Don't just stand thereAre 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. It’s not that what you might learn is actually wrong. But it’s often off-target, leading you to direct your efforts inappropriately.

For example, one frequently-taught approach to marketing involves attracting website visitors with an ad, who you then capture for an email list by offering a bonus. Then you point those folks to a miles-long sales page with many superlatives about your offering and more bonuses. If they don’t buy on their first visit, you bombard them with promotional email messages. That’s great if you’re selling home-study courses, ebooks, or software tools. But it’s no way to sell professional services.

You can’t sell consulting or graphic design or coaching or accounting as if it were an ebook. You also can’t market the services of a solopreneur or small professional firm as if you had the budget and staff of a nationwide enterprise. With only one or two principals available to serve clients and manage marketing tasks, you don’t have the time or money to support multiple social media profiles, paid advertising, and other resource-intensive approaches.

The best ways to market professional services are to make direct, personal contact with potential clients, network within your niche, get to know potential referral sources, and build your credibility and audience with speaking and writing. All of these can be done offline or online. But just becoming more visible and promoting your wares, without also working to build relationships and credibility, will rarely pay off.

2. Resistance to marketing.

Every professional needs to market, but not everyone wants to. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if you do a good job, clients will start coming on their own. Or to tell yourself that engaging in sales and marketing is pushy, undignified, or even sleazy. The next thing you know, you are avoiding marketing tasks and procrastinating, perhaps without even realizing it.

Acknowledge that marketing is an essential part of running a successful business, and create a marketing plan that spells out what you will do and when. (The Get Clients Now! system is one approach to doing this.) Then engage with your plan on a regular basis, so avoidance and procrastination will get nipped in the bud. If you have trouble moving forward on your own, partner with a business buddy, action group, or coach to gain more support and motivation.

3. Fear of rejection and exposure.

You’re not the only one who fears possible rejection by your prospects or the potential criticism you might face with more exposure. All entrepreneurs have fears like these at times. It’s really just a matter of degree. The people who seem to be fearless have simply found ways to manage their fears so they aren’t held back by them.

Instead of trying to avoid or deny your fear, own it. Identify what you’re most afraid of, name it when you see it, and seek out possible ways to get past it. Some people ask themselves, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if I…?” Others remind themselves that a business rejection is not personal. Or try letting go of needing to make a sale, and just be of service. Find an approach that helps you move forward despite your fear, and it will begin to lose its power.

4. Lack of resources.

There are probably many areas of marketing where you don’t know everything necessary to make it happen. Not all of these are subjects you even want to learn about. And there are others where doing it yourself isn’t the best use of your time. In any of these cases, don’t struggle alone!

Buy a book, read some articles or blogs, watch some videos, or take a class. None of us are born knowing how to market a business; we all had to learn. With technical and specialized projects like web or graphic design, copywriting, proofreading, or creating a slide show, get advice or hire help. Delegate projects or portions of them to people who already know what they’re doing, and you’ll see results much sooner.

5. Doing what’s easy instead of what’s best.

When any of the barriers above are blocking your way, it’s tempting to fall back on something that seems easier. Copying someone else’s marketing style, for example, instead of designing an effective approach of your own. Or sending emails instead of making calls, because you’ll be less likely to experience rejection. Or hanging out with your friends on Facebook instead of going to a live networking event where the real prospects are.

But doing what’s easy may ultimately be the hard way to go about marketing. If what you’re doing isn’t very effective, you’ll have to work way too hard to see any results. Instead, make sure you have the right information about marketing, work to conquer resistance and overcome fear, and invest in the right resources. Then you’ll be ready to do what’s best instead of just what’s easy.

The good news is that then what’s best will become easy. And then you’ll be marketing the way you should.

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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