Work is Necessary; Struggle is Optional

I hear from many entrepreneurs that marketing is a struggle. They just can’t get enough clients to pay the bills, or they are spending more money to get each client than the sale is worth. So many of their efforts seem to fail. There must be an easier way, they tell me.

I think there is. But making the transition from the hard way to the easy way can be pretty difficult in itself. That’s because it requires the toughest kind of change — a change in thinking.

First of all, you must accept that there’s nothing noble about working too hard. Working too hard comes in many forms. You may be putting in too many hours, or spending too much to get clients, or trying a dozen different marketing strategies all at once, or simply sounding too desperate when asking for the business.

To leave struggle behind, you must be willing to give it up. This may sound odd, because of course you don’t LIKE struggling. But old habits die hard. If you’re used to throwing more effort at problems, it’s often challenging to instead stop, analyze what’s not working, and ask if there is a smarter answer.

If you find that clients don’t want to pay what you’re asking, instead of trying harder to convince those clients of your worth, look for different clients who have more to spend. If the places you are networking don’t seem to connect you with enough prospects, instead of networking there more often, look for new places to network.

You also have to give up magical thinking. No matter how wonderful your workshop is, you won’t get 20 people there just by mailing 200 flyers. You can be the world’s greatest consultant, but you can’t expect to land a big contract just by placing a phone call to three companies.

Marketing, like much of business, is a numbers game. If you want to stop struggling, you have to do the math. The average rate of return for a good direct mail piece is 1-2%. So to fill a 20-person workshop through mailings alone, you need to mail to 1000-2000 people.

The average consultant can make one sale from every 30 contacts he makes in his target market. (One out of ten contacts results in a presentation of some kind; one out of three presentations lead to an assignment. Ten times three equals thirty.) If you want to get two assignments this quarter, you should be making 60 contacts.

To move from struggle-based marketing to effortless marketing, you need to be able to trust. Trust that if you choose two or three solid marketing strategies and employ them diligently, clients will result. If you panic and keep changing your plan, or piling new activities on the plate, the result is more struggle.

Trust that if you spend some time and money on an attractive mailer and a targeted list with enough names on it, you will fill your workshop. And trust enough to spend that time and money up front instead of struggling by with an amateurish flyer and asking your friends to spread it around.

Trust that building relationships really is the key to getting in the door with corporate clients, and be willing to go to meetings, make calls, and do lunch. If instead you hide behind expensive directory ads, gate-fold color brochures, and trade show displays, you are dooming yourself to struggle with a high price tag.

Yes, there is work to be done if you want your marketing to be successful, but you need to work smarter, not harder. There is money to be spent, but you must spend it on the essentials first and save the bells and whistles for later. And there is magic to be had, but it’s the magic that comes from making a plan and working it, instead of hoping that somehow you can beat the odds.

The path out of struggle really boils down to this. How many new clients do you need each month to earn a comfortable living? How many prospects should be in your marketing pipeline to result in that number of clients? How much time and money can you afford to spend to bring in each client? Now… which marketing strategies will bring in the number of prospects you need within the time and money
budget you have?

If you’re not sure, ask a successful colleague, read a book, take a class, hire a consultant or coach. But once you think you have the right answer, stick with it, no matter how tempting it is to buy an ad instead of making a call, or try a new idea instead of finishing what you started, or rely on wishful thinking instead of crunching some numbers.

To end the struggle, try letting the answer be easy. Ask the people who have gone before you what worked for them, and do what they did.

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