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An Action Step Is Worth A Thousand Words
We self-employed professionals spend a great deal of our marketing effort on searching for the right words. We read books, take classes, and hire consultants to help us write copy for our marketing materials. Writing sales letters, drafting brochures, and composing websites consumes hours or days of precious marketing time. But it appears that many professionals have mistaken all this wordsmithing for productive action.
Don't get me wrong; the words we use to market ourselves are important and deserve our attention. But crafting the message and delivering it are not at all the same thing. Here are some situations I've encountered with clients that illustrate this all-too-common marketing blunder.
"I spent $3000 on a brochure and I haven't gotten a single client from it."
If all we had to do in order to succeed at marketing ourselves was spend money, I suspect many more of us would have thriving businesses. But when selling your own professional services, it rarely works that way. A brochure can be a useful device for getting a prospect's attention or providing information about our services. Its true function, though, is to open the door to more conversation, not to close a sale.
Brochures don't get clients all by themselves. Before you begin work on one, you should know exactly how you will use it. Will you send it by direct mail? Distribute it through strategic partnerships? Give it to people who inquire about your services? Include it in proposals you write? What are the specific action steps you have in mind that require having a brochure? The best marketing tools in the world are worthless without a plan for how to use them.
"I can't follow up on these leads because I don't have a good sales letter."
The quest for the perfect sales letter seems to prevent far too many of us from reaching out to prospective clients. It appears that many professionals are convinced that there IS such a thing as the perfect sales letter -- you know, the one that results in your phone ringing off the hook with eager clients as soon as they receive it? Searching for this holy grail of marketing, they delay and delay until all their leads grow stale.
Instead of focusing so much on the content of your sales letters, put your emphasis on repeat contacts using multiple channels over time. Place a call, then send a note, call again, then send an e-mail. You could make contact with a prospect four times over a two-week span in less time than it takes you to write and rewrite one "perfect" letter. A series of action steps like this will have much more likelihood of resulting in a live conversation than almost any letter you could write.
"I can't start marketing; my website isn't done yet."
The idea of marketing one's business on the web didn't even exist before the mid-90's. And somehow, we managed to market ourselves without it. Now it seems that having a website up has become a prerequisite for getting clients. Actually, the universe really hasn't changed that much.
For the vast majority of professional service providers, their first few clients come as a result of pre-existing personal connections. These clients are people they already know, or the friends and colleagues of people they know. There's no need for a web presence to land clients like these.
In fact, you'll compose a much better website after you have had the opportunity to have a few real sales conversations, so you'll know more about what works when you speak to potential clients. If prospects need more information about you, put it on paper or send an e-mail. Just because you CAN share information about your business on the web doesn't mean you have to.
Brochures, sales letters, and websites are all excellent and effective marketing tools. Writing powerful and informative marketing copy is a useful skill to learn or hire out to a professional. Just don't let your marketing get put on hold because you haven't yet found the perfect words to use. In marketing your services, actions really do speak louder than words.
Copyright © 2006, C.J. Hayden
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