There are many ways to lose money as a business owner with some being pretty obvious:

  • not bringing in new clients
  • not paying attention to expenses
  • not having a marketable product or service 
  • not making the best decisions
  • a ton of other stupid stuff

The One Big Mistake

I would assume that most people in business WANT TO MAKE MONEY as well as provide a good product or service to their customers. We saw a need or a gap in the market that could be solved by our expertise. That makes sense, right?

Of all the ways to lose money or leave money on the table, here is a big one I encountered recently – don’t be an asshole to your prospects.

Last weekend, I was at Holliday Park taking pictures of the ruins and getting some ideas for my next branding shoot. A local pet photographer (I won’t say who) was finishing up a doggy photo session after which 5 dog parent couples came up asking questions. 

These weren’t “how much is it” questions. These were “shut up and take my money” type questions. My 17+ years in business and marketing has taught me what type of questions most customers ask and at what stage in the sales funnel they would most likely buy. These dog parents wanted it bad!

This pet photographer’s CLIENT was giving out rave reviews. These guys were seasoned pros. She told how awesome they were and I asked if they were on Instagram or Facebook. The CLIENT told me all this information. Wouldn’t this be every small business owner’s dream? Organic leads you don’t have to pay for? cha-ching. 

How To Leave Money On The Table

When I commented that they must “receive a lot of referrals with all these dog parents around” I was quickly reprimanded when the owner snapped back at me “we do not solicit. Ever. Referrals only.” Seeing her t-shirt with their business name, phone number, and website, I highly doubted that. If you’re not selling, you’re not eating. 

Here is the kicker. 

They were complete jerks to everyone who asked questions. Those were hot leads – now lost leads. How many of you would give your right arm for incoming leads to be this easy? Talking with their client I mentioned I didn’t have a dog but know people who do. I took the most adorable picture you’ll never see that I meant to post to Instagram. You know how I love sharing local businesses and connecting people! Not this time.

Let’s do some Lost Revenue math:

  • 5 dog parent couples x $200 sitting fee (I got this # from their website) = $1,000 minimum that they lost in 10 minutes time. Not chomp change.
  • Another organic referral (me) with 2-3 specific people in mind. $400-$600 minimum lost.
  • Plus every referral those 5 dog parent couples *may* have
  • Are you seeing the pattern here?

[Edited: I shared this in my ParentPreneur Facebook group specifically to one of the dog parent referrals I had in mind. She said she has a 10-year-long connection with a local high-end dog breed community. I wonder how many of those people would want professional dog photographs taken. Now we’ll never know. Potential lost revenue $10,000+, I’m exaggerating but you see my point.]

You Never Know

It pained me to see them leave money on the table like that. If they had been nice, they could have walked away with several leads that day. I have no idea how many dog parents talked to them earlier. 

  • How many of those dog parents were hot leads and/or referrals?
  • How many would turn into buyers after their clients raving testimonial?
  • What would you do if someone wanted to post about your super cool business on social media and you didn’t have to pay for the lead? 
  • Has this ever happened to you?

That person asking you questions could be your next hot lead or major referral – don’t blow it. 

This was more of a missed opportunity due to lack of preparation. They didn’t know how to talk to potential customers nor did have a strategy for what do to next.  I would have suggested they hire an intern or assistant to hand out business cards, flyers and post on social media during shoots. Plus a bunch of other really cool ideas to help with marketing and sales. This wasn’t the time or place to make a connection like that, even if they were open and friendly.

Your Marketing Take-Aways

  1. Be prepared. Practice your “elevator pitch” so you can whip it out at a moment’s notice. People cannot buy from you if you don’t open your mouth and say something when the time is right. In 1-3 sentences, 
    • Who are you?
    • What do you do?
    • What is something you can say to entice them to ask you a follow-up question?
  2. You never know who you are going to run into or who is in the room. When representing your business, your brand, your reputation, be nice to people! You never know who you may run into or who knows someone in your target market. This would be such a better blog post about the pictures I took and the adorable small business referral. Right? 
  3. Learn from mistakes and missed opportunities. If it broke once, it will happen again.
    • How do you fix it going forward?
    • Should you hire help?
  4. What action steps can you take knowing this information?
  5. Learn from YOUR interaction with products/services/brands you’ve purchased in the past. 
    • What was your overall brand experience?
    • Did they over deliver or fall short?

I doubt this Indianapolis pet photographer will see this post (even though I soooo want to tag them) but we can learn something from their mistake. 


If you’re struggling with how to talk to customers about your business, how to create a winning online marketing strategy and want to avoid being an asshole to your prospects. let’s talk. Click here to grab a free consultation appointment on my calendar.  If that’s too far out for you right now, download my Top 3 Tips For Your Home-Based Business.

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Kelly O'Neill
Kelly O’Neill is a digital marketing and IT consultant with over 25 years of experience working on remote projects. She is well-grounded in SEO, media buying, project management, and network security. Kelly shares her knowledge through consulting and blogging.

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