Yesterday, I had the pleasure to be invited to do an ‘Ask The Experts’ call with Colleen Ferrary, President of Small Business USA. Colleen and her organization are dedicated to helping small business owners access resources that help them succeed.
On our call, we discussed a number of factors that both enable and dis-able the ability of a small business owner or solo-practitioner to be effective in their marketing. I thought it would be timely and useful to share some of the highlights of our call with you, today.
We began by talking about the role and definition of marketing. While there are various ways to define this essential business growth function, I said I like one that’s fairly simple:
“Marketing is a business function that reflects the decisions you make and actions you take, over time, to increase the quantity and improve the quality of opportunities where a sale can be made”
Marketing effectively, means you’ll be coming into contact with people who can best understand, value, desire and afford the beneficial difference you can create in their life on a predictable and regular basis. And that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.
The Challenges You Face
Typically, if you’re a small business owner or sole-practitioner, marketing is a challenge. Why? Because it sucks . . . resources away from other activities in your business where you’d prefer to use them. Notably, there are four (4) factors that limit your ability to market your business, your products and your services as effectively as you’d like:
You have all the time in the world. 24 hours per day. So a lack of time isn’t the problem. OK, what is? Making choices on how to use your time that doesn’t help you your marketing, effectively or efficiently. Too often, I see people who make bad choices on how to invest their time on marketing as well as other areas of their life. Making better choices seems easy enough. Until you realize there is an emotional payoff for the choices we make. Yes, including the ‘bad’ ones. Reframing the importance of marketing can help. But this is a real issue.
Business people often lament, “I can’t afford to spend money on marketing”. Really? Tell me, “Can you really afford not to market your business or practice?” Unless you’re absolutely without a source of funds for marketing, this is not a good mantra. Said often enough, you may actually believe it! My suggestion . . . get in touch with WHY you want to market — the consequential benefits it will produce — and you’ll reframe this issue in a totally different and far more productive way.
This is probably one of the few legitimate reasons why people don’t market effectively. You need to have an aptitude for marketing. Not everyone does. Maybe not even you. But even if you have it, you need time to invest in learning how to do it effectively. For these two reasons alone, having the requisite skill to do your own marketing isn’t something that’s safe to assume is always likely to happen.
If you’re a solo-practitioner, you have a number ‘hats’ to wear. For that same reason, you will be most challenged by this factor. You know the meaning of the saying, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to ME!”. Your nemesis is, more than anything, time. More precisely, it’s all the demands you have to do everything you must in the 24 hours a day you have to do it. If you lack the skills to do your marketing, then you’re really in a tough spot to get your marketing done effectively and efficiently. If you lack both time and skill . . . get someone else to do your marketing activities for you . . . or, suffer the consequences.
If you have staff, they may be just as challenged to do your marketing –– for the reasons cited above. First, they must have skills to market your business, products and services. Second, they must have the time — in addition to what you’re already asking them to do — to do marketing on top of everything else. Regardless of what your employees’ challenge may be, something has to give and usually, it’s not something you’ll like.
A Solution You May Like
If you’re a big company with lots of money (a sure-fire way to buy someone else’s TIME!) and staff (some of whom have some aptitude for marketing), then this won’t be of interest to you.
BUT . . . if you’re a time-starved solopreneur or self-employed advisor / planner / professional . . . this may be the best way to do marketing –– for you –– that is not only simple and effective but affordable and sustainable, as well. (How cool is that!)
Say “Hello” to PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing
‘PAM’ is a marketing service that’s designed for you if you lack the time and possibly the skills you need to do your own marketing.
Because PAM is affordable, you don’t need to invest a lot of money to see meaningful and measurable results. In fact, your marketing budget, large or small, is capable of generating a really nice ROI for you . . . in the hands of ‘PAM’.
How It Works
The power of PAM comes from a series of ‘touches’ . . . contacts made with people who are your prospects, clients and centers-of-influence. Most of these are done FOR you . . . by a VMA (Virtual Marketing Assistant) who is assigned to handle your marketing.
We’ve learned the #1 reason smaller firms, consultants and advisors find marketing so frustrating is that they’re trying to do it themselves. Not good!
That’s why you want someone else — your VMA — to do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ your marketing requires. This allows you to respond to marketing that puts people, with a PAIN or a PREFERRAL into contact with you on a regular basis. That is ‘all good’ for your bottom-line!
The Eight (8) Touches PAM Makes For You
Since most of your clients are buying a relationship with you, PAM focuses on creating ‘touches’ that are personally meaningful to the people you’re cultivating for the lifetime value they offer you . . . either in the form of revenues and/or referrals. These include:
PAM sends these to people who want to hear from you — i.e. 100% opt-in. These emails are short, interesting and can be scanned in no more than 7 seconds. We feature your photo and contact information prominently on each one.
PAM also does all the ‘work’ involved in creating these emails. From researching, writing, releasing and reporting on what your people do after they receive them. All you need to do is invite people to receive them from you. PAM . . . does everything else!
This keeps you top-of-mind with people who can, sooner or later, buy from you or refer you to others who can. They’re also designed to get people to ‘raise their hands’ and let you know they’d like to learn more about specific products or services you offer. Sweet!
Once a quarter, your VMA will make a ‘courtesy call’ to each person you’re cultivating. The goal for each of these calls is to do three (3) things:
1. remind them that you are thinking about them . . . in a fiduciary way . . . to ensure they’re doing well
2. learn if they have a need that someone (an ‘Expert’) in your network may be able to help them address
3. invite them to request a call or arrange a meeting with you, if they wish, to discuss a matter of importance . . . to them
Do you get a periodic call from the office of your doctor, dentist, accountant, coach, auto mechanic, remodeling contractor, etc. Few do. But the impression it makes — and the perception of ‘preference’ it generates — for you when you do this is . . . ‘priceless’.
Meet ‘N Greet Lunches
One of the best ways to reconnect with people who are ‘key’ to your practice or business — prospects, clients and centers-of-influence — is by breaking bread together. Once or twice a month, PAM arranges for you to meet with 2 – 3 other people you’re actively cultivating.
You have to eat anyway, why not use the opportunity to strengthen relationships, introduce people who know you to one another. In the process, you’ll discover needs and opportunities you can address. Plus, ‘PAM’ takes care of everything — from contacting the restaurant (or, ordering the food to be delivered to you office), inviting and confirming the ‘guests’ and following-up afterwards.
Thinking of You Emails
Periodically, PAM will send a brief email to people you’re cultivating with one or two sentences. Something like, “Dear Mike — I saw this post on Linkedin and thought you’d find it of interest. Hope all’s well with you and yours. Sincerely, Christine”
Sending these thought-full emails to your ‘special’ people on topics you know (and, tell PAM!) are important to them will make YOU far more valuable to them, as well. Guaranteed!
Preferral Exchange Meetings
You know there are certain people in your business circles who have referred people to you in the past and likely would do so again in the future, right? Well, do you plan to reconnect with them on a regular basis? If not, PAM can help make that happen.
Once or twice a month — you choose — PAM will arrange for you to meet with people who are likely to introduce you to new people who are likely to understand, value, desire and afford your problem-solving services. Of course, fair’s fair and this is an excellent opportunity for you to return the favor.
But the bottom-line is that, by doing this consistently and conscientiously, you’ll be regularly generating new people to talk with because of the influence and prestige of someone else who’s already established a ‘trusted advisor’ relationship with them. Kind of makes your work a lot easier, doesn’t it?
Introductions to Your Experts
As PAM connects with your people each month, ‘needs’ will be learned and shared with you. Many of these will not be needs for something you do. But other people you know will be able to help. When that’s the case, PAM will help you make an introduction of your contact and your expert. This tends to delight three (3) people.
Your contact is delighted because you’ve helped them to identify and meet with someone they can trust — because they trust you, yes? Your Expert is delighted because you’ve helped them to meet with a prospective client they might other never have known about. And then there’s you. You now have two (count’m 2!) more people in the world whose opinion of you has gone up a few points. That’s called goodwill. And goodwill turns into more revenues and referrals!
Staying-in-touch and top-of-mind with your key people is an important thing to do. And, do regularly. That’s why an item-of-value is so important. This ‘touch’ needn’t be expensive. But, it must be thoughtful. It’s a tangible experience that reminds someone you’re cultivating that, “You’re important to me”.
These items are usually very simple, inexpensive and have a high utility value. One of the more creative clients we’ve had the privilege to work with uses a solid milk-chocolate bar that shows their practice’s name and logo. It doesn’t last long (DUH!), but the feeling it creates for our client and their firm is . . . priceless!
Each month, PAM will remind you of certain individuals who should receive a handwritten note from you. These are (mercifully) brief. Why? It’s not the message you write. It’s the message you’re sending to someone you’re cultivating — “You’re important to me”.
The reason notes work so well is that in a high-tech world where it’s so easy to ‘like’ someone’s page on Facebook or ‘follow’ someone on Twitter, you have to give your personal attention and time to write a note and (snail) mail it to someone. What your effort communicates, more than any words you may write on the card, is that the recipient is someone you regard, respect and value. Get your people feeling that feeling on a regular basis and you won’t worry about any alleged competitors!
The Power of PAM: Synergy
As good as each of these ‘touches’ may be, the real power of the PAM service doesn’t come from using any one of them. It comes from the synergy of combining all of them into a coherent and coordinated plan of action that is carried out consistently and diligently.
Your PAM plan is uniquely tailored to your needs and resources
For example, you may not want to have two Meet ‘N Greet lunches every month. OK, just do one. Or, you prefer your item of value to be a white paper — rather than a keychain calculator. That’s fine. You have a lot of latitude and options.
Regardless of your choices, just be sure the type and frequency of the PAM ‘touches’ your plan calls for are done consistently. That’s why we assign a Virtual Marketing Assistant to you . . . to help you make sure your marketing activities happen “according to plan”.
Don’t Let Limiting Factors Hold Back Your Marketing and Your Success! Get PAM working . . . for you!
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Learn More About PAM — Personally Assisted Marketing
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We’ll be in touch to discuss how it works and, more importantly, how it may be able to do what your previous marketing efforts haven’t done as well as you wanted.