It usually takes about two years for a business to start reaping the benefits of earlier networking and marketing activities. A funny thing happens after the initial frustration of feeling like you’re making no progress spending tons of time trying to put your business out there. Referrals start coming in from people you don’t recall meeting or clients you have forgotten. Hang in there if you’re a start-up. Know, though, you’d best plan on a couple of years building a base before clients come calling without a nudge from you.
Yesterday we explored strategies for getting paid quickly. Today we’ll look at some ideas that aren’t part of the usual contemporary conversation concerning attracting clients – but they work.
Of course, there are the common methods that are overused and often off-putting, but you can also get creative in a way that makes you memorable. Here are some tips if you want to stand out reaching out to prospects:
- Pick a niche and get to know the issues and needs of these customers thoroughly. That doesn’t mean you can’t do work for others, but your marketing messages should be designed so that your primary audience (this can be more than one) hears what you write or say and feels like you know them.
- Consider public speaking. This is a great way to be seen as credible in an audience’s eyes. Prepare well enough by knowing who you’re speaking to, scribing and/or outlining intended remarks (don’t read a speech ever) and memorizing the opening and close so it’s people walk away remembering your powerful message. This is not the place for a pitch.
- Network in person – there’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions. This can include Chambers, business organizations, tip clubs, national meetings (this can be huge done right and well worth the investment), trade associations, local mixers, board appointments, etc.
- When networking, seek to gather business cards and information instead of shoving your contact information in people’s hands and selling.
- Approach centers-of-influence and industry leaders with ideas for collaborating
- Send a multi-part, three-dimensional mail campaign to the people you want to impress most or those that are hard to reach.
- Use traditional media to spread the word about what you are doing. Having a reporter cover your story or a piece appear with your byline in a print publication is far more credible than advertising or online social chatter – and it’s free (sans your time). Do your homework by understanding who covers what type of story, familiarizing yourself with the format and content of the source you intend to approach and taking the time to customize a letter to include with your media release.
- Call an industry leader who’s respected and invite them to lunch. You’d be amazed at how generous those who have seen success are about giving back. Don’t go there planning to sell them, though. That’s obnoxious and short-sighted. Plan what you want to learn from them about how you can do better, listen and learn. Make sure you follow up with a snail mail thank you.
- Send thank you notes to those who help you through the USPS. So few even thank their benefactors (this includes the media), you’ll stand out with this simple act of penning a letter.
- If online is your focus, participate in groups, with comments on others blogs, through a content-rich and useful (not sales-oriented) website and consider podcasts and video as part of your mix (this can be offered for free or fee-based material).
- Offer material you have for free (you can set a price and get paying subscribers) via Kindle, iTunes and other resellers with huge reach. The free advertising can be extremely effective and you’ll also enjoy monthly surprise checks from people willing to pay for the convenience of getting material in a format they want that’s distributed for free less conveniently.
- Be committed to continual learning – both about your industry and your market. Staying apprised of what’s new and what’s news will set you apart from most.
- Learn enough about your prospects so you can send information of interest or referrals to them to remember you when they have a need for what you’re offering.
There’s a lot more you can do with creative flair to stand out, but this list (even if you pick only one) can get you started.