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.
If your problem is that you are getting inquiries about your services but none of them are turning into sales, then see my blog post Getting to ‘Yes’ for thoughts on what might be amiss in your approach or your market.
Next, I advise taking a three-prong approach to building your word-of-mouth referral network and establishing yourself as a trusted adviser.
- Start building your profile as a thought leader by posting well-written, thoughtful posts on your blog and on LinkedIn every week, based on the insights you gleaned from your informational conversations about your market’s biggest concerns. Yes, post every week. It takes time and focus, but it’s one of the most effective ways to establish your reputation. For a metric to indicate that you’re on the right track, aim to have at least one person reach out to you to inquire about your services within three months of when you start these focused, weekly posts.
- Identify local face-to-face networking events and attend at least two a month. The goal is not just to build your network but to practice your one-sentence intro and your 3-sentence story about your business until you’ve found ways to introduce yourself that engage the listener and convey what you most want to be known for. (For more about your one-sentence intro, see my blog post The Anti-Elevator Speech. For more about your three-sentence marketing vignette, see my blog post Marketing Vignettes.) Have as your goal for each event that you make at least three new contacts and you identify an intro and marketing vignette that kept a conversation going and that made you memorable to the other person
- Join one association where you believe you are most likely to find people who need, value and will pay you well for your expertise. Reach out to the association president, introduce yourself, and ask about where they need your specific skills. Focus on finding a member-facing volunteer role and be an outstanding volunteer. Watch for opportunities to present a webinar to the members on a topic you’re expert in. Be enthusiastic and genuine, and focus on how you can most effectively support the association’s goals. Have as your goal to understand the association (and your market) well enough that within 12 months you can get a speaking engagement at their annual conference, a regular column in their newsletter, or a leadership position in a member-facing capacity.
Granted, none of these approaches offers a quick-fix solutions to cash flow issues, but they will enable you to build a strong, steady business based on clients who know and value your expertise and who respect your thought leadership.