Solopreneurs often start businesses because they love doing a certain type of work or are good at doing a certain thing. They wrap themselves in their work, doing all they can to give customers and clients their best.
But they often fall down on one key element of running their businesses: Marketing. Many solopreneurs and online business owners struggle with getting the word out about what they do because they don’t have good marketing strategies and they don’t have marketing budgets. They do good work on the few client projects that come their way, but attracting more clients and projects would allow them to produce better income.
So what’s a marketing-shy solopreneur to do?
First, is a mindset shift. Many solopreneurs hesitate to market because they believe it feels too promotional or paints them as being boastful or too salesy. The mindset change they have to make is to go from seeing marketing in such a negative light and see it in a positive light and as an essential weapon in their business success arsenal. After all, if they don’t market their businesses, who will? The businesses will eventually wither away and die, sending those solopreneurs back to their 9 to 5 jobs or struggling to start a new business, hoping they get a different result.
The second thing a marketing-shy solopreneur has to do is to realize there is no one-size fits all approach to marketing. What this means is that a solopreneur can choose the best marketing strategies and tactics for his or her business, temperament, and circumstances — including budget. So what are some effective ways solopreneurs can market on a budget? What marketing strategies and tactics can get results?
Here are five. Before I share what they are, I want to let you know these are all tactics — except for the last one — I have used in my own business. My husband and I run an online business from our home office. As the parents of two young children, we don’t have time to fool around with marketing that doesn’t work. After testing lots of different tactics, ideas, and approaches over my 13 years in business, here are some of the best I’ve found. I am focusing on low-cost options in this post.
With all of your marketing efforts, think: People. You always want to get in front of people who have an interest in and need for what you do. Otherwise, you'll feel all alone and as if nobody is listening. Mainly because nobody will be listening. So all the options below help you get in front of an audience, ideally, a targeted audience.
- Teleseminars. While webinars have gained popularity in recent years, teleseminars remain effective marketing tools. You can host a teleseminar using a free service like http://www.freeconferencecalling.com/ . Schedule your teleseminar, then promote it to your mailing list, social media communities, and elsewhere. Make sure the teleseminar is on a topic of interest to your customers and clients and is aligned with something you sell.
- Speaking. Offline efforts can boost your online business. Go offline for a bit and make real-world contact by getting in front of an audience made up of people who would be interested in what you sell. Local organizations are always looking for guest speakers. Many organizations hold monthly — or even weekly — meetings and love to have in guest speakers. Don’t make a direct sales pitch. That likely won’t be appropriate to the audience and may be too self-serving. Instead, speak on a topic of interest to the audience and that naturally highlights how what you sell can help audience members achieve some goal or desire. For instance, if you are a media trainer, then you can do a talk on how small business owners can get featured in local media. That way, you’re doing an educational program and teaching the audience something useful. And for those small business owners who learn from you how to get featured in the media, it’s a natural move for some to want you to teach them how to look good when they are on TV.
- Relationships. Relationships are often untapped resources for solopreneurs and other small business owners. They put their contacts into boxes and think none can step outside that box. For instance, they may put one set of contacts into the “parents of my kids” box and think they can only talk about parenting and school issues with those parents. Well, those parents also have other interests and they may, in fact, have an interest in or need for what you sell! So be sure your contacts know what you do and that you are accepting new clients. Don’t badger them, of course. But let it come up naturally in conversation, invite them to join your mailing list and send out update emails about what’s going on with you, etc.
- Referrals. Be sure to look to the clients you already have and let them spread the word about what you do. Ask good clients for the names of others they know who may need what you sell. How to do it: At the end of a successful project, ask your client for a testimonial and a referral. The testimonial goes on your website. The referral can be done in either of two ways. The client can give you the contact’s name and you can contact the person, being sure to mention that client so-and-so suggested you contact the person. Or the client can reach out to the contact and have the contact reach out to you, if there is a need. Making sure clients know you’d love it if they told their contacts about you is a good way to encourage word-of-mouth around your brand.
- Leadership. Take on a leadership role in an organization — local or online — that is aligned with your industry or where your target audience is likely to be. This can help position you as a thought leader or go-to solution provider. I’ve not used this particular tactic, as I don’t like to attend a lot of meetings and with two small children, prefer not to commit to ongoing monthly meetings. But while I’ve not used this particular avenue in my own business, I have seen it used quite effectively.
So you now have five great low-cost ways you can market your business, even if you are marketing shy and have no marketing budget. While you won’t be investing money, you will be investing time using these methods, so choose those that work for your temperament and goals. And do it often. Don’t just choose an option and do it once. One-and-done doesn’t work for marketing. You must do it, rinse, and repeat.
Use these methods to get in front of an audience as well as to build your mailing list. Always be thinking of building your mailing list when you are working on a marketing initiative. For instance, in example 2 above, speaking, invite event attendees to join your mailing list. This allows you to stay in touch with them over time. So rather than having a onetime shot at turning a marketing opportunity into a sale, you can have an ongoing opportunity to do that as you send out marketing messages via email over several weeks.
You can successfully market your business, even if you don’t have a marketing budget.
What's the best way you've found for getting the word out about what you do?