“How can I improve my marketing?” one of my students asked me. “I’ve spent hours and hours trying to get clients, and none of my efforts seem to pay off.”
I asked my self-employed student just one question: “What would you say is the missing ingredient in your marketing?”
He thought about it for a moment. “Well,” he said, “I don’t think I’m networking in the right places. I seem to meet a lot of jobseekers and salespeople, but I’m not connecting with corporate decision-makers or meeting other consultants like myself who might be able to give me referrals. That’s who I really need to be meeting. Say, I’d better find some new groups to network with!”
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:
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
Unless you’re literally hiding under a rock, if you’re in business and have any clients at all, you’re doing something that qualifies as marketing. People tend to fall into two camps: those who are doing more marketing than they realize, and those who are doing less than they think.
Which camp do you fall into?
As an aside, for our purposes we’re defining marketing as getting the word out about your business, it’s services and benefits, to potential customers so that you can have a sales conversation with them and hopefully close the sale. Marketing creates opportunities to have sales conversations.
“Will this marketing approach be worth my while?” It’s a question self-employed professionals often ask. But there’s a related question that, unfortunately, they ask much less often: “How much will it cost compared to what it brings in?” Surprisingly few professionals know the answer to this crucial question, and many admit it had simply never occurred to them.
Every marketing approach has a set of costs attached. Social media ads, pay-per-click campaigns, and trade show exhibits come with a price tag in dollars. Networking mixers, business lunches, and posting/interacting on social media take up your time, and may also incur expenses.