One of the most persistent barriers to the success of self-employed professionals at marketing themselves is the “I don’t know how” problem. Here’s how it often goes.
An expert or a colleague advises you to take some specific marketing action: “Collect all your leads in a contact management system” or “Write a white paper” or “Ask your website visitors to subscribe to your mailing list” or “Develop some referral partners.” You evaluate that idea, and decide it’s a good one. “Great,” you say, “that’s just what I’ll do.”
It’s happened to the best of us: you had good intentions of getting started early, of finishing before the deadline, of easing into the task, yet there you are, last minute, wondering how you can get things done, pronto.
This may be a familiar scenario with regards to your to-do list, but what if it happens to your marketing? Marketing can’t happen that fast, can it?
A desperate self-employed professional contacted me recently. “I need to get clients immediately,” she said. “I’ve been trying for months with no success, and I’m almost out of money.” When I asked her how she had been marketing herself all this time, she gave me the following list of what she had been doing:
- Attending networking events where she met people, introduced herself, and exchanged business cards
- Launched a brochure-style website describing her services
- Started a Facebook page and began posting promos for her business and links to content she found interesting
- Printed some flyers and posted them on bulletin boards around town
At the start of every year, I encourage my clients to follow the same practice I do of reviewing the past year before setting intentions for the new one. I find that a thorough review of the previous year can provide important guidance for moving ahead. I make a list of “Successes, Accomplishments, and Breakthroughs” and another of “Failures, Disappointments, and Breakdowns.” After giving myself some time to celebrate my successes, I analyze my failures. Try this process yourself, and see what it provides.
Looking at each of your disappointments over the past year, ask yourself what went wrong in that area, and what you might be able to do differently. Let’s say you didn’t gain enough new clients last year. What’s your take on what went wrong?
Maybe you’ve been there: you’re talking to someone in your industry at a mixer and they ask you if you’re using [insert name of the latest trend here] to market your business. Or you’re talking to a seasoned business owner and they say that “everybody” in your industry uses [a certain marketing strategy], making it sound mandatory. You stand there frozen: a) not knowing if those strategies are right for you; or b) wondering what you did wrong, because you tried those strategies and they didn’t work. You’re left wondering, how do you figure out what marketing strategies are the right ones for you?
I was talking with a good friend and business colleague over dinner recently about being busy. She has very little free time: busy personal life, plus her business to run, and I the same. We both felt pinched for time and were longing for some space, literally and mentally, from those things that are required just to keep our businesses running on a daily basis. We agreed it seems as if there’s a giant mountain of things that we need to do that can sometimes feel like a heavy weight, and only when that work is complete do we have time to do other things.