Sally Maier-Yip, founder and managing director of a young PR agency start-up of 11K Consulting gives tips in winning her clients over the past three years.
It is a milestone for a young start-up like us – we are still here and are thriving.
In the spirit of sharing and empowering each other, I want to share with you my three tips on how I have managed to grow the company from zero client to 22 clients in just three years (alongside with me getting pregnant, giving birth and being a new mother). These three tips have been tried and tested so I do hope they can be helpful to you in some way.
Before I begin to share my tips, let me tell you briefly who we are. 11K Consulting is a UK-Asia/China full-service PR agency headquartered in London and with strategic partners in China and across Asia. We primarily focus on helping Western brands to reach HNWIs and UHNWIs in the UK, China and across Asia.
When I set up the business in 2015, we had zero client. It was just me. Over the past three years, we have won a total of 22 lovely big and small clients across the luxury, hospitality, interior design, restaurant and education sectors in the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
In the spirit of sharing and empowering each other, I want to share with you my three tips on how I have managed to grow the company from zero client to 22 clients in just three years (alongside with me getting pregnant, giving birth and being a new mother).
#1 Go out and talk to people
This sounds very basic and yet is so important. When you set up a new business, the first thing you need to do is to go out and talk to people. Tell people who you are and what you are doing. You yourself are the biggest asset, the best brand ambassador of the company. Show your enthusiasm, your passion and your expertise. When your company does not have a history, you must use your past experience and connections to build new experience and new connections you need to build the company.
That’s how I have grown 11K to be a go-to UK-Asia/China PR agency in a rather short time. We were unknown when I founded the company three years ago. I set up a few coffee meetings with my old and new connections every week, telling people what 11K is about, showing my face in front of important people and prospects. Try to be a speaker at relevant events and establish yourself as a thought leader in your own field. In this way, clients will come to you, rather than you keep looking for clients in a large conference room.
And that’s how the first client came to us, and then the second and the rest. All our clients came through recommendations or even through LinkedIn. I still make time to do coffee meetings with new contacts every week. It has become a habit, which is so critical to start and sustain a business.
Tell people who you are and what you are doing. You yourself are the biggest asset, the best brand ambassador of the company. Show your enthusiasm, your passion and your expertise.
#2 Create a close network of senior advisers
It is very hard to be on your own, make all the big and small decisions for your company, and be cheerful and confident at all times. Creating a close circle of senior advisers (or mentors) for yourself is so important especially when things do not go well as expected. I do admit that when I just came back from my maternity leave early last year, I was desperate to find new clients and it was not easy. The idea of going back to work for someone else even sprang to my mind. I was not being hopeful about the future of my business.
At that time, I talked to my unofficial mentors who used to run their own companies and all gave me one single wisdom: “Keep you business. Be persistent.” And that’s how I continued to try, try and try until I won a small project after five months of non-stop new business pitching, and finally won bigger clients every month in the second half of the year.
My point here is to find one, two or three trusted senior advisers for yourself or your company who can give you the guidance and confidence you need when you are in doubt.
At the end of the day, it’s still all about hard work – working hard to find clients, working hard to deliver brilliant results for clients, working hard to find a balance between work and family, and working hard to make your company last and make profits.
#3 Work hard
I am afraid that there is really no shortcut to success. At the end of the day, it’s still all about hard work – working hard to find clients, working hard to deliver brilliant results for clients, working hard to find a balance between work and family, and working hard to make your company last and make profits. Over the past three years, I have worked really hard, meaning waking up to work at 6am till going out for a work event until 10pm (sometimes, not all the time!), alongside growing my baby at home. As I work harder, I do feel that luck or success has become a little easier to achieve. Life does reward good, hardworking people.
When I have become more successful in winning clients, bigger clients, I realised that all my clients who have grown to be so big and successful have also worked really hard. My clients are my inspiration to work hard for them, as they are also very hardworking people.
This is how I’ve grown the company from zero to 22 clients over the past three years. What does not kill you does make you stronger.
Sally has built a successful career on delivering award-winning multi-stakeholder PR strategies for multi-national and local companies such as Unilever brands, Economist Conferences, Hilton Hotels, Zespri, Burlington Arcade and Olam. Born in Hong Kong, China and she has worked and lived across the Far East and the UK for many years. Her deep understanding and knowledge of Asia/China and the UK has allowed her to provide clients with communications strategy and services that often exceeded expectations.