FIVE MYTHS OF INTERNET MARKETING FOR INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONALS
C.J. Hayden, MCC
There's more marketing hype
published on the Internet in one day than P.T. Barnum generated in his lifetime. Like a worm
swallowing its tail, the Internet marketing beast feeds mostly on itself. The vast majority of
what appears on the Internet about marketing is designed to help you market products and services
sold and delivered exclusively on the Internet.
So what does that mean for the
independent professional whose web presence is primarily aimed at selling his or her own services?
You know, services delivered the old-fashioned way, by humans interacting face-to-face or at least
voice-to-voice. At best, the average professional is likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume
of Internet marketing advice available. At worst, he or she is being seriously misled by it.
The problem is that marketing your
own professional services is simply not the same as marketing a retail product or an anonymous
business service. You can't sell management consulting like you do web hosting; nor can you sell
executive coaching the same way you do an ebook. If you try to market yourself by following advice
designed for marketing Internet products and services, you're likely to make some serious mistakes.
Here are five Internet marketing
myths that may be hazardous to the health of your business.
Myth #1 - It all starts with a
Actually, the place where it starts
is with a well-defined service. If you don't have a crystal clear picture of who you are marketing
to and exactly what you're selling them, the best website in the world won't get you clients.
Before you even think about building a website, you should know who your target market is, how to
describe your professional specialty, and what specific benefits your work provides for your
The content of your site is much
more important than the design. Yes, you should have a professional-looking site, but a brilliant
design and dazzling graphics won't pay off anywhere near as well as a clear explanation of why a
client should work with you. Useful material such as articles, assessments, and other samples of
your expertise will go much further to persuade prospective clients than flash intros and
Myth #2 - More traffic translates
to increased profits.
The only result that more traffic
to your website guarantees you is increased bandwidth use on your web hosting account. Before
spending money on banner ads, web directories, or pay-per-click listings to drive more visitors to
your site, you need to be sure that they'll want to do business with you once they get there.
Ask your colleagues and current
clients to critique your site. Do they understand what you offer? Can they see concrete benefits
to your target audience? Revise your site based on their feedback. Then personally invite some
prospective clients to visit and touch base afterward. Do your prospects seem more inclined to do
business with you after seeing your site? If so, you're on the right track. If not, you still have
work to do.
Myth #3 - Do whatever it takes to
build your list.
There's no question that a
substantial opt-in mailing list is a valuable marketing asset, but the quality of names on your
list is much more important than the quantity. Acquiring names through giveaways of other people's
material, trading lists with joint venture partners, or purchasing them from a vendor rarely
provides qualified buyers truly interested in your services.
Absolutely, ask your site visitors
and people you meet to join your mailing list and offer them something of value in return. A
well-written ezine, helpful report, or informative audio are all effective premiums. But, your
premium should be directly related to the services you provide and also serve to increase your
professional credibility. Names acquired from promotional gimmicks or unknown sources seldom turn
into paying clients.
Myth #4 - Killer copy is the secret
Hype-laden web copy may be
effective in selling info-products or home-study courses, but it hardly inspires trust. You're not
going to convince anyone to hire you as a consultant, coach, trainer, designer, or financial
advisor by offering "not one, not two, but three valuable bonuses" as if you were selling steak
knives on late-night TV.
Your Internet marketing persona
should reflect the same professionalism as the work you do with your clients. If writing marketing
materials isn't your forte, by all means hire a professional copywriter. But be sure you hire one
with experience writing for professionals like yourself. The copy on your website should inspire
feelings of confidence about your abilities, and communicate your reliability and solid
Myth #5 - Just follow the winning
formula and you will get rich.
There's only one surefire recipe
for Internet wealth I know of, and that's the business of selling surefire recipes. There seems to
be an infinite number of buyers for every new get-rich-online scheme that is invented, but
paradoxically, a precious few people successfully making money on the web.
The Internet may be a different
medium for marketing professional services than traditional approaches like making calls, writing
letters, or meeting people in person, but the same time-honored principles still apply. There is
no winning formula for overnight success. The secret to landing clients remains what it always has
been -- build relationships and get people to know, like, and trust you.
If your website, ezine, social
networking, and other Internet-based activities contribute to building long-term, trusting
relationships with prospective clients and referral sources, you'll get business on the web. But
if you blast your message out to anyone who will listen, aiming for a quick profit, the Internet
won't bring you any more business than standing on a street corner with a megaphone.
© 2005-2009, C.J. Hayden
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COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS
"Excellent article, C.J. I would also add that, at least in my own case, pursuing a local
strategy has paid big dividends. In other words, optimize your website based on prospective
clients who are looking for a local consultant, by including your city/town in the tags and
page titles. I am amazed at how many consultants miss this obvious point... or maybe they just
want to spend huge amounts of time in airports and hotels?"
— Brian Ward, Affinity Consulting, Edmonton, AB, Canada
"C.J., you hit the nail on the head. Finally! This is what I have been telling my clients for
ages but, as you pointed out, there is huge confusion on this issue and such a dearth of
information. Thank you for spelling out how different people can... and should... follow
different paths to online success."
— Victoria Ipri, Copywriter and Editor, Philadelphia, PA
"I just read your article titled 5 Myths of Internet Marketing for Independent Professionals
and you are spot on. The five myths not only apply to individuals, but to corporations as
— Ted Daywalt, VetJobs, Marietta, GA
"I could not agree with you more in the 5 Myths article. However, yours is the first article
I have seen that has put these thoughts down in print. I am happy to have found you and look
forward to receiving your newsletter."
— Anne Miller, Speaker and Seminar Leader, New York, NY
"Your latest email describing marketing myths is right on target. As I help career coaches
all across America get started, it is amazing to see how many people have bought into these
myths... I guess the get rich quick sellers talk loudly and often. I am glad we have someone
like you also talking and reminding us of these truths about service-based businesses. Thank
you for all you do. Keep it going."
— Scott Martin, Life Compass, Birmingham, AL