Guest post by Ivan Serrano
Focus on relationships first
Solo professionals are almost always providers of some kind of service. Whether you are freelancing, consulting or coaching, almost every gig is based on a relationship. Each of these relationships is characterized by a certain level of trust, and in every case, you must prove your credibility and establish some level of rapport before a new client will hire you to do whatever it is you do.
But, you must be findable
In many ways, an online presence is just like a business on Main Street in any town. Just like any brick-and-mortar business, solo practitioners who do all their marketing online, must know what they are selling, and they must know what their customers are buying. Of the two, understanding what your customers are buying is more important.
However, there are some new dimensions to an online business presence that are new–call them the digital dimensions.
Your digital address is not as easy to locate as an address on Main Street. The map of the internet hasn’t been published yet, alphabetical listings don’t work that well when there are zillions of businesses all competing for your attention. How do you get found? Another way of asking the same question is, “What can you do to stand out and rise to the top of the search listings?”
Marketing is the answer.
First, let’s agree on a simple definition of marketing. For the solo practitioner, the definition of marketing is deceptively simple; marketing is communicating your value proposition to people who either don’t know about you or who need to be reminded of the unique value you can provide. That’s it. Boiled down to its essence, marketing is simply communicating value.
The simpler your message, the better. Marketing is about repeating your simple message over and over, but finding new ways to communicate your value so you don’t sound like a broken record.
The better you are at marketing, the less you have to worry about sales.
What is digital marketing
Now, for the digital aspect of marketing. Digital marketing is all about how, where, and to whom you communicate your value in the online world. This means your web presence, you social media accounts, your blog, your email newsletter–anything where you click a button to publish something.
Every time you click to publish any kind of content, it should be communicating value. However, it doesn’t make much sense to be communicating your value to people who don’t care. Ideally, the people you want to be communicating with about your value are not suspect, not prospects, not leads, although these words get tossed around a lot. The people you want to be communicating with are probable purchasers–the people who are most likely buy what you are selling.
Answer these questions next
In order for your marketing to be effective, and actually reach probable purchasers you have to know a lot about who they are, what they are looking for, and more importantly where to find them online.
These three factors, more than anything else, should guide your marketing efforts, digital or otherwise.
Who are your customers? Ultimately, your customers are the ones who own the budget and write the check for whatever you are selling. The goal of your marketing efforts is to communicate your value to these people. Communicating with anyone else is wasting your time unless they can put you in front of these people either through referrals or introductions.
What are they looking for? Of course, everyone with money to spend isn’t a probable purchaser. You really only want to be spending your marketing efforts on people who are looking for what you are offering. Put yourself in their shoes and figure out what they want. They may want someone to handle something that is a headache for them. They may want a great website design because their competitor just got a wonderful new website design.
The point is, you’ve got to communicate your value in terms they can relate to. If you are solving a problem, it must be a problem your probable purchasers instantly recognize.
Where are they? This is oftentimes the hardest question to answer, and will probably require some online detective work. But once you do, it can be liberating. If you find out your customers and probable purchasers are not online, don’t do a lot of needless digital marketing. You probably don’t need social media engagement. Instead, go where you know your customers are and get your message in front of the buyers.
The truth is, though, that quite a few of your probable purchasers are online, and more of them will be in the future, so it makes sense to figure out online marketing for your particular niche.
Answering these three questions is a requirement for developing a digital marketing strategy.
A word of caution
Social networks are not broadcast networks. Radio is a broadcast medium. TV is a broadcast medium. There’s a transmitter that transmits and receivers that receive whenever they are powered up. Social networks are always on, but the people you are looking for may not be tuned in. They may not even be on the platform you are broadcasting on.
But here’s the real kicker. People on social networks expect some interaction, some back-and-forth action. They aren’t interested in you just broadcasting your message to them. This means you must spend time online interacting.
Just like aimless surfing of the internet can eat up massive amounts of time, so can social media. Your time is not scalable, and it is not recoverable. Solo professionals, more than anything else, must be great stewards of their time. There are plenty of automation tools for email campaigns and social media posting, and they can save a lot of time.
Again, this is why it is so important to know who your customers are, what they are looking for, and where to find them. You can spend a ton of time having wonderful interactions with terrific people who will never buy anything from you.
You can’t do it all
Online marketing can seem complex, and can eat up a lot of your time. This is why it is so important to know who your customers are, what they are really looking for, and where to find them online. Spend your time where your customers are, online and offline. Focus on communicating with the people most likely to buy what you are selling.
More than anything else, you need to develop a deep understanding of your customers. The time and effort you invest in understanding your customers will return value to your over and over. This is the place to start to unlock your digital marketing success – and finally stop spinning your digital wheels.
Guest author: Ivan Serrano. You can follow him on Google+