American companies spend billions of dollars each year on marketing. As a matter of fact, in 2001, U.S. advertising expenditures alone topped $230 billion, more than doubling the $105.97 billion spent in 1980. (Source: "Advertising: Exposure and Statistics" November 2003 newsletter of the Media Education Foundation)
Now, these figures may seem staggering to the independent professional on a budget, but don’t panic; there are lots of effective strategies you can utilize that will help you grow your business fast. Here are some of my favorites:
Identify your niche. One of the easiest ways to attract customers is to figure out which group of prospective customers you get your very best results for and go after them exclusively. Many professionals are afraid to do this claiming that they’ll be leaving someone out, but many marketing experts agree that niche marketing as the easiest and fastest way to get business.
Position yourself as an expert. Why? Experts make more money and get more media attention and that’s free advertising! Let’s face it; it’s easier to trust a specialist than a generalist who’s trying to be everything to everyone. Once you’ve identified your niche, let the world know about how you can help.
Provide free information products, write articles and white papers about the problems your clients face and how they can solve them. Conduct workshops, seminars and tele-classes specifically geared towards helping your prospective customers and before long you’ll be regarded as an expert in your field. And, while you’re at it don’t forget to, collect names, emails and addresses of prospects to keep filling your pipeline.
Develop ongoing relationships with complementary professionals and build your referral team. These are other professionals who sell non-competing services or products to the same niche customers you are targeting. For instance, my clients often need the services of bookkeepers, accountants and business attorneys. Likewise, they refer business to me. Here’s a couple of other examples:
- Residential realtor, mortgage broker, real estate attorney, home improvement contractor, architect and interior designer.
- Commercial printer, copywriter, graphic designer
Institute a system to keep track of all of the people who are interested in your product or services, and find creative ways of keeping in touch with them on a regular basis. To start, go through your notes. Put together a list of all of the people you’ve spoken to in the last 6-9 months who’ve showed interest in you but haven’t become paying customers.
Follow up with them in a variety of ways: call them to touch base, use email, ask them to subscribe to a newsletter, send them interesting articles, or invite them to join you at events. It takes numerous impressions to make the sale; that’s why you see commercials on TV over and over again for the same products. By keeping track of all of the people who’ve showed interest and keeping your business on their radar screen you’ll turn more of them into paying customers.
Let your satisfied customers help you sell your products or services. Here are a couple of ways to do this:
- Ask them for referrals - right away (if you were a car salesman you wouldn’t wait for the new car to get dirty and dented!)
- Ask them to write testimonials for you, (also right away) and compile a list of testimonials to use in your all of your marketing collateral.
Create a marketing calendar and keep to it consistently. Scheduling marketing activities that take place weekly, bi monthly, monthly and quarterly will help you to avoid the feast or famine syndrome that most independent professionals fall prey to. And, by doing so, marketing will become easier since it becomes a regular part of your business life.
Identify innovative ways to get more business from existing customers. It’s much easier to get business from customers who are already happy with your services or products. So develop additional services or products to keep customers coming back for more.
© 2004, Susan Martin, Business Sanity. All rights reserved. No duplication without written authorization.