“Friends are not clients.” Repeat these 4 words in your head while spending time with friends. Especially when they’re drunk at your birthday party. Everyone has an opinion, but the only opinions that matter are those of your prospects and clients—not those of your friends.
Lebanon 1 – France 0
I love Lebanon. I had the chance to study with some Lebanese folks and their talents and wisdom always impressed me. Even after growing up in a multicultural environment within a country at war, they remain enthusiastic, and most of all, they know that business and trade create bonds between communities.
One of my good Lebanese friends once shared an anecdote that illustrates the difference between Lebanese and French business mindsets:
A few years ago, his cousin was opening a new furniture store, and all of his family and friends came to the opening to show their support. They all enjoyed themselves that evening, but before leaving, each bought at least one item, be it chairs, coffee tables, armchairs, or cutlery, as a way to demonstrate their desire to see someone they cared about succeed. His parents and some of his uncles not only made a purchase, they paid extra—adding 20$, 50$, or more—just to ensure that the launch was a success.
Honestly, this story blew my mind. Even if it was slightly exaggerated, it nevertheless highlights the stark contrast between Lebanese culture and the Western culture I grew up in. Often, the first thing friends and relatives ask for is a discount, or worse—free products…
We launched our new project, TDL, early in December 2017. As we are selling high-quality notebooks, a product that most people use daily, we thought introducing the notebooks to our acquaintances would be a good way to start out—especially since a lot of them kept asking us about our new project. We were pleased to see that our most trusted friends supported us by buying our new brand’s first product. Some asked for a discount and others did not give a f*ck. Fair enough.
This launch reminded me of the story my Lebanese friend shared about his own experience starting a business. While we knew it going in, and it is not as bad as it sounds, friends are not clients. Counter-intuitive but true.
Your friends should not be your clients, and there are two main parts to this concept to remember:
- First, do not expect friends to buy from you. If they do, do not count it as a purchase from a client, but rather as a proof of friendship.
- Second, do not take advice about your product from your friends, especially if they have not even considered buying it. You may want to listen to the advice of a friend who has bought your product, but do so carefully, keeping in mind that you are likely biased, and your relationship with that person may cloud your judgment.
Focus on your persona
Instead of struggling to convince friends, just let them know what you are doing and focus on working to understand your persona. Know who your ideal clients are, find them, and build your community. If you do this effectively, you will realize that most of your friends do not fit the description of an ideal client.