I frequently tell my clients and students that the real secret to getting clients is choosing a set of simple, effective marketing activities, and engaging in them consistently. “Okay,” folks often reply, “but how do I know that I’ve chosen the right marketing activities?” Here’s what you need to explore.
What Kind of Marketing Is Best?
The best marketing methods — the ones that really belong on your list of things to do every day or every week — are the ones that put you into direct contact with your target market. You speak with prospective clients in person, you talk to them on the phone, you write personal, not mass produced, letters or emails. You network; you build referral relationships; you speak in public.
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:
Every self-employed professional has at some point found his or her marketing stopped in its tracks. Maybe you hear an internal voice, telling you things like, “This is too hard,” or “I don’t like selling,” or “I don’t want to bug people.”
Or perhaps you’ve gotten a rejection from a prospective client. A prospect has told you, “Not now,” “I need to think about it,” or “I don’t have the budget.” Instead of moving on to your next prospect, you find yourself questioning whether there is anyone at all who is ready to hire you and able to pay.
The longer I do this work, the more I come to realize that we self-employed professionals can be our own worst enemies when it comes to getting clients. We know what we should be doing to market ourselves better, and then we don’t do it. Or we don’t know what’s the right thing to do, so we throw a dart and pick something randomly, or respond to the latest email we got, instead of considering our options and making a well-reasoned choice.
Or we make a valid choice, then second-guess ourselves, dropping one marketing strategy and picking up another, without putting enough effort into any one approach to produce results. Or we spend too much time talking to ourselves and not enough talking to prospective clients, worrying about why the last prospect never got back to us, whether the blog post we just wrote is good enough to publish, or if the latest version of our tag line finally gets across our message.
One of my coaching clients complained, “I’m really good at what I do. I shouldn’t have to market myself.” In fact, he is quite good at his profession, but the problem is that not enough prospective clients know about him. Like many professionals, he is reluctant to talk about his capabilities and accomplishments. “It feels like bragging,” he says. “Doesn’t it make me seem unprofessional?”
If thoughts like these often cross your mind, ask yourself this — who are the biggest names in your profession? In your line of work, who might be considered unquestioned experts, those with maximum credibility? Now, how did you get to know about those people’s work?
I’ll bet you do great work with your clients. But if your clients are the only ones who know what you can do, you won’t stay in business. We all hope that satisfied clients will refer us to their friends and colleagues, but clients aren’t always your best source of referrals. So, we need to let more people know how terrific our work is.
There are many ways to let prospective clients know about your work, But for most self-employed professionals, there are only four categories that make sense: networking, speaking, writing, and media. These are the best avenues for people to become familiar with not only you, but with how your work creates tangible benefits.