How Visible Are You?

Article by C.J. HaydenWhen I was first building my coaching practice I worked hard to increase my visibility in a specific target market — self-employed professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. The day I knew I had done it right was when I first heard these words from a prospective client: “I see your name everywhere!”

Visibility is one of the three different types of impact an independent professional must address in his or her overall marketing plan. Visibility-based strategies are designed to attract clients and encourage them to make contact, while strategies based on outreach require that you be the one who initiates the contact.

The third type of impact you need is credibility, which works hand-in-hand with visibility to boost your image in the eyes of your market niche. Higher credibility further motivates clients to pick up the phone or sit down at the keyboard, and get in touch with you.

The most effective visibility strategies are those that combine the impact of visibility with either outreach or credibility. These combination strategies fall into three general categories: networking and referral building, public speaking, and writing and publicity. All of these are more effective than visibility-only strategies like advertising or promotional events because they allow potential clients to get to know you, and they often imply the endorsement of others.

To begin increasing your visibility, it’s a good idea to focus on one particular aspect at a time: personal, professional, or the newest brand of visibility — virtual.

Personal visibility is based on being seen and heard. Using the strategy of networking and referral building, you attend meetings of organizations, meet people for coffee, lunch or tennis, and call them to say hello. Your goal is to remind the people you speak with what you do, and that you are available to assist them or their referrals.

With a local business in a small town, you might be able to make the rounds of all the clubs and civic organizations there are, and stay in touch with most of the individuals considered to be centers of influence. But in the larger communities where most of us live, you’ll need to focus on one specific target market in order to stay personally visible within it.

To gain more professional visibility, work to establish yourself as an expert. Use networking and referral building by volunteering for committees and other visible positions with the organizations you belong to. Organizations which consist mainly of colleagues build your credibility and bring you referrals. Groups which include prospective clients let them get to know you directly. Both types are valuable.

You can employ the strategy of public speaking to be more visible to groups of clients and colleagues where you are not a regular member. To establish your expertise, try to only speak on those topics where you can truly shine.

You can expand your professional visibility beyond your local area with writing and publicity strategies. If you are new to writing, try starting out with a simple “tips” article, e.g. “Ten Tips for a Secure Retirement.” Seek out publications that your target audience reads, and offer your article to them.

Another approach is to issue your article in a press release format, written as if you were being interviewed on the topic, and send it to media outlets that cover your area of expertise. You might be surprised at how often releases like these get published.

Even if you aren’t yet an experienced writer, consider writing a book. Becoming an author can be the ultimate credibility-booster, and will bring you exposure in places that could otherwise be out of reach.

Virtual visibility is another term for what is sometimes called “web presence” or “Googleability.” If someone is looking for a professional like you on the Internet, how easily will they be able to find you? And how likely is it that they will find your competitors first?

To expand your business geographically, or attract more local customers in a web-savvy marketplace, virtual visibility may be the answer. Once you have a website, focus your attention on achieving higher rankings with search engines and directories by providing useful content on your site and requesting links from other sites your customers visit — not on advertising and promotion.

Internet marketing strategies all have their equivalents in traditional offline marketing, and most of the same rules still apply. Paid ads don’t contribute to your credibility, and lack the personal touch that increases trust.

Networking and referral building on the web means being active in online communities where you can show off your expertise by answering questions. Virtual public speaking consists of making yourself available as a guest at online chats or more commonly now, teleseminars and webinars. Writing articles and submitting them to other relevant websites will attract more visitors. Publishing the same articles in your own ezine or blog will do the same.

The opportunities for publicity on the web are endless. Not only are there countless newsletters, magazines, and now radio broadcasts, but hundreds of search engines, directories and other web guides which will often list you for free. The key to inclusion and higher rankings is to make your site a source of information, not just an advertisement for your business.

If you’re ready to begin raising your visibility, don’t let all the possibilities overwhelm you. Just choose just one aspect to start with — personal, professional, or virtual — and begin to integrate it with your existing marketing plan.

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