As most solopreneurs learn, the most powerful and effective way to attract good clients is through a strong word-of-mouth referral network. Using techniques like marketing vignettes to help people describe us in the most effective way possible, we can connect with far more prospective clients than traditional advertising and marketing. Recently, Marcy Phelps (Marcy Phelps & Associates) and I were talking about the importance of word-of-mouth referrals and she reminded me that her word-of-mouth network is good for more than just getting new clients.
How is a solopreneur like someone in search of his perfect mate? Well, they are both looking for contacts; they both need to present their best attributes to the “market”; and they both need to use a number of approaches to identify and connect with prospective, um, clients. Both want a long-term relationship, although the solopreneur isn’t asking for monogamy; she plans to cultivate a number of devoted clients rather than One Perfect Love.
So, what approaches should solopreneurs take in their search for the ideal client(s), similar to the tactics of the singles searching for love?
If your value as a consultant lies in having an up-to-the-moment operational skill with today’s hot application, you will never remain an expert. Organizations will eventually hire or build internal expertise, and your advantage will be fleeting. You will always be chasing the next shiny object.
If, on the other hand, you are known for having strategic insights, for being focused on your client’s outcomes, and for being flexible and creative, your expertise will never become outdated. Your clients hire you for your wisdom, not your oh-so-current skill set.
There will always be other people who are familiar with bleeding-edge technology, but no one stays at the bleeding edge for long. When you’re known for your thinking skills, your value increases every year.
“What gets measured matters”
“Not everything that can be counted counts”
As solopreneurs, we have to determine for ourselves how to measure the success of our efforts. Most of us know that a robust word-of-mouth referral network and consistent thought-leadership activities help keep new clients coming, but it can be difficult to measure the effectiveness of a wide range of marketing activities. And it’s tempting to measure what we do rather than what the outcome of that activity is. Having the right metrics means you are getting useful, relevant feedback as you are working toward a goal, so start with the outcome you want and work backward from there.
I recently spoke at an AIIP virtual event with Marydee Ojala on “Public Speaking For Introverts: From No Way to Speaking for Pay”. (AIIP members can watch the recording here.) The questions that we discussed got me thinking, so I’m taking this chance to expand a bit on my thoughts. And keep in mind that public speaking need not be in person, although it’s a lot more powerful that way; my answers below apply to virtual presentations as well.
What do you wish you knew when you first started speaking publicly? It took me several years to realize that it’s not about me… it’s about the audience and the event organizer. My goal is to give people a tangible skill or insight that they didn’t have before. If the audience feels that they learned something that they could put into practice immediately, then they’ll be happy they attended my talk and the event organizer will be happy that the participants are happy. And, remember that the ultimate client in a speaking engagement isn’t the audience—it’s the person putting on the event.Read More
I recently wrote a Coach’s Corner column for AIIP about how to manage difficult clients and, as I was writing it, I realized that I have had very few difficult clients over the last 25+ years in business. What’s my secret? I’m certainly not perfect, but here are the approaches that have helped me attract and keep so many clients I respect, admire and look forward to working with.
One of the standard jokes of solopreneurs is “If you hear me talking to myself, don’t worry—I’m just holding a staff meeting.” While there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity of being a one-person operation, we sometimes get complacent in how we run our business. This year, I decided to give my business a voice in setting my New Year’s resolutions, as a way to think more expansively about what I need to add, drop or change in 2020. Here are a few of the pieces of advice my business is showing me:
The solopreneurs I coach and mentor, especially those in their first year of business, often tell me how hard it is to figure out how to measure success, how to best spend their time, and how to turn interest into client engagements. While each business is different, a few pieces of advice apply in almost any B2B solopreneur.
First, make sure you know what your prospective clients need, value and will pay you well for. If you haven’t conducted at least a half dozen informational conversations, in which you were able to learn what your market needs and how your prospective clients talk about that need, then you need to invest the time and energy into these essential conversations. See my blog post Making Yourself Irreplaceable for lots more resources on how to conduct insightful informational conversations.
One of the most common traps I see new infopreneurs fall into – and I’ve done this myself, too! – is equating a prospect with an actual, paying client. We meet someone at a networking event or have a phone call with someone we met through social media. The person sounds interested in what we do, accepts our business card, and maybe even says “Yeah, we could have used someone like you that one time.” They may attend a webinar we give or download a white paper we wrote. We end the encounter confident that the person will be calling us shortly with an assignment, but then we never hear from them again.
In my experience, failure to convert interest into engagement is often caused by some combination of the following factors.