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Get Clients Now!(tm) Marketing for Service Professionals

All giving, no getting. Are you getting frustrated with giving but never getting referrals?

Have you ever noticed that there are people in many of the networking groups that are very good about asking for referrals, but never give any out.  I'm pretty sure they're not even aware that they don't give referrals a lot of the time.  This is actually the norm.  Most people learn to ask, but not to give.  I think it starts in childhood. 

So what's a networker to do?   Give referrals and never get any in return?  I know sometimes it really feels like that,  doesn't it.

Here is how I deal with it:

1.  I give with the thought of helping someone else out, not getting in return.  For example, I just gave a referral this morning to someone looking for an accountant up in the thumb.  I happen to know a good CPA who maintains an office in Saginaw.  This is a natural fit.  I don't know if it will work out, and most likely, I will never find out.   For these kinds of referrals, I'll give the contact and just let it go. 

2.  I believe that the more you give, the more you get, but not from the same place - it will show up somewhere else entirely.  So giving out referrals is never a bad thing if you are comfortable that the person you're referring can do the job.

3.  Remember that your reputation rides on every referral you give.  Don't give a bad referral.  If you don't know the person you're referring, make that abundantly clear.  Also check in if you know both parties and see how it went.

4.  Certain groups don't pass referrals well.  If the reason you're going to the group is to get referrals or business, don't go.  Find another group that fits better.  I find this in a lot of the free networking groups where most of the members are small or at-home businesses.  A  lot of these people never learned how to refer or how to do business.  The higher-end groups that cost more generally don't have that problem, but they also have to be in a position to refer you.  Give it a couple of times and see how it goes.  Don't spend a lot of time with groups of people who will never buy from or refer you if you're there to do business. 

5.  Find a group of people that will be in a position to refer you.  For example, I'm a difficult person to refer if you are not in a position of trust with the business owner.  My best referral sources are the same as my best sources of clients - accountants and attorneys.

In my opinion, networking groups are also an overrated way to get business for many industries.  But that's a topic for another day.



Looking for Clients in All the Wrong Places

Who doesn't need more clients?   Isn't it great when you've good a full practice and can't take on any more clients?     But then, you get too busy to market, finish up with a few clients and all of a sudden you don't have enough clients.  What do you do then?  First off, don't ever STOP marketing & business development, but that's a topic for another day.   Most of the people I meet with start networking a whole lot and drive themselves crazy.  They are trying to find clients from people they don't know and groups they've never been involved with.  This is good if you aren't a member of any groups and don't know a lot of people - but if you've been in business for more than a few years that isn't going to be the case.  It also really takes time to build quality relationships and become known and respected in an organization - more time than you probably have if you really need clients.  It's a very good long-term strategy and can sometimes pay off in the short-term, but it won't reliably get you clients NOW.

So where is the best place to start if you have been in business more than a few years?  Your desk!  That's right, the file of your existing clients, friends and contacts that's on your computer or your rolodex.   This sadly neglected area is where most businesses fall flat.  They don't do a good job of staying in touch and following up.

Following up with people is how you maintain and grow relationships.  It's also the best way of getting clients quickly.  Start having conversations with people who you know and who already know (and hopefully like) you.    Catch up with them and find out what's going on in their lives.   Rekindle and strengthen that relationship.  See if there's something that  you can help them with (not making a sale).  Who do you know that can help them?

You're a lot more likely to get business from someone who already knows and likes you than from a complete stranger.   If you haven't talked with them in a while, there's a good chance they really need some reminding of what you do and what  you're working on right now.  Once you remind them, it's also a good chance that they know someone who needs something similar, or perhaps they could use some services from you themselves (especially past clients and people who have referred you before).

Make it a point to talk to good clients (past or present) and referral partners at least quarterly on the phone or in person.  Send out newsletters.   Send personal cards for major occasions.   Keep in touch.   It's fairly easy to do once you get in the habit of it, and it pays huge dividends.

Endless Referrals, by Bob Burg, is an excellent resource if you want more information on how to follow up.

The best place to find new business quickly is people you already know.


NAWBO 2011 Satellite Chapter Award Winner

I was awarded the 2011 Satellite Chapter Award by the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) at the NAWBO Annual Meeting on June 9, 2011.  It was a great honor.  It is also a pleasure to be recognized for all the work I do in organizing and planning the NAWBO Central Satellite.  The NAWBO Central Satellite is currently on hiatus for the summer, but will start again in October.  The Central Satellite meets the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 8:30 am at Zuma Coffee House in downtown Birmingham.  If you would like to be on the mailing list for the NAWBO Central Satellite, please email me at

2011 Satellite Chapter Award - NAWBO Annual Meeting


Book Review: What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith

I found this book a little difficult to get through, as it's kind of all over the place, but it's really well worth it.   Harry's style in this book is similar to an experienced salesman mentoring someone new - he is imparting advice and concepts that made him and could make you successful in selling services as he thinks of things and not necessarily  in a particular order.

There's lots in What Clients Love, from what to call yourself, how clients perceive you and what they really buy when purchasing a service to how important the relationship is to selling a service (everything).  He also talks about what goes into building a relationship and how to maintain it.   He addresses issues like how to deal with mistakes and how to listen.

I'd recommend reading this book, and then going back and focusing on a section here and there slowly until you really absorb his points.   Mr. Beckwith isn't correct on everything - His predictions on the Internet were certainly off and you can tell that his target audience is white middle aged men, or white male wannabe's - a normal bias for most traditional salesman.  And yet there are pearls of wisdom, even in that. 

So many things struck me in this book, it's hard to list them all so I'm not going to even try.  Here's just a few highlights.

  1. From page 129 - "Prospects choose service providers who share their tastes."  Remember the advice - "dress like your clients, just a little bit better."  It's excellent advice, but not if you pretend to something that you aren't, such as dressing like a farmer if you aren't one.  That ends up offending worse than the silk suit.  Mr. Beckwith addresses this very nicely with a clear story and better advice "Dress honestly and a little up."
  2. From page 182 - Imagineering's Six Commandments.  These are great reminders of what's important when designing a space, a sales presentation, or anything affecting your image or marketing.  My favorite commandments are "Avoid overload" and "Tell one story at a time."
  3. From page 237 - The Ten Rules of Business Manners.  These alone will make a big difference in growing your business and developing relationships.  If you do nothing else from this book but practice these, you will have made a huge impact on  your business.  My favorites are #1 - Wait until the other person has finished talking before you speak. and #9 - Be kind.   These all seem to be so obvious, yet very few people really practice these behaviors.
  4. I'm a coach and trainer, so I really like great questions.  The questions in the appendix starting on 260 are wonderful.  If you answer them yearly, you will really have a great guide to growing yourself and your business.

In short, buy the book, read it and re-read it.  Then start practicing bit by bit.  You'll really notice a difference in your business and your clients.

I'd love to hear what you get out of What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith.  Leave a comment here.

Book Review: Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

Meatball Sundae was not as easy a read as most of Seth Godin's books are.  The book as a whole was messy (The title should have warned me) and definitely not up to his usual quality.

The main point of this book is that running your business the old way, which Seth defines as selling mass market products targeted at as large a demographic segment as possible does not work with what he calls the New Marketing - online and social media marketing.  An example of the old way would be Walmart or Coca-Cola.  Amazon and Google are excellent examples of New Marketing, as is Seth's own   The meatball sundae is two things that don't work together at all, even if they're both good. 

While I agree that most traditional brick and mortar companies aren't structured to really benefit fully from what online and social media marketing, I disagree that they can't benefit at all.  As a matter of fact, one of the points Mr. Godin makes later on in the book, which I fully agree with, is that any company ignores social media at their peril.  With social media, everyone becomes a critic of the company, for good or bad as many examples illustrate.  And you never know what story will catch the attention of the public, whether or not it's true.  One damaging story can have a huge impact on the company's bottom line.   Seth gives the example of Delta throwing a woman off a plane for breastfeeding, among several others.  If we thought about it, we could all come up with similar examples.  Your company may not be posting anything on social media, but they should be monitoring at the very least.

He also makes an excellent point  that you can't use online and social media the way TV, radio and print advertising work.  It's a completely different medium which requires a completely different strategy and orientation. 

Another difficulty I had with Meatball Sundae is working out how to apply it to my target market, independent professionals and small service firms  who traditionally don't benefit from traditional advertising or marketing campaigns such as direct mail.  

What I concluded is that what he describes as the trends of the New Marketing actually favor the independent professional and small firm. You don't need a huge budget anymore to make a substantial niche.  Online and social media allow a small company or independent professional a much wider voice and outlet than was ever available before.  He goes into detail on what he calls trends of the New Marketing.  These trends, such as the long tail, outsourcing, infinite communication channels, amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities work in the favor of the small independent more than the big firm.

According to Seth Godin, the small businesses with very high quality service,  like those that were put out of business by the large discount houses (Walmart, for example),  can now compete against the big firms by having a much more targeted audience that is both large and more dispersed than ever.  A great example would be Blendtec (you can check out their videos on YouTube).

All in all, Meatball Sundae did have a fair amount of useful information, even if it didn't seem to tie together well enough to support his main point.  It's worth reading, even if it's not what I would consider among his best. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Meatball Sundae as well.

More on Why You Should Have a Narrow Target Market

I had a very short conversation with a salesperson from a sales training company last week.  It was less than 5 minutes.  He listened to me describe my target market and only heard as far as attorneys, independent financial advisors and chiropractors.   He heard those three word and only saw that he had clients that were attorneys and financial advisors.  At that point he stopped listening.  He really didn't have a target market and focused on everyone who sold anything - which is everyone, by the way.  Even if you work for a company you are a free agent who sells their services to one client.  Because he only saw the overlap in our demographics, he didn't see any opportunities for us to help each other.

He lost out on the referrals I could give him, and by trying to appeal to everyone, he loses other opportunities as well. 

There's two parts to this - you have a brand and an image whether you like it or not and you develop that image and brand every single time you interact with anyone in any way, whether it's direct contact, personal, email, mail, word of mouth, etc.  Your brand will attract a certain kind of client, whether you want it to or not.  Nothing works exactly the same way for everyone.  There is no single product on earth that appeals to everyone.  If you don't create your brand deliberately, the world will create it for you and you will have an extremely difficult time changing it.

The second part is this - by trying to appeal to everyone, or thinking that your product or service works for everyone, you will alienate people instead of attracting them.  People are much more attracted by the idea of being a member of an exclusive group than by being treated just like everyone else.  It's the other side of the same principle that Harry Beckwith states in Selling the Invisible (see my last blog post).  Narrowing your position ( another word for brand) broadens your appeal.  So trying to have too broad a position or brand limits your appeal.

Wouldn't you rather be seen as belonging to an exclusive club?  Think about all the restaurants and country clubs that thrive on this principle.

Had the sales training person spent more time with me and seriously considered whether we could work together, he would have found out that in reality there is no overlap at all.  Our clients might have the same demographics in general, but they differed greatly when you looked closer.  My clients would never hire him and his clients wouldn't be interested in me at all. We appeal to very different segments of the same market.  I was very clear on that, he wasn't. 

I make much more efficient use of my time and pick up clients that aren't related to my target market at all because they get the appeal, even though I don't market to them.   And I have other associates that do what he does and get the referrals that I might have given to him.

That's one of the side benefits of being very focused.

So how can you further focus your marketing efforts?

Book Review: Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith is not aimed at the small or solo professional.  It is directed at salespeople and marketing in organizations that sell services.  And by services, he's talking about companies like Federal Express, American Express, Levi's and Dayton's (The book was written in 1997, so you need to make some allowances.).  

So why am I even bothering to review this book, when it is clearly not aimed at my target market?  

Because Selling the Invisible should be required reading for all professionals. 

Mr. Beckwith has a clearer understanding of what is going on in the minds of your clients and prospective clients in regards to your service than any other author I've read.  In order to really be successful, you need to understand what people are thinking before, during and after they do business with you.  Most marketing books focus on product, and even the ones that focus on servicea don't really do a good job of explaining WHY people prefer one service over another or what can impact the decision, or why they buy or don't at all.  Selling the Invisible not only explains what's going on in the minds of your current and prospective clients, he also details what you can do about it.   Some of the things he says don't apply to the independent professional, but the reasoning and understanding do.

The examples Harry Beckwith gives are also clear and explicit, so that you can easily understand the point he's getting at.  This is especially important for things like branding and niche marketing, which are often the opposite of what most professionals believe.  Narrowing focus (Harry calls this positioning) is probably one of my favorite examples in the book because it's one of the main things I work on with many of my clients.  He gives the example of Scandinavian Airlines in 1980.  They decided to position themselves exclusively as "The Business Traveler's Airline" after sustaining massive losses.  The airline focused it's marketing and advertising on business travelers and developed their brand in that direction.  As a result, they gained not only business travelers, but more tourists. They had the highest percentage of business travelers and the lowest tourist fares in Europe.

There are many other great examples for understanding marketing and business development for services in the book as well.   You will really be able to understand what works for you and more importantly, why.  This book won't tell you how to market your practice, but it will give you a much better understanding of what works - which can only improve your business development and growth.

Read this book once, twice, even more and you will really grow as a result.

Let me know your thoughts here on Selling the Invisible as well, after you've read it.

Consistency is Key in Growing Your Business

There are 3 parts to creating reliable, steady growth for your business.  The first part we've talked about a lot - where and how to find clients or referral partners.  The second is consistently working to develop relationships and get known.  The third part is knowing how much is enough to gain clients.  By that I mean,  how many people do you need to talk to in order to get one paying client.  This is often referred to as the sales funnel.  I'll focus on that in a later post.

Today, I want to talk about consistency.  Consistency is showing up and participating day after day, week after week, and month after month in whatever networking or other marketing methods you have chosen to employ.  It takes a while for people to get to know you enough to think of you when they're ready to buy or hire and to trust you enough to want to hire or buy from you.  How long that time period is will depend on what service you provide.  If you'r a coach or a financial advisor, it's going to take a  lot longer to establish that relationship than if you clean carpet.  You'll talk to some people who will become your clients immediately, but they are the exception rather than the rule and not what you build your business on.

Showing up one time is not effective in getting clients.   You can't lose weight or build muscle that way - you can't build your business that way either.  You must pick  your approach and keep doing it until you are sure it either is or is not working.  A rule of thumb for any service business is at LEAST three or six months to a year.

Consistency builds upon itself, just like it does in exercise or weight loss.  The more you do, the more you gain and the easier it becomes. 

I see a lot of professionals taking the start-stop approach to developing  their business.  I call this the feast or famine cycle.   People run out of work and then start marketing like crazy until they get more work and then they stop marketing.  This is not a way to grow your business.  You'll find it more and more effort just to maintain your existing business doing marketing this way.  It's a lot like yo-yo dieting and exercise.  Every time you stop exercising and gain the weight back, you are actually losing muscle so it becomes harder and harder to lose those pounds.

Work on building your marketing muscles consistently so that you can steadily grow your business over time with less effort.

"I hate to admit this, but mediocre marketing with commitment works better than brilliant marketing without commitment."

-- Jay Conrad Levinson (author of the Guerilla Marketing series)

Next time we'll talk about the third part - How much marketing is enough? (or What Does Your Sales Funnel Look Like?)

What networking groups should I attend?

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked.  Sometimes it's asked in the form of a statement:  "I don't know any networking groups." and sometimes people just ask me where they should go.  The short answer really depends on two other questions: 

1) Do you get clients by referral or directly?  If you get clients mostly by referrals (Not the ones from existing clients - we'll talk about how to generate more of those later), who are your best referral partners?   This question leads directly to the second question.

2) If you get clients directly, who are they and where do they go?    If you get clients through referral, who are your referral partners and where do they go?

This leads directly to the answer:

You network where you are most likely to find prospective clients or referral partners.  Period.  It's really that simple. 

Ideally these are also things you enjoy doing as well.   If you hate golf, don't join a golf club just because you will find prospective clients there.  There will be should be enough points of common ground that you and your best prospects and referrals partners share that you will enjoy the time you are spending networking.   Otherwise, you really need to look at who your best clients are - if you don't have a lot in common with them, they really aren't your best clients and there's a whole other group that would be a better fit.

If you're not sure how to figure out who your best clients are and what they do - check out my blog posts on how to identify your ideal client.   If you don't have any clients who fit what your idea is, find some people who do and ask them what they do and where they go.  If you're not trying to sell anything most people are delighted to give you a few minutes of their time.  Note that this is also a great way to start developing a relationship.  It's a win-win.

Don't limit your definition of networking groups to traditional business groups like LBN, BNI or chambers of commerce.  There are also philaphthropic and development groups like the Rotary Club, Optimists Club, Toastmasters, Lion's Club, Kiwanis, etc.  And any social group where you interact on a regular basis and get to know the other members can be considered a networking group.  Examples of this are country clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, hockey clubs, the PTA, Church and Synagogue groups, nonprofits where you are an active member and serve on a committee can be great places to network as well. 

If you regularly work in the same coffee shop and it's a busy place, that's a great place to network too.  Before we moved, I always made a point to work one day a week at the Coffee Beanery near where I lived.  It was a busy place where a lot of small business owners congregated and I regularly saw a lot of colleagues and prospective clients that way. 

Look for other benefits besides meeting prospective clients in the networking groups you choose.  The more enthusiastic you can be and the more you enjoy your time there, the more your networking efforts will pay off.

Which Is More Effective - A Mail Newletter or an Email Newsletter (E-Zine)?

It's a good question - suprisingly so.  Most companies have switched to only sending out electronic newsletters because of the expense.  It can be quite costly to send out a printed newsletter between the printing and postage.  Electronic newsletters, in comparison, cost less than a penny per newsletter.

Sounds like a great deal, but how many people are actually reading those newsletters?  The statistics can be quite misleading.   Direct mail is usually measured in response rates, which means that the recipient has opened the newsletter, read it and taken action on the contents.  The average response rate for direct mail is anywhere from 1% to 1 1/2%. ( I checked various different sources for both including, Gallup, the AMA, etc.)    The number of people who have opened and read that newsletter is much larger, but unknown.

Electronic newsletters are usually measured in open rates, which means that the recipient has opened the email.  It does not mean that they have read it or taken action on it.  The open rates I saw on the web for electronic newsletters, or e-zines, were all over the map (try googling "average open rate electronic newsletter" and you'll see what I mean).   Most came between 10% - 25%.  Now this sounds much higher, but remember that it's an open rate, not a response rate.  Of that 10% - 25%, how many actually read and take action on the newsletter?   I couldn't find any statistics on that.  One thing I noticed was that all the statistics were somewhat old - and yet the rate of spam increases exponentially daily.   I have a hard time believing that most people even open or see e-zines anymore.  A lot get buried in an inbox filled with junk emails or caught by a spam filter.  I'd be suprised to find that the open rate is much more than 1% - 2% now.

So what to do?   Direct mail costs a lot, but you've got a better chance of someone reading it.  Newsletters are much cheaper and easier to send, but not as likely to get read.

And then there's blogs and twitter, just to add to the confusion and noise - how do you get your message out without it costing a fortune or getting buried in the general din?

I would recommend doing a mix of as much as your time and budget allow.  I'm pretty sure very few people read my blog, but it's enough that it's worth it to post weekly.   The same goes for my monthly newsletters.   With the low cost,  only a few people have to read them to make it worth it.

I use direct mail for personalized individual messages and the occasional printed newsletter (maybe once a year).  I do a lot more personalized notes than newsletters.

What will you do?

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