Self-employed professionals pay a lot of attention to the mechanics of marketing. They take classes, read books, and hire experts to learn how to do the best job possible. When I first work with a client, I often discover that his or her knowledge of marketing techniques is quite good already. What might be lacking is a helpful marketing attitude.
Do any of the attitudes described below seem familiar? If so, you may be sabotaging your own marketing efforts. Read on for some possible solutions.
1. “I shouldn’t have to market.” If you are good enough at what you do, you tell yourself, clients should just come to you. Marketing is for products, not professionals. You have years of training and experience in your specialty, why should you have to spend your precious time on marketing?
This perception is extremely common among consultants and professionals, although many won’t admit it. The fact is that successful marketing is a necessary part of business ownership. If you could get all the paying work you wanted without having to market, why wouldn’t everyone be self-employed?
If you perceive marketing as a dirty business, try thinking of it as the diapers you need to change in order to have the joys of being a parent. But instead of focusing on tasks you dislike, tie your marketing chores to your vision of your baby becoming a successful business.
Visualize checks arriving in the mail when it’s time to make a cold call, or picture a signed contract when preparing for a sales presentation. Post visual reminders at your desk, like photos or clippings, of the reasons you became self-employed in the first place. Parents don’t remember all the diapers when they’re looking at the baby photos.
2. “I don’t have time for marketing.” There are only two situations where this really can be true: you’re too busy doing the client work you already have, or you have other important responsibilities (such as a second job or young children) taking up your time.
It’s easy to believe that doing client work already contracted for is more important than marketing, especially when deadlines are tight. But if you always follow this policy, you will be locked into a feast or famine cycle, with no new clients waiting for you when the work is finished.
Whether your responsibilities preventing you from marketing are within the business or outside it, you need to allocate a minimum amount of time each week, no matter what. Even two hours per week can make a significant difference, if you consistently use that time for marketing.
Imagine that you have overslept, and are late for an appointment. You might skip breakfast, but would you leave the house without brushing your teeth? Of course not. If you are going to be successful in business, that’s how automatic it needs to become for you to make time for marketing.
3. “I don’t want to bug people.” Do you often tell yourself, “I gave her my card — she’ll call me if she needs me” or “I left him a message — if he’s interested, he’ll call back”? The problem with thoughts like these is that you are assuming your card or call is as important to your prospects as it is to you. The reality is quite different.
If someone met you more than a month ago, it’s likely they don’t even remember your name, and it’s almost certain they won’t remember where they put your card. When you leave someone a phone message, but hiring a professional like you isn’t the number one priority on their to-do list today, they rarely can find the time to return your call.
Consistent and persistent follow-up isn’t bugging people — it’s the mark of a true professional. You want to convince your prospects that you are hard-working and reliable, and that you truly care about helping them solve their problems. If they hear from you more than once that you would really like to be of service to them and are available to help, you will build their trust, not their annoyance.
4. “My marketing isn’t working.” It’s true that there may be something wrong with your marketing. Perhaps your message is unclear or the tactics you’re using are inappropriate for your audience. I find, though, that for the majority of professionals who say this, the real problem is not that their marketing isn’t working, but that they aren’t working their marketing.
Let’s say your business needs two new clients a month, on average. If, in your experience, you must have a sales conversation, prepare a proposal, or conduct an initial consultation with three potential clients for one of them to say yes, you will need to have six of those conversations per month.
Are you doing the work necessary to attract or reach out to enough prospects for six of them to be interested in a presentation? I’m referring to the work you already know you need to do — networking in person or online, building referral relationships, following up on leads you’ve found or been given, speaking in public, writing original content you can share online and in print? If you ask these questions of yourself, you may often find that the only thing wrong with your marketing is that there hasn’t been enough of it.