It’s harder than ever for a self-employed professional to land clients unless you appear credible. Once upon a time, you could get clients based on not much more than a business card, decent clothes, and your ability to present yourself well in a conversation.
Now what happens is that prospective clients check you out online before they decide to do business with you. Even when prospects are referred to you by someone they trust, they will typically visit your website, search online for your name, or look for you on social media. If what they learn doesn’t shout “credibility” to them, you’ll have a tough time getting their business.
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.
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.
Trying to implement a marketing approach that has critical elements missing is like trying to make a pie without the ingredients to form the crust. Or in some cases, without an oven to bake it in!
There are four essential elements every successful marketing approach must have:
- Strategy – What are you trying to do, and why?
- Tactic(s) – How will you do it?
- Tool(s) – What will you need to do it well?
- Medium or Venue – Where will you do it?
If any one of these ingredients is missing, your approach will be less effective than it could be, and in many cases, will fail completely. Here are four examples to show you where an incomplete marketing plan can go wrong.
A question I often get from clients and students goes something like this: “I’ve been collecting marketing ideas… and I have a drawer full! I also have a stack of promising leads I’ve accumulated. And I know it’s important to stay visible, so I keep marketing, but then I just end up with more names in the stack. How do I prioritize all this?”
If you’ve ever wondered something similar, you may have lost sight of a very important truth — the way to win the business game is not to collect the most leads; it’s to make the most sales.
“But how do I get them to trust me if they don’t know me?” my client asked.
“Exactly,” I replied. “They have to get to know you in order to trust you. Either that, or they need to be referred to you by someone they know and trust already.”
Client: “So, you’re telling me that making cold calls and running ads are a waste of time and money?”
Me: “Yes. Unless you use those tactics to open the door to your prospective clients getting to know and trust you. If you expect to move from a call or an ad to a quick sale, you’ll be disappointed.”