Adventures in Analogia: How to Find Customers in the Offline World

how to find customers

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’ve done the unspeakable.

I’ve pushed myself away from my iMac screen, neglected my internet connection, and stepped into that strange realm they call the analog world. Maybe you’ve heard of it; it’s filled with 3D objects you can actually touch, offers amazing resolution (better than a Retina display) and is full of these two-legged, carbon-based lifeforms.


Why did I do such a thing, considering that I’m a full-time online entrepreneur? Well, I wanted more offline clients from my local area to diversify my income. And guess what? After much crashing and burning, I’ve acquired a handful of well-paying clients that keep coming back.

In this post I’ll reveal the top three tips that I’ve learned on how to find customers in the analog world:

1. Attention is in even shorter supply in Analog-ia.

I held a blogger meetup in the co-working space on my street last week. More than a hundred people attended, but they were chatting the entire time the speaker was talking. The audience was rude, but not because of a lack of respect;  it’s simply that the smartphone age has decimated their attention span. Even afterwards, when I was talking to startup entrepreneurs, I found they could barely focus on my face, bewitched by the nagging impulse to check their iPhones.

This made me realize that a business pitch in real life must be just as concise as the one you’d make in the digital world. I began trimming any unnecessary personal info and reduced my intro to the service(s) I offer: illustration that gets attention. Then, when I would run into one of these people again, they would introduce me to their friends and say something like, “Check out this guy’s artwork online, it’s sick,” He’s a brilliant illustrator,” or “He’s a kick-ass artist.”

Now, is that a complete representation of my character? Does it include my many travels, interests, hobbies, or even the indie-publishing I’m involved in now? No, of course not. But let’s face it: most conversations with strangers at business/tech events are of a superficial nature.

People want to talk to as many people as possible and they typically only care about how you can help them. You can cry about it, or you can evolve your approach. That’s it. In the age of permanent internet, you’re just a swipe away from being ignored, even when you’re standing right in front of someone.

So drop all the extra sugar and be the Diet Coke of pitching.

2. Treat your business card exchange like a ritual.

I’m sure you’ve heard that every human’s favorite word is their own name. Therefore, you might say the most respectful gesture is to use (and remember) someone’s name. I think this is true for business cards as well.

I remember the ritual for exchanging business cards when I lived in Japan. As you might expect, the folks from the land of the rising sun do things differently: they take your card, hold it with both thumbs on each side and inspect it for at least 2-5 seconds before they carefully tuck it away in their wallet. This sounds trivial, but it has an effect on you. Suddenly, you feel like the most important person in the room. In an instant, the conversation with your partner will improve many times over. I brought this custom home with me when I returned.

Whenever I receive someone’s business card, I make a deliberate effort to inspect it and make some kind of compliment. The person usually lights up, because that’s an unusual behavior. Give it a try.

The next time someone hands you a business card, don’t just go “abracadabra” and make it disappear into your wallet. Spend at least five seconds of your precious time and make a positive, but honest, remark about the card.

You have no idea how great an impact this can make.

3. Make them the star of the show.

Back in the early days of analog meetups, I spent a lot of time egotistically tooting my own horn. I walked up to people clutching my business card, ready to “Dorian-ize” my victim. This was my Standard Operating Procedure:

Hey, I’m Mars Dorian, I’m an illustrator/designer.
Look at how great I am.
(flips through my portfolio)
Have you seen this illustration?
Muahaha, pretty sick, eh?
You want to work with me?

Ugh. Many lessons of empathy and common business sense later, I’ve changed my approach and started to focus on them:

  • I ask what they’re trying to build up (instead of what they’re doing, that’s so lame)
  • I ask about their challenges
  • I ask about their needs

More often than not, after all the asking, the conversation partner switches roles and becomes curious about me. If I can figure out what their business is about and what challenges they face, I can change my pitch slightly to accommodate their interests.

If, for example, someone says he’s an online entrepreneur who now self-publishes books, I would talk about my cover design services. If someone says she’s an online blogger and loves comic illustrations, I can show her my more comic-related portfolio. You get the idea.

The funny thing is,  I’ve made many more “analog” clients this way, because a lot of people remember having a good time with me. (Amazing how “great” conversations can turn out to be if you make it all about them, no?) And since I’ve given them my illustrated business card, whenever they need an illustrator, I’ll spring to mind. Now that’s a win in my e-book.

The analog world is a strange place, but even an online entrepreneur can acquire kick-ass customers if they master the game of offline conversations (influenced by internet habits). What’s your advice for dealing with carbon-based lifeforms in Analog-ia?

Mars Dorian draws funky illustrations and pens sci-fi thrillers for the Internet Generation. His latest novel is a mix between Star Wars and Silicon Valley called Attack Planet
which you  can check out on Amazon for just $2.99! Consider his artwork for your next project:
Original illustration by the author.

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