Bellwether Bill’s Basic Business Bits for May – The Art of Promoting Yourself
(Self-employment = Self-promotion)
We have all been to the circus or county fair and heard the promoter urging would-be customers to come and see their “Time-saving, Revolutionary” gadgets. They call out to the passing crowd, asking for interested people to hear more about their amazing products that you just can’t live without. While we don’t promote our businesses in the same way, we do have an obligation to promote ourselves in the business world. Although this self-promotion often takes on many forms, the common denominator is being pro-active about it.
Let’s face it, we all know the finer details and inner workings of our business and the use of our products better than anyone, so who better to effectively promote our business? The problem is, being self-employed does present some budgetary constraints that limit what we can spend on advertising and promotion.
This often leaves us being the primary promoter of our business and seeking to become a well-rounded, self-directed marketing department. But how do we go about doing this? The ability to successfully promote ourselves requires several simple steps. Here are four of them.
The Elevator Speech
First, we need a clear, brief synopsis of who we are and what we do. Often called the “Elevator speech” or “30-second pitch”, this synopsis tells our story in a short message. Just as advertisers cram a lot of information into a 30-second commercial, we need to share the basics of our business and products when people ask us, “What does your company do?” within that same time frame. Our synopsis should share:
- A simple definition of our product or service
- How long we’ve been in business
- What sets us apart from our competition
- How our product or service fills a need
- What makes a good referral for us (if the situation allows this)
Many people also add a “tag-line” or “catch-phrase” at the end of their synopsis to make their business more memorable. My tagline is “Bill Frey the Money Guy”, because my last name got mispronounced so many times. I rhyme “Frey” with “Guy” to help them remember how to pronounce it correctly. To this day, I have people come up to me at events and meetings, and say, “Hey, its Bill Frey the Money Guy!” that I hadn’t seen in years, so having a memorable tagline definitely helps. You should practice your 30-second synopsis to yourself, friends or family until you have the words and phrases memorized to the point that they become second-nature to you. After all, you never know when or where you could run into a potential new client.
Know Your Audience
Second, know your target market. Knowing who your best market for attaining new business will help you be more effective at promoting your business. Find the market that is best-served by your business (or under-served by your competitors) and focus your promotion efforts on them in a way that gets you noticed. This could be done using:
- Email Blasts
- Joining associations that your target market belongs to
- Target mailings
- Referral contests
- Trial offers
The key here is to focus on the media that reaches your target market in the most effective means, at the most efficient cost. Marketers often evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing or promotional programs in terms of the acquisition cost of each new client. You will need to set an amount you are comfortable with spending in this area, and what you’d like to say to your audience. You will discover your best marketing media mostly through trial and error, but don’t give up!
Networking is Gold
Third, network, network, network! By networking, you create an unofficial, grass-roots sales force of peers who will promote your business as you help them promote theirs. By having others promote your business, you leverage your access to clients who can benefit from your product or service that you otherwise might not be able to reach, and have a personal connection to them through your referral source.
Seek out networking groups that have both your target clients, as well as those who can refer you to your target clients by helping clients with services complementary to yours. These referral sources, called “Centers of influence“, can have a major impact on the number of connections you can make within your target market. Your goal in joining networking groups is to share your connections with others as they reciprocate and share their connections with you. You should be able to connect with a few key people in each group who have a similar product or service for which they are seeking to expand their client base.
It is a proven fact that a warm referral from a trusted source has a higher percentage of becoming a new client than from any other source. The key element here is time. It takes time to develop relationships with your centers of influence, so be patient and consistent in your attendance at networking meetings.
Ask for Referrals
Fourth, ask for references and referrals from your clients. When you do a good job for a client, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation email or note, or ask who they could refer you to that might benefit from what you offer. Testimonials and references will encourage others to feel more comfortable when doing business with you, adding more credibility to your business. They demonstrate that other clients felt comfortable enough to place their trust in you, and had a positive experience with your product or service. They also create respect from your client, showing them that their business and opinion are important to you.
Clients won’t just take your word for it that you can deliver, but will trust prior clients’ opinions of your level of service. You should be asking for references and referrals from EVERY client, so form a habit of asking each time you complete a transaction.
These four things are just the start of the efforts you can make to promote your business and ensure your future success.
However, the key to any promotional efforts is YOU. You need to be pro-active in promoting your business, which means you need to be aggressive with your promoting efforts. A former sales manager once told me, “When in doubt, be aggressive.” This statement has stuck with me over a 35-year career in sales and marketing in several industries, and it applies to them all. Being aggressive (while still being professional) will show your clients you are serious about your business, and what you can deliver. Because you can never predict where your next new client will come from, you need to do all you can to successfully promote both your business, and yourself.