“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” – Peter Drucker
Very few business philosophers frame the importance of marketing your business as Peter Drucker does.
Drucker understood that the success of any business rested on its ability to market its products and services effectively.
Whether you’re a solopreneur or you’re building a large-scale business, everything you do contributes to whether or not you can create a customer. Everything you do affects your ability to communicate the value you provide your customer. And communicating the how, what and why of your products and services is the crux of marketing, because marketing is communication. As a result marketing is everything.
Unfortunately marketing tends to be difficult for the solopreneur, so today we are going to attempt to change that.
Achieving The Ultimate Objective
The ultimate objective for becoming successfully self-employed is to acquire and maintain a satisfied customer base. If you can build a solid and growing book of clients, you can build a sustainable business as a solopreneur. But to achieve this, you must effectively market your business. And to do that, you must develop a concrete foundation from which you market your products and services.
To develop a concrete foundation from which you market your products and services you must first identify your ideal customer (aka your target market). Then, you need to clearly articulate why your products and services are a good fit for your ideal customer. Next, you’ll need to determine what makes your offering different from your competitor’s offering. And lastly, you’ll need to develop an authentic brand for your business.
Landing Your First (or next) Four Clients
So you may be asking yourself, “Why four?” Well, one of the biggest issues solopreneurs face when it comes to actually executing their marketing activities is overwhelm. So to avoid overwhelm and to create momentum, I simply want you to focus on what you will do to get your first (or next) four clients.
One of my favorite marketing resources for self-employed service professionals is Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid (click here to get a free chapter). Hands-down Mr. Port’s practical and powerful guide serves as one of the most effective resources I’ve ever seen (or used) in building a profitable book of business. If you’re serious about growing your business as a solopreneur, you must buy his book.
I share this with you because the following suggestion for acquiring your first (or next) four clients is primarily based on what Mr. Port refers to as “mandatory strategies” for becoming booked solid.
The reason I’m such a proponent of Mr. Port’s “mandatory strategies” is because most of them require that you’re actively involved in client acquisition. Unlike passive marketing strategies such as web marketing, social media marketing, and advertising, active strategies are much more effective in getting you clients quickly.
One of the biggest mistakes that self-employed professionals make when it comes to building their business is seeking out “easy” strategies for getting clients. But the bottom line is that when you are your business, you are your most valuable asset when it comes to acquiring clients.
For some solopreneurs the idea of actively acquiring clients is nerve-racking because it involves self-promotion, which requires confidence, interacting one-on-one with people, talking about what you do, how you do it, and following up with possible leads. But here’s the thing, if you are not willing to overcome these obstacles – you’re probably never going to be able to build a sustainable business as a solopreneur. Do whatever it takes to overcome your fear in these areas, and start implementing the following four strategies immediately.
The Four Biggies: Networking, Direct Contact, Obtaining Referrals, and Follow-up Marketing.
If you’re anything like me, the thought of networking literally makes you cringe. When I was a practicing attorney, I did a lot of networking. Some networking events were an absolute blast, others were literally painful to endure. What made the difference was whether the environment felt like I was simply making friends, or if it felt like people were networking just to promote their practice.
So when I set out to start my own business, I decided that I would attend networking events only in an effort to establish friendships with like-minded people. Having this outlook made attending network events fun, and allowed me to really get to know people. When you approach networking in this fashion, the business component naturally falls into place.
Still not sure about that? Well take a look at what networking phenom, Lewis Howes, shared about this subject in a great article he recently wrote.
“I’ve been blessed to build a 7 figure business, launch new companies, do over 400 webinars with affiliate partners, speak at over 100 live events, launch new products, consult for major companies, and work on a number of other fun business projects… all because I’ve become friends on a personal level with these influencers and decision makers (emphasis added).”
So, if you want to get really good at networking, become friends with people first. Once you master that, the benefits of networking will automatically kick-in. Stop making excuses for not meeting people. You can visualize floods of clients coming to you until you’re blue in the face, but nothing happens until you take action.
Successful direct contact is all about being a giver first. The direct contact method of marketing works exactly as it sounds. All you have to do is find prospects that are a perfect fit for your offering and offer it to them. Keep in mind executing direct contact marketing is a learned skilled that requires tact and boldness in the same step.
When making direct contact with a prospect, first be sure to do some research on them. Know exactly how your product/service can be of use to them, and take time to craft your message so that it is personal and compelling. You also want to leverage social media platforms to try and establish contact with your prospect prior to sending your direct contact message.
To increase your likelihood of success with direct contact, always make sure that your first contact demonstrates that you’ve done some research on them, provides them with something of value (a sincere compliment, a resource, or useful information) without asking for anything in return, and offer yourself up as a resource to them in the future.
Like it or not, if you want referrals you’re going to have to ask for them. When you are just starting your business, friends, family, former co-workers, current co-workers and anyone who knows other human beings can serve as your referral sources. Contact these people and ask them if they know of anyone who would be interesting in your offering. If so, ask for an introduction and then craft a compelling and personalized message as suggested in the direct contact section above.
To set yourself up for receiving more referrals as you grow your business, apply what Dan Kennedy calls the EAR method as follows:
E- stands for Earn. To earn referrals, you have to wow your customers. If customers get what they expect and deserve, it’s not enough. Look for ways to go above and beyond for your customers so that they can help but want to rave about you.
A- stands for Ask. The good book says – ask and you shall receive. Some creative ways to ask for referrals are to create referral programs with your existing clients, to host events for current clients and request that they bring someone who might be interested in your services, or to conduct a satisfaction survey and request an optional referral at the end.
R- stands for Reward. Be sure you take the time to acknowledge your referrers. Simply sending a hand written thank you note with a box of homemade baked goods, box of candy, or coffee gift card can turn your clients into champions for your business.
Follow-up marketing is what you do to fully maximize the potential of networking, direct contact, and obtaining referrals. Ironically, follow-up marketing is exactly what most solopreneurs neglect the most. Once you’ve established relationships with prospects on a surface level, you should use follow-up marketing to develop a deeper relationship.
Please note, follow-up marketing IS NOT taking every business card you collected at your last networking event and putting every e-mail address you have on your e-mail newsletter list – that is spam.
Instead, follow up marketing includes inviting someone to sign up for your newsletter, touching base via phone or social media, or sending the sadly forgotten hand-written note. Remember, your objective here isn’t to pester anyone. Your objective is to be close enough to their recollection that when the time comes for them to buy or refer a product or service like yours, you are the person they think of.
Making This All Work So You ACTUALLY Do The Marketing Instead of Just Thinking About It
Now that you know what to do and why you need to do it, it is time to get some doing done. The easiest way to make marketing happen in your business is to schedule it. Using the four strategies above as a guide, select one tactic for each strategy listed for a total of four tactics. Then schedule your four tactics across your week. Do this for the next 30 days so it becomes a habit. As you get more comfortable and consistent with marketing your business you can add more tactics to your schedule.
Over time this will become second nature to you, and you will be able to add advanced marketing strategies to build your business. Whatever you do, don’t get overly excited and schedule more than you can handle. Almost anyone should be able to handle four tactics per week. Start there and give yourself room to grow. If you overdo things too quickly, you may quit before you really get traction. Set yourself up for success instead.
I’d also like to note that if you plan to build a strictly online business these strategies still apply, however instead of executing them in person, you will execute them online.
To help you get started here are two resources that you can put to good use in applying this advice.
They are pretty self explanatory, so just right-click the links above to download your goodies.
**Bonus** Idea Time! 25 Ways To Market Your Solo Biz For Free!
And just for fun, here are 25 simply ways to market your business absolutely free. These are easy tactics you can add to your strategies as you grow.
- Attend one networking event per week
- Host your own meetup group
- Develop a list of referral partners and ask them to coffee or lunch
- Send items of interest to referral partners
- Post ads using free ad sites like ebay ads, craigslist, and local ad services online
- Register your company with all free online directory sites like: merchant circle, yelp, local, yellowpages
- Write personalized letters to highly targeted prospects
- Write for an industry publication
- Become an expert for local press
- Give back to your community and pitch the press on it
- Send hand written thank you notes to your current customers with a coupon
- Develop a referral program, VIP club, or frequent buyer membership
- Speak at various organization
- Reach out to other businesses who serve your same audience and partner with them to increase your marketing reach
- Make direct contact with prospects using social media
- Write a free book and encourage others to share it freely
- Learn to talk about your business in a way that starts a conversation – not a sales pitch
- Offer testimonials to other companies to place in their marketing, advertising, and website materials
- Go out of your way to show your customers your care
- Join civic organizations or volunteer as a business team
- Give away a free trial of your product or service with the purchase of another businesses product or service who serves the same audience
- Start a YouTube Television show
- Start an itunes podcast
- Publish articles to your website weekly
- Answer questions in online forums with a branded signature