Nepotism? Why Your Biggest Fans May Not Become Your Biggest Customers

It would seem logical that when you are starting a new business, your best prospective clients will be your friends and family.  But think about this, Jesus was the son of God and even his family didn’t think he knew what he was doing.  Matthew 6:4 says, Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”  It may seem counterintuitive but I’m going to have to go with Jesus on this one.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours specializes in virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education.  We have photographed all over the country – in 26 states so far this year!  Of all of the tours we have photographed, about half of them are for vacation lodging whether that be hotels, cabins, or bed and breakfasts.
We live in a town whose main industry is tourism and there are dozens of businesses locally who would benefit from the work that we do.  We have family members who own a hotel and cabin rental company just a short drive from where we live.  My best friend’s husband is a realtor in a nearby town.  If one were expecting “logic” then we would seem to have had built in markets to start our business.  However, when dealing with friends and family, logic does not always apply.
In the two years that we have been photographing virtual tours, we have not been asked to do a virtual tour of our family’s hotel and cabins even though it would be a great addition to their marketing efforts.  We have not done a single virtual tour for my best friend’s husband even though he is very tech savvy.  Less than 1% of our tours are from our hometown even though there is a ton of business there that we could do.  We don’t have any hard feelings about this.  In fact, because I learned this lesson early in my sales career, we don’t even market to friends and family members for the most part.  Just as it’s a great idea never to borrow money from family members, it’s also a great idea to not to try to turn your family into your customers. 
It might seem odd that we drive past dozens of local bed and breakfasts and cabins to go photograph bed and breakfasts and cabins around the country but Jesus was onto something when he said that in your hometown and family, you weren’t likely to be honored.  Don’t get me wrong, our family and friends LOVE us and believes in our business.  They are our biggest fans but not our biggest customers…and we are totally okay with that!
Wikipedia defines nepotism as “favor granted to relatives or friends regardless of merit”.  Note that it does not state or imply that it is always WITHOUT merit — sometimes the most qualified person for a job IS a family member.  But that merit doesn’t always change the perception that you got the job just because of favor.  
The other challenge in doing business with family members and friends is that they often think that if they do you the favor of giving you their business, you should do the job AS a favor.  I absolutely believe in building your portfolio by doing complimentary tours for friends and family however I’ve blogged that a business with no income is really just a hobby.  
Rather than give you 10 handy tips on how to convert your friends and family into paying customers, I’m going to advise that your best prospects are most often those outside your inner circle.  If your friends and family become comfortable enough with your business, they will eventually ask about doing business with you but it’s better if you don’t put them on the spot and let them come to you when and if that happens.  Anyway, there’s something about being the expert from out of town that increases your credibility….just ask Jesus! 
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high definition 360 degree virtual tours to customers outside of our family all over the country!  For more information, visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.