What’s the Missing Ingredient in Your Marketing?

Article by C.J. Hayden“How can I improve my marketing?” a student recently asked me. “I’ve spent hours and hours trying to get clients, and none of my efforts seem to pay off.”

I asked my student one simple question: “What would you say is the missing ingredient in your marketing?”

He thought about it for a moment. “Well,” he said, “I don’t think I’m networking in the right places. I seem to meet a lot of other consultants and freelancers, but I’m not connecting with corporate decision-makers. That’s who I really need to be reaching. I’d better find some new groups to network with!”

My student had just solved one of his biggest marketing problems. But before he asked himself the right question, he didn’t even know what that problem was.

In my book Get Clients Now!, I suggest that marketing is a lot like cooking. You can’t have a successful recipe if there are crucial ingredients missing. But the way many entrepreneurs create their marketing recipes is like cooks who never taste what they are making. Imagine the catastrophe that would ensue if you simply started adding more salt to your soup without ever tasting it.

Too many small business owners approach marketing like careless cooks. When they think their mix isn’t quite right, they start adding elements at random. If networking doesn’t seem to be working as a marketing strategy, they say, “Maybe I’ll try public speaking instead,” or “Perhaps I’ll just send out a mailing.” But if they stopped for a moment to taste their cooking first, they might discover that their basic recipe is fine, it’s just an ingredient or two that is missing.

Here are three “taste tests” you might try to see what’s missing from your marketing:

1. Are you missing an important tool? Every marketing strategy requires a solid set of tools to be effective. If you are trying to network without a concise, benefits-oriented description of your services, it’s no wonder that people you meet can’t remember what you do. When you don’t seem to land clients from your speaking engagements, perhaps you are presenting on the wrong topics. You may be using exactly the right strategy but not have the right tools to carry it out.

Building essential tools — like a memorable self-introduction or compelling speaking topic — to adequately support your chosen marketing activities can make a dramatic difference in the kind of results you achieve. Don’t be afraid to hire a professional to help you when you discover a key tool missing from your recipe. Investment in a few basic marketing tools can pay for itself many times over.

2. Do you have the right skills? No amount of cold calling is going to produce sales if your telemarketing skills aren’t up to the job. Attending networking mixers is unlikely to be a productive strategy if you get tongue-tied when talking to strangers. To build your skills in areas like these, take classes, read books, or practice with colleagues or a coach. Telemarketing, networking, public speaking, and personal selling are all skills that you can learn to use better.

3. Is there some key data you lack? My student above needed to find out where the decision-makers in his industry got together. If your website isn’t generating prospects, you may need to identify the most pressing problem for your target market and address it in your copy. Gathering more information about what your clients want or need, or how they find and choose professionals like you, can add a substantial boost to your marketing.

To determine your missing ingredients, try asking yourself this question about whatever marketing strategies you have chosen to use: “Why aren’t I getting clients from networking?” or “Why can’t I get business from speaking?” Your answer is likely to point you to a crucial tool you need to build, a key skill you need to develop, or some critical information you lack. Once you know what this missing element is, you can set about acquiring it.

So before you get cooking on your next round of sales and marketing, pause and taste the result of your efforts so far. If you stop adding salt when sugar is what’s needed, your marketing recipes will begin to turn out much better.

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