If you’re in business for yourself, or you’re just starting out, it’s easy to forget about marketing your business as you get caught up in other details. I refer to this marketing as taking care of the business side of your business. That is, making sure your business is always growing.
I read somewhere long time ago about applying the 80/20 rule to running your business – 80% of your time should be spent working in your business, while the remaining 20% should be spent working on your business. The first involves taking care of the day-to-day operations of the business. The remaining 20% needs to be devoted to making your business stronger, and that includes marketing.
No matter how well you are doing in business right now, clients and customers have a way of falling away. They may go to competitors, change business models (to one that no longer includes you), or even fold up the tent and go out of business. No matter what, a certain percentage of your client base will be lost each year. You will need to market for new business continuously, if for no other reason than to stay even. And it goes without saying that you will need to do so if you want to expand.
The problem with marketing is that it costs, both in terms of time and money. But since you will need to do it on an ongoing basis, it’s best to develop methods that can be done either for free, or very inexpensively.
I market primarily for paid freelance blog writing and for commercial videos, but here are the methods that typically work for me…
Direct Email – It’s Free
For a lot of people who do freelance writing for a living, the virtual golden goose is to hook up with an agency of some sort that can keep you rolling in paid assignments. As a writer, I’ve never found that strategy to be appealing, nor have I found that it works. Since thousands of people are trying to get the same gig, it’s hard to even get noticed. And if if you do secure a regular place in the rotation, the pay is miserable.
I also ascribed to the theory that you are better off having ten clients, each paying you $1,000, than a single client paying you $10,000. It’s applying diversification to your business, just the way you would with your investments.
I generally try to spend some time each month sending out emails to a select group of potential clients. I use a standard form email format, which I customize slightly for each prospect, but most of the work is in doing research. That is, coming up with a short list of people to approach with my services. When it comes to a service like writing, a short, high quality list is far superior to a longer, but weaker one.
The direct, personal email approach seems to work quite well when it comes to getting writing gigs. I can usually get a couple of new clients just by sending out maybe 15 or 20 very specific emails.
For video work it takes a lot more contacts. That’s because I’m generally approaching potential clients in a more general market environment that is more competitive. I might have to send out a hundred emails to get one or two clients. That’s not as labor-intensive as it sounds. The prospects I approach are cold from the web, and usually based on business types in a certain metropolitan area. I then use a standard email to approach all.
This method is somewhat (but not majorly) time-consuming, but it costs no money, and it does produce results in the form of new business.
Word of Mouth – “Who Do You Know Who…”
This is less of a formal strategy, and more of a habit. This is a marketing technique that I learned years ago from a video series. The maker of the series advocated that you asked the question “Who do you know who…?” of everyone you come into contact with each day. It could be who do you know who is looking for a content writer? or whatever products or services that you provide.
This is a way of getting virtually free business. You can ask people you come into contact with on a regular basis, or even those who you meet only occasionally. Think about the person who fixes your car, cuts your hair, or bags your groceries – even though they may not need your services, they may know someone who does. And sometimes, yes, it turns out that they do need your services.
I will also frequently include that question in an email to existing clients, or with people who I come in contact with more casually. You can’t use it as a core marketing strategy, but it is a way of getting business by default.
Think of it as a marketing method designed to prevent overlooking the most obvious sources of business.
The Social Media
From the start, I must say that I have never gotten a whole lot of business from the social media. Probably the best I can say about it, is that you get your name out there so that if you contact someone they’ll know who you are. As well, a social media presence is a validator for a skeptical prospect, almost akin to a third party reference.
However, my website does function as an active resume for my work, and I have gotten clients directly as a result of them coming to my website. In a backhanded sort of way, this is also where the social media makes a contribution to my efforts to get more business. By using the social media to promote my website, it’s likely that I’m getting a certain number of new clients as an indirect result of that social media promotion.
Social media management is free, but it can be time consuming. I’d recommend Hootsuite as a social media management platform. I use the platform all the time. You can not only stay on top of the social media there, but you can also schedule your messages days in advance. That creates a form of social media automatic pilot.
It’s important to note here that every platform you have on the web should “ask for the order”. That can be a dedicated webpage on your website, or some sort of bold notation on your social media pages. It’s always important to let prospects know that you are open for business!
Your Work as a Resume/Advertisement
Any work that you do for a client should always represent your best effort. That doesn’t mean that everything you do is going to be award winning – no one can maintain that pace. But your work, whether it is a product or service, must always display a high level of quality.
I’ve picked up new clients as a result of people reading my articles on other blogs. They read a single article, or a series of articles that I’ve written, and then approach me about writing for their blog or website.
That can only happen if the work that you are doing is compelling. That raises the stakes, that every time you are doing work for any client, you always give it your best effort. You never know who’s going to read it, and may make a business offer to you as a result.
You can think of it as another way of marketing and getting new business by default.
Try Novel Marketing Approaches
Here is a simple marketing strategy that I can’t claim credit for – I actually read about it in a marketing book. But upon reading it, I knew instantly that it had potential. If you’ve ever eaten in a diner, you’ve probably noticed that many have throwaway paper place mats at each table that show a number ads for various businesses. The marketing book I read suggested using this method, noting that there are a few minutes before a meal order is delivered, and diners “entertain” themselves by reading the place mat – whooda thought, right?
I’ve never used this method myself, but I have used businesses that were advertised on such placemats.
If your business is local in nature, you might offer to provide placemats for a popular eatery in your area. The cost to have them printed is actually quite reasonable. But you may be able to cover that cost by including ads for other businesses who will pay you a fee to be included (that was mentioned in the book as well). It may end up being a form of free advertising for your business, but very direct advertising at that.
Look for similar strategies to market your business on the cheap – or better yet, for free. The methods I’m suggesting may not work for your particular business, but you can use similar ideas. For example, if you need to do some sort of print related marketing, try using VistaPrint. My son has used them to print up business cards for his business ventures, and they are both inexpensive and quick.
Marketing is huge for a business, but never more so than when you’re first starting out. And once you get up and running, you need to build regular marketing into your business plan.
Do you ever get so busy that you “forget to market” your business? If so, what do you do to correct the problem?