Silver bullet marketingI have a dream for us self-employed professionals. I picture us all making simple marketing and sales plans, working our plans consistently, and as a result, landing all the clients we need. But in order for my dream to come true, we’re going to have to stop letting ourselves be pulled off track by the tempting lure of silver bullet solutions.

The lure of the silver bullet

Maybe you know the ones I mean. There’s always some flavor-of-the-month approach to sales and marketing that you’re hearing about. You might be getting offers to find qualified prospects for your business, or to close your sales for you. You’ve likely seen ads and emails promising to teach you the winning formula for success with Facebook ads, LinkedIn networking, or recorded webinars. Perhaps an organization you belong to has tried to sell you a booth at their trade show or ad in their publication.

None of these ideas were in your plan. (If you had a plan.) But yet, their appeal is strong. It seems a lot easier to buy an ad or a class or a booth than it does to make a plan and execute it consistently. Working a plan requires organization, discipline, persistence, getting past any resistance you have to selling, and overcoming the fear of rejection we all have to some degree. These offers promise an easy way out.

When the easy way is the wrong path

But, here’s the reality. As a self-employed professional, there are a series of steps you must take on a regular basis to market your services and close sales. And there is no way around taking those steps.

Every single self-employed professional in the world must fill his or her marketing pipeline with prospects, follow up with them over time, invite them into sales conversations, and close sales. And, unless you are selling a packaged product or class (most of you reading this are not), in order to close a sale, you must talk to your prospective clients in a person-to-person conversation. Often, you must have several of these talks before a sale results.

Yes, you can hire pros and assistants to help you with some of this process. But what you can’t do is bypass it completely.

Marketing is more than a one-time deal

Marketing and sales is a process, not an event. And therefore… drum roll, please… it requires getting things done on a regular basis. That’s why you see Kristine Carey and I write so often in this blog about how to help yourself get things done, and about how to overcome the obstacles that prevent you from getting things done.

There is no valid solution to getting clients for a small professional services business that allows you to simply pay a fee, then sit back and watch the clients appear. The only place you can do that is when you work for a business that has a team of people whose job is to do all the sales and marketing. It’s still being done. But when the business is yours, the sales and marketing is your job.

What’s behind the curtain of these offers

It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy to prevent self-employed professionals from seeing this basic truth. Your social media stream, browser margins, email inbox, and voice mail are filled with messages which are trying to sell you a different view. Literally, sell you. That’s right, what you’re looking at are the sales and marketing efforts of other business owners.

What does it mean when someone who promises you can get clients just by using her formula to network on LinkedIn is sending you an email newsletter, and inviting you to a free webinar? It means that she isn’t getting clients just by networking on LinkedIn. She has a plan with multiple steps that she is executing.

It’s the same for the guy with the foolproof recipe for marketing with recorded webinars, whose ad you keep seeing, and who left you a voice mail. He isn’t getting clients from his webinar alone. He’s working a plan.

The marketing approaches folks are trying to sell you aren’t all just snake oil. Tactics like Facebook ads or prospect lists or trade show booths can be useful, when they’re part of a marketing plan that considers all four stages of the Universal Marketing Cycle. And, your commitment to execute the whole plan consistently.

The bottom line for you

So please, give up the search for the marketing silver bullet. There’s still no secret formula, magic wand, or special sauce for getting clients that works better and costs less than choosing a simple set of things to do about marketing and sales, and then doing them.

C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping self-employed professionals survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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