It’s a huge problem for most of us selling services: we’re busy doing the “business of our business,” so marketing falls by the wayside. The problem is, when we don’t create a marketing strategy for ourselves, we get one anyway — which is the default setting: hoping clients will fall out of the sky.
“Fall out of the sky” marketing.
If your marketing game is non-existent, or if you feel like it needs to be an “all or nothing” effort — “It’s so much, I’ll figure it all out later (and do nothing instead)” — let’s dig in and see what you can do to attract clients when you’re short on time.
First, make sure your website is working hard for you
When you’re operating a solo or micro- service business, it’s important to consider your website like an employee — its job description is to perform the task of bringing you client leads.
Which all starts by having a deep understanding of why your customer is coming to your site in the first place. The most common mistake I see people making is they focus entirely on “here’s all the stuff I can do,” but they don’t make it clear how it’s relevant to the person they’re speaking to.
Okay so you provide life coaching services, or you’re a graphic designer and you design things, or you’re a virtual assistant specializing in social media. That’s all nice but… what do your customers need? And I don’t mean “coaching,” “design,” or “social media.” What is the actual problem you’re solving? (Dig deeper.) What’s the value they’ll get when they work with you?
What’s the conversation that’s going on in their minds? If they’re looking for a coach, what’s the pain they’re experiencing right now? WHY does someone need a graphic designer, or help with social media?
Figure out how you join that conversation and then write your copy based on that, and it’ll capture their attention. THEN they’ll care about the services you offer and be eager to learn more about you.
In summary: if your website needs improvement, fix that first, otherwise, any marketing efforts you take to drive traffic to your hardest-working employee (a.k.a. your website) will be a wasted effort. You don’t have time for wasted efforts.
Now let’s get to the marketing. Your website is empowered to work hard for you, now it’s your job to bring it targeted traffic. There are a few main ways to get potential customers to your site: social media, organic search, and paid traffic (advertising).
There are two sides to social media: networking and sharing (sharing your content on social channels for the purpose of getting people back to your website). When you’re short on time, you want to focus on one or the other.
Social sharing requires you create original content — that could be images (photography, graphics, infographics, etc.), videos, webinars, podcasts or blog content — and then post those to social media in order to invite people back to your website to learn more.
“Duh, I already know that” — hang in there with me, the point is coming!
What a lot of people do is they try to “be everywhere,” but when you don’t have a lot of time, you need to focus on one big thing only and do it really, really well. (This is not to say you can’t do more than one thing, but your OBSESSION should be that one big thing.)
So ask yourself, what are your strengths? And where are your customers likely to be?
If you’re a designer, you might focus on creating a story through imagery and showing people your process. If you’re looking for agency freelance work, maybe that means you focus on Dribble or Behance. If you’re looking to attract clients directly, maybe that means Instagram.
Once you decide what you’re going to share and where you need to be, focus intensely on that one thing. Learn absolutely everything you can about optimizing your presence on that channel and show up consistently. Forget about “also being on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook…” You just need a way to reach your customers, not fifty billion ways.
Maybe you’re a life coach and you enjoy being in front of the camera and just speaking to people about your point of view. In that case, you might try creating videos. Now, where are your customers likely to hang out? Is it Facebook? Then maybe you need to build a Facebook community and do weekly live videos, or maybe you’ll set up a YouTube channel.
Use the formula:
Use your super powers to create great content + choose the channel where your customers are likely to be = efficiently reaching your target customers without driving yourself crazy trying to be everywhere and do everything.
Really. You don’t need to be everywhere. Trying to will only dilute everything and you’ll be doing 10 things ineffectively rather than 1 thing really, super, awesomely well.
Social networking works a little differently, it means showing up to where your customers are likely to be and interacting with them online. That might be on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook groups or some other niche forum or community online.
The danger to this approach is that we can easily get sucked into “just doing things” and forget all about our business goals. We join the wrong communities (you’re unlikely to meet a potential client there) or we engage in conversations that serve no business function (e.g. you’re looking to “get helped” rather than showing up to help others). Spending time networking without a strategy can waste a ton of your time, but when done right, it can help you create the kinds of personal connections that’ll grow your business.
If you want to use social networking to attract clients, make sure you’re showing up as the expert, providing value to the community, sharing stories about how you solved problems in your own business (people love to hear about “wins” and strategies that are working for people) — whatever you do, don’t just show up to promote your business. Nobody likes to sit next to the high pressure salesperson at business networking events; it works the same on social media.
There are two main ways to get organic traffic I want to touch on: Google and Pinterest.
Showing up on SERP (search engine results pages) for competitive keywords and “above the fold” on Google is very, very difficult. The reason why SEO is so powerful is that people are actively looking to a solution for their problem, and they may be close to making a purchasing decision. Your job is to just be there in the right place at the right time with the right message.
But unless you’re super niche or you’re targeting a small local market, you can pretty much forget about ranking high for competitive keywords when you’re a small shop. If you ARE, then SEO is a really good place for you to focus your energies.
Pinterest has become the darling of bloggers and for a reason: it provides a way to promote content and get discovered by both followers who are interested in your subject matter (which is sort of social, but not exactly) AND when somebody is searching for information.
Most people think of Pinterest as a place women go to get recipes, plan weddings and trips, and drool over fashion and home decor. That’s a myth. There are LOADS of niche audiences on Pinterest and if your audience is not exclusively women, you might be surprised to learn that men use it too! Go there and do some keyword searches in your own niche and see what comes up. If there’s a lot of activity, it may be a great fit for you.
It’s not an easy game, but if you’re creating content, I recommend doing all you can to learn about how to make Pinterest work for you and then once you crack it, spend a little time every day there. It’s an easier game to play than Google if you’re looking to get keyword-specific and topical content discovered.
Now you might be thinking, “I’m short on time, so why don’t I just BUY traffic?”
And you can, but keep in mind that advertising doesn’t work like a magic bullet. If you get this wrong, you’re going to be throwing a whole lot of money into a void.
You’ll need sales pages, a sales funnel, and to use retargeting for repetition.
If you don’t understand how any of that works, and you don’t have the time to learn or set it up, but you have more money than time, I’d recommend hiring a specialist to help you set all of this up and manage it.
Now you’ve got traffic….and then what?
Now that you’ve got people visiting your awesome and optimized website, what happens if they’re not ready to hire you that day? They’ll probably click away and they might forget about you too, so you need to keep showing up wherever they found you and remain visible (e.g. if you’re on Instagram or Facebook keep showing up consistently) and you’ll want to get them into a funnel.
(A funnel is just a fancy way of saying that you’ll create a connection and take steps which will allow them to get to know and trust you a little more so when they’re ready to purchase, you’ll be in the right place at the right time with the right message and offer.)
For small business owners strapped for time, there’s no better way to create a funnel than to build an email list. These are warm prospects, they’ve given you permission to market to them — the holy grail of marketing. Your list is something you OWN (versus a Facebook group or Instagram account which you don’t), which means you won’t twist in the wind everytime there’s an algorithm change or when people get tactic fatigue.
Even if your list is small, it’s a good use of your time to send out consistent, value-packed emails; get into the habit of that and apply patience. And remember, when you’re selling services, you don’t need 50,000 customers — you just need one at a time.
When you’re short on time, focus on your superpowers (whether that’s writing, networking, creating videos or whatever plays to your strengths) and forget all about doing everything and being everywhere. Focus is going to be your greatest competitive advantage (and it’ll keep you sane, too).
Was this helpful? Did I miss anything? I’d love to know how you’re managing your time getting visible online when you’re busy “doing the doing”… let me know in the comments!