IF YOU WANT TO GET CLIENTS, YOU'LL HAVE TO TALK TO THEM
"I've done everything I can think
of to get clients," a desperate self-employed professional wrote to me. "I launched a website, I
had a brochure designed, I've been sending out mailings, and I've placed all sorts of ads in
print and on the web. But no one is hiring me. What am I doing wrong?"
This unhappy professional has
made a common mistake. He has fallen into the trap of believing that spending money on marketing
materials, mailings, and ads will somehow produce clients without the direct involvement of the
business owner. And he truly believes that this is "everything" he can do.
Perhaps professionals who make
this mistake are trying to follow the model of big business. They hide behind a company name,
expensive marketing literature, and a website. They spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on
ads, directory listings, and trade show booths. Far too many self-employed professionals don't
even disclose their own name in their marketing, even when they are operating a one-person
But people don't buy professional
services from an anonymous company whose name they don't even recognize; they buy them from
either: 1) nationally recognized firms who have spent millions to gain name recognition, or 2)
individual people they have learned to know, like, and trust. The more personal — or the
more expensive — the service you offer is, the more likely this is to be true.
If you are a financial advisor,
career counselor, or life coach, you are asking people to trust you with the most intimate areas
of their lives. If you are a web designer, IT consultant, or corporate trainer, you are asking
your clients to trust you enough to spend thousands of dollars with you. You don't earn people's
trust by placing an ad or sending them a brochure.
Independent professionals and
small professional services firms simply don't have the resources to build name recognition and
trust by way of high-priced, anonymous approaches like advertising and mass mailings. In fact,
the approaches that work best for most professionals to get clients are less expensive —
and more personal.
Here are the five best ways for
professionals to get clients:
- Meeting prospects or referral
sources in person, at events or by appointment
- Talking to prospects or
referral sources on the phone
- Sending personal letters and
emails to prospects who already know them
- Following up personally with
prospects over time
- Speaking to groups likely
to contain prospects at meetings and conferences
And here are the five things
self-employed professionals most often try that don't result in clients:
- Placing ads in the Yellow
Pages, trade publications, or pay-per-click ads on the web
- Distributing or posting
brochures or flyers around their community
- Mailing mass-produced letters
or brochures to strangers
- Sending their newsletter or
ezine to people who haven't asked for it
- Building a website consisting
of nothing but promotional copy for people to read
The main difference between these
two lists is that the first group of approaches require you to talk to people. The second list
consists of anonymous activities that allow you to hide out and never meet the people you are in
business to serve.
If you want people to become your
clients, they need to get to know you, learn to like you, and believe they can trust you. And for
that, they really do need to meet you.
It is understandable why so many
business owners gravitate to the least effective marketing tactics — they are so much easier
to accomplish! To buy an ad, all you have to do is put up the money. To send a mailing, all you
need is a mailing list and postage. It's much more challenging to go out and meet strangers, or to
call people on the phone, or to speak in public.
But the reality is that this is
what it takes to get clients. Even if you have the world's most compelling copy on your website,
it's a rare client who finds their way to your site, reads it, and decides then and there to work
with you. The same is true for an ad or a brochure. All these marketing tools are simply that
— tools. Just like a pair of pliers, they need a person holding them in order for them to
What clients want is to get a sense
of who you are as a person. They want to see your face or hear your voice, to get to know you over
time. If you don't have enough confidence in your business to speak to people in person about it,
how will they ever have enough confidence in you to hire you?
What you'll discover if you begin
to meet prospects in person, talk to them on the phone, and speak with them directly about how you
can help them, is that it gets easier the more you do it. It will build your confidence in
yourself — and the confidence your prospective clients have in you — at the same time.
If you're in the business of
serving people, your best marketing tool can be your own voice. So put it to work and start
talking to them.
Copyright © 2004, C.J. Hayden
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