As an independent professional, the demands of marketing your business have the potential to give you many sleepless nights. It often seems that the list of things to do is endless, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to market your business, serve your clients, run your office, and keep up in your field.
But instead of staying up at night trying to find time for marketing that just doesn’t fit into your busy day, a better strategy can be to engage in marketing activities that will work for you while you sleep. Here are four ways to approach this kind of set-it-and-forget-it marketing.
1. Establishing Referral Relationships – Building a steady stream of referrals will make your marketing more effortless in two ways. Prospective clients who are referred to you come from the networks of others, who have spent time building those relationships. That’s time you don’t have to spend yourself. Second, prospects who are referred are much more likely to become clients, because their trust in the person who referred them will extend to you. So you’ll usually spend less time closing a sale.
Instead of spending all your time trying to build relationships directly with prospective clients, focus some of your efforts on getting to know people who could be reliable referral sources. Anyone who shares your target market is a candidate to refer clients to you. A chiropractor might choose to get better acquainted with acupuncturists and massage therapists. An executive coach could develop relationships with corporate trainers and management consultants.
The best potential referral sources are those whose services are complementary but not competitive -– people who will frequently encounter others who need your services, but don’t provide those services themselves. In most cases, you will need to look outside your own profession to find people in the best position to refer. Look for potential referral sources through lead exchange groups, industry associations, your local Chamber of Commerce, or your social media networks.
2. Publishing Articles and Blog Posts – Every article or post you publish can become a little salesperson working for you 24/7. When prospective clients read articles you have published in print publications, ezines, your blog, and the blogs of others, they visit your website, call your office, and remember your name when they run across you again. In addition to this increased visibility and attraction, published articles also build your credibility as an expert, turning prospects into clients more quickly.
It doesn’t take as much writing as you might think to begin having an impact. Blog posts and online articles can be as short as 300-600 words. Consider finding multiple venues to publish each piece you write. While some publications and sites only want first-run articles, many will accept reprints. You can also quickly revise many pieces to tailor them to a niche audience. Re-purposing like this allows you to maximize your writing efforts by publishing the same piece multiple times.
There are probably more venues than you imagine that are eager for new articles of interest to their readers. Consider guest blogging, online magazines, resource websites, print magazines, trade journals, industry newsletters, newspaper op-ed and special interest sections, and the ezines of colleagues, vendors, and professional associations.
3. Getting Interviewed – Another powerful approach to increase your visibility and attract more clients is to become the subject of interviews. Print, broadcast, web, and blogosphere stories featuring you and your business can build your credibility even more effectively than articles and posts you write yourself, because they have the impact of a third-party endorsement.
It’s sometimes possible to get the attention of editors, producers, and bloggers by issuing (and following up on) timely and topical news releases, but this isn’t a do-it-in-your-sleep approach, as it can be quite labor-intensive. Instead, you might consider two other tactics for landing interviews -– working with freelance journalists and subscribing to media leads.
Whenever you read a media story about your professional field, take note when the byline indicates the story was written by a freelancer. Freelance journalists are always interested in finding reliable sources for good stories, and many welcome hearing from industry insiders. If you can interest a freelancer in your perspectives and ideas, you may find yourself featured in multiple stories they write for a variety of publications.
Another way to make contact with journalists directly is to subscribe to a media leads service, like Help a Reporter Out or PRLeads. Journalists seeking people to interview for a story they are developing will often put out the word to services like these, which compile and distribute the leads.
4. Building Web Presence – Using any of the first three approaches will help a great deal to build your online visibility. Mentions of your business in social media, articles and blog posts you write, and media stories about you can all attract more traffic to your website and increase the number of search engine hits on your name. But there are also some simple steps you can take to maximize your own web presence.
Always include your website URL when commenting on a blog, posting to an online community, in the bio slug of any articles or guest blogs you publish on the sites of others, and at the end of your topic description and bio when you are booked as a speaker. If you participate in any online communities that allow you to set up a personal profile, be sure to take advantage of this option. Every mention of you or your work online can then become a direct path to your virtual door.
If your business is primarily local, be sure to include your city or metro area on every page of your website (in your page footer, for example). That way people searching online for a local business like yours will be more likely to find you. Also make sure your website is listed in Google’s local listings via Google My Business (there’s no charge for this).
Be sure, also, that you make available on your own site the same visibility and credibility boosters that you are trying to encourage elsewhere: testimonials from influential people and satisfied clients, articles and posts you have written, and media stories about you. Adding more useful content to your site will naturally increase your web presence, as you’ll gain additional incoming links from both search engines and other people linking to your pages.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of approaches you can take to keep your marketing working even when you are off duty. Pick just one or two to put in motion at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed by all the possibilities. The idea is to do less marketing, not more.
If you can use just some of these techniques to get enough other people marketing your business for you, it won’t be necessary to spend quite so much time marketing it yourself.