Business planIt’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.

Here are five ways that doing what the gurus do can lead you astray.

1. Relying on email, website traffic, and social media to get clients.

With a high-traffic website, a large email list, and a substantial social media following, a guru may need nothing more than to make an offer on her website, send some emails to her list, and make some social media posts to land plenty of new clients. But if your website gets few visitors and your mailing list and social media audience are small, you’ll need to find other ways to attract and reach out to prospects. Personal networking, building referrals, personal emails and phone calls, public speaking, or other high-contact activities will need to be part of your marketing mix. Email, web copy, and social media presence alone aren’t going to do the trick.

2. Counting on your reputation and personal charisma to convince people to do business with you.

When new prospects make contact with a guru, they’re usually already familiar with his work. They arrive pre-disposed to do business, and rarely ask about his background. They may not even question his rates. He, in turn, expects most prospects to turn into clients, and speaks to them with confidence and authority. He spends little, if any, time persuading them he’s the right person for the job.

When new prospects make contact with you, regardless of who initiates the conversation, they may know very little about you. You will need to build their trust in your ability to help, provide evidence that you have the skills and experience they need, and convince them you are worth the price you are asking. A winning personality may not be enough to land the sale, especially when your prospects must justify their buying decisions to a boss or a spouse.

3. Promoting your own free webinars, teleclasses, or workshops instead of guest speaking for others.

Gurus frequently offer no-charge virtual or live programs to convert prospects to paying clients. With a large email list and social media following, it costs almost nothing to promote these. But most of the people who attend will be those already on the guru’s list or following the guru on social media. Trying to do this without an existing contact list will almost always fail. You’ll have to expend far too much effort just to attract an adequate number of participants. And they’ll still be only prospects; you’ll still have to convince them to spend money with you.

A much more effective strategy for an entrepreneur without a substantial contact list is to offer yourself as a speaker to professional meetings, conferences, and webinar or teleclass series sponsored by others. That way, the sponsor promotes the program and provides the audience, and you get a host of new prospects to sell to without all the effort.

4. Spending un-budgeted amounts on promotional opportunities.

You’ll often see gurus as paid sponsors for events or initiatives, advertising online or in publications, or exhibiting at trade shows or conferences. They can afford this relatively expensive type of promotion because their higher income allows a higher advertising budget, and because they have multiple products and services to sell. And, what you may not know is that gurus often receive benefits like these at no cost in return for speaking at the event, or promoting the event or publication to their followers.

When someone offers you a paid promotional opportunity like this, do the math before saying yes. Divide the cost of participating by the number of new prospects you expect to attract as a result. Is that cost per person a reasonable amount for you to pay? Remember, too, that these will only be prospects, not clients. You’ll still need to convince them to buy before you can earn back what you spent.

5. Maintaining multiple websites, ezines, blogs, or social networking profiles with different themes.

Gurus have paid staff, multiple products and services to earn income from, and a large body of existing work to re-purpose for blog and social media posts, ezine articles, and more. If you have one part-time assistant or none at all, a short list of products and services to offer, and must create most of your material from scratch, you will be busy enough managing just one website, plus one blog, plus one social media profile per platform (e.g., one Facebook page, or one Twitter account), even with all on the same theme.

The typical guru became a guru because she established a name for herself doing one recognizable thing. Only after building a successful business and reputation did she have the resources available to branch out to multiple brands and market niches simultaneously. If she tried to do this before becoming successful, you probably never heard about those ventures, because they didn’t survive.

The essential message underlying all these examples is this. Copying what highly successful people do after they have already achieved success will not necessarily help you achieve success in the first place. Their present situation is not yours. If you want to become a guru yourself, you will need to copy what the gurus did before they ever achieved guru-hood.

C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping self-employed professionals survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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