My clients often ask me to help figure out what’s wrong with their marketing. The first question I ask is how much marketing they’ve been doing, since many failures have more to do with quantity than quality. But assuming you’ve been sufficiently active at promoting yourself, here are some other ways in which your marketing might need fixing.
There are three areas you should examine — the package of services you are offering, your marketing strategies, and your sales methods. In order to market and sell effectively, your package of services should meet the following requirements:
- You are offering something people believe that they need.
- Your clients perceive the value of your services to be equivalent to the price you’re charging.
- Your services are available where and when clients need to use them.
- Either there’s plenty of business for everybody in your field, or your competitors have no overwhelming advantages.
When your package of services doesn’t meet these requirements, improving your marketing strategies or selling skills won’t be enough. You may need to revisit some of the basic premises of your business. Talk to your colleagues, clients, and others in your target market to find out more about what your desired clients need and how they want to receive it.
Depending on what you discover, the solution may lie in re-positioning your services against those of the competition, changing your pricing structure, or offering your services in an entirely different way than you have in the past. For example, if you’ve been asking for an hourly rate, you may find more buyers if you’re willing to complete some projects for a fixed price.
Once your package of services is in good shape, the next set of potential problems may lie with your sales and marketing techniques. Your marketing strategies are everything you do to get in contact with a prospective customer and make them think positively about you. Your sales methods are the steps you take to turn that positive contact into a paying client.
These are some of the most common sales and marketing mistakes that consultants, professionals, and other service providers make:
Not choosing a target market. You can’t market to everybody. There isn’t enough time in the day or money in your bank account to reach out to everyone who could possibly hire you. If you choose a specific category of client who has a compelling need for your services (and who you enjoy working with), you can tailor your marketing message, and focus your strategies.
Relying on advertising. People rarely hire a professional from an ad, even one that’s targeted to a specific publication. While advertising does build your visibility, it’s often more expensive and less effective than other visibility-builders like writing articles and giving talks. If you write and speak for the same audiences to which you might advertise, you’ll have the added benefit of increased credibility as an expert.
Broadcasting a fuzzy marketing message. If people can’t understand what you do, they can’t figure out if they need you. You must develop a clear, concise description of your services that can be understood by people who aren’t familiar with your field.
Lack of follow-up. A single contact is rarely enough to make someone remember you. Find ways to keep in touch with prospective clients or referral sources on a regular basis. Follow-up contacts don’t have to be phone calls. Sending personal notes by mail or email, sharing useful articles, inviting people to lunch or coffee, or publishing a blog or ezine are all effective follow-up techniques.
Failing to establish a clear path to the sale. At the end of every conversation or email exchange, be sure to spell out the next step for clients to take if they want to do business with you. If they’\’re not yet ready to buy, suggest a meeting, tell them you’ll call in a week, or ask if you can contact them again next month.
Expecting short-term results from long-term strategies. While networking with potential clients and referral sources is often the best marketing strategy there is, the results are rarely immediate. Don’t give up on making contacts and following up because you don’t get business right away.
Finally, be aware of the possibility that you may be doing everything right! It often takes many months to close each individual sale. Some clients can’t use you right now, but may be eager to hire you next year. Others are very interested in going forward, but need time to get management approval or resolve money issues.
If you’re offering the right package to the right clients, delivering a clear and consistent marketing message, and working hard to close every potential sale, the only missing element may be patience.