Not really. Because 80% of the audience were out of towners. It was a popular tourist destination, so I wouldn't even get the chance to cultivate my relationship with the people I hennad.
So the power of feedback is integral in understanding that potential opportunity.
It took so many bad opportunities for me to notice the good ones. So it will take a few bad apples until you get to the ripe ones.
There you have it peeps. The ways you can make yourself distinguish good opportunities from bad ones:
Scan around and do the prompt research about the opportunity that is presented to you
Write down your goals/motives and make sure the opportunity is aligned with it
Ask your peers and other experts who are in your field. Sometimes they'll give you insight to things you may not have found in your research.