Tips for Marketing Your Skills and Services
Whether you are just starting your career, considering going out on your own, or expanding your business, there are three steps that will make your journey easier: conduct a self-assessment, develop a business plan, and design a marketing strategy. Sounds simple enough, but most businesses fail within the first year simply because people skip one or more of these fundamental steps.
Whether you are just starting your career, considering going out on your own, or expanding your business, there are three steps that will make your journey easier: conduct a self-assessment, develop a business plan, and design a marketing strategy.¬† Sounds simple enough, but most businesses fail within the first year simply because people skip one or more of these fundamental steps.
Self-Assessment: If you go shopping and are walking down the cereal aisle, you just do not grab any box of cereal and drop it in your cart.¬† You might be deciding between a hot or cold type of cereal, or maybe you have a coupon, or you want sugar free, or price is a factor, or maybe you want fruit and nuts in the cereal.¬† The box of cereal that has all the features you are seeking, is the one you will buy.¬† The same holds true for people looking to hire professionals.¬† So, when people come down the aisle to select a professional, what will make them stop and select you?
Things to consider are: “Who am I as a professional?” ¬†“What are my strengths and weaknesses as a professional; as a business owner?” ¬†“How am I different from all the other professionals out there?” ¬†Create a short resume; typically, one page for every 10 years of experience.¬† “What is my education, topic specific training, and what actual ‚Äėhands-on‚Äô experience do I have?” ¬†“Who knows me?” ¬†“Is my name recognized within the profession or by the public?”
Candidly answering these questions will create the foundation for your business plan and marketing strategy, by identifying your strengths and weaknesses as a business owner and as a professional.¬† You will then be able to have a clearer picture of what help you will need or what steps to take to overcome any deficiencies so you can succeed.
Business Plan: There are three key elements to a business plan: management, finance, and marketing.¬† Management addresses factors like: “Will I go solo or join a firm?” ¬†This question is often determined by answers to questions like, “Have I ever owned a business?” ¬†“Am I the entrepreneurial type?” ¬†If you do not have experience starting a business, then consider what help you will need, and who are the professionals that you will need to hire? ¬†“Where will my business be located‚ÄĒrental office space or in my home?”
Finances are always an important factor, but expenses are typically underestimated.¬† At a minimum, you will need enough capital to cover at least one year of all your personal and business expenses.¬† New businesses are not normally good loan candidates, so having your own resources, typically, is required.¬† Finances may drive you towards joining a firm rather than going it on your own.¬† If you are not able to afford an office, use an address other than your home.¬† Consider a box at a local mail drop company where the box number is listed as a suite number or join one of the large office complexes that offer a mailing address.¬† Some will answer a phone and others offer office space by the hour, day, or as needed.
Marketing is easier and less expensive than it used to be.¬† The main reason is that developing an on-line presence with a website is relatively inexpensive.¬† Printed brochures and ads in journals do not produce as much as an Internet presence.¬† Business cards are still a must.¬† They are inexpensive, small, and easy to hand out whenever you meet someone.¬† Of course, always ask for that someone’s business card so you can start your potential client list!
Marketing Strategy: Who makes up your market place? ¬†Is it professionals who offer related services, attorneys, businesses, or the public? ¬†In other words, who will be the people hiring you?
Reflect on your initial assessment.¬† Think about the box of cereal‚ÄĒwhat makes you unique? ¬†Your business is more likely to grow and thrive if you specialize rather than try to do everything.¬† If you specialize, you are competing with fewer professionals.¬† After you have built your business, then think about expanding into other areas and increasing the services you offer.
Keeping your name in front of people is critically important.¬† A website is all well and good, but you must update it frequently to keep it at the top of search lists.¬† Sending an e-mail or letter to potential clients needs to be done on a regular basis, preferably three to four times a year.¬† You can send a copy of an article you wrote or mention an up-coming event they may want to attend or create a checklist or some other short educational piece.
Making presentations to civic and professional groups increases name recognition.¬† It is best to make short presentations that provide tips or insight into how services you provide can benefit the attendees, rather than touting how wonderful you are.¬† Having a short handout, checklist, or tip sheet with contact information or your business cards available at the back of the room where people can pick them up on their way out is another way to get your name circulating.
Review and Modify: As you move forward with opening your new business or expanding your services, continue to monitor how things are going.¬† Are you accomplishing your goals within the time periods you established; are the expenses within your budget; or are you getting the responses you anticipated?
If you are not meeting the goals you established within the time you outlined, then reevaluate and make necessary changes.¬† Perhaps you under estimated how long it would take to get your first paying client, or maybe it is your marketing strategy that needs to be modified.
Continue to review and modify quarterly until you complete one full year; then you can cut back to twice a year, and ultimately, to once a year.
Conclusion: Three simple steps: self-assessment, business plan, and marketing strategy.¬† Your analysis does not need to be as detailed as a master’s thesis, but it does need to have answers to basic questions.¬† There are many free resources available on the Internet which can help you design the questions you need to ask and answer so that you will enhance your chance for success.
Nancy Neal Yeend founded The End Strategy (TES), a Portland, OR-based dispute management and mediation firm. Ms. Yeend is a seasoned and accomplished professional, as well as a prolific writer, with a focus on conflict management and resolution. She is adept at developing programs for business, governmental entities, and not-for-profit organizations involving workplace related conflict. In addition, she is a skilled trainer and experienced course designer, specializing in communication, negotiation, problem solving, and dispute management. She mediates business and contract related matters at all stages of litigation: pre-suit, trial, and appellate.
Ms. Yeend can be contacted at (503) 481-2986 or by e-mail to Nancy@TESresults.com.