I’m sure that every now and again you receive an email, SMS or note from a client complimenting you on the great work that you have done, or on the good service you have given them. You may even be sitting in a meeting when a client says something really good about what it is that you do. CAPTURE IT!
Make sure that you have one place in which you save all of these comments and testimonies to the quality and calibre of your work. It can be Word document on your computer, a notebook that you keep on your desk or whatever but just make sure that you keep all of these comments in ONE place where you can find them easily when you need to get your hands on them.
When you record these compliments and testimonials, make sure that your record who they are from, where they worked at the time and in what capacity, the person’s contact details should you need to get hold of them to get their permission to quote them at some stage, and the date on which they said this nice thing about you.
When using referrals, compliments or testimonials from clients, make sure that you update them on a regular basis. You can also quote someone anonymously by saying that this referral came from the financial manager of a large FMCG Manufacturer, or this testimonial came from the CEO of a Pharmaceutical Company. This preserves your client’s privacy while still allowing you to showcase the good work that you have done.
Yesterday evening, I attended an event with one of my favourite speakers – Dr Dumisani Magadlela. He is a highly respected South African expert in the area of Ubuntu Intelligence and has touched many lives with his wisdom. Dumi’s simplest definition of Ubuntu for the layman is: I am who I am because of who you are. In other words, we are who we are because of our collective experience. He is HUGELY against the idea putting people in boxes and labelling them – which is something that we marketers like to do, because it makes things nice and easy for us. It makes the job of marketing that much simpler to be able to group / box / generalise about people, their traits, their habits and so on.
But I had a bit of an epiphany this morning after last night’s conversation had time to fester in my brain, and I realised that Dumi’s resistance to putting people in boxes had some merit. If I think of my existing and potential clients, I am who I am because of who they are and because of what they need and are missing in their lives, businesses or practices. We are incredibly interconnected – not in a master/servant way, not in a client/service-provider way, but in a partnership. We are who we are because of each other. If we suspend our hierarchical or power constructs for a moment, we will realise that we are equals.
Let me give you an example: I do not claim to have any financial acumen whatsoever. I have certainly picked up bits and pieces along the way, but I rely on the specialist expertise of my teams of Chartered Accountants and Auditors to do what they specialise in so that I can focus on what I am good at, and I am quite happy to pay them for their expertise (if anyone is looking for some great accountants, I can give some good recommendations). They’re partners in making my business a success.
By the same token, I spend a lot of time studying my field and new developments so that I can offer my clients sound, practical advice that helps them market their businesses without spending a cent. I want them to be able to lose their anxiety about marketing their businesses, and be able to focus on what they are really great at.
What is YOUR relationship like with your clients? Are you who and where you are because of the relationship that you have? Are you part of YOUR clients’ success formula or are you a grudge purchase?
I have a beautiful quotation printed on my business cards by a very wise woman, Peggy Tabor Millin. I want to be able to see it every day because I want to remind myself CONSTANTLY that every person that I meet, every person that I come into contact with, every person that I speak to (even over the phone) is significant, special and important. The quotation goes like this:
“We never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace” – Peggy Tabor Millin
How beautiful is that? The impact of this for me is to help me remember that the waiter who is serving me in the Mugg & Bean may currently be a student at Varsity or Tech (I’m giving my age away here), but in a few years time, he might be a manager in a company with decision-making capability over whether or not to use my services. He may own his own company and be looking for a marketing consultant, and might remember the conversation he had with this nice lady years ago while he was still a waiter and he might look me up on LinkedIn and recognise me because of my short blonde hair…
Let me illustrate this with a true example. My husband and I used to own an engineering business, and we hired a guy as a driver. Victor was a particularly fast and skillful driver as he had driven a taxi for some years to help pay his way through a year of Tech to get some electrical engineering under his belt. After a while, my husband pulled him across into the workshop and trained him up slowly on the electrical side. To cut a long story short, Vic is now working for a large multi-national who have sent him on all sorts of courses and qualifications, he drives a beautiful car and will be getting married within the next couple of months in Polokwane. He taught me to understand to enormous pressures that taxi drivers are under on the roads and the terrible conditions that they live under, working long hours, no physical exercise, poor nutrition and constant stress. He managed to break that cycle and create another life and future for himself.
I want you to look beyond the immediate reality of the people that you come across and see the potential. This person could one day recommend you or your services to someone, they could – in years to come – make or break you. Respect their future potential as well as their present being.
I’m a HUGE fan of using online directories as part of your online Search Engine Optimisation strategy and actively encourage my clients to look for appropriate online directories to list in. There are a number of great reasons for this:
- You can include all of your contact details, including your blog or website address, and Google will pick this up as a website LINKING BACK to your site. Always remember – when listing your blog or website details online – to include the full URL, for example: http://withoutspendingacent.com or https://mhconsulting.wordpress.com. This great tip was given to me by a good friend, and the reason for this is that it makes it easier for Google to index your site.
- Listing on a variety of online directories across the web means that you put signposts out directing potential clients or customers to your business from many different directions. If you don’t give people great directions on how to find you, they’ll never get to your front door!
- One of the very first directories that you need to list on is the directory belonging to your professional body or the association for your type of business While this may seem counter-intuitive, the professional body or association should be doing a good job of marketing the credibility of your body or association – credibility that you would hopefully want to be associated with!
- Consider listing as an affiliate or associate member of the professional bodies that the majority of your clients belong to, but please do this with integrity. This is a great opportunity to get involved in your clients’ special interest areas and to engage meaningfully from a different perspective.
You will be able to find as many directories as you are prepared to search for. Ensure that your message and content remains consistent no matter where you are listed, but also ensure that you tailor your basic profile to fit the target market of the online directory.
Finally, do not commit what I consider to be the cardinal sin of listing on online directories and include numbers or symbols in your listing in order to promote your listing to the top of an alphabetical list. This is not clever because you severely undermine your Search Engine Optimisation – suddenly, your name becomes Joe 1Smith on one directory, Joe 4Smith on another and so on. Anyone searching for Joe Smith is not going to find your listings and Google is not going to “credit” you with all your multiple online identities. It’s just a lot of effort going to waste. It also looks like what it is: that you’re so poor at marketing and so desperate for business that you have to resort to disingenuous ways to get someone to look at your profile.
Some of the online directories that I use are:
For a full list of directories, List of Online Directories. Have fun listing!
I was privileged to meet with a gorgeous, dynamic businesswoman yesterday. She is doing everything right in terms of marketing her brand, and putting an inordinate amount of effort into the marketing of her company. She is in high profile consumer media (where the rest of us would KILL to be), she has a great website, she’s on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter – you name it….
However, it became clear as we chatted that her approach to her target market was too broad and she was unwittingly using a “spray and pray” approach in terms of attracting business. This woman has the most exciting, unique concept that I have come across in a long time. She is challenged – as entrepreneurs typically are – by having to balance all the hats of being an MD, sales manager, marketing manager, financial manager, manufacturing manager, HR manager and so on. In addition, she is a devoted mom to two very active boys, a loving wife, and she has a real sense of family commitment on top of a hectic social life. I don’t know how she balances all these hats and still gets to the gym!
Back to the target market! We needed to talk about her primary target market and segment it for her so that she could do a couple of things:
- By segmenting her target market into a series of sub-sections, she can construct very clear messages for each of these sub-markets;
- She can identify appropriate media and vehicles or places to “place” her targetted messages (remember those ads that don’t appeal to you? Chances are that you are not in their target market and their message is simply not designed to ring your bell! Well, the same principle applies here.)
- She can also start focussing on how to PUSH her product towards these potential customers. Remember: only one side of marketing is creating the PULL or the demand. We need to close the circle completely by also creating the PUSH – putting in place mechanisms that compel our potential customers to buy our products/services.
I look forward to questions or comments…
If there is one basic rule of marketing that I have seen proven to work repeatedly it is the rule about defining your niche. This can consist of two things: defining WHAT you do, and defining WHO you do it with.
I’ll use my business as an example. WHAT do I do? Well, I help entrepreneurs market themselves or their business…but so do millions of other people, and many of them do so exceptionally well. So if I tell you that I teach entrepreneurs how to market themselves or their businesses without spending a cent, doesn’t that sound a little more compelling?
But let’s break it down even further. WHO do I teach to market their businesses without spending a cent? Entrepreneurs, right – I gave the answer away in the previous paragraph!!! It’s more than that. I specialise in working with professionals and professional bodies. This starts to narrow my target market.
In other words, the people that I would be aiming my message at would be accountants, lawyers, professional coaches, people in the “helping professions” and so on. This doesn’t mean that I turn business away if it falls outside these parameters. Not at all! However, in terms of my own continuing professional development and learning, I have a particular focus rather than a shotgun approach because of my area of specialisation. I can concentrate my networking strategically and manage my time effectively. I can make sure that I become an acknowledged subject matter expert within my specialised field, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
I read an article some time ago on the internet and – to my frustration – didn’t save the source somewhere where I’d be able to find it again easily and be able to reference it. However, the author had a very stiking message about being able encapsulate the essence of one’s marketing message or business proposition on the back of a matchbox. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and challenge you to try this exercise. Would YOU be able to fit what you do onto the back of matchbox? Mine’s easy: I teach people how to market themselves without spending a cent. Let me know how you go…
Just as we were winding down for the December holidays, I sent a proposal through to a potential new client. In the preliminary meetings that we had had, much stress had been placed on the fact that this was a make-or-break period for this business, and that the next 3 to 6 months would be crucial in terms of whether or not this business would continue its existence.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email from the Managing Partner acknowledging receipt of my proposal, thanking me for my efforts and professionalism, and advising me that the company was shutting down for the Festive Season and that the project would be picked up in January 2012!
My giddy aunt! I would have thought that this would have been the PERFECT time to get a head start on the competition! This is the best time of the year to do that quality thinking, planning and execution of strategy that you never get around to during the hustle and bustle of the rest of the year. With modern technology, you can be sitting on a beach or chilling in the bushveld while you create a blog from scratch, link it to your brand new Twtter account and already have traffic coming to your site by the time your opposition is just easing back into the New Year.
With the wonders of WordPress, you can write a couple of blogs a day and schedule them to go out whenever you please – making it look as though you are a WordPress-Wunderkind and are blogging far more regularly than you really are (some fabulous advice that I dispense regularly, but am guilty of not acting upon!). Similarly with Twitter – download the free Tweetdeck dashboard and you can manage multiple accounts and set up Tweets from now to next Christmas should you wish to do so (just remember to try and ensure that your Tweets encourage readers to visit your other online presences every now and again.
But back to my original beef about working on your business rather than in your business over the Festive Season: I also feel very strongly that everyone needs a break sometime, but if you are an entrepreneur and are trying to build a business, there are some things that you sign up for during the first few years of a fledgling business’ life, and one of them is that – when the rest of the world takes time off, that is your gap to get ahead of the game. As world famous golfer, Gary Player once said: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.” I’m sure every successful entrepreneur will agree with me.