“I don’t have time to market my business.” It’s a common complaint from I hear from the self-employed professionals I coach and teach. When you are the only one who can serve your clients, manage the business, keep up in your field, and perform all the sales and marketing functions, time becomes the most precious commodity you have. How can you find time for marketing with so many other important priorities?
You have many time management techniques at your disposal, of course. You can defer some tasks or delegate them to an assistant, chunk down big projects into smaller steps, and set aside blocks of time on your calendar for making calls, writing emails, or updating your social media channels. But perhaps you have already tried all those approaches and discovered that time is still scarce.
Here’s a new approach. Instead of trying to find more time for marketing and selling, start making time. Every day, you take part in many time-consuming activities that currently may not include marketing. What if you could integrate marketing into all those things you are already doing? Here are some examples of how that could work:
1. Attending business and cultural events.
Whenever you plan to attend a workshop, business mixer, association meeting, lecture, performance, or art opening, consider inviting a business contact to join you. Just extending the invitation will contribute to building a stronger relationship between you. If your contact decides to attend, you can often get to know each other better in a more relaxed environment than meeting one-to-one.
2. Having lunch or coffee with a prospective client or colleague.
If you are already planning to take the time to meet with someone, why not add a third or fourth person to the party? Those invited will usually appreciate the opportunity to make more new contacts themselves, and you may find that conversation flows more easily when you have a group of people who share common interests.
3. Traveling to another city.
Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, arrange to meet for lunch or dinner with a client or colleague. On a business trip, this is usually much more enjoyable than dining alone. As a tourist, a meal you would be stopping to eat anyway takes no time out of your vacation schedule. Plus, you’ll often get local tips about where to go and what to do.
4. Taking a walk, visiting the gym, and other sports or exercise.
Meetings with business associates don’t have to take place in the office or at a cafe. Invite someone to join you for a walk in the park, run around the track, or a game of tennis. Playing golf isn’t the only option to get exercise and do business at the same time.
5. Reading an article or blog post.
Any time you read an interesting, relevant article online, think of three business contacts you could send it to. Writing a short “thought you would be interested” note and forwarding the item will take only a moment, but can make a big impression on the recipients.
6. Shopping, dining, or running errands.
Every time you leave your home or office, you meet new people. They are in line at the coffee shop, sitting at the next table, or shopping in the same aisle. Whenever you find yourself chatting with strangers, remember to introduce yourself by name and occupation, creating the opening for them to do the same. You’ll be surprised to discover how often this will lead to a connection that can result in business.
7. Attending social events.
The best business relationships often begin casually in social environments. Keep your business cards in your pocket when you attend a wedding, housewarming, holiday party, or your child’s soccer game. After you ask, “How do you know our hosts?” or “Which child is yours?” make your next question, “What do you do?”
You may have a long list of marketing projects that will take time but not your full attention. Consider doubling up these mundane tasks with a fun activity or some pleasant company. Update your contact database on your laptop at the beach. Make phone calls from the hot tub or a park bench. Review your prospect list while watching old movies. Ask your kids to help you fold brochures or stuff envelopes. Take your project to a friend’s house so the two of you can work together on marketing.
As you can see, there are many ways to include marketing and sales activities in your already busy life. So instead of wishing you had more time for marketing, why not make marketing a part of the time you are already spending?