Well, if that is your reaction to the title of this article, I would like to kick off by giving you permission to hate marketing (and its cousin, "sales"). I am not going to try to turn you into a marketeer or a salesperson - but will you open your mind (just a chink!) to the possibility that you CAN stay just as you are and STILL be more successful at what you do?
Marketing and sales are inextricably linked in most people's mind and everyone knows sales people are scuzz-bags - right? The very words "marketing" and "sales" conjures up images of people being brainwashed by ads and parted from their money, in exchange for something they don't want. By people in dodgy suits!
Well, the first concept to get your head around, is that people are generally very sophisticated and astute. You cannot generally sell people something they don't want, no matter how heavy handed your tactics. And generally, even by very clever marketing, you cannot persuade or brainwash people into wanting something, that they hadn't wanted before. You couldn't massage someone who didn't want it, could you?
How would it be if we started thinking of marketing as the art of letting people know about an idea, solution, product or service that they already want, but didn't know where to go or which one to choose. How would it be if we made our service so good, so excellent, that if WE were introduced to it, we would be DELIGHTED to be told about that service. How about thinking of marketing as simply making sure that our excellent service is not being kept a secret?
What about the sales part of the process? The dreaded "closing" that everyone seems to find so hard. What is a "close", anyway? It's actually just asking someone if - having been recommended, having voiced their needs, knowing your fees, reassured that you can help - you ask them if they would like to book an appointment. Offering an appointment on a Tuesday or a Thursday is an "alternative close". Technical stuff, eh?
So marketing is about not being a secret, and selling is about making an appointment. Easy - we can do that! But what if we could make it even easier? Have I got your interest?
How do we go about not being a secret? The traditional ways to market anything are by creating a brochure, business cards and letterhead, advertising, mailing out to prospective purchasers (or clients) and selling your services to them. An expensive and time consuming business. Does your heart sink when you read this? Well, I have some good news. None of that works - or only 2% of the time anyway! So what does work?
What you need to do is simply create a reservoir of people who know about you, who like what you do, and who ONE DAY might use your services. Oh boy! When my coach Chris Barrow, told me this, I breathed a big wonderful sigh of relief.
How big should your reservoir be? Chris Barrow's theory is that it should be in excess of 1000 to generate an almost effortless work flow, but that you start to attract clients at about 400-500 people.
How do you fill your reservoir and with whom? This is where you start to think about your ideal client - because who wants a reservoir of less than ideal clients? The first people on your list should be your existing clients - or at least those you want to keep. You see, this is one of the big secrets about marketing, it's as much about weeding out the clients you don't want, as attracting the clients you do want! Think about the qualities of your ideal client, what are they like (TIP: think about your existing clients and pick out the A-List). I'll share the qualities of my ideal client to give you an idea.
My ideal coaching client is bright, articulate, educated (by life, if not uni) fast on the uptake, action orientated, entrepreneurial (or would like to be), definitely has email, is successful by anyone else's standards but perhaps not achieving their potential yet. They may feel overwhelmed and take on too much. They probably talk too fast and walk as if they are in a hurry. They are serious about wanting to improve their business or their life and they are prepared to set aside some time to come to calls and to take some action. They don't cancel or re-arrange calls, they pay on time and they appreciate my coaching. They are not ashamed to say they have a coach and they recommend me to everyone they meet!
Grade your existing clients into A clients (love you, come regularly, pay happily, turn up, recommend you all the time), B clients (love you, come fairly regularly, pay happily, turn up, sometimes recommend you), C Clients (think you are ok, come occasionally, pay happily, turn up, never recommend you) and the D Clients (aka the BMW's - bitchers, moaners and whiners). What do we do right now with the D Clients? D is for Dump. Dumping the D's makes more time to give the A's and the B's more time, more service, more attention.
So how do we meet more A Clients and get them in our reservoir? Work out who the A's are and where they hang out. Are they business people? Mums At Home or Ladies Who Lunch? Sports players?
When you have established who they are, then think about the problems they have and the things they are interested in. Think about ways you could add value to those A List Clients. It might be sending out clippings from newspapers on articles of interest, it might be creating a simple A4 two sided newsletter, it might be a website with useful links and an email newsletter, it might be writing for specialist publications (the last two being my preferred methods, hence this article!). Just put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
But whichever method you choose, make sure you enjoy it. Say what? Yes, you have my permission to only choose marketing methods that you actually enjoy. Why? Because if you don't enjoy them, you won't do them - even if your business is falling down around your ears.
Do you remember Fiona, my Reiki Master and therapist client? She found that she was massaging a client or two in the morning, then nothing at all till the evening, when her working clients turned up. She wanted to build up her lunchtime and afternoon clientele and then limit her evenings to two per week. Who would be able to come at those times? The ladies who lunch and the self-employed. Where do the ladies hang out? At charity events and hairdressers and in nice restaurants. What are their challenges? To look after themselves to the n'th degree, be well groomed, relaxed and charming at all times. She joined her local ladies groups, talked to her hairdresser and beauty therapist about a joint marketing initiative, volunteered for the local large charity committee and attended a few lunches herself, and then, to reach the self-employed business person, joined the BNI (Business Networking International - for details see ).
The self employed do not have enough time to look after themselves and often suffer from stress and bad backs. Fiona initially started talking about bad backs and sports injuries, and now her business has taken off in an amazing way. People went for their practical problems but now go for the Reiki and the other types of emotional healing. She was so nervous talking about her service for 60 seconds at first, but now is completely at home in that environment. She even demonstrated crystal therapy the other morning and it was a real treat to watch hard bitten businessmen handling rose quartz and feeling the warmth coming off the crystals.
This route is not for everyone, but one thing is for sure, there is a marketing method that will suit you. I like meeting people and writing, so I have a website (), a monthly financial coaching newsletter, I write articles for magazines and I attend every networking lunch, breakfast and dinner that I can. (Plays havoc with the weight though!)
Remember, whatever you do, you are not selling, just collecting people for your reservoir. They may not use your service for ages, but if you keep in touch with them in a way that adds value without being too promotional, they will either buy spontaneously or recommend someone who will.
The sales part is this. While not being overly promotional, don't on the other hand make it difficult or even impossible for people to buy your services when they are ready to.
Make sure you have contact details and they work (unlike me, who, in the last article for this magazine put an incorrect newsletter link with no other contact details!). Make sure that people know your prices and don't have to ask (it's embarrassing for them). Educate them so that they know how to be your ideal client and feel privileged to be so. Let them know - and thank them - how wonderful it feels when they recommend you or refer someone into your reservoir (unlike my other hairdresser client who used to tell all her existing clients how busy she was, so they felt unable to recommend new clients to her).
Finally, write down your plan and evaluate it monthly. Keep doing what works and drop what doesn't - unless you enjoy it! Not everything works in obvious ways. Decide on your preferred marketing methods and become the best at those methods. Educate yourself on how to be most effective, or hire a coach who can help.
And remember, 50% of all money spend on advertising is wasted, it's just that no-one knows which half! Till the next time....
Nicola Cairncross works with bright, professional people who are always seeking to enhance their financial intelligence. Learn how to make your money last longer than your month, profit from your passion, or develop passive income flows via The Financial Intelligence Programme. She has been featured in the Times on Saturday, the Financial Mail on Sunday, Observer Money, Cosmopolitan, Sunday Telegraph and Red Magazine. Find out more by visiting