What’s stopping you from getting all the clients you want? Do you know? The answer to this one question may be the key to making your marketing more successful.
It would seem from the questions people ask me about marketing that everyone is trying to fix just one type of problem — how to fill their marketing pipeline with more new prospects.
“What else should I be doing to attract potential clients?” they ask. “Where else can I go to find people who might hire me?” or “How can I be more visible online so people will contact me?” or “Should I be finding prospects by cold calling, using Twitter, running ads, giving talks, writing articles…?”
All their questions — and it seems all their efforts — are aimed at finding ways to make contact with new people who might become clients. And every time they identify another activity that might help their pipeline get fuller, they want to add it to their ever-growing to-do list.
But is this really what’s stopping them from getting more clients? Is this what’s stopping you? If you are already marketing yourself in four or five different ways, will increasing that to seven or eight different ways produce better results? Or alternatively, if you drop everything you’re doing now, and start using four or five brand new marketing approaches, will that do the trick?
In my experience, it probably won’t. Continuing to try new and different approaches to fill your marketing pipeline will more often result in overwhelm, wasted effort, and failure than it will in new clients.
Instead of trying to fix your marketing by just seeking out more ways to meet people or collect names, email addresses and phone numbers, stop for a moment. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? In other words, what’s really getting in the way of your marketing success?
Listed below are the five most common marketing problems, and questions to ask yourself to see which ones might be yours. They’re presented in order of priority — problem #1 needs to be fixed before tackling problem #2, and so on. Consider whether making changes in one of these areas might be exactly the fix your marketing needs.
1. HANDS-ON TIME: Are you spending enough time proactively marketing? Not just getting ready to market, or thinking about how to market, or feeling resistant to marketing, but actually taking steps that will lead directly to landing clients?
If you’re not spending enough time marketing your business, fixing other problem areas won’t help much. Start keeping track of how much time you spend actively marketing each week. Most independent professionals find they need to spend from 4-16 hours weekly — less when you’re busy with paying work; more when you’re not.
2. TARGET MARKET: Do you have a clearly defined target market which you can describe in five words or less? Does this market already know they need your services? And are you spending most of your time marketing to exactly that group?
Once you feel confident you are dedicating enough time to marketing, the next hurdle is making sure you’re marketing to the right people. Focusing your efforts on a specific target group with a defined need for your services will make everything you do more effective.
3. MARKETING MESSAGE: Do your descriptions of your services name the benefits you offer and results you produce for your target market? And are these benefits and results that this market is looking for? Do you deliver your message every time you make contact?
Letting prospective clients know exactly how you can help them will make the most of the time you spend marketing to a defined audience. Your message needs to be clear, focused on the client’s needs, and typically delivered multiple times to the same prospects.
4. FOLLOW-THROUGH: Do you have a system for following up with every prospect until they say either yes or no? Are you able to complete all the steps for each marketing approach you are using to make it pay off?
Without follow-through, much of your marketing effort is wasted. The typical prospect will need to hear from you (or about you) 5-7 times before deciding to work with you. And most marketing approaches need a follow-through element to succeed. For example, attending networking events requires post-event follow-up with the people you meet. Online networking requires regular participation, not just posting when you have something to promote.
5. MARKETING APPROACH: Are the strategies and tactics you are using to reach your market the most effective approaches available to you? Are they appropriate for your target market, and a good match for your skills and personality?
Only after addressing the first four problem areas above should you think about changing how you market. Because in truth, your tactics may not need to change. Whether you’ve been marketing yourself with cold calling, public speaking, or social networking, once you are spending enough time, marketing to the right people, delivering a targeted message, and following through on all your efforts, your results will improve dramatically.
So finding new or different marketing approaches — the place where most people start to fix their marketing — is actually the last area to consider. The most effective approaches are those that include personal contact with your prospects, increase your credibility, and lend themselves to building relationships over time. And, approaches that match your skills and personality are more likely to succeed because you will actually use them instead of resisting them.
Once you know what might be stopping your marketing from being successful, make a commitment to fix what’s really wrong. Resist the temptation (and hype) to keep trying new “silver bullet” marketing tactics or overloading yourself with endless possibilities. Finding the best marketing solutions will be much easier when you’re trying to solve the right problem.