Mirror Post: Marketing 101 For Inspired Solos – Designing The Plan

Remember – we’ve moved!  Check out the original post at The Inspired Solo’s new home!

It’s a fact of life, I think, that every new solo (except the ones who’ve been blessed with tons of past entrepreneurial experience) will face the fear of getting clients. You can see these posts every so often in the Solosez and Solomarketing listservs, I’ve found in the past: “Help I Need Clients.” “What NOW?” “Cheap Ads?”

Implicit in these subject lines:

  • fear – the fear of going hungry for failure to secure paying clientele
  • uncertainty – the uncertainty that comes with not having a concrete plan for marketing
  • panic – maybe a tinge of panic that this whole “going solo” thing isn’t as self-evident and self-perpetuating as we maybe thought/dreamed/hoped it was initially

The good news? Marketing is not an innate skill that you’re either born with or pay someone else for – it’s a skill like all others that you have to learn and work at, in order to improve your performance.

So, without further ado, the first installment of Marketing 101 for Inspired Solos!

Designing the Plan

First things always come first, and in marketing, you start with designing your marketing plan. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is your ideal client (IC)? Describe him or her or it as fully as possible. What services does IC use already? What other professionals are “gatekeepers” for that IC? Who can introduce you? What do the ICs do for fun? Where do they bank? The more information you can glean about IC, the better chance you’ll have of crafting the right plan to get IC’s attention.
  • What about you – what are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you think fast on your feet at cocktail parties but hate the tedium of writing notes and letters or, god forbid, articles? Or do social situations make you nuts but you enjoy one-on-one relationship building? This isn’t a self-improvement exercise, so leave the ego at the door. Rather, give yourself an honest assessment of your abilities.
  • What resources do you currently have? Blogs, websites, URLs, time, specific knowledge, specific relationships, eye-catching logo on your business card – all these things can be perceived as resources you could utilize. This list will grow and contract over time, but it’s important that you keep it current and thorough.
  • Answer this question: What do you have more of – time, or money?
  • Answer this question, too, while you’re at it: What means more to you right now – time, or money?

A note about these last two questions: no, I’m not suggesting the marketing world devolves only to time and money spent or saved. But it is a useful construct for thinking about marketing as a whole. When you’re first starting out, you’ll likely have more time than money. Does that always mean you’ll “do it yourself” and avoid spending cash on consultants or design professionals? No. But your business is better served if you know what those parameters are. Good decisions require good information, always. So, these two questions, in conjunction with the question about your strengths and weaknesses (and likes and dislikes) will help you sort out those tasks you can safely assume from those you’d be better off assigning to an outsourced provider.

Finally, we’re going to examine our marketing message. Whole books have been written about this topic, of course, and you’d do well to read a few if you have time. But briefly put: your marketing message is a combination of what used to be called the “USP” (unique selling proposition) and how you best serve IC’s needs. But to do that, you have to know what those needs are, right?

In thinking about that question – what does IC need most that I can provide? – I find it most helpful to think about the old marketing saw “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” What it means is that buyers aren’t really buying a steak when they pick up a sirloin at the grocery store – they’re buying the promise of a delicious meal, a sensory experience. Similarly, my clients aren’t “buying” a bankruptcy petition and schedules – they’re buying a cessation from harassment, a feeling of competence and security that’s heretofore escaped them while they were in financial distress.

What are your ICs really buying from you? Answer that question, and you’ll be at least halfway there to designing your own marketing message. To get the rest of the way, you need to figure out one “simple” thing: how do YOU deliver that need better than anyone else?

That can be anything from specific expertise to particular experience to a method or process you’ve come up with that better serves those in ICs position to even cost (though I caution anyone to think very carefully before competing on price alone in this market – it’s generally not in your best interests to do so). You have to come up with at least one reason why you’re the best lawyer for the job. To get you started, here are a few choice words and phrases that might spark your creative thinking:

  • training
  • experience
  • passion
  • client communication
  • billing structure
  • personal experience (to be distinguished from professional experience – have you been in IC’s shoes, yourself?)
  • responsiveness
  • technology
  • contacts
  • level of service or attention

That’s just a starting list – there are many more aspects of your practice that you can develop into your marketing message. But define it – that’s the key. Know what that unique thing about your practice is – define the sizzle, so you can sell the steak.

Next post, we’ll talk about drafting your plan – putting it all in writing.

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