Every professional service provider knows how hard it is to get attention in this overloaded world. Whether you're working as an independent contractor, starting a new business, or trying to build an established company, you've got the same challenge: How can you stand out from the pack so that potential customers realize how wonderful you are?
When marketing expert Michael J. Katz first hung out his shingle, he was immediately confronted with the reality that being good wasn't good enough to succeed. "Being smart, attentive and experienced were important. But if only a few people have ever heard of you--and even fewer know, like and trust you--you're going to have a hard time generating the business you want."
During his two decades in business, Katz, founder of Blue Penguin Development, Inc., has learned that to be successful, your prospective customers need to:
- Believe you are capable.
- Like you (which means trusting you and feeling comfortable with you).
- Remember you. You need to be top of mind so that they think of you first when a problem arises.
In short, says Katz, you need to be known as a "likeable expert." To help professionals achieve this goal, Katz has written a helpful new book, The Likeable Expert: 121 Insights to Start Your Day and Grow Your Business.
Here are 11 tips from Katz to help you grow your business:
- Simplify the way you describe your work. If you're someone who's fond of precision and detail, you might think that a one-sentence description of anything meaningful will be an oversimplification. But it's necessary in the word-of-mouth world we live in.
- Create content--newsletter, video, blog, free download, etc.--that others can use to share your expertise. The more content you generate, the more opportunities you nurture.
- Develop a list--and keep adding to it. For example, Katz writes that he recently "spoke at a business event and handed out a sheet of paper inviting people to sign up to my newsletter list. The exposure you get from speaking is nice, but it's a one-time event. The real opportunity is getting permission to stay in touch."
- Answer the questions people ask. Common questions--the ones you hear all the time from your target clients--are the things you should be writing and talking about. People crave this advice.
- Don't worry about being famous (or at the top of search)--focus on the customers that matter most to your company. "I don't need to be at the top of Google," writes Katz. "I just need to be visible, valued and liked by the very small group of people on earth who already know me."
- Repeat yourself. When it comes to describing what you do, keep fine-tuning your pitch until it's the best possible presentation you can provide.
- Be consistent. "I recently updated my email signature to reflect a change in my business focus," writes Katz. And after he did so, he updated his LinkedIn profile, website header, "services" page, bio and everything else he could think of. "Consistency is at the heart of word of mouth."
- Develop two or three free things you can give away when the moment is right. It doesn't have to be a book. Writes Katz: "A free report, an audio CD, an oversized postcard, a tablet you've carved, whatever. Free, useful, hardcopy content is a great tool to have at the ready as a giveaway, either in person or through the mail."
- Spend 10 minutes connecting with people on LinkedIn. Not necessarily promoting your own work--just scrolling down your home page, seeing who got promoted or had a new photo or posted an interesting article. You can congratulate someone, make a comment about a post or say, "Hey, nice to see you."
- Offer insights, not just information. Thanks to Google, there's no shortage of information. The hard part is making sense of it. So offer both perspectives and advice.
- Be remarkable. Find the thing that's so interesting, or unusual, or creative about what you're doing that prospective clients are not only going to remember you--they'll tell your story.