Everyone has one – but there is a good chance that you are not using yours to your full potential.
To be a successful micro-entrepreneur you need to love marketing. I mean really looooovvvvve marketing. And sales. If you’re not able to sell your product it’s going to be very difficult to grow your business. However, it is one of the things that very few people think about when they’re setting up their new venture.
They (we) have a tendency to get so excited about their ideas and their products, that rarely do they think about how they are actually going to sell it!
Marketing the easy way … and the hard way
When I started my executive search business (bet you didn’t know I had run one of those!) back in January 2000, I had no idea how I was going to get new clients. I had absolutely no sales experience, having come from an operational role, and no small business marketing experience. What I discovered was that it was easier and harder than I had expected.
My first client was my old boss (easy). My second client was a referral from my old boss (also easy) and my third client was off the back of a cold call (hard, hard, hard). I knew that I had to sell to people that I didn’t know, but I didn’t realise that it was going to be quite as uncomfortable as it was. Some people are natural sales people, they love the process of selling and talking to new prospects about their needs and wants and then finding the perfect solution for them. I am not one of those people. I searched and searched for the right sales course to learn this skill, spent loads of money on sales training and ended up not much better than when I had started (oh, how I wish I had known about Catherine Watkins Selling from the Heart course back then!).
Look for the 20% that generates the 80%
When I decided that I was going to start growing my web business after the birth of my daughter in 2007; I decided to be a lot smarter about it than I had been previously. I looked at where my existing clients had come from so that I could figure out how to get new clients. What I discovered was that 90% of my clients had come from people who knew me, or people who had been referred to me. The massive advantage of this was that it meant that I was rarely in a competitive bid situation, as usually I was the only horse in the race – and I already had the trust factor. So I needed to find more people who trusted me enough to hire me or refer me, which was when I discovered small business networking – definitely a wow moment for me!
Both of these businesses were professional services firms and relied on people trusting me to be able to deliver on my promises. My marketing talent was encouraging and building on that trust. I only spoke with people that had already been pre-qualified and were in the buying stage of the process, rather than selling to people who hadn’t already decided what they wanted. This cut down on a lot of wasted meetings with the wrong people!
In Women Unlimited, things are a little bit different. While I do know many of you personally, most of the people that buy our products only know me through blog posts, videos and email. So the talent that I have had to cultivate, is my online marketing talent. If I didn’t email people, Women Unlimited would not be in business today. Without developing my skills in email marketing, I would have no channel to market and no way to access my customer base. So over the last 5 years, I’ve used my relationship building skills and communication skills to build trust and provide massive value to the Women Unlimited community through email and our website, so that when we have a course or product to promote, you guys (hopefully) feel like you trust us enough to be able to deliver on our promise.
If we stopped every other form of marketing other than email, Women Unlimited would still thrive and survive. So in Women Unlimited, email marketing is my marketing talent. The other marketing activities that we do are secondary and only go to support our email activities. In Springmedia, it was networking. If I didn’t go out and meet new people and build relationships, we didn’t get the referrals that we needed to be able to get more clients. In the executive search firm, it was cultivating existing relationships for both candidates and clients.
Where should you spend your marketing time?
As a micro-business owner, one of the challenges that you face, is trying to decide where you should focus your marketing time. Your time is limited and there is a very good chance that you are spending too much of it focusing on things that are not going to generate you the results that you are looking for. If you focus on the ONE thing that you are exceptional at and that you have used very effectively to bring in new business, it is likely that you will increase your results exponentially.
Potential time-wasters might include talking to the wrong people on social media, wondering if you should be blogging, possibly doing email marketing, spending your lunchtimes and evenings networking with the wrong people, exhibiting at conferences, maybe speaking and cold calling new business. Each time you start up a new activity, you dilute your time and your chances of marketing success.
How to find your marketing talent
What I’d like to suggest is that you take a deep breath, grab yourself a cup of tea / coffee and take a long hard look at the activities that you are doing to market your business and ask yourself honestly whether they are doing your business and your time justice.
Here are three simple exercises to help you get started
Get to know your customer
- Identify your top 10 most profitable clients
- Find out where they first heard about you from
- Identify where you can find more people like that
- Ask them why they bought your product / service
- Note how you communicate with them
- Identify why they are profitable
Learn from your successes
- Where do 80% of your clients come from?
- When do they buy from you?
- What activities can you duplicate to repeat that success
- Where can you go to get more clients like that
Stop doing what isn’t working
- Track the time that you spend on marketing activities
- Identify how successful each of those activities have been for your business in the last 6 months
- Only spend 10 – 20% of your time on the activities that are not generating a large return
Build on the marketing that is working
- Identify how you like to communicate best with your customers (ie online, face to face, email, direct mail, advertising)
- Dedicate yourself to the stuff that you are already excellent at
- Learn how to improve your skills in this area
- Spend at least 50% of your time on the activities that are generating profitable results
- Only spend time on high value activities and outsource the stuff that doesn’t need you
This last point is really important. If I outsourced our email marketing, then there is a good chance that our sales would drop but there is no reason that I need to be the person that formats the email, uploads the email and sends the email.
Focus on the activities that create massive value
Focus on the activities that bring massive value to your business, that only you can do and you should find that you’ll start getting better results than you have before.
If you enjoy marketing your business, know how to reach your customers and are good at it, then you will be successful. If it feels like a struggle, then it is going to be very difficult for you to build and grow your business. Every micro-entrepreneur needs a strong marketing foundation to build their business on, so it’s important to go out and find your marketing talent.
Photo credit: Thanks to MichaelB for this fab photo