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.
They lie in wait for you when you least expect them — the marketing dragons of fear, resistance and procrastination. Just when you think you’ve defeated them at last, they rear their ugly heads again. What’s a self-employed professional to do?
First of all, don’t panic, despair, or beat yourself up. It’s completely normal to have elements of fear and resistance show up around sales and marketing. Even if it seems like you’re the only one who has these feelings, trust me, you’re not.
Are the results you’re getting from your marketing not what you hoped for? Perhaps there is something else you should be doing. I don’t mean something more. You are probably working hard at marketing already. I’m suggesting something else.
It’s been my experience that many independent professionals just don’t market the way they should. Here are the five most common reasons, and how you can overcome them:
1. Missing information.
There’s a lot of misleading information out there about marketing.
I’ll bet you do great work with your clients. But if your clients are the only ones who know what you can do, you won’t stay in business. We all hope that satisfied clients will refer us to their friends and colleagues, but clients aren’t always your best source of referrals. So, we need to let more people know how terrific our work is.
There are many ways to let prospective clients know about your work, But for most self-employed professionals, there are only four categories that make sense: networking, speaking, writing, and media. These are the best avenues for people to become familiar with not only you, but with how your work creates tangible benefits.
Jan is a graphic designer who was always struggling to find good clients. “I could find plenty of people who needed my services,” she recalls, “but they thought my rates were too high. I either ended up agreeing to work for less, or they found someone else. And then when I did get the job, they took forever to pay me.”
Like many graphic designers, Jan’s marketing emphasized her business identity work — creating a company’s logo, business cards, and other collateral, with matching design elements. Her primary audience was new businesses who were just getting started. But then Jan had a brainstorm.
“I realized that the clients I was marketing to were people who didn’t have enough money to pay me,” says Jan. “They were startups with tight budgets. And since they hadn’t been in business long, they didn’t place much value on working with an experienced, high-quality designer. They were just looking for the lowest price.”
Many self-employed professionals believe they don’t know how to sell. You’re justified if you think that of yourself. You didn’t go into business to be a salesperson. You became self-employed because you wanted to help people with web design or personal training or architecture or resumé writing. In order to get clients, you need to have sales conversations, but they aren’t something you’ve ever trained to do. You may even believe you’re no good at them.
Let’s fix that.
Perhaps these questions sound familiar:
What happens if I use the wrong marketing strategy?
Is there such a thing as a wrong marketing strategy?
These questions are common if you’re a service-based business looking to market your services; it’s easy to think you’re doing marketing all wrong.
And maybe you are.
While there is no real right or wrong way when it comes to marketing your business, there is such a thing as choosing a marketing strategy that isn’t the right fit for you and your ideal customers – strategies that can make marketing feel harder – and this can have negative consequences.
Productivity is a popular buzzword these days. There’s an assumption that being productive is a good thing, and in fact if you’re going to stay in business, you will need to be productive. But what does that really mean, especially when it comes to your marketing?
There’s a phenomenon I think of as pseudo-productivity: when you’re getting things done-ish. These are things that keep you busy, maybe even fill up your calendar, yet they’re not actually productive. Real productivity means you’re getting things done that move your business forward, like getting the word out about your offerings, or creating a solid foundation for your ability to serve your clients.
We humans are endlessly creative at finding paths to get in our own way. Even the most well-adjusted, self-aware people struggle with internal obstacles that keep them from being as effective or productive as they would like.
One of the most persistent barriers to the success of self-employed professionals at marketing themselves is the “I don’t know how” problem. Here’s how it often goes.
An expert or a colleague advises you to take some specific marketing action: “Collect all your leads in a contact management system” or “Write a white paper” or “Ask your website visitors to subscribe to your mailing list” or “Develop some referral partners.” You evaluate that idea, and decide it’s a good one. “Great,” you say, “that’s just what I’ll do.”