One of my coaching clients recently asked my opinion about whether she should try out a new marketing approach. She’s a psychotherapist who has always gotten clients primarily by referral. She had been contacted by a couple of people who were trying to sell her on using social media to increase her therapy practice. Instead of advising her about this, I asked her some questions (see below).

Stop and think

Thirty minutes later, she was shaking her head, wondering why she ever thought that a social media campaign was a good idea for her type of business and personal situation. Before she talked to me, she had been ready to pay a hefty sum for a training program and invest a considerable amount of time to dive into a whole new way to market her business. But my questions made her stop and think.

Stopping to think about what’s involved in a new marketing approach before you adopt it can be a worthwhile practice! Here are five questions to ask yourself before you take this sort of leap:

1. What activities and skills will this new approach require? Are those activities you enjoy participating in and skills you already have? My therapist client recognized that she really didn’t enjoy spending a lot of time online, and was often frustrated by technology. Sure, she could learn new skills and habits, but if she was going to do that, she’d rather learn to be a better public speaker, and attract more business that way.

2. Do you see many of your colleagues using this approach? If not, maybe there’s a reason. A management consultant I worked with was buying ads online and in print publications aimed at his target market. After I pointed out that no other consultants I knew had found success advertising in those places, he conferred with a senior colleague. “No one hires a management consultant from an ad,” his colleague confirmed. “We get our clients from networking, referrals, speaking, and writing. That’s where your focus should be.”

3. Will the person recommending this approach make a profit if you use it? Be skeptical if the people who suggest you adopt a new marketing method are trying to sell you something so you can use that method. Salespeople for search engine optimization, advertising, trade shows, and expensive trainings or memberships can be very persuasive. Try asking them, “Is this approach right for everyone?” If they say yes, their agenda is to close sales, not to help you succeed.

4. Are there other marketing approaches you previously chose that you haven’t yet fully executed? My therapist client realized that she had never carried out the referral-building strategy she had designed earlier that year. So of course it wasn’t working for her! This was an approach that had worked for her in the past, and for which she had most of the needed tools already in place. It made a lot more sense to resume this stalled plan than to design a whole new one.

5. Is there another way to use the same time and money that may produce better results? Before launching any new marketing approach, take a hard look at the effort involved and what it might cost you. An executive coach who worked with me was sure that exhibiting at a conference in his niche was a terrific idea, until I asked this question. With the same time and money needed to rent, decorate, and staff an exhibit booth, he could redo his outdated website and launch a blog.

Why does our critical thinking often seem to fly out the window when we hear about a new way to market ourselves? It’s human nature to seek an easier path. Buying an ad, exhibiting at a trade show, paying an SEO firm, or taking a class in social media or video marketing can seem “easier” than picking up the phone and calling our prospects, setting up coffee with referral sources, or re-writing our website copy to be more effective. This is especially true when there’s a persuasive vendor ready to take our money.

Marketing approaches like the ones my clients above walked away from are not inherently wrong. For some people and situations, these strategies are exactly the right way to go. Yet for these particular entrepreneurs — for their personal situation, type of business, and market niche — these approaches were off target.

But to discover this, they needed to stop and think.

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