I’ve been asking successful independent professionals lately what it was they did that launched their success. What activity helped them the most to stop struggling to market themselves and start finding clients with more ease? The diversity of their answers has been intriguing, but I’ve been struck by what they haven’t said as well as what they have. So far, not a single person has told me they ultimately got more results from their marketing by working harder.
This may seem to be at odds with what we learn about marketing from books, classes, consultants, and coaches. Given the volume and variety of ideas these experts share with us, aren’t they suggesting we need to do “more”? Or is it possible that the message to work harder is just our own interpretation? Perhaps what the experts are really advising is something different.
There is a certain threshold of marketing activity every professional needs to cross. You can’t sit in your office communicating with no one and expect clients to arrive at your door. Nor can you accomplish results with your marketing if you don’t make time for it in your calendar. But once you are regularly taking action about marketing, the secret to success appears to be working smarter, not harder.
How do you tell the difference between working harder at marketing and working smarter? Here are some comparisons:
Harder: Place more cold calls to new prospects.
Smarter: Follow up regularly with warm calls to people with whom you already have a connection.
Harder: Launch a direct mail campaign, sending sales letters to a prospect list you purchased or compiled from public sources.
Smarter: Send personal letters or email to people whose problems and goals you have some knowledge of.
Harder: Attend more networking events.
Smarter: Attend only those events frequented by people in your target market or by likely referral partners.
Harder: Ask everyone you come in contact with to refer you business.
Smarter: Spend time building relationships with key people who are likely to come in contact with your ideal clients.
Harder: Book every speaking engagement you can get.
Smarter: Accept speaking engagements only when the topic draws on the core of your expertise and the audience is the right profile for your services.
Harder: Write a new article for every publication you would like to have publish your work.
Smarter: Seek out publications that accept previously-printed articles and submit the same ones to multiple venues.
What you may notice about these examples is that the “work harder” path in some ways can be easier than the “work smarter” one. For example, you don’t have to think very much to make more cold calls. You can simply sit down with a list you got from anywhere, smile, and dial. But to follow up regularly with people you already know, you probably need to have a system in place to keep track of when you last conversed and what you talked about.
Similarly, to attend more networking events, without too much thought you can probably see what’s listed in the paper or arrives in your mailbox, register, and show up. But to attend only events relevant to your target market, you need to craft a clear definition of who that market is and do some homework to seek out events where those people gather.
Is there any point, though, in doing more just because it’s easier, if in fact what you are doing is considerably less likely to produce results? Take a lesson from the successful professionals who assert that simply working harder isn’t the whole answer. However you are currently marketing your business — making calls, attending events, etc. — ask yourself how you can improve those strategies by applying more focus and direction instead of just more time and effort. To make your marketing more successful, take off your running shoes and put your thinking cap on.