It seems like there’s a new way to market your business appearing every five minutes here in the 21st century. How can self-employed professionals know which marketing methods will make the most sense for them?

One to many

When evaluating possible ways to market your business, it can help significantly to apply a quick test — is the marketing method you’re considering “one-to-one” or “one-to-many?” Here’s how they’re different.

One-to-One Marketing

  • Makes use of approaches that put you in direct contact with your potential clients or likely referral sources. You’re sending them a personal note, talking to them voice-to-voice, or meeting them in person.
  • Is high-touch and is often low-tech.
  • Can be very low cost, but can take a significant amount of your personal time.
  • Ideal for marketing professional services that are personally delivered by an expert who is paid an hourly rate, on a monthly retainer, or by project. Also good for high-end products that must be customized by experts, like corporate software or home audio-video systems.

One-to-Many Marketing

  • Uses tactics that are considered impersonal or indirect, such as web pages, advertising, broadcast email, or status updates on social media.
  • Is low-touch and is often high-tech.
  • Can take a very small amount of your personal time per person, but can be high cost overall.
  • Best for marketing products (e.g., an ebook or nutritional supplements) or productized services (e.g., a webinar or membership), which are sold to high numbers of people at a low price. Also useful for follow-up and credibility-building with people who already know about you.

As you can see, which category of marketing is best depends on what you’re selling and your current marketing goals. If you’re an accountant in need of more tax preparation clients in the next 30 days, you should be putting most of your efforts into one-to-one marketing. If you’re a fitness teacher wanting to build membership in your $29 per month online get-fit club, one-to-many marketing is what you’ll need.

With those descriptions, you should be able to tell easily enough whether your marketing at any given time should be one-to-one or one-to-many. But deciding which category some marketing approaches fall into can be tricky. Below are some examples to help.

Email — Personal emails to individuals are one-to-one marketing. Broadcast emails to a list of any size are one-to-many.

Phone calls — Calls made by a telemarketer who smiles, dials, and reads a script are one-to-many marketing. Calls personally made by an expert to a potential client or referral source are one-to-one.

Webinars and teleclasses — A live webinar or teleclass, with a relatively small group participating, which allows voice-to-voice interaction with participants, is one-to-one. A webinar with a large audience, one that allows no spoken questions, or a recorded webinar are all one-to-many.

Social media — Status updates, posting articles, or posting to groups are all one-to-many marketing. Direct messages, chat messages, comments, and replies are one-to-one.

The next time someone pitches you on the hottest new marketing method, remember which category of marketing you should be using at present. Then ask yourself whether the proposed new approach is one-to-one marketing or one-to-many.

For the majority of independent professionals, one-to-one marketing is where most of your efforts should be directed. You can add occasional one-to-many methods to your marketing mix, used as reminders of who you are and what you do, and credibility boosters that demonstrate your expertise.

But when you use one-to-many marketing approaches alone — instead of as a supplement to one-on-one marketing — don’t expect to land clients who want to work with you personally. Those are the folks who are worth spending your one-on-one time to bring in the door.

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