“Marketing is hard.” That’s what we independent professionals tell each other, anyway. At meetings, workshops, and online, wherever entrepreneurs gather, the difficulty of getting clients is a frequent topic.
There’s certainly some truth to this statement. Marketing your services can be one of the most challenging elements of being in business for yourself. But does marketing have to be as hard as we seem to think it is? Maybe not.
In fact, I’ve noticed that professionals often make marketing much harder than it needs to be. Here are six ways that entrepreneurs frequently turn marketing into much more of a struggle than necessary.
1. Refuse to choose a target market.
If you don’t limit your marketing to a specific category of likely clients, the alternative is marketing to anyone and everyone. That makes everything about marketing harder. You have to network more often, in more places, with more people, to run across enough prospects who might hire you. Building referral relationships is rarely possible, as you can neither identify who might be most likely to refer you a client, nor describe to them who they should refer.
Without a defined target market, you can’t even talk about your business effectively, because there’s no way to get specific about the benefits and results you produce. Whether you market yourself online, in person, by mail, or on the phone, trying to reach an undefined audience with a generic marketing message will wear you out before it produces results.
2. Spend time on your approach without tailoring your message.
I’m often asked to supply a universally effective cold calling script or sales letter, as if it were possible to craft such an item without explicit details about what is being sold, to whom, and for what purpose. No matter what marketing approach you choose, it’s not going to work without a message that’s tailored to your business and your audience.
But I see countless professionals fall into the trap of thinking marketing success is all about the technique — social media, let’s say, or public speaking, or pay-per-click ads, or a leads group — while giving little thought to what they wish to communicate with these approaches.
3. Do what’s easiest instead of what works best.
Most professionals already know what works best to market their services. When I ask them, they answer with “networking,” “word of mouth,” “referrals,” and other strategies involving direct contact or personal connections. But when I ask those same professionals where they are spending the majority of their networking time, many of them sheepishly admit they are avoiding these strategies and instead sending out email, running ads, or trying to attract web traffic.
It may seem easier and less confronting to sit at the keyboard, buy an ad, or hire website help than to spend time connecting with people personally. But is it really “easy” to put money and effort into the least effective ways to market yourself, instead of doing what you already know works better?
4. Change marketing approaches every week.
Successful marketing is an ongoing process, not a collection of unrelated events. Whether you are blogging, networking in your community, writing a newsletter, or building referral relationships, persistence and consistency pay off while one-time or occasional attempts fall flat. Letting go of a marketing tactic after a handful of tries, only to pursue a different approach, is a guaranteed recipe for struggle and failure.
5. Avoid follow-up.
Similarly, any marketing strategy requires follow-up to produce results. Exhibiting at a trade show will do nothing for you unless you follow up with the people who stopped by. Public speaking won’t produce results until you follow up with those who attended. Attending networking events won’t bring you clients unless you follow up with the people you meet.
Yes, follow-up can seem difficult or confronting, but consider the alternative. Expending all that effort on exhibiting or speaking or networking without landing any business because you neglected to follow up — now that’s hard.
6. Continue to search for hidden marketing secrets instead of doing what’s in front of you.
One of the hardest ways to go about marketing is spinning your wheels in analysis paralysis, second-guessing, or perfectionism. “Should I do this? Maybe I should do that. Perhaps something else might work better. I wonder what else I could do? Maybe I need more information. I’m not sure I’m ready.” You can wear yourself out this way just thinking about marketing, without taking a single step.
Make it easy on yourself instead. Choose a few simple, effective things to do about marketing, using the suggestions above as a guide. Then get going. And keep going. You’ll find that marketing won’t seem so hard once it really starts to work.