Small business owners and solo-practitioners are notorious for ignoring marketing efforts. It's easy to do, isn't it? You are ensconced in your business; serving clients, shipping product and doing what you need to do to keep the money flowing in. But if you are not spending time and money to market your business, then you are ignoring a critical success component.
If you are concerned about making time to market then download my audio and workbook on Increasing Productivity by 40%. Almost anyone can increase the amount of available time in their schedule by eliminating certain mistakes and behavior. This is your first step.
Begin by investing 10 – 20% of your time in marketing. You can split this time into 2 hour segments during each day or set aside a day for marketing. You may feel concerned about losing revenue if you do this, but revenues will increase as you invest more of your time and resources into your plan – it's a natural cycle. Here are some guidelines and ideas; customize them to work for you!
1. Create a plan. This does not have to be an intimidating process. You know what efforts have garnered clients in the past. List them and expand on them. A simple marketing plan includes a list of marketing practices and a timeline.
2. Face-to-face networking. On-line businesses benefit most significantly from social networking, search engine optimization and pay per click campaigns, but most solopreneurs will benefit by creating relationships off line- regardless of the type of business you run. To meet like-minded people go to classes, lectures and other events that interest you. Keep your eyes and ears open at the grocery store, coffee house and other local establishments. Look into your local Chamber of Commerce and networking groups to see if those are up your alley as well.
3. Cold Calling. I know, yuck! Here's how I look at it. I love meeting new people. I call with the intent of having a nice conversation with someone new, and I've met the most amazing people! You can buy a list or hire a college student, bring on an intern, or have your virtual assistant compile a list for you. Begin by writing a script and giving intention to your call. Know what you wish to achieve; a face-to-face visit, permission to send information, to close the sale or send a free sample.
4. Telemarketing. If cold calling on your own is not an option, consider hiring a professional telemarketing firm. A few hours a week can garner one or two solid leads for you. Depending on your business, this is a simple and sure way to increase revenues.
5. Social Media. A good networker doesn't walk into a room and hand out 20 business cards, tell everyone about himself and leave. They are there to build relationships. It's the same in social media. Ask questions, express interest, get to know people. This is a long term investment and you won't be sorry. Great relationships, business and personal, are built this way.
6. Podcasting. This intimidates and confuses some people, but once you research how to create your own podcast you will be amazed at how easy it is. Having your own podcast puts you in the position of the 'expert' and also helps you to expand your horizons. My two shows have contributed to my growth and brought people into my life who are truly important to me. Promote your show via social media, your list, iTunes, in your blog and via your guests' lists. Create special offers to bring traffic to your site and to build your list.
7. Guest blogging and inviting guest bloggers. If you are not blogging yet, do. This again, is a long term investment – you probably won't see results right away, but they will come. Comment on other blogs and contact popular bloggers who also target your audience with ideas for their blog, offering to write for them. You will gain subscribers and expand your audience. After you build your following invite popular bloggers to do a guest post on your blog. They will bring followers, many of whom will stay.
8. Follow up with your list and past clients. This one seems obvious but it's often neglected. When a new client comes to me with cash flow problems this is the first area we look at. There is much untapped business with existing customers, past clients and prospects. What can you upsell? What special offers can you promote? How can you recreate yourself or your product to spark new interest?
9. Ask for referrals. Many solo-practitioners hesitate to ask for referrals. We tend to assume that if our clients like what we do for them they will spread the word. Not always so. If you recruit the assistance of your happy clients your practice will grow. Supply them with materials to forward or hand to their friends and family. Make it easy for people to spread the word about you.
10. Be consistent in your message. It may take time for your marketing efforts to have an impact and prompt a significant response. People sometimes say 'I've been following you for years….' and we wonder what took them so long to act. We all have different 'buy' triggers and have to be in the right place emotionally and financially before we buy. Market frequently and be consistent in your key message.
What's worked for you? What hasn't worked? How consistent are you in your marketing? What frustrates you the most? What do you enjoy the most about marketing? Share your insights and experiences with us here!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.