WARNING: If you run your own business, this short essay could be the difference between massive success or total failure.
Too much hype? I disagree.
It’s a sad reality that most independent professional service providers don’t get enough (or even ANY) business training. The average lawyer / accountant / dentist / veterinarian / etc. spends years learning their trade, but finds themself completely unequipped when starting their own independent practice.
You started your own practice with a dream of success and a vision of a particular lifestyle. Knowledge of sound business principles is the key to achieving those goals. And the most important principle of all is MARKETING.
From my 20+ years of working in business, let me share with you the key Marketing truths you MUST understand, and WHY it matters so much.
FIRST: Ignore the Dictionary
Here’s the Oxford Dictionary definition of Marketing: “The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.”
This is how most people think of it. It’s a TERRIBLE definition because it’s about pushing stuff onto people. “Promoting and Selling?” No wonder Marketing gets such a bad rap. It becomes something you avoid doing because you don’t want to be pushy or annoy people.
On the other hand, the American Marketing Association (i.e. people who actually understand Marketing) approved this definition: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
See the difference? Marketing is actually about communicating value. It’s about how you tell people what you do and how you do it. In the end, the decision of the value of that service is left up to them.
Instead of pushing, great Marketing offers a hand.
You DON’T have to be “hype-y” or “sales-y”, and you DON’T have to manipulate people. (You really shouldn’t.) All you have to do is tell them how you can help, in a way that communicates the value of what you want them to pay for that help. If that value is established, you’re much more likely to get responses. People LOVE to buy stuff, but they don’t like to be sold.Instead of pushing, great Marketing offers a hand. Click To Tweet
Notice also that the AMA definition INCLUDES customers. That’s the function of Marketing – to bring potential clients to your business. No Marketing = No Clients = No Business.
The WORST time to start is when you NEED business
Here’s something I hear often from business owners: “We’re busy with work right now, so we don’t need Marketing.”
Maybe you got lucky when you started out. But chances are you remember how much it took to land your first clients.
Marketing is WORK. It takes time and effort to determine what you’re offering and how to communicate its value. And it takes time for that message to propagate. If you wait until things slow down, you’re going to hit lean times before your marketing gets momentum.
Marketing while you’re busy also means you can actually afford advertising and/or paid marketing services, and don’t have to rely on increasingly less-effective Social Media campaigns.
Marketing helps build the practice YOU want
Business owners avoid Marketing while they’re busy because they don’t want to waste time and money on attracting people they can’t service.
But having more options than your capacity is how you GROW. Not only by hiring more staff, but also personally.
Excess capacity gives you OPTIONS. You can choose who you want to work with. Take on the cases that interest you the most. Fire problem clients and replace them with more agreeable ones. You can even raise your fees and not worry about “price shoppers”.
Constant marketing is essential. It doesn’t have to be at the same level of force all the time, but it should always be working for you.
ONE is the loneliest number
Here’s another statement I often hear: “We already do pretty well through word-of-mouth, so we don’t need Marketing.”
Fantastic! Your referral network is working.
But referrals are Marketing too! In this case, your referrers are communicating value for you.
This is good because people trust their connections, and they will tend to transfer that trust to you. Referrals are the easiest type of client to get.
But the dark side of this is you lose control over the communication. You can tell referrers what to say on your behalf, but you can’t control what they actually say. New prospects may want the same “secret deal” you gave to a previous client. Or they may come to you with expectations you can’t meet, based on the conversation they had with the referrer.
You also don’t control who the referred prospects are. Your current network may not be able to access the types of people or cases you want to work with. It may also not be active enough to reliably provide the excess capacity I mentioned earlier.
AND there’s this: relying on only ONE source of new business is dangerous. If that source fails you, you have nothing else to turn to. Referrals ARE an essential Marketing channel, but you should also keep other channels open.
You are NOT what you do
One of the hardest truths about owning your own business is this: Fundamentally, you are NOT what you do.
You’re not a lawyer FIRST, or an accountant FIRST, or a dentist FIRST, or…, or…, or…
FIRST, you are a MARKETER of lawyer services. You are a MARKETER of accountancy services.
As an independent business owner, You are NOT what you do – you’re a MARKETER of what you do.
Why is this?
Because No Marketing = No Clients = No Business = You don’t get to do what you do!As an independent business owner, You are NOT what you do - you're a MARKETER of what you do. Click To Tweet
The primary responsibility of a business owner is to keep the business running. Without continuous activity to bring in new clients, EVERY business will eventually fail. It’s inevitable.
So you MUST get comfortable with Marketing to succeed. If that’s too “difficult” a concept for you, if it’s something you avoid, then you have to take a hard look at why. Maybe it’s time to consider whether owning your own business is really your thing.
That sounds harsh, but there’s no shame in admitting it. Better to know this now than struggle for months or years with low income, long hours and the life-shortening stress of running an unproductive business. You could be much happier working as an employee for a business where the Marketing is supervised by someone else.
Then again, even as an employee Marketing matters, since your client service must constantly show value to keep the client engaged with your business. Otherwise, you could lose them to your competitors! Even non-Marketing employees can benefit from using a little knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit in their position.
What do you think?
These are my reasons Why Marketing Matters. Please share what you think about this in the comments below. Challenge me if you like. Let’s hash this out and make business ownership easier for all professionals.
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