If you google 'marketing tactics', you'll find millions of ideas. There are lists specialized to any industry you can think of, and there are always more and more things that brands are "supposed" to do to get in front of more audiences. You could drive yourself crazy trying to do all of them!
So what do you have to have and why?
If you don't have a website, people will doubt that you're a real business. Websites can provide information to your audience (so you spend less time talking to tirekickers) and help you generate leads. Not to mention all the places you can put more content!
2. Business Card
As much as we want to live in a paperless world, it's still easiest to stay in touch with someone you've just met if you can exchange written contact information. No one likes to stand over their phone, spelling and re-spelling their email address to you. Take this opportunity to use your card for lead generation and put a compelling call to action on your card.
You need quality testimonials as soon as possible. If you're already in business, ask your client or recent customers to help you out. If you're just getting started, put a large priority on cultivating these testimonials.
Once you have great testimonials, take it a step further and develop case studies of your clients' successes with you.
4. Elevator Pitch
So many entrepreneurs freeze up when someone asks them what they do! Prepare a clear answer for this.
Say the challenge that your clients face, and how you help.
"You know how entrepreneurs struggle with marketing? I help them find their voice so they can grow."
5. Lead Magnet
Are you getting new leads through your marketing efforts? If not, you need a new lead magnet -- something compelling to your target audience so they will get in touch with you. This can be a piece of content (such as an ebook or webinar), an event, or a free consultation offer. Without it, your target audience will have less motivation to actually buy.
After I published 3 Clues You're Picking a Fantasy (Instead of a Real Target Market), I got some reader questions.
One reader was particularly interested in this idea:
She asked: Can repackaging the same services, just to a different market, really be the same as starting a whole new business?
The short answer? Yes.
Every time you change target markets, you have to start over.
Sometimes you have to change target markets. This is really rare. Sometimes it makes sense to adjust your vision, but not change it entirely - this is usually narrowing in on a smaller slice of your niche.
Many people fall into the trap of changing their entire purpose for the excitement of it.
Some people find themselves changing their target market multiple times per year.
If you're one of those people, you're truly robbing yourself of the best aspects of business ownership. Instead of feeling the benefits of being your own boss, doing work you love for clients who appreciate you, and building your personal empire -- you're just getting the infatuation (and hair-on-fire stress) of change.
Changing target markets frequently is like signing up for a marathon, but jogging over to every interesting 5K race you see... and then feeling discouraged because you ran 3.6 miles and you're no closer to the marathon finish line. You might run a lot of interesting 5Ks that way, but you're never going to cross the marathon finish line unless you stay the course.
So WHY do people change their target markets all the time?
I told a story last time about the guy who changes target markets radically, from fitness to real estate to agriculture to who knows what's next.
Today, I'll tell you a story of a more subtle (but still detrimental) series of shifts.
A gal came to me to find out why she couldn't get her business off the ground. She wanted to be in the personal development field, helping people heal emotionally and find their purpose. She was caring and interesting, but couldn't seem to attract the right clients - clients who appreciated her, were willing to pay her price (and on time), and who were fulfilling to work with. So she switched target markets every 3-6 months.
She knew she connected best with middle-aged women, but was always tweaking the rest of the profile (and re-doing all of her marketing materials every time). First, single women. Then, white collar professional women. Next, women who love yoga. Then, childless and empty-nester women. Every time, she struggled to attract any volume of clients and definitely didn't feel fulfilled by working with them.
You know who she really connected with, though? Women recovering from abuse.
But she didn't want to target that audience! She felt it was "too easy" because it was what she knew best. She was concerned that it was unethical to have an emotionally vulnerable target market. She was afraid of being pigeon-holed as "The Abuse Woman." When she talked to her friends about her idea, they got uncomfortable and didn't give her the response she expected.
Here's what I told her:
Picking the right target market - and sticking to it - is the key to building and growing your strong business.
Thanks for reading! Do you have more questions about target markets? Send me a message on Facebook.
Some business owners know their current customers aren't quite the right market. They don't pay enough, they don't appreciate enough, they're just plain wrong for your business.
And then you might start to fantasize about who the right customer might be. More education, more wealth, a different profession, a different industry... Anything besides what you have right now.
The problem is when you've never actually served anyone like that - or worse, never even met people in your target market.
It's like someone in a fading romance. When they look their partner, they see just the flaws. They don't have the passion anymore. So they start to imagine someone new: someone who looks different, has different interests, makes more money, whatever. They build up this binary: THAT fantasy, not THIS reality.
But then, they break up with their current flame and try to find this mythical creature they've imagined. Most people are either unable to find that fantasy (if you don't know anybody wealthy/educated/interesting yet, then it's a lot harder to find someone like that to pursue) OR they realize their fantasy but find themselves back in the same bland place because the problem was the way they conduct relationships, not their former partner.
I know someone who is always changing up his target market. Sometimes it's fitness professionals, sometimes it's real estate agents, sometimes it's nonprofit executives. No matter what market he pursues, he ends up with the same problems: he struggles to find clients, and the ones he does find are low quality (won't pay on time, don't appreciate his work, etc.). And then the cycle starts again with fantasies of a new type of client who will make his business dreams come true. Recently, he decided to settle on agriculture-related industries. He knows other people have success in that market and he thinks he can, too.
If he asked me, these are the things I'd ask him to consider before pulling yet another sharp turn onto a new path:
If you don't know anyone in the industry you're considering targeting, that means you'll need to break in from scratch. It's tough to break into a new market - that's why college kids do internships. It'll mean a lot of legwork just to meet these people.
If you're not already reading about the industry, it's going to require a lot of research to get up to speed -- and possibly meaning you'll burn your first few interactions by not being knowledgable enough.
If you don't care about their events, you might not be interested in what they do.
And if you're not interested enough to know people in the industry, read about it, or go to their events, do you really want to be around them every day in your business?
In short, these are clues that you're chasing a fantasy instead of fixing what's in front of you.
What will happen when this guy lands his agriculture client? Will it be the client of his dreams? Probably not. It'll more than likely be someone who doesn't care if their service provider is knowledgable, someone who values the cheaper price of inexperience, or someone who is just overall a mediocre fit. It could just be that he doesn't really know how to run his business, so the problem is with him, not the clients.
If you radically change target markets, you're essentially starting a whole new business. And you've experienced the same problems with more than one industry, then the problem might not be with your target market at all - it could be something in your business holding you back.
Instead of fantasy choosing your ideal client, the best target audience profile comes from people you already know and like (and preferably, have worked with before). Here's a post about how to figure out who your target market should be.
Struggling to find the right clients? Considering another target market shift? Contact me and let's break down the barriers to your business growth.
Many entrepreneurs are making a huge money mistake and they don't even know it.
This mistake is the primary barrier against growing your business - even to the point of profitability, but certainly to the point where you could take a vacation day now and again.
I had a hunch about this problem, but just to make sure, I conducted a survey. It was small - 55 entrepreneurs responded - but the data supported what I have seen in dozens of consultations.
The #1 mistake is: Refusing to track their business finances.
A third of my survey respondents did not keep any financial records of their own, but relied on monthly bank statements in the mail to let them know how much money they have and how much they spent. Some of them didn't even know if they could pay their office or personal rent each month until they got the bank statement in the mail.
Even worse, nearly all of these respondents combined their personal and business bank accounts, or made personal purchases (from fast food to Christmas gifts) from their business account with the intention of "paying it back" later.
Because these entrepreneurs aren't keeping any records of their finances, they don't know if there's a discrepancy on the account. Banks do make mistakes, but if they made one on these accounts, no one would ever know.
If you aren't tracking your business finances, you are flying blind. Just tracking your finances - your revenue and spending - will give you a world of insight into your business.
One entrepreneur contacted me and reported that when he looked through six months of his business bank account records, he was shocked to realize that a full 20% of income was spent across many small purchases of personal items, such as coffee shop lattes, flowers for his girlfriend, and convenience store trips. Imagine the difference you could make in your business if you suddenly had 20% more income available to you!
Even if you are a solo entrepreneur, it's essential that you keep your business finances separate from personal spending. You are not your business. If you blur these lines and your business is unable to pay its debts, the courts could find you personally liable because you "pierced the veil," as accountants say, even if you have an LLC or corporation. You'll also end up spending more on accounting costs because your CPA or bookkeeper will have to sort through all your spending before they can balance your books or complete your taxes.
Instead of depositing all income into your personal account or spending personally from your business account, write yourself checks from business to personal. It's best if you can make a salary for yourself with a set amount each month, to help make a budget within your business. However, even if a set amount isn't an option yet, you should still keep the money separate to help lessen the risks.
Once your accounts are distinct, you will be able to better judge what your business can afford so you can take steps towards sustainable growth.
In Roald Dahl's Matilda, Mr. Wormwood is a greasy car salesman who will do anything to make a buck. And that means anything - he super-glues bumpers back onto cars, runs sawdust through the engine, and rolls back odometers. He doesn't care what's legal or ethical, he only cares about the cash.
And for some reason, people think Mr. Wormwood is the model for effective sales.
"I can't do sales or marketing for my business. I'm not pushy enough. I like people and I don't want to hard-sell them into buying my service. I hate when people pressure me so I refuse to bring that into my business."
If you think your options are either no-marketing-sainthood or Mr. Wormwood, of course it's going to feel icky if you choose marketing.
The good news is, Mr. Wormwood is not the model of ideal sales and marketing. You don't need to be greasy to be effective. In fact, if you act like he does, you will eventually run out of suckers - just like he did.
Effective sales and marketing are built on a platform of trust and authenticity.
You don't need to be greasy to be effective.
I challenge you to look at sales and marketing this way:
If you provide a product or service you truly believe in - if it genuinely helps people - it's your duty to let those people know it exists.
How upset would you be if you found out there was a product that could really help you, but the company never told anyone it existed? It would feel pretty lame, right?
If you hold the key to solving issues people struggle with, give yourself permission to spend time actively marketing it. It's not pushy - it's helpful. Simply let them know it exists, how it can help, and leave them to make the decision. Not only will your soul be saved from a Mr. Wormwood doom, but your customers will appreciate you more.
The Only Caveat
There's only one caveat to this type of genuine, ethical selling: You have to have a great product or service that actually helps people. You can't be shilling snake oil or putting sawdust in engines if you want this to work. (You don't have to be curing cancer to qualify as "helping people" - if your mission is to make people forget their troubles via stand up comedy, that counts. Your products or services need to do what they promise to do.)
Pitching A New Client: What Not To Do
An app developer contacted me to pitch their app for my clients. I decided to go ahead and block out 20 minutes for their pitch.
Here is the conversation we had:
Them: This app was developed by [top ad agency].
Me: Wow, really?
Them: Well, no. It was developed by someone who works there, though!
Me: Hmm, ok. Who was it?
Them: You don't know them. They worked there a couple years ago, before they quit to work on the app.
Me: You might be surprised, our industry is small - I know a lot of people there.
Them: Well, they weren't on a team. It was an executive.
Me: Interesting, an [agency] executive developed it? And then quit their job?
Them: Ummm, no. It was was actually someone who can see the executive's office window.
Them: Actually, it's the nephew of the guy who can see the agency's windows from his office.
Me: So... it was developed by someone who just knows the agency exists?
Them: Well, when you say it that way, it doesn't sound nearly as cool.
They lost the sale, clearly.
But how many times have you agreed to hear a pitch (or click an ad, or read a pamphlet) only to find out they were severely misrepresenting the truth? That "results aren't typical" or that the FREE offer is just a 10 day trial?
If you have to hedge around the truth or put it in fine print, then you're lying. Say something else.
The sad part is, the app they were pitching was a decent idea. If they had told the truth, I might have bought in. Instead, I'm telling you about how bad their pitch was.
After You Get The Sale: A Case Study
I was once called by a consumer electronics company who was struggling to break even, let alone make a profit. They were in crisis mode all the time. They asked me what they could do. "We're authentic in all of our marketing, and people still don't buy," they said. "People buy from us once and then never again, so we're always paying to find new customers."
After the meeting, I did what any consumer would do: I went to Amazon and read some reviews. The reviews were terrible! The customers claimed that the products didn't do almost any of the advertised features, and the company refused to help anyone on the customer service hotline.
When I went back to my contact, I presented my findings. I asked if it was true. They said, "Well, yeah. No one would buy it if we told the truth! So how can we appear more authentic and get more money?"
The answer I told them - and the answer I'll tell you - is that you can't just seem authentic, because customers will find you out. They will discover if your product is shoddy and they will tell the world. Your product (or service) speaks louder than any ad in the world.
You can't delete conversations on social media. You can't remove reviews from Amazon or Yelp. You can't force customers not to tell their friends about their experience. The only thing you can do is sell quality products/services in a way that attracts your tribe of loyal customers.
When Everyone Else in Your Industry is a Terrible Person
If you find yourself becoming disheartened by the big names in your industry - people who use scummy tactics to run over the little guys - don't let that force you to close up shop.
If you notice it, I guarantee your prospective customers notice it. They don't like it any more than you do.
It's your chance to be different. To offer the truth, educate your clients, and discredit the claims of unscrupulous competitors. (Maybe not by name, but in general.)
You don't need to be scumbag to sell your stuff. I promise.
My tip was featuring in Business News Daily's new article about business presentations.
No. 30: The biggest mistake presenters make is lack of preparation. They believe they can wing it — they know enough about the topic to just stand up in front of their audience and go. This idea is a total myth! Your audience can tell if you didn't prepare, and they will respect you less for it.
Publicity Hound posted an article outlining a segment of people who hate when their consultants are active in publicity-seeking efforts.
The study showed 11 percent of introverted entrepreneurs actively choose not to pursue business with someone who has social proof of expertise, and another 48 percent holds no value in your publicity.
Since introverts make up somewhere around half of the population (and are more often found in creative fields, as many entrepreneurs are), it's daunting to think that your efforts to land social proof is useless or even detrimental to a third of your audience (59 percent total, divided by half for introverts only).
Before you decide to never answer a HARO query or send out a press release again, consider this.
This study asked respondents to answer based on the idea that they already know the consultant. But how many more heard about the consultant from the magazine cover or speech?
The respondents had three main concerns:
I counter these concerns with the consultant's view:
If you're in the service industry, don't get suckered in the idea that positive publicity will turn clients away from you. If your positive publicity weeds out some clients, consider it a blessing.