Gentle Reader, prepare yourself. I think this might be the one you most need to read but least want to. Nothing sells itself. Which means you do have to learn both marketing and sales, yes. And, in my considerable, experience almost no-one wants to do that. It brings out more bonkersness than almost any other type of question in my work.
Marketing accounts for about fifty percent of the work I do. If I didn’t market myself, no-one would ever find me or become a client. And they don’t just need to discover I exist to become a client. They need to hear about me. Keep an eye on me. Decide when the time is right for them to make an investment in themselves and their business, and be ready to get their credit card out. That process can be a long time; sometimes it takes many years. A client I took on in 2015 said she’d heard about me in 2010 and I remember thinking “What took you so long?” which is funny, but it is also very much the point. Every time I am on the receiving end of a comment like this I share it with my coaching groups, Club 100 and Small Business Big Magic, to prepare them for how long clients can be in your marketing pipeline before they spend money with you. Think back, what’s the longest it has ever taken you to buy something? That!
Marketing is time-consuming and sales are not. Once a client is ready to do business, that’s breathtakingly fast, as fast as it takes for someone to send you some digital cash. In a heartbeat or two hours, as fast as your own bank permits.
If, for instance, you had gone to market in 2010 and known you had to wait until 2015 for this client to get her purse out, would you have waited, would you have carried on marketing, or would you have given up and gone back to the day job?
Not everyone takes so long. Sometimes a potential new client will Google me, find my website, make up his mind he likes the cut of my jib, and send me (a complete stranger) some money today before we’ve even spoken. All sorts exist in the world, and everywhere in between those two extremes. But the point is that if you expect to be overwhelmed with business when you first take your thing to market, well stop it immediately. That’s not how it is, mostly. Although please also prepare for magic and miracles, my stock in trade.
When I was an accountant I didn’t have to do marketing so it all came as a bit of a shock to me too when I began life as a coach.
In the accounting years, I remember once in the Eighties paying for some adverts in a glossy local magazine which was delivered free door-to-door. I am sure you remember the sort of thing. That doesn’t really happen anymore, although a swift Google reveals that Southside Magazine, to which I refer, and which then went on to become S.W. Magazine, looks like it may have been replaced by something called The Resident. Anyway, you get the gist. You’ve probably got your own local equivalent?
After about six months, when I had spent about a thousand pounds in advertising, I remember calculating my ROI (return on investment). How much had a thousand pounds in advertising brought me in business? I can’t remember the precise figure but I do remember it was at least ten times that, maybe more. And so we kept on doing it. Forever. Not, I think, in the end, that the advert used to bring us lots of clients. Word of mouth did that, but when a referral was made the new client had always heard of us thanks to the magazine advertising.
So when I became a coach, advertising was all I knew. So I had a go at advertising my coaching business. I can tell you now, that doesn’t work. I took some of my own advice and stopped it immediately.
I notice how little attention I pay to adverts these days. I have an Ad Blocker on my computer so I don’t see them and I don’t have a TV so I don’t see them there either. You Gov occasionally ask me about how many adverts I have seen for this, that and the other and the answer is always none because, of course, I have taken deliberate steps to make sure I don’t see them. There are exceptions. I am an avid user of Amazon and they are pretty good at telling me that if I like this, then I’ll probably like that too and I am as susceptible to those promotions as anyone else.
However, back to my point. If people are choosing, like me, not to see ads anymore, then how are your potential buyers going to find out about you? There’s an exception to that rule, obviously, and I’ll come back to it.
When new clients come and tell me about their dreams for their business and/or income generation, I always have an eye out for the marketing thereof, because I know all too well that unless they relish that, there is very little point in their going to all the trouble to set themselves up if they don’t have a route to sales.
I have played in my various businesses with all sorts of marketing; adverts, as I’ve said, and direct mail where a pretty postcard comes through your real-world letterbox and either you need that service now or you pin the postcard up on your kitchen cork board until the day comes when you do.
If I am looking for something today, I ask Google or Facebook. Youngsters apparently use YouTube as their search engine. How do you find out about what you are looking for? What’s your route to buying a product or service? How could you turn that around and use it to bring clients and customers to you? That’s the game here.
And what if you are not prepared to do that?
Honestly? If you are not prepared to learn to love marketing and sales, don’t bother. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that I am 100% confident and humdingeringly certain that I can help you find a route to market that might initially terrify you but which, in due course, you will come to love. Because unless you come to love it, you won’t keep doing it and you will always need to keep doing it to protect your business from the syndrome known as feast and famine, which means you market your business, you get paying clients, so you stop marketing. Then when you’ve fulfilled those orders or contracts, you are back to zero again. Nope. Marketing has to happen forever. FOREVER. Just look around you. Every little product you buy is advertised by its producer forever, even a Kit Kat. Who thought we’d need reminding to buy one (or a few) of those? But we do.
And this is where we might (MIGHT, I say) have a look at your profile, specifically whether or not you are an introvert or an extrovert.
In short, an extrovert might leave the house to find business. So that’s networking, public speaking, and developing a profile where you are highly visible to all. Typically, these people in Wealth Dynamics* parlance would be Stars* and Supporters* and people who are “all down the right-hand side” as I call them. And, quirkily, Mechanics* who are technically more introvert than me (50/50) but seem to crave being with people too. Good. Go and find your people, hang out with them and let them know who you are and what you do that way. I’d rather die, frankly. And networking is very much a LONG game. In fact, I have clients who’ve done networking for years and never had a worthwhile client from it, but I tell you what they do get. They get their social needs met. They get out of the house and they meet people and that cheers them up a bit. There are exceptions, of course. But have a look at who you know who’s making gazillions from networking and ask yourself are you prepared to be like them, even a little bit? If so, good! You have your route to market. If no, then we are still on the lookout for yours. It’s there, trust me. It’s there.
Us introverts (or 50/50s) do it all online. All done from home. Alone. And if that doesn’t excite you, then ignore this next bit. Social media is whatever you believe it to be. Good. Bad. Meh. But it does enable me to reach potential clients the world over, using my favourite ways of communicating with them via the written and the spoken word. The written word stuff includes my website, blogging, enticing people to read my newsletter, sharing that online for those that won’t opt in, and creating wonderful ways to connect with people via Facebook mainly. The spoken word way is a weekly podcast where, this week, we will record show #150, another long game. I love all of these routes to market. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do them. That’s absolutely key. What do you love, even if it starts out as what are you prepared to experiment with?
People are in two minds about social media, and which platforms they prefer depending on their inclinations towards how something looks or reads or sounds. And if we go back to my favourite idea of Sell As You Buy, then how do you like to consume content on social media? Create your own marketing on that same platform and draw to you people who love it in the way that you do.
As it happens I love Facebook, but it wasn’t always so. I came off Facebook once as I thought it was for the kids. And then I went back on and all the kids moved off (those two weren’t exactly cause and effect in the way that reads!). And FB now enables me to connect with people, chat to them, engage with them, share with them, enlighten and inform them and receive all those things in return. And, for me, they are ALL a form of marketing, either incredibly subtle or bang-right-in-your-face when I use it to ask for the business directly and deliberately. And mostly it is somewhere in between. Facebook has become my main route to market. It is a place where I can share myself with my potential future clients and where they can get to know me, to like me and to trust me. And I do it all for free. Though I don’t rule out using FB Ads to sell this book, I don’t think that FB Ads are my route to market to sell my coaching and mentoring services, but never say never. The organic Facebook game I play achieves the same desired end results.
One of my friends used to like to pop into my office in the olden days and weigh the post and stick the stamps on and take the letters round to the post office. She called it playing Post Offices. If you cannot find a way to make marketing and sales a game that appeals as much to you as that did to my friend, I fear you are on a hiding to nothing.
As an example, when a writer comes to me with plans to self-publish, I let her know that my view is that writing the book is the (relatively) easy bit. As it has been with this one. I think I can probably get this book written and published within three months, but my marketing plan to do it full justice will be for three years, and that includes updating the book annually so each summer I will repeat what I am currently putting myself through, but it will give me enough marketing material each time I do it for multiple uses of the same content, without taking anything away from the book itself which will be a completely different experience. As it happens, I am loving it even more than I anticipated, and that’s the surprise and delight with marketing, as you too will discover, I promise.
It will be the same with your business. Perhaps you could already deliver your service or sell your product today, this very afternoon, but unless you are telling the world about it or blowing your own trumpet as you probably call it too, then you simply aren’t going to have enough customers.
I think this reason alone is sufficient to hire a business coach and mentor. Because if you don’t like it, you aren’t going to do it. You are going to close your mind to lots of lovely different routes to your market, you won’t even notice ones you don’t think about or know exist. You’ll do yourself and your future customers a terrible disservice by keeping yourself a secret when you could be helping people and employing yourself for money. And all your exciting ideas will wither and die.
What a tragedy that would be!
And sales, Judith? What about sales? Ah well… get your marketing right and sales are easy.
- Who do you see that markets in a way that is attractive to you, whether or not you have bought from them yet or ever?
- And vice versa. What do you observe that offends you?
- Which ones will you model, or will you invent your own way?
- How will you adapt marketing to suit your own business and your own personality, ethics and values?
Keep your eyes peeled all the time and start noticing lovely marketing. Borrow the best bits until you feel confident to invent your own genius iterations.