My husband and I were talking about business today and I mentioned that I needed to start planning my marketing strategy for 2013. What's curious about this, is that I don't really have a strategy per se. [Blasphemy!] I was lamenting because I thought that 2013 was going to be the year that I would have to do traditional marketing. Until now, I have been lucky enought to have over 90% referral and repeat business. So, I haven't really marketed, instead, I have done what I advise job candidates to do, I've connected in a way that has often resulted in business. Thing is, when you are self-employed, you never know when the business is going to run out so it is always important to think ahead. And, that is just what I am doing as I look back at 2012 and plan for 2013.
He said to me that he has noticed over the past 10 years, that I don't market as much as I continue to work on being better at what I do and that "focusing on talent instead of on marketing always results in success." After I recovered from the shock of that unexpected compliment, I started to think about what he said. And, I kind of get it.
So, what does he really mean? Well, think about times you have encountered someone who is wholly focused on marketing. I often feel a bit of a knot in my stomach or an uneasy feeling when I am being "marketed" to. Don't get me wrong, I like to buy, I just don't like to be "sold." Lately, I am running into a lot of people who are busily creating their marketing materials, their business card, their sales strategy and their call list; what I don't always see is what they are doing to improve their skill base. (I also meet people who are so busy improving their skill base that they don't market at all, but that's a blog for another day). I meet a lot of people who are busy giving advice to others about what they can do, but that they don't take or live their own advice. What about that is authentic?
I want to hire someone or buy from them because I can tell how great they are by seeing how they operate not by hearing them tell me how great they are. I want to hear about them from other customers, keep them in my frame of reference by reading things they write or seeing their product in a store or even seeing a commercial. But, I don't want them emailing me every day or getting me to call them through a deceptive add or selling me a product that is marketed well but not that great. I want to learn about them in an authentic way.
It is a bit like what I recommend people do when they are looking for a job. I encourage my clients to reach out to people and show these people how talented they are, but not to boast. Would you rather have someone tell you they are a great manager or hear others describe them that way? I also recommend they not hand out their business card to everyone they meet, but to be more thoughtful about their approach. I encourage them to take someone else's business card and take responsibility for the follow-up. I also encourage them to be pragmatic about the cards they take, no need to have 50 cards and not know why. Finally, I encourage them to do an active search - decide where they want to work and whom they want to meet and try and make connections at those places with those people. This way their passion will shine through. I can't tell you how many times someone will tell me about a job they are applying for and know nothing about the job or the company.
I think we all, in these difficult times, need to find a way to market effectively and keep our brand in people's minds. I think even more, that we have to always keep our skills fresh and our knowledge current, so that the work we end up doing, is far more valuable than the dollars being paid for the work. So, to paraphrase my husband, "focus on your talent and the business will come."
Some ways to keep skills fresh - work, work, work - if you don't have paying work, volunteer, offer a free preview, set up a meeting where people can learn from your expertise. Read - journals, books, articles, web site. Contact - people in your field for informational interviews and people in your customer base, also for informational interviews. Brain storm. Try new things. Go to youtube.com and do a search for a tutorial on a topic you want to learn more about. Don't be swayed by what flies in the face of what is typically done.
Some ways to market - think about whom your client base is. What would make them want your product or service? How will your product or service help them or make them better (value to them). Blog. Write. Create an email list and contact people in a way that feels authentic and makes them feel special. Make dedicated cold calls, as in, know WHY you are calling someone or some company and HOW they will benefit. Take advice that people offer. Let them know how you use their advice. Write recommendations on LinkedIn. Look for connections on LinkedIn. Blog on your website or in a local neighborhood paper - ;) - I'm hoping that some of your read what I have to say, feel good about it and think I might have some helpful tips for you.
Mostly, be real! So many people have a way of "selling" that feels fake - don't be that person - don't let someone get a knot in their stomach as a result of a meeting or conversation with you.
For more on this, please contact me. Liz@thebiggerhalf.com/(404) 451-3675. Because I receive a lot of spam you will be asked to send a confirmation email - my apologies for that.