Marketing and finding clients always seems to be high on the priority list of most business owners that I meet. For most it tends to be the Achilles heel that holds their business ambitions back as their marketing efforts often fall way short of their desired outcome.
However, those that have developed and actioned a marketing system tend to get the new clients and results they want, and as a result their business grows consistently.
Why does this happen? It’s often not your products or services that are in question (many small business owners deliver exceptional results), more that you’re unsure about the best ways to find clients and don’t have a small business marketing strategy that works.
In this post, we’re going take a look at a highly effective marketing approach that I implement with my own clients. It’s not about hype and persuasion, but a structured strategy to attract the people you want as clients.
You may be familiar with some of these strategies but if you apply all of these proven principles you will increase the chances of finding clients on a more regular basis.
Strategy 1: Get Into the Marketing Mind-Set!
Investing in and growing your business has a lot to do with what’s going on in your head. Many business owners understand marketing is the way to grow their businesses but feel uncomfortable about adopting a commercial edge and learning the skill of marketing and selling themselves.
That was certainly my situation when I moved from the corporate world to being self-employed. I could no longer rely on the big budgets and teams of people; instead I had to get out of my comfort zone and get a grip on growing a small business.
If you are like many business owners that find marketing and selling does not come easily, bear in mind the following three factors:
- Recognising that you are in two businesses
This is borrowed from the legendary Dan Kennedy, one of the most influential marketers in recent times.
One of the mind-set traps is not to recognise that your future success depends on treating your business as being comprised of two separate businesses.
The first business you are in is the development and creation of services and products that your ideal clients have a need for and want to buy.
The second business you are in is the marketing of those services.
Often business owners spend too much time on creating and delivering their services and do not have a marketing strategy that will win them more clients.
The mind-set shift is to acknowledge that marketing and attracting clients for your services is actually your first priority.
- Be proactive
You’ve probably heard about building a better mouse trap? My take on this is that the world will not beat a path to your door unless you tell them about the solutions your products and services offer.
Too many small business owners hide behind their laptops expecting emails or the phone to ring and new clients fall into their laps. It does not happen.
Be proactive and take control of your business.
- Complete and Implement
With so much information available, it’s very easy to get distracted and spread your time and energy thinly across many different activities, which usually means that not much gets completed.
Getting in the marketing mind-set means paying attention to things that will grow your business and avoid distractions that will get in your way.
Without this focus, you won’t be as effective in your marketing so be disciplined and prioritise 3-5 key marketing actions that will be lead to more clients, but more importantly make sure see them through.
Strategy 2: Understand and Market Your Value
We all have competitors that keeps us on our toes, but how do you set your business apart and stand out from them?
Quite often business owners find it difficult to differentiate and tend to generalise, rather than explain how their solutions and outcomes will benefit their clients.
Take a look at websites, blogs, brochures, flyers, and marketing materials. How many give clarity on the problems they solve and solutions on offer? I’d wager not that many.
It can be tricky to identify the value your products and services give to clients. Often business owners are too close to the day-to-day operation and market the methodology, credentials, processes and features of services rather than communicating the results that are achieved.
Potential clients need to be crystal clear about what you do, how your service works, the benefits you offer and why they should choose you.
A good way to start to identify your value is to think as they do and ask yourself:
What is the pain or problem my services solve?
What makes my business the best solution?
What do they want to change or improve?
Its unlikely people will pay attention to you, let alone buy from you, if they don’t understand what they get from hiring you. Think about what problems you can solve for your clients and their most common pain points – this should reveal why you would be a good fit.
In a nutshell, value, trust and solutions ultimately determine why a client will buy a product or use your service.
How are you going to explain your value?
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The 9 Point Fast Track To Marketing And Finding More Clients
Strategy 3: Don’t Leave It To Chance
In the UK there are around 5 million business with under 250 employees.
Doesn’t that sound like a golden opportunity to grab an enormous share of that potential revenue and income?
But is it really?
In truth most small business don’t have the time, money or marketing skills to appeal to every business in the UK.
Unfortunately that’s what many business owners do – try to market to all and sundry believing that it’s the panacea for business success.
It’s probably the worst approach you can take.
In an ever busy and competing world your business needs to be ‘set up’ so you are visible and appealing to prospects that are more likely to buy your services.
To market and grow your business successfully you need to position your business and its services. It’s a fundamental part of building a successful future.
It will help you be clear about what your business does, the value you add, who you do it for and why you’re different from your competitors.
Here are two critical things to keep in mind when positioning your business:
- Decide which clients you can serve best
Focus on the people who have a problem your services solve. Instead of trying to approach all people in all ways, identify those who you can achieve outstanding results for. Think of the smaller areas – the segments and specialty areas of your industry or market that would be interested.
If you don’t have a clear picture of your ideal clients then your marketing efforts are largely down to chance, rather than a thought-through strategic approach.
Instead of marketing to a pre-qualified group of prospective customers you end up speaking to no-one, with zero enquiries or leads.
- Your marketing message of difference
Once you are clear on your ideal clients, you need to win their attention. Your marketing message needs to be highly relevant to their problems and challenges.
Think about the things that you do that are different, the attributes that set you apart from your competitors and attract clients to your services.
It could be faster results, guaranteed outcomes, price (higher or lower), availability, convenience or your own signature solution.
The last thing you want to market is the way you work – the details and processes you use. That may become important later on. But the core of your message should market the “what do I get” from your services and products.
Your distinctive marketing message needs to provide value and showcase knowledge and skills that customers can only experience when they work with your business.
It will help them to view you as a specialist in your field – someone that can help solve their problems and develop a reputation as the ‘go-to’ person or firm in your industry.
Reducing the pool of prospective clients to do business with may strike you as being a bit odd. It’s not. It’s one of the most effective ways to grow with pace.
How will you appeal to prospects in your industry?
Strategy 4: Educate and build a relationship with clients
Most of us are familiar with brand or image marketing.
Typically the big consumer corporations use it to great effect. You’ll have seen the big blockbuster ad campaigns from major brands such as Coca Cola, Microsoft and Apple.
The idea is that the more times you run campaigns for your brand, the more likely it will be that people will remember it when they come to make a purchasing decision.
These campaigns require huge budgets across several different marketing channels on a regular basis and over an extended period of time.
It often takes years to really establish your brand in the mind of the consumer.
That’s OK for large corporations who have multi-million pound marketing budgets to remind you that they exist. However, small businesses rarely have that amount of money to truly create a brand.
When they attempt to mimic the big boys it usually fails because they don’t have the resources to invest continuously.
At the same time most prospective clients don’t really care about your brand or image. They are looking for solutions to their own problems – they buy the results and outcomes of your services; their decision is not based on image.
In truth, marketing is all about getting results, which means that it needs to attract more new clients that want your services. It is likely that brand marketing could be a complete waste of time.
And here’s the choice…
Do you pick marketing that promotes your company or brand in the hope that at some point in the future prospects may remember you and eventually contact you; or marketing that demands the attention of your prospects and will consistently generate leads and enquiries?
I’m not saying that having a sharp, professional identity or being visible to your best prospects is not important – it is, but far and away the most important outcome from your marketing is a response that leads to a new client.
A more effective way for smaller businesses to improve the results from their marketing is to adopt direct response marketing.
It’s designed to start a relationship that asks the prospect to take an action.
And this type of marketing is best handled in two steps.
Firstly make them an offer.
Direct response marketing needs to win the attention of the people you want as clients through a high value offer.
This needs to be compelling and relevant information, advice and problem solving strategies that address their interests and frustrations.
Be generous with the quality of information you share as it builds familiarity, trust and insight into how your services would benefit them.
Create curiosity around problems your ideal client needs to fix.
Think about ways you could share information. Maybe a blog post, webinar or regular video tip, free report, trial, sample for example.
Secondly, build up the ‘know, like and trust’ factors.
They are interested in your offer, but for them to end up as a qualified prospect you need to be able to capture their details.
That’s why your content needs to be engaging. We need to motivate them to exchange their details and give us permission to follow up and let them see how our services would be a sound investment.
Prospects across all industries are sceptical and they need to be educated on how you can help them. Once you have permission you can keep in touch, be front of mind and build a sound relationship that educates your prospect about your solutions and services over time.
I teach and help build direct response marketing strategies with all my clients. It’s a bit different and uncomfortable to start with, but it works incredibility well for a relatively modest investment.
One thing’s for sure – brand marketing only works if you have very deep pockets. So, if you want more clients on a modest budget then try direct response marketing.
It is simply one of the most effective marketing strategies that a small business can use.
Strategy 5: ‘Standoutability’
Business owners often ask me how they can stand out from the competition.
Probably the best way of achieving this through a well-crafted marketing message.
What’s a marketing message?
Simply put, it’s how you communicate with prospective clients:
- It’s what you say when you meet people at events and meetings
- It’s the words you use in your marketing materials and literature
- It’s how you describe your services on your website/blog homepage
- It’s ways of describing your business or services that grabs your prospects’ attention
It tells them clearly about your value and how you solve their problems, issues and challenges. It also reinforces why they should trust you and why they should choose to do business with you.
Clarity is crucial when it comes to crafting a message. It will be used in a wide variety of marketing tools and materials, from web pages to emails. It needs to be so clear and relevant that prospects instantly see how you can help them.
A clear concise marketing message will:
- Pull your ideal clients towards you
- Get them to respond
- Pre-qualify prospects, filtering out time-wasters
- Help them to self-select so you only attract ideal clients
- Improve results when working with the right client
- Justify your fees and reduce the ‘the need to negotiate’
- Improve sales conversion
But there is something to bear in mind – why do some marketing messages fail to connect?
Most marketing messages don’t grab our attention because we train ourselves to ignore and put barriers up against the hard sell tactics.
As mentioned earlier, by far the biggest reason that marketing messages don’t attract more new clients is that they tend to be focused around the process and details of services rather than the outcomes they deliver. The importance of this can’t be understated.
Clients want to know how your services improve their situation and are only interested in how you can help them.
To create a standout marketing message there are four components that I want to share:
i. Your Value
Understand your ideal client’s challenges – at the end of the day, what do they actually get from your services?
Clients buy the results and benefits that your service delivers and the problem it solves so value must be at the core of your message.
ii. Social Proof
As most of us are naturally sceptical and look for a catch, social proof can play a big part in overcoming scepticism.
Dr Robert Cialdini, the eminent professor of marketing at Arizona University, highlighted the importance of social proof in influencing people’s behaviour in his book, The Psychology of Persuasion.
He concluded that people are influenced by the things that they see other people do, so your message needs to answer the hidden obstacles that prospects will be asking themselves, typically:
- How will I know if it will work for me?
- What happens if it does not work?
- How long will it take?
- Why should I believe you?
Naturally, people are fearful of making mistakes and by demonstrating the outcomes and success that have been achieved by past clients, social proof has a huge part to play in building trust and credibility.
Social proof is more than just testimonials and can take many forms, including case studies, client success stories, talks, presentations, workshops, endorsements, recommendations, online reviews, membership of professional bodies and being a published author.
In essence you need to share your clients’ successes with your target market so they are reassured that you would be a good choice.
iii. Risk Reversal
In every business transaction there’s a risk involved.
Buying your services is no different. The perception of risk plays a big part in your prospect deciding to take action or not.
To take the perceived risk away your marketing message must pre-empt any subconscious obstacles. It needs to reassures them.
A strong risk reversal message underpins confidence in your own service. It will prove that you are serious about the outcomes that you are promising. Prospects can buy from you with the knowledge that if this does not work out, they have redress. Their fear of making a mistake is diminished.
There are many ways to reduce risk and you should consider trial projects, payment by results, pledges and specific guarantees.
The combination of social proof and a risk reversal ‘guarantee’ is very powerful and will move your client towards taking positive action.
iv. Building Your Message
When it comes to attracting the interest and attention of your target prospects you have a huge amount of competition, such as TV, radio, email, social media and newspapers to name a few.
There are many demands on our time and in order to attract more clients, your marketing message has to fight for your target prospects’ attention.
A reliable model that I still use is AIDCA. This is a time tested model to generate leads and enquiries. It’s been used by journalists for years and is a simple, effective way to write copy even if you have not done it before. It beats the flowery creative copy that often goes over people’s heads.AIDCA is an acronym for the process you want your visitors to take: Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction and Action.
Your biggest challenge is to win the ATTENTION of your clients. Your words need to connect, capture their interest, motivate their desire, prove you deliver results and get them to take action.
The best way to win their attention is to use a compelling headline that relates to their situation. The most effective headlines fall into three areas:
- The ‘how to’ headline – this type of headline tells visitors about something you know that they are interested in and want to learn more about
- The ‘problem’ headline – capture their attention by relating to an important business issue or challenge
- The ‘question’ headline – this headline style asks visitors a question that you know they need an answer to
The headline is so important and worth spending a bit of time thinking about. Consider your clients’ issues and what they want solutions to.
Here are some ideas for the other areas of the AIDCA model:
INTEREST – to get them interested explain and share information that tells them you understand their situation and that you have services that will help them overcome their problem(s)
DESIRE – to create desire, motivate them by sharing the outcomes and results they are likely to get from your services
CONVICTION – they want to know you deliver so give them proof and evidence that you are a good choice. Testimonials and case studies work really well
ACTION – to get more clients we need to start a relationship so the call to action needs to be a trigger. Think of it as an opportunity to sample your work and offer information that shares valuable content and showcases your expertise
The thing about your marketing message is that you have total control on the words and phrases you use to communicate. It’s well worth using this model to map out a message that make your services stand out so that your clients are drawn to you.
Strategy 6: Follow up with prospects
You’ve done the hard work and started a working relationship. Many businesses lose out at this stage because when they fail to make a sale immediately they stop trying.
Recent research shows that persistence and follow up will eventually pay off:
- 2% of sales are made on the first contact
- 3% of sales are made on the second contact
- 5% of sales are made on the third contact
- 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact
- 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact
So if you’re a small business owner and you don’t have a follow up system in place, just imagine all the business you’re missing out on.
Another thing to bear in mind is that your message may be completely relevant and hit their pain points, but it’s the nature of service businesses that it takes time for people to make their mind up to hire or buy from us.
Clients will buy when they are ready to buy, not when you are ready to sell, and successful business owners understand that sales rarely happen at the first point of contact.
It is unlikely that they will become clients until these subconscious questions are answered:
- Exactly what are you offering?
- Why do I need (or want) it?
- How can I believe your claims?
- Why should I get it from you?
- How fast can I get it?
- What if I don’t like it after I get it?
- What do I need to do to get it?
A structured follow up process is essential so that you’re front of mind when they want to proceed and buy your services.
Following up is about building a relationship and answering those hidden questions. This is done by sharing valuable “insider information” that helps them with their problems.
In a nutshell, if you don’t offer value they will likely lose interest in your follow up content.
Your Follow Up System
The best way to make the most of following up is to create a system and not leave things to chance. When you meet a prospective customer in person, connect online or through your direct response data capture offers, you need to decide what happens next.
This should be a mix of actions depending on your industry, ideally incorporating both online and traditional marketing methods, including:
- Follow up phone calls
- Email campaigns
- Social media content
- Direct mail letters
Continuity is essential and regular contact to build familiarity will help you convert interest to clients.
Follow up can be with an automated email marketing solution or Customer Relationship Manager software (CRM). There are great CRM and auto responder systems available that integrate an email marketing solution.
Email follow-up is inexpensive, straight forward to set up and quick to react. Using sequential email messages offering advice, information and education is a very effective way to build important relationships.
But don’t ignore the power of personal contact such as a phone call or a thoughtful letter, and remember nothing beats a face to face meeting.
Follow up marketing will serve you well. Done properly your prospect will clearly understand why you’re different, what your value to them is, and how you’re uniquely qualified to meet their challenges, while positioning your services to be their only logical choice.
I strongly urge you to set up and implement your own follow up marketing system. An educated prospect is your best prospect.
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The 9 Point Fast Track To Marketing And Finding More Clients
Strategy 7: Implementing the success triangle
With so many marketing methods and options available deciding what to do and where to start can be tremendously overwhelming.
I was in the same situation as you when I started my own business until I discovered Dan Kennedy’s success triangle. I used it to develop a marketing strategy that changed the way I found clients.
It’s particularly effective for business to business service companies and is an excellent foundation for your marketing system:
The Success Triangle
As independent business owners we are in the results business. We need leads and enquiries to flow into our practices and businesses.
If you are unsure how to get started on marketing your services it’s a very useful model to use.
How It Works
Your target market – this is the ‘Who’
Many business owners cannot accurately describe their ideal or existing clients. The starting point of any marketing strategy is identifying and understanding your target market and who your ideal clients are. It’s absolutely the key to the success of any business as everything cascades from your ‘who’.
You need to profile your best prospects. What industries do they operate in? How many employees do they tend to have? What products and services should you sell to them? Do you want to target business to business or consumers? Would they ideally be regional or national companies? Are they owner-managed or corporate companies? What size of turnover would be a good fit for you? Who is the decision maker?
Once you are clear on the people you want as clients you can get under their skin and identify their needs, problems and pains they are looking to solve.
It’s worthwhile remembering that no matter how special, amazing or unique your service is, if it is marketed to the wrong people then you won’t be successful in selling it.
Your value message – this is the ‘What’
I covered how to create an attractive message earlier in this post, but just to remind you, it needs to grab your prospects’ attention, tell them clearly how you can solve their problems, why they should trust you and why they should choose to do business with you.
The alignment between your target market and message is the critical area to work on.
It’s so easy to create a message that tries to attract all and sundry but this will likely miss your ideal prospects’ issues.
In both situations the response is not going to be great – results happen when your relevant problem solving message hits your ideal clients that need your services to overcome their problem.
Once you are clear on who your ideal client is and your message is aligned to your prospects’ pains, the challenge is then to work out how to get it front of them.
That’s third element of Kennedy’s marketing success triangle. Using the right mix of ways to reach you best prospective clients.
This is the ‘How’ – the marketing methods
As I touched upon earlier, there are dozens of ways to get your message to your ideal clients. Many business owners over-rely on luck because they don’t know what will work for them.
Using the success triangle will develop a deep understanding of your ideal client profile, which will guide you to the best marketing methods to use.
What would be the most effective, efficient media to use to begin building relationships with your ideal clients? You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Will direct mail work?
- What websites/blogs do they use?
- Do they use social media?
- What seminars or training events do they attend?
- What does my literature need to say?
- Do they attend trade shows or exhibitions?
- Do they read a particular newspaper, magazine or trade journal?
- Can you rent a mailing list?
- Do they belong to a professional body?
- Are there any industry events they attend?
- What problems do they search for and how easy will your website be found using search engines?
- Do they go to networking events?
Once you know your market, your goal is to identify as many cost-effective ways as possible that you can put your message in front of them.
The success triangle offers a useful starting point when looking to improve your marketing. If you work on the right message and deliver it to the right market using the right medium you can’t go far wrong.
It’s not fancy but it can be hugely effective.
Strategy 8: Having confidence in the sales conversation
Unless you have an online business, there is no getting away from the fact that to convert a prospective client to a paying client, there needs a sales conversation.
I can’t tell you how many people absolutely dread the thought of having to do this, so much so that many business owners have no sales process often resulting in ‘turning off’ even the most eager potential clients.
It’s true that we tend to have a perception of sales people as a bit smooth, sleazy and inauthentic. They will say and do anything to get your money.
Additionally, TV shows like Dragons Den and the Apprentice think that’s sales is all about a pitch.
Let’s take a look at the process that leads to a paying client:
- Your target marketing has generated a warm lead from someone that is interested
- Your educational marketing has positioned your services as a potential solution to their problem
- Your content has reduced their scepticism and started to build some trust and credibility
- Your call to action has set up a meeting – this could be on the phone or face to face depending on your business
I’m far from being a super salesman and I still have work to do on my own sales process, but I have found that treating a sales conversation as a consultation works extremely well for me.
Jumping straight into why you are the best thing since sliced bread and saying things like ‘you’d be foolish not to buy my services’ is a recipe for failure.
Think of it as a visit to the GP. You are feeling unwell and book an appointment. The receptionist will often triage your call so that the GP has some back ground information.
In the appointment they will ask you numerous questions to pinpoint your ailment so you get the correct medication.
The GP is an expert and answers your concerns and worries in a way that reassures you that you are in the best of hands and if you follow their advice things will improve and get better.
OK, I understand that this is a simplified example, and yes there can be twists and turns in converting clients, but if you adopt this consultative approach you take away the pressure to perform as a sales person.
So forget about making a sales pitch; instead, have a sales conversation of value. Ask questions about their situation, listen well and give insights into how your services will get them the results and outcomes they want and will pay for.
Qualified prospects are already predisposed to your services so your sales conversation is not about twisting their arm or persuading them to buy your services.
You’re more relaxed, feel more confident and your client will likely to understand the value of choosing you – it’s well worth trying.
Strategy 9: Make changes to get results
You’ve read the previous eight strategies that will make a huge difference to how you market, win clients, and grow your business.
In this final section I would like to share some of the critical changes that you make have to make in order to develop your skills as an owner of a business who wants to drive success.
- Focus – why is it so important?
The problem is that a lack of focus leads to spreading yourself too thinly.
Many business owners don’t make the progress they want because they are trying to get so many things right. Concentrate on the most important strategies that make the best of your resources.
Devoting time, energy and money to several strategies at the same time tends to mean that none of them get thoroughly implemented.
It’s a bit of a vicious circle. A lack of focus leads to wasting your time and taking your eye off the ball, which in turn leads to frustration, poor results and a stuttering business with disappointing growth.
Tied in with focus, it’s important that you identify the right actions to focus on. Learn to be disciplined, manage your time, and resist unnecessary and distracting time stealers.
Brian Tracy, the self-development author, shares the following questions you can ask yourself to ensure that you are working on your top priorities and getting as much done as possible.
- What are the highest value activities?
What are the activities that account for most of the value of your work? Which of your activities contribute the greatest value to your company?
- What are your key result areas?
What are the specific results that you have to achieve to grow your business? Which are the most important?
- What can only you do?
What is the one thing that only you can do and if you do it well, will make a significant contribution to your business?
This is something that no one else can do for you and if you don’t do it, it won’t be done.
- What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?
This question is a huge filter question and will allow you focus and set your priorities. What is the most valuable use of your time right now? Avoid tackling the small things first. Park them up and work on the key things that have a big impact on the business.
Figure out your priorities and start with your most important work first.
- Take action – consistently
Getting things ‘out the door’ and implemented is the way that you will grow your business. There’s no point in designing a marketing strategy if you never put into practice.
Taking action is of course critical, but it needs to be done on a consistent basis. Commit to daily, weekly and monthly action – whatever it takes to market your business in a strategic way. Sporadic action won’t get you very far at all.
Just imagine how you would feel if you managed to double your revenue and profit in the next 12 months, simply by taking consistent action.
Don’t procrastinate – develop your marketing plan and be more visible to your ideal clients.
- Learn from your mistakes
Many business owners never get their business to a position they want because they are afraid of failing.
And without doubt there will be things you do to market your business that won’t work. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get the results you expect.
Be curious and find out what went wrong and how can you change your marketing strategy to improve your results in the future.
Develop an attitude that considers failure a part of building a business and don’t be fearful of not getting it right first time.
Which of these 9 strategies can you use?
Some of the ideas that I have covered may be familiar to you and some may be new or different. To give your marketing a boost and increase your sales and profits take action and apply them.
You will get a lot more leads, clients and a better income as a result.
Do you want a copy of this blog?
I have covered a lot of ideas in this post so I have created a free PDF download that you can work on.
I strongly suggest that you print a copy, grab a coffee and identify the ideas that will most improve your marketing and client attraction.
Get a PDF copy of this article here >>
The 9 Point Fast Track To Marketing And Finding More Clients