"What's wrong with my marketing?" That's a question I often hear from clients, students, and readers. It's a useful query, as there frequently are areas where you could do better at marketing and sales. But while the question "what's wrong" can uncover your marketing problems, it doesn't always suggest answers. You may need to ask what you're doing right.
Examining what's already working about your marketing and sales activities can give you valuable clues to how you can improve. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself, and what they might tell you about where your marketing efforts will produce the best results.
1. Where did your last few clients come from? Consider the new clients you've landed over the past year. Were they referred to you? Did they contact you through your website? Had they heard you speak? Did you cold call them? Examine the source of all your recent sales and determine exactly how you first came in contact, and what sequence of events led to closing those sales. If you notice a pattern, see how you might repeat your success.
One of my coaching clients, a graphic designer, was spending a considerable amount of her marketing time on approaching ad agencies and corporate marketing departments, with lukewarm results. She told me these had always been her best source of clients in the past, but I asked her to look at where her clients had been coming from lately.
She was surprised to discover that all her recent clients had been referrals from colleagues, such as a copywriter, a photographer, and an art director. When she switched the emphasis of her marketing away from knocking on the doors of large firms, and instead began networking with professionals in related fields, she began seeing better results almost immediately.
2. How have you gotten your best clients? Some clients give us repeat business, pay our fees without quibbling, and are easy to work with, while others want us to work at discount prices and jump through hoops to get and keep their business. Consider who your best clients have been over time, and what you did to find them. Are these approaches you can use again?
A marketing communications consultant in one of my classes was struggling with a demanding large client who paid below market rates. She had other, smaller clients who paid better and were much easier to work with. She realized that these small, well-paying clients were all people she had met through a trade association, while the demanding client was someone she had cold-called. Clearly she needed to stop cold calling and step up participation in the trade group.
3. Where do you get the strongest response from your marketing messages? In what environments do you find that people really connect with what you have to say? Where does it seem like "your people" are, or under what circumstances do you seem to attract potential clients without even trying? This can be a useful query to guide your marketing even if you're new and haven't made many sales yet.
One of my colleagues, a new business coach, was unsure whether to focus on small business owners or corporate executives as his target market, so he was approaching both. But he noticed that entrepreneurs seemed much more interested in talking to him than executives did, and quickly acquired several likely prospects who were all small business owners. He concluded that he could stop searching for his target market, because it seemed to have found him on its own.
4. What marketing activities feel most comfortable and natural to you? Let's face it; when you're self-employed, nobody is going to make you market yourself. Your marketing plan needs to consist of activities you are willing to do. Instead of beating yourself up for what you're not doing, notice what marketing tactics you find to be easier and more attractive.
A change management consultant I was advising felt like a failure at marketing because he avoided attending networking events or calling strangers on the phone. But he realized he was quite comfortable with two types of marketing: writing articles, and having conversations with people he already knew. When he created a marketing plan centered around article writing and building one-to-one relationships, he was at last able to sell himself with ease.
No matter what is wrong with your marketing, there's always a better way to go about it. Looking at what's not working can only take you so far. Then it's time to ask yourself what you're already doing right.
Copyright © 2009, C.J. Hayden
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