People need to believe in you in order to do business with you. They must believe that you know what you’re doing, that your services are on the up-and-up, that working with you will benefit them, and that investing in you is worth their time and money. Just how do you do that, though — build your believability?
One of my favorite ways to do this is through writing.
Writing is a vulnerable act; it requires you to put yourself out there and share your expertise in public. Even if your articles “only” appear in the church bulletin, you’re still going to unmask yourself, which is actually a good thing for your business.
Let’s face it, many self-employed professionals treat self-promotion as a necessary evil. They know they have to do it, but they just don’t like it. Professionals often say, “I love my work, but I wish I didn’t have to keep finding clients.” They describe the process of marketing as distasteful, frustrating, intimidating, and just plain scary.
Take a look at your own beliefs about self-promotion. How do you feel about it? Is it something you accomplish without too much effort, or do you put it off at every opportunity? When you tell someone what you do and ask for that person’s business, is it easy for you, or do you find it difficult and unpleasant?
Never underestimate the power of a thank you. Not long ago, I thanked someone for helping me solve a technical problem. She replied to my note of thanks by inviting me as a guest speaker for a group she chairs. I didn’t even know she chaired this group and I had never considered speaking there. This speaking opportunity would never have occurred if I hadn’t taken a moment to say thanks. It started me thinking about how often saying thank you turns into paying business.
Here in the U.S., it’s Thanksgiving week, when we often pause to reflect on our gratitude. So it’s an excellent time to consider seven ways of saying thank you that can bring you more clients.
Most of us self-employed professionals truly enjoy no longer having to answer to The Boss. But the lack of anyone to report to can be a problem. There’s no one to make you perform sales and marketing tasks you don’t want to do. If you procrastinate about posting to your blog, resist going to networking events, or find follow-up calls too scary to make, no one will know that you’re avoiding marketing except you.
I understand that marketing and sales involve activities that can be confronting. Even I don’t always find marketing easy, and that’s after 25-plus years of having a successful business.
When you look at your marketing to-do list, do many of the items on it look all too familiar? Have entries like “call Dolores Sanchez” and “follow up with Wallingford Corp.” been copied from a previous week? Putting off unappealing tasks may be human nature, but for a self-employed professional, procrastination can be deadly.
Delays in contacting a prospect can lose the business to the competition. Failing to get the word out about an upcoming event may forfeit dozens of opportunities. When prospects don’t hear from you for a while, they forget you exist. Wasted marketing time can never be recovered. By the time you realize you might not make your sales goals for the month, quarter, or year, it may already be too late.
Some marketing elements are foundational to your business. They function as the building blocks on which everything else is constructed. If you were building a house, this would be like pouring the concrete to make a solid foundation which you build everything else on top of.
These elements are things like having business cards, a good answer for what you do for a living, a website, a free giveaway, or a go-to speech. As a business owner, you’ll want to figure out what’s foundational for your business, and how to get those things done.
Figuring Out What’s Foundational to Your Marketing
What foundational items you choose is completely dependent on the type of business you have. In my case, most of the people I work with have a service based business, which lends itself to foundational items such as:
I frequently tell my clients and students that the real secret to getting clients is choosing a set of simple, effective marketing activities, and engaging in them consistently. “Okay,” folks often reply, “but how do I know that I’ve chosen the right marketing activities?” Here’s what you need to explore.
What Kind of Marketing Is Best?
The best marketing methods — the ones that really belong on your list of things to do every day or every week — are the ones that put you into direct contact with your target market. You speak with prospective clients in person, you talk to them on the phone, you write personal, not mass produced, letters or emails. You network; you build referral relationships; you speak in public.
To the average self-employed professional, following up with prospective clients feels awkward or even scary. You hate making phone calls that might not be welcome. You think you might be pestering people. You worry about being rejected. You aren’t sure what to say. After all, how many times can you ask, “Are you ready for us to work together?”
I get it. My clients and students share concerns like these with me all the time. I’ve even had them myself.
I use a cookbook metaphor in my Get Clients Now! system to illustrate how to go about creating an effective marketing plan for a self-employed professional. An essential element of that plan is what I call Success Ingredients — the missing ingredients your marketing and sales activities need in order to be successful.
Why is this important? Let’s say you decide you’re going to market your business by attending live networking events in your area. You’re not sure where to begin, but you’ve just received an email invitation for a Chamber of Commerce mixer, so you decide to go.
Arriving at the mixer, you discover that everyone you meet is either a salesperson for a local corporation, or a solo professional who is looking for business from those companies. But you are (for example) an acupuncturist.
In 2020, many of us self-employed folks were just trying to survive. Some of us couldn’t work at all due to pandemic restrictions or home schooling needs. Others – serving industries like travel, food service, or personal care – lost our entire market overnight.