We’re an impatient society these days. The blazing speed of transmission we experience daily for news and communications has raised our expectations for how fast everything should happen. So when someone tells us our marketing will take time to pay off, we don’t have a lot of patience for it.
In an ideal world, you as an independent professional would have a marketing plan that kept working for you month after month, regardless of what else was happening in your business or life. Whether you are new in business or have been around for a while, you would see consistent results from your marketing efforts because you would be marketing consistently.
But the world we live in is far from ideal. If you’re new, you may have leapt into business with much eagerness, but not a lot of planning for where the clients would come from. If you’ve got some experience, you may have let your marketing lag while you were busy with client work or distracted by other events in your life. Either way, if you’re anxious to see some rapid results, here are three ways to jump start your marketing.
1. Launch a word of mouth campaign.
One of the fastest ways to get clients can be to tell people you already know what you are doing now and ask for their help. When you’re new in business, you can announce your new enterprise. With an established business, you can update your contacts on recent projects, new skills you’ve acquired, or achievements like a published article or speaking at a conference.
Begin by making a list of everyone you know. Don’t limit yourself to just professional connections. People in your personal life can often turn out to be some of the best sources of leads, referrals, and information.
Include on your list everyone whose contact info is in your email address book or cell phone, the people on your holiday card list, everyone whose name appears in your checkbook, all your former co-workers, your neighbors, members of any organizations you belong to, alumni from your school who would remember you, and of course, any former clients.
Send all of these folks an announcement card, letter, or email telling them what’s new with you and share this important piece of information: “A good client for me would be…” Follow up with a phone call to ask what’s new with them and offer your assistance in anything they might need. Then remind them what type of clients you’re looking for and ask if they have any suggestions for how you might connect with people that fit that description.
Making these calls friendly, collegial, and with an attitude of reciprocity will make them comfortable for you and a pleasure for your contacts to receive.
2. Revitalize old leads.
Just because a lead is old doesn’t mean it’s no longer any good. Prospects you were in touch with before may still have a need for your services, so matter how much time has passed. There’s no need for an excuse or apology when you follow up on a lead you have let drop. You can simply say, “We haven’t been in touch for a while.”
You might choose to pursue old leads with the “what’s new” approach described above. Another strategy can be to warm up your stale contacts a bit first by sending a helpful article or report relevant to their problems or goals. This can be a piece you have written yourself, or authored by another expert in your field.
Send a copy of the article by mail or link to it in an email, along with a personal note letting your contacts know you were thinking about them and thought this might be of interest. Then follow up with a phone call to ask about their current needs and see if you could be of service.
3. Network, network, network.
When using networking as part of your regular marketing plan, you’ll want to be judicious about which networking activities you engage in. But when you need a jump start, one way to build a new roster of leads and contacts quickly is to network anywhere and everywhere, just for a limited period of time.
In your local area, look for events that people in your target market might attend. You’ll find them in the community calendar or business section of your local paper, the Business Times for your city, online in directories like Craigslist.org or a Google search for your city’s name plus “events,” and from websites and newsletters of clubs, associations, and online communities that serve your market niche. Be sure to ask people you already know where they go to meet new contacts.
Make it your goal to attend three different events per week for thirty days and meet five new people at each event. Ask people you know or meet there to introduce you to their contacts. At the end of the month, you’ll have at least 60 new people in your personal network.
You can use this same approach to networking online. Seek out special interest groups and online discussions for your market niche or area of expertise on social networking platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, community portals like Yahoo! Groups or Google Groups, and websites of relevant clubs and associations, especially those where you already know people.
Take maximum advantage of each community’s features by posting questions and answers, inviting people you already know there to serve as your connections, and recommending others. If you commit to spend an hour per day for one month becoming active in several communities, you’ll make the acquaintance of dozens of new people, build many new links to your website from your profiles and posts, and dramatically increase your visibility as an expert in your field.
You may have noticed that cold calling doesn’t appear on the list of suggestions above. Although it may seem that the fastest way to get new business could be to pick up the phone and call a bunch of strangers, it’s rarely true. People you already have a connection with — whether you know them personally, spoke to them in the past, or met them while networking — are much more likely to respond to your overtures than those who never heard of you before.
The best way to jump start your marketing is never to start over from scratch. Instead, use your existing resources and connections to hit the ground running.