It’s harder than ever for a self-employed professional to land clients unless you appear credible. Once upon a time, you could get clients based on not much more than a business card, decent clothes, and your ability to present yourself well in a conversation.
Now what happens is that prospective clients check you out online before they decide to do business with you. Even when prospects are referred to you by someone they trust, they will typically visit your website, search online for your name, or look for you on social media. If what they learn doesn’t shout “credibility” to them, you’ll have a tough time getting their business.
It’s only natural to emulate successful people. You’d like to copy their success, so it seems it would make sense to copy their approach to sales and marketing. But modeling your marketing after the gurus in your field may not get you where they are.
Simply put, the present situation of these highly successful people may be entirely different from your own. Gurus typically have plenty of money to spend, staff to help, a large in-house mailing list, many followers on social media, widespread name recognition, a suite of products and services to offer, and many years of completed work to draw from. If you don’t have all this in your business, trying to copy their marketing and sales approach may be a recipe for failure rather than success.
I recently ran across a 2017 study by FreshBooks Cloud Accounting asking 1,700 self-employed professionals, independent professionals, and small business owners what they found to be the most effective marketing strategies. All the participants had fewer than 10 employees, and 77% of them were solopreneurs, making this group a close match to the readers of this blog.
I was pleased to see how closely their answers aligned with the list of Effective Marketing Strategies in Get Clients Now! and the advice Kris Carey and I give our clients, students, and readers. Here’s what these self-employed professionals named as “highly effective” marketing strategies:
Does it seem strange to use the word love when referring to a business relationship? Substitute another word if you prefer — “like,” for example, or “respect.” However you want to express it, the point is to consider how much you care about the people you sell to — their needs, goals, desires, concerns — all the elements of their lives that might be involved in their decision about whether to buy from you.
If you don’t love your prospects, they will know it. We’ve all been sold to by someone who didn’t care about us. The salesperson who pressures us to buy a car with options we don’t need.
Do you want your clients and prospects to love you? I think most of us self-employed professionals would. When your prospects love you, closing sales is easy. When your clients love you, they keep doing business with you, and refer others to do the same.
Yet the language often used for marketing and sales reveals perspectives that don’t have much to do with love. The path to closing sales is to “overcome objections” or “don’t take no for an answer.” You’re supposed to write “killer copy” to use for a “marketing blitz” or “promotional blasts” so you can “blow away” your “targets.” You should “hone your weapons” so you can “battle for market share,” “fight for sales,” and “smash the competition.” When you succeed, you are “killing it” or “crushing it.”
A desperate self-employed professional contacted me recently. “I need to get clients immediately,” she said. “I’ve been trying for months with no success, and I’m almost out of money.” When I asked her how she had been marketing herself all this time, she gave me the following list of what she had been doing:
- Attending networking events where she met people, introduced herself, and exchanged business cards
- Launched a brochure-style website describing her services
- Started a Facebook page and began posting promos for her business and links to content she found interesting
- Printed some flyers and posted them on bulletin boards around town