Are You Sabotaging Your Own Marketing?

Article by C.J. HaydenMost independent professionals work hard at marketing their businesses, but far too many don’t succeed as well as they could. Unfortunately, some of the hardest-working self-marketers sometimes sabotage their own efforts. By making one or more common mistakes in how you approach marketing your business, you may be throwing away a considerable amount of precious time and hard-earned money.

Here are seven ways you may be sabotaging your own marketing, and how to get it back on track.

1. You’re doing plenty of marketing, but almost no selling.

For an independent professional, marketing and selling often blend into each other rather than being clearly distinct activities. So it’s not always obvious when selling gets left out of the equation. Think of marketing as everything you do to get a prospective client to call you, email you, or take your call when you initiate contact. Selling is what needs to happen once you and the client actually connect. Without that live connection, selling can’t ever happen.

In a typical selling exchange, you ask your prospects exactly what they need, then explain specifically how you can help. At some point, you ask for their commitment to move forward, and that’s when a sale takes place. For most independent professionals, having an interactive conversation like this is
an essential step in getting someone to hire you. The primary goal of your marketing, then, should always be to convince people to have that conversation with you.

Don’t be misled by web marketing gurus who suggest that your website copy should do all the selling for you. That approach may work to sell ebooks or teleclasses, but it doesn’t do the job for selling professional services. Every marketing strategy you use should ultimately result in your having more live conversations with prospective clients. If it doesn’t, you’re probably wasting your time.

2. You’re attending networking events or giving talks, but not following up afterwards.

A professional’s life would be so much simpler if prospects would just walk up to you at an event and say, “I’d like to become your client.” But that’s a pretty rare occurrence. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the sale takes place in a follow-up conversation after the fact. And more often than not, it takes multiple follow-up contacts to get to that point.

When you attend, or speak at, an event, plan in advance to spend at least twice as much time following up with those you met as you spent at the original event. That’s where the real payoff from networking or speaking comes from. Whenever you hear professionals say that networking or speaking “didn’t work” for them, you can almost bet that it’s because they were expecting to see results just from attending.

3. You’re following up with prospects without making a clear offer.

You can never assume that a prospect remembers who you are or what you do, even if you spoke with him or her just the week before. Following up to see if prospects are ready to move forward will get you nowhere if they still don’t understand how you can help them. Every time you make contact, re-introduce
yourself with your full name and profession or tag line, and remind your prospect of your last conversation.

Get specific about how you can help. Instead of simply saying you are a graphic designer, tell prospects you create logos, business cards, and brochures. Rather than just calling yourself a communications consultant or business writer, offer to assist with employee newsletters, annual reports, or ghostwriting articles. Even when you don’t know what a prospect’s exact needs are, giving examples will help you better communicate how you can be of service.

4. You’re building traffic to your website, but not capturing visitors once they arrive.

Just as with all other forms of marketing, more sales on the web take place after a period of follow-up than ever occur on a prospect’s first visit to your website. If all your website says is, “please hire me now,” you’ll lose out on the opportunity to follow up with your visitors, and much of your traffic will go to waste.

Give your first-time visitors a reason to stay in touch with you by offering a free newsletter or blog to subscribe to, a complimentary white paper or assessment to download (in return for their email address), or a low-cost ebook or audio to introduce them to your work. Then follow up at regular intervals with more useful information and reminders about how you can be of service.

5. You often delay a day or two before responding to prospect inquiries.

Even when you’re busy, when a prospect contacts you, don’t put off responding. Keep in mind that when prospects are ready to hire an accountant, or a career coach, or a web designer, they may be contacting your competitors at the same time they contact you. The first professional who returns the call or email is often the one who gets the business. Don’t lose out on all the effort you put into getting someone to call you just by not replying to them promptly.

6. You have an outgoing voice mail or email message implying you’re too busy to respond.

A surefire way to discourage new clients is to make them think you’re already too busy. Clients don’t want to work with a professional who is overloaded with other commitments. If your outgoing voice mail message says you are offsite until Friday and will be returning calls then, prospects may simply hang up rather than leave a message. If your email autoresponse says you won’t be checking email this week, your prospects’ next email may be to your competition.

Occasional absences (and much-needed vacations) are a necessity of business, but think twice about the impact of frequent out-of-office messages on prospective clients. Consider using a virtual assistant or answering service to screen messages when you are unavailable and make sure new client inquiries reach you promptly. Or use a voice mail provider with a “find me” option to forward calls to your cell phone.

7. Every time someone hears from you, you’re offering something different.

One of the most important factors in convincing a prospect to hire a professional is the level of trust he or she has in you. And one of the best ways to build trust is by communicating a consistent message. Conveniently, this same approach also builds familiarity and name recognition. Hearing the same message over and over again helps us to remember the person delivering it, and start to feel like we know them.

Don’t feel as if you need to change what or how you are marketing just because prospects don’t respond the first time you approach them. You are more likely to build the trust and recognition that will eventually lead to a sale by continuing to deliver the same basic message than by trying out a new one each time. It’s fine to offer chocolate one time and vanilla another, as long as what you are selling is still ice cream. But don’t suddenly switch to offering cake instead.

Self-sabotage in marketing is all too frequent among independent professionals, but you don’t have to be a victim of mistakes like these. If you feel as if you’ve been working too hard at marketing without seeing enough results, stop for a moment and see if the reason could possibly be something you are doing to yourself.

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