One of the worst marketing mistakes an independent professional can make is creating a marketing plan that consists of activities you don’t enjoy and aren’t good at. There’s no boss looking over your shoulder, so who’s going to make you do things you don’t want to? It’s much more likely that a plan you find distasteful and difficult simply won’t be executed.
Professionals often tell me they don’t like marketing or selling, but many times I find that what they truly dislike is the tactics they’ve been trying to use. A simple change of technique can frequently do wonders to turn around an anti-marketing attitude. The best marketing and sales tactics are the ones you will actually perform instead of avoiding. If a marketing activity makes use of your natural talents and preferences, you’ll be much more likely to find it enjoyable, and therefore easy to do.
Making Use of “Natural Selection”
One of the strongest clues to what might work well for you in marketing is to notice the type of activities you naturally choose elsewhere in your life. For example, a client of mine has been keeping a personal journal and writing regular letters to friends and family since college. For her, launching a blog to market her business was a natural choice.
“I was struggling to make those chatty ‘what’s new’ phone calls people said were a necessity to keep in touch with prospective clients,” she told me. “I avoided them because they felt so awkward to me. But the blog is easy — I love writing it, so I post often. And I know my prospects are reading it because they post comments. It’s much more rewarding than leaving voice mail messages no one ever returns.”
One of my students was having a hard time going to networking events. “It was so uncomfortable for me to walk into a room full of strangers that I couldn’t even open my mouth,” she recalled. So she decided to start hosting her own networking mixers. “I love to entertain,” she explained. “I invite people I already know and ask each guest to bring someone I don’t know yet and introduce us. It’s a great way to meet new people, and since it’s my party, I feel totally at home.”
Honoring Your True Nature
Remembering your childhood pastimes is another valuable source of guidance about what might be easy or fun for you in marketing. When I played alone as a little girl, I would read the encyclopedia to my dolls. A favorite gift I received as a child was a whiteboard with markers and a magnetic alphabet. It’s no wonder I find that one of the most enjoyable ways to market myself today is by teaching classes and workshops.
I have a colleague who was voted “most loquacious” in high school. Today he builds his business largely by schmoozing with prospects on the phone. “I just love talking to people,” he affirms. “For me, writing marketing copy or a sales letter is challenging, so I’ll put it off for days or weeks. But when I pick up the phone, I feel like I know what I’m doing. So I’ll zip through a dozen calls in a single morning.”
My talkative friend has won awards for his sales ability. But if you or I tried to emulate his success by copying his techniques, we could fail dramatically. For him, these activities are natural and fully within his comfort zone, so he succeeds at them effortlessly. For those of us who aren’t quite so gregarious by nature, we might stutter and stumble our way through calls like these, making a poor impression, or find them so onerous we just don’t make them at all.
Finding Your Natural Balance
Of course, it’s not always possible to be completely comfortable when marketing ourselves. We may wish to stretch our existing abilities in order to ultimately become more effective at making calls, writing letters, attending meetings, speaking in public, or whatever activities we currently find particularly hard to do. If this is true for you, absolutely include in your marketing plan one or two challenging areas where you would like to practice so you can improve.
But be sure to also include a healthy complement of tactics you’re already good at and enjoy using. If your marketing plan contains more enjoyment and less struggle, you’ll work the plan instead of recoiling from it. And when you do that, you’ll stay in business long enough to have plenty of time to learn new sales and marketing skills and expand your comfort zone.