I've been hearing from a lot of tired entrepreneurs lately. "I'm tired of going to networking events," they say, or, "I'm tired of always having to think up new stuff to post online." They're working pretty hard at marketing, it seems — networking, blogging, posting to social media, speaking, making calls, sending out e-mail blasts, and more.
When they don't get the results they want from marketing, entrepreneurs usually try to take on more. If their focus has been on in-person marketing, they begin marketing online. Or if they have been writing articles and blogging and being active on social media, they decide to start speaking and giving workshops. Or if they've been going to lots of events and lunches and coffee dates, they add in a call-mail-call campaign.
Huff, puff... It makes me tired just to write about all that activity.
What if the answer was actually to be found in the opposite direction? What if instead of doing more to get clients, you should really be doing less?
Here's an example of what I mean. A client I'll call Rhoda was trying to build her psychotherapy practice with a dozen different marketing approaches. She was going to professional meetings, posting flyers around her neighborhood, advertising in several directories, maintaining a Facebook page, trying to optimize her website, and more. She was tired, overwhelmed, and still didn't have enough clients.
I asked Rhoda where her best clients had come from so far — those who paid her full fee and continued to work with her over time. It turns out they had all been referrals from other professionals. I suggested that Rhoda stop everything she was currently doing about marketing, and concentrate on referral building. She was to identify a few categories of professionals who were likely to refer clients in her market niche, and get to know some people in those professions better.
When I checked in with Rhoda a few weeks later, she had already gotten some referrals from new people she had gotten to know. It was clear that if she kept working on building referral relationships with appropriate professionals, more clients would result. "Why didn't I ever do this before?" Rhoda said. "This is so much easier than all that other stuff I was doing, and it obviously works better."
Another client — I'll call him Doug — was seeking more small business clients for his IT consulting business. He was writing a blog and spending a lot of time on several social media platforms. When we first spoke, he was trying to decide whether he should launch a podcast, offer a webinar series, or both.
"What's your follow-up strategy?" I asked Doug. He wasn't sure. I tried again: "Okay, how many prospects do you have in your pipeline?" He didn't know that either. In fact, a bit more probing determined that Doug didn't have a pipeline, or a follow-up strategy. He was simply trying to be more visible online, and hoping that as a result, clients who needed him would contact him.
My suggestion to Doug was that before he spent any more effort on becoming visible, he should put in place a strategy for identifying, capturing, and following up with likely prospects.
Doug decided to offer a free phone consultation to business owners who met a few qualifying criteria. He posted about his offer in his blog and on social media. One of his first free consultations turned into a new client, and two other consultations generated clients later on when Doug followed up with them. Doug never did launch a podcast or webinar series; he didn't need them.
A woman I'll call Mara was a student in one of my classes. She had diligently been attending several new networking events per week, and was regularly meeting many people. She asked me how she could find new places to network, because only a handful of the people she met had become clients so far. And maybe they could be breakfast meetings, because her calendar was already so full at lunch and in the evenings.
Mara was surprised — and relieved — when I suggested that finding even more places to network might not be the best approach. "What if you were to choose just a handful of those networking groups," I proposed, "go back to the same ones on a regular basis, and become better acquainted with the other members?" Mara agreed to try this out, focusing on those groups where she had found the highest concentration of people in her market niche.
I ran into Mara again at a speaking engagement some months later. "You were so right about networking," she told me. "When I stopped running around to all those different places, and became a regular, people started to recognize me, and then they started to do business with me."
Are you tired of doing so much marketing? Maybe it's time to discover how you could do less. Ask yourself, like Rhoda, what is the one thing you've done to market yourself so far that had the biggest impact. Could you do more of that? Or, like Doug, determine how you can take better advantage of the visibility you already have. Or, like Mara, stop for a moment and wonder if there is a more effective way to employ the tactics you're already using.
Entrepreneurs do tend to work hard. But I'll bet you'd much rather work hard at your profession, and get paid for it, than to spend all your entrepreneurial energy getting clients in the first place.
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