As a business owner, it’s natural to have lots of ideas about getting the word out about your offerings and to want to test out new ways. You’ve tried different marketing techniques, some of which you liked more, some that worked better, and some you’re convinced will work eventually. The question is, what’s really working, and how long should you test something to know?
Testing requires two things: curiosity and measuring. Curiosity to try something new, and measuring so you’ll know how well it’s working and whether it’s worth continuing to do. Here are several things to keep in mind when you’re testing different marketing strategies:
For the past twenty-plus years, I’ve been asking self-employed professionals to tell me the most effective ways they know to get clients. No matter where and when I ask this question, their answers are always the same: “networking,” “referrals,” “word of mouth.” These are the right answers. The professionals I ask know this to be true.
But then I ask a follow-up question: “What are you doing right now to market yourself?” And what I hear back is surprising, given the answers to my first question. More than half the people I ask tell me their primary focus is on something other than those answers. They’ll tell me they are building a new website, or mailing out postcards, or running pay-per-click ads, or cold calling strangers, or launching a Facebook page, or exhibiting at an expo, or posting promos on Twitter.
You know you need to follow up with prospective clients, but you often find yourself putting it off. “I already called them three times,” you think. Or, “They never answer my emails anyway.” Or, “I hate hearing no.” Or, “I don’t want to bug them.” Or, “What do I say that’s new?”
It’s only natural to resist placing phone calls or sending more emails to prospects who didn’t return your last call, never seem to reply, may not be ready to buy, or might say they’re not interested. But here’s the good news. Calling and emailing prospects and asking them to hire you is not the only way to follow up!
Yes, you can call or email your prospects and ask if they’re ready to work with you, but you can also send a letter or note by postal mail, overnight them a package, send a text message, tweet them, tag them on social media, or instant message them online. And those are just different communication channels you might use. The type of messages you deliver can be much more varied than simply asking prospects to do business.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was on the organizing committee for a huge event. We rented out a venue that could hold 1500 people and hoped to fill it as full as possible. We engaged a well-known author and speaker. We had multiple teams of volunteers handling the event promotion, venue logistics, lunches, back of the room book sales, travel and other arrangements for the speaker. In short, we were on it.
As event day drew closer, we noticed ticket sales were lower than hoped. Not to worry, we thought; we know that many people wait until the week or two before an event to buy their tickets. Nonetheless, the promotion team redoubled their efforts to get the word out. One week before the event, ticket sales still lagging, we realized we had a serious problem and were not likely to meet our goal. Again, the promotion team made one last effort to get the word out.
When the big day arrived, we had fewer than 100 people in attendance. We barely broke even on the event and our efforts to fill the organization’s coffers — and bring a message of hope and transformation to a big audience — were, well… failing.
I use a cookbook metaphor in my Get Clients Now! system to illustrate how to go about creating an effective marketing plan for a self-employed professional. An essential element of that plan is what I call Success Ingredients — the missing ingredients your marketing and sales activities need in order to be successful.
Why is this important? Let’s say you decide you’re going to market your business by attending live networking events in your area. You’re not sure where to begin, but you’ve just received an email invitation for a Chamber of Commerce mixer, so you decide to go.
Arriving at the mixer, you discover that everyone you meet is either a salesperson for a local corporation, or a solo professional who is looking for business from those companies. But you are (for example) an acupuncturist.
How important is it that you have a clearly defined market niche for your professional services? Can’t you simply make yourself available to work for anyone who might need you? Doesn’t having a niche limit you to serving only a small portion of possible clients? Why would you want to rule out any possible sources of business? Discovering the answers to these questions can have a powerful impact on the success or failure of your business.
When you have a market niche, it defines either your target market — who you wish to target as prospective clients -– or your professional specialty –- the services you specialize in providing within the broader scope of your profession. The most effective niches define both these elements.