One of the biggest obstacles faced by beginning – and experienced – entrepreneurs is how to effectively increase their client base when they aren’t comfortable with their perceived marketing role and they don’t feel they have the cash flow to mount an effective advertising campaign. Today, I’d like to focus on the marketing approach portion of this dilemma and address targeted campaigns later.
First off, I stressed perceived in the opening paragraph because many owners, whether they’ve read numerous ‘marketing’ texts or have just accepted the common beliefs, feel that, to acquire new clients, someone needs to be ‘knocking on doors’ or ‘dialing for dollars’. However, particularly for professional service providers, their negative image of being seen as a solicitor or salesperson is a major obstacle to initiating any of these efforts. Instead, they fall back on the ‘tried and true’ methods: direct mail; email blasts; repetitive networking events; yellow page (or other media) advertising; and, today, social media postings. Unfortunately, the conversion rate for mass approaches has, historically, been extremely low (less than 2%) and few owners are willing to make the investment of time and/or money to reach the volume of prospects needed to create significant results. As ultimate desperation rises (one of the few things that will get us to do the things we’re uncomfortable doing), the owner goes out – or picks up the phone – with the intention of presenting herself and her products / services to the unaware masses; only to experience the inevitable push back, which reinforces the original fear. STOP IT!
Instead of stressing over your ‘elevator speech’ or the potential rejection of your product / service offer, get out there and meet successful people. Everyone has accomplished something in their life of which they are most proud. Whether by phone or face-to-face, set aside some time each day to meet someone you don’t know and find out what they are most proud of. If your primary or ideal customer is a business (or its owner), focus on meeting business owners. If your ideal client is a professional individual, look for and approach (apparently) successful professionals. Make the initial contact about them, not you (or your business). By asking sincere questions, you’ll not only learn a lot about their needs, but you’ll also discover, over time, the talented people you need within your advisor ‘circle’ to achieve the milestones you’ve set for your business. People far more enjoy talking about themselves to responding to proposals or sales inquiries. Taking the time to learn about someone else also provides the means to build the level of trust necessary to create an actual business opportunity. Gee…so you might even make some professional friends, in addition to gaining prospective customers and referral sources!
Look across the street, or at your building’s directory, or at the multitude of faces within the event crowd, and decide to meet someone who could hold the answer to one of your challenges. Introduce yourself – as a fellow business owner or professional, not as a representative of your business – and ask them something pertinent about their business or experience. From their initial response, create a conversation – versus an investigation – and find some common ground. Eventually, most people will get around to asking what you do; don’t take that as a cue to unload your stored-up sales spiel. Answer briefly (but effectively) and get the topic back to them (or their business). The more interested you are in them, the more interested they will be in you. The more discrete you are with your offer / expertise, the more valuable it will seem (and the more most people will desire it!). At the very least, you will have made a lasting – and mostly positive – impression; at most, the potential of both short-term results and a long-term relationship.