Marketing and advertising are not the same. Advertising is like throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Marketing is building relationships, and relationships sell services. People typically like to work with others that they know or trust. This is why only certain people make very good salesmen; that is, they have the personality that people just gravitate towards. Now if you’re like me, you may have a good personality but are a tad introverted. We are developers and computer geeks over here but we don’t naturally make good salesmen.
One of the hardest things that I had to overcome when starting my businesses is the act of selling myself and marketing my business. It was a serious challenge for me – before then my day consisted of sitting in a cubicle in a basement talking to people only in my department and dealing with servers and desktops all day. Running advertising and going out and advertising myself to people and marketing the business did not come naturally to me; I had to work at it. Most people can be effective at selling their services if they just try to build a relationship with people rather than trying to push services or products onto them.
In the beginning I advertised my business. I handed out flyers, I went door to door, I contemplated getting a Yellow Book ad, I wanted to advertise in the newspaper, etc and etc. This was NOT the way a freelancer or services provider should conduct their marketing. These forms of marketing builds no trust in you or you business, it just says “look at us, we are just another card in the deck”. Needless to say, I didn’t get much business from these methods. It wasn’t until I started networking with other business owners that I started to see results.
Relationships sell services. Get to know the business owners in your area – don’t even talk shop, just talk to them. People love to talk about themselves – get them started and listen. Find out who they are, what their kids names are, how long they’ve been in business. Make notes, just as you would friends. Get to know them, because they are your potential clients. Maybe they are not in the market for your services right now, but they will be. And when they are, they will come to those who they know and trust.
I’ve been asked quite a few times from some aspiring service providers about where and how could they get started with marketing their businesses and how they can get their foot in the proverbial door. The best advice I can give you is to go where your target market is. For example, in my town there are several civil service groups. One of the most affluent is the Kiwanis. Traditionally it’s meant for people who want to give back to the community and help the under privileged kids in our county. It’s a great goal and they do a wonderful job, but it’s also a perfect place to network and get to know your target market. I would definitely recommend going and getting involved with some groups like this – a chamber of commerce, a BNI group, a civil service group. Wherever your target market mets, go and get involved.
One last point, while you want to get in front of these people with the ultimate goal of selling your services, be sure that you have a clear and concise description of your product or services to discuss when it comes up. Work on that and keep it short. They’ll ask some questions as they relate it to issues they have and be prepared to answer. As one of my service provider buddies said, always be “on”.