Want great clients? You need to be picky.

When you’re starting your business, you may not be able to afford to be picky about the clients you work with. When I started I contacted 10 people a day I thought could use my services. I’d troll Craigslist and job boards, and if I didn’t find 10 leads I’d check out the local chamber of commerce and email members listed there.

Today I do none of that. Now I have prospects regularly get in touch with me, with requests for more work than I could ever do. Today I say no to clients more than I say yes.

On the way here, though, I made my share of mistakes. I took on lots of clients that were terrible. People threatened to sue me because they were unhappy about things entirely outside my control. From those bad experiences I learned that one of the most important things to do is vet clients and only take the ones that are a great fit for me.

Decide your niche

Before you can decide if a prospect will be a good client you need to define the niche you serve. If you work with WordPress this does not mean that you work with anyone who needs WordPress services. It means you target a very specific niche of WordPress users and tailor your services to suit their unique problems.

Defining your niche is going to help you build marketing that works while you sleep. Every great business person you look up to has a niche and they service it. While their products may appear to be diverse, they got to that point because they started with a hyper narrow focus, and with some traction they expanded their niche a bit to adjacent areas. They did not dilute their marketing when they started to hit every possible niche that they might maybe be able to serve.

Decide who your ideal client is

Once you’ve defined your niche it’s time to get even smaller and define your ideal client in that niche. While you could serve every underwater basket weaving shop on earth, there is only a small subset of those stores owned by people with whom you’re truly compatible.

I don’t work well with clients who want hourly status updates. I don’t want three calls a week because I hate the rigidity that imposes on my schedule. I know I don’t want my clients calling my phone on weekends because that’s time I spend with my kids in the mountains, which is one of the most important things I can do.

Without that ideal client profile in mind you’re going to turn lots of prospects into clients who should never be doing business with you. That’s going to yield failed projects which will affect your reputation and your leads. Taking on people who are not your ideal clients may seem like a great idea, but long term it’s going to harm your business.

Client Vetting Communications

Once you’ve got a niche and have defined your ideal client it’s important that you tailor all your interactions to weed out projects and people that don’t fit in with your ideals. If you already have leads coming in then it starts with your first email to clients.

This first email shouldn’t be something you dash off without any thought, it should have a very specific structure designed to weed out clients you don’t want. It should ask questions to push the prospect to think harder about their business and if they should be working with you.

If you get reasonable responses to your initial prospect email, then it’s time to move on to a call with that prospect. The whole goal of your first call is to make sure that this prospect is indeed someone you want to become a paying client. You should be making sure they fit in with your niche and inside your ideal client profile.

Only if they fit within those two criteria should you move any further down the road and even consider issuing a proposal.

But you’re just starting

Like I said at the beginning, when you’re just starting you generally don’t get to be super picky about the clients you take. You are still building your reputation and you need money to keep eating.

We’ve all been there. Your goal should be to improve the clients you take every month. Each client you take on should be better than the last and be a better fit for your niche and ideal client profile.

If you keep refining your choices you’ll look back in a year or two and realize you’re working with great clients on projects you like.

That’s a great feeling.

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How does marketing fit in with deep work?

Internet companies have taken the original idea behind blogs and amplified it into a set of tools that anyone can use to tighten a tribe.

With Twitter, tiny driplike updates reach the thousands of people who are waiting to hear from you and follow your lead.

Facebook goes in the opposite direction of Twitter. Instead of forcing you to use just a few characters, it enables a huge range of images, text, and connections to be created. – Tribes

As one who is working to get my ideas spread, I love the social media and marketing tools currently available. I don’t have to spend big on paper or magazine ads only to realize that my ‘big spend’ was pocket change compared to the cost of the ads that dwarfed mine, rendering it irrelevant.

I love that I can go to a new city and hang out with someone I’ve interacted with online for years. Getting to expand that friendship into the real world is something amazing that we often pass off as mundane.

The problem is that much of ’social networking’ would be defined as ‘shallow work’.

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate. – Deep Work

That’s not what most of us want to do though. We want to have an impact of some fashion on some scale. We want to do ‘deep work’.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. – Deep Work

The problem is that as we write, design, and create, people will not just come to our online spaces just because we publish our content. Online, the good does not always rise to the top. Look at the really smart kids in school. Many who come from ‘less advantaged’ schools won’t ever get that scholarship they’re eligible for because we try to find them way too late in their academic lives. By the time colleges start looking, those talented kids have been trained by their peers that sticking out and being smart is a bad thing. (listen to this for more background)

That leaves us knowing we should be spending time without distraction and diving into our work while also wrestling with the need to tell people about our work so it can actually help them and we can turn it into something that matters.

Here are four rules that help me stay focused on deep work, while still working to market my business and spread my ideas.

1. Schedule time.

The first step in using social media as an effective tool for your business is to schedule time to use it. Not so that you remember, but so that you don’t use it when it’s not scheduled.

I will check in on Twitter and Facebook in the morning, briefly, and then I don’t check in again until the next morning. All the content I put out during the day on both platforms is from Buffer or from the Instagram app on my phone.

Staying away from the distractions for the rest of the day means that I can focus on the real work at hand like writing or coding or…whatever else is actually important in moving my business forward.

2. Use something to block you.

If self control is hard for you (and it is for me) then you will likely need to look at an application like Self Control. If I don’t turn this on just after my social media time I will check back in any second I’m bored, or any time I want a distraction from whatever I’m currently doing.

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t just stay off social media channels then make them inaccessible so you can get down to the work you should be doing.

3. Use bad devices.

Smart phones and tables are great, and at the same time terrible. They can double as your book reading device by using the Kindle software, but there is a detriment hiding in that dual functionality. These devices can, and do, pull you away from that reading you wanted to do by providing instant gratification options with a simple tap or swipe. Stuff like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever game is currently popular.

I’ve given up my iPad as my reading device and moved all my reading of books to a Kindle Paperwhite. I take my notes on the books in paper notebooks and transfer them to Evernote later, in batches.

Using a read-only device with no social media options means that I get down to the task of reading. Make sure your device choices and what applications you put on your devices are done with care.

My phone has no Twitter and no Facebook on it. If I could cut out Instagram or find an application that would let me post only on Instagram, without being able to check what other people have put up, I’d use it.

If you plan to use your iPad as a writing tool, install nothing but what you need for writing. Sure you could check your site stats, but don’t install that crap so it doesn’t present distractions.

4. Be picky about where you use your devices.

Getting into deep work is not just a list of rules you can follow effortlessly. It’s a matter of training your brain to not need the distractions that you’ve trained it to pay attention to. Even with Self Control installed and running I find myself trying to open Twitter a few times a day.

We’ve all had the experience of an idle second at home so we pull out our phone just to check in on something for a second. That second stretches into minutes so easily because we’re not careful about where we take our devices with us.

I generally (and have been failing huge at lately) put my phone on top of the fridge when I get home. I’ll tell my kids to scold me if they see me with my phone in my hand for more than a few seconds. Are you going to have a few minutes of boredom? Yup, but remember that boredom is so good for you.

The point to learning and creating is to train yourself to do it. No one is instantly creative all the time from a dead stop. Those that seem to always have something creative on their minds have trained their brains for that. Those that focus and do amazing work have cultivated the practice of focus.

If you want to be that person who is focused and doing good work then make sure you follow these rules above. Use social media and marketing to your advantage. Just remember that without you creating the awesome stuff you create, there is nothing to tell people about.

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Marketing the Duct Tape Way

Over the years I’ve recommended Duct Tape Marketing more than once. I read it when I was getting my business started and found it very helpful. Any book that sticks with you for years is worth reading a second time. This is the real test of a book’s sticking power — if it holds your attention over time in spite of a flood of information you’ll take in between readings.

Some books, on a second read, turn out to not be as good as remembered. They may not be terrible, but they’re no longer as revolutionary as you once thought. Some turn out to be just as deep as you remembered, and in fact open your eyes to new horizons you didn’t even know existed with the first read.

To jump to the ‘punchline,’ Duct Tap Marketing felt more like the former than the latter on my second read. Yes there is some great advice in it, but it felt mostly like a rehashing of stuff I already knew. If you’re just starting to dig into marketing, this is still a great book, but if it’s going to be your fifth read in the marketing space, you’ve probably heard most of what author Jon Jantsch has to say. Expect to pick up some useful tips, but don’t expect them to be revolutionary.

The one big problem with the book becomes it’s strength

Before I state my big problem, I should note that I have the first edition of the book. I do not have the ‘revised and updated’ edition published in 2011. The copyright date on mine is 2006 which makes my big problem one that’s probably going to seem obvious to anyone.

In the first edition, the author did a poor job of anticipating where the internet would be 10 years later. Much of the advice I found in the section about online marketing was simply out of date and barely useful. If you have a more recent copy, I’d love to know if this has been updated.

That’s the only real flaw I found in the book though, and in fact it’s also it’s strength. Because it was the edition from 10 years ago it focused much more on face-to-face marketing techniques and paper-based methods than any other marketing book I’ve read in the last five years. This focus should serve as a great reminder to every single one of us not to put all our eggs in online marketing baskets. We need to get out and meet people and market to them.

If your business is stalled and all you’ve done is market online by sharing things on Twitter, it’s time to actually start real marketing and get out there to meet people who could use your services.

Some takeaways

Putting aside this obvious flaw in an older marketing book, there are still a number of great takeaways from Duct Tape Marketing.

We are all marketing

You simply can’t afford to be “no good” at marketing if you plan to stick around and grow your business.

How many creatives say they are terrible at marketing? I don’t think you’re actually terrible — it’s more likely that you feel a bit sleazy when you market. You get some picture of a dude in a cheap suit and slicked back hair and gold rings trying to sell you a beat-up car for the price of a new one.

I’d feel ridiculous in that getup as well but I’m in the business of marketing and so are you.1

If you get nothing else from this book, get this: You are in the marketing business!

You can’t afford to have marketing make you feel sleazy. You need to dive in and figure out marketing that works for you and the clients you want to serve. Take the time to build a good plan now and it’s going to pay off for decades to come.

A niche is going to get you profitable faster

By focusing on a very specific market niche you are free to develop products and services tailored to its specific needs. Your language and processes then can send a very clear signal that you do indeed understand those unique needs.

Almost every marketing book — and I’m sure every post I write about marketing — uses the word niche at some point. You’re probably tired of hearing it. I’m certainly tired of writing it, but the sad fact is that I talk to creatives every day who haven’t found a niche and admit that they’re not even trying.

They’re not trying because they just can’t say no to the pennies they’re earning now in favour of larger work in that niche once they have a good marketing plan in place.

As Jantsch says:

That’s one of the problems that small business owners suffer from. Many only need ten or twenty really good clients, but they focus attention on millions of people instead of using a laser-focused, education-based marketing program delivered to just enough ideal prospects to get the job done effectively, automatically and easily.

By focusing on ‘everyone’ that might maybe need some work from you some day you can’t target your marketing. You deliver bland ads that blanket a whole group of unrelated people and by sheer numbers you bring in some clients who want to pay you the pennies.

In all of your ads, you must decide the one thing you want your readers to know or do the most and then focus every word in your ad in directing them to that and only that.

Instead, as Jantsch says, by finding that niche and making your offerings fit that niche you can make each marketing message move your prospect along a journey from your base offerings to your high priced offerings. If you don’t niche your offerings though, it’s never going to happen.

You don’t sell what you think you sell

Here’s the funny thing about business. You don’t sell what it is you claim to offer. You sell what the eventual buyers think they are going to get from your product.

I don’t sell web development. I also don’t sell coaching services. What I sell is a web presence that makes more sales for a client. They’re purchasing more sales.

What I sell with coaching is a more profitable business so you don’t have to work all the time.

While clients may think they’re purchasing my time (which is great), what they’re really purchasing is the results listed above. If I can’t help my clients achieve those results then I’m wasting their money.

That mindset change in how you think about your business will transform not only your marketing, but your proposals and how you talk to clients as you get ready for their projects. You’ll start to focus on the outcomes they want, and when you can show them a brighter future that has those outcomes in it, you’re going to be able to charge more.

Jantsch wraps up

To finish off the book Jantsch gives us a high-level overview of the steps that will lead us to a good point with our marketing. These steps are:

  1. State your primary marketing goals for the year.
  2. Describe your ideal client.
  3. Write your core message points.
  4. Develop educational marketing materials.
  5. Outline your lead generation strategy.
  6. Describe your sales/education process.

Here I think he has an error, namely with the order of the first two items. I think you need to define your ideal client as the first step in a marketing plan. With that profile in hand you’re informed as you set your goals. Without it, you’re stabbing in the dark about your goals for the year, or making overly broad goals since you haven’t defined the ideal client that your goals should be targeted at.

Outside of that order issue, I think Jantsch has all the steps listed nicely at the end of the book as a good refresher for his reader.

Recommendation?

Despite my 2006 edition being outdated, I still find it a useful book in many ways because of its lack of focus on online marketing. I still recommend this as a good starter book for your marketing education. If you’re further down the path with a few marketing books under your belt, then it won’t be revolutionary, but you’ll still pick up many practical tips on how to streamline your marketing.

Get Duct Tape Marketing on Amazon

  1. My friend Brian wrote a great post about how we’re all in sales. You should read it to understand more how we’re all in sales/marketing all the time. ↩︎

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Listen deeply to find the real problem your client has

It doesn’t matter if you work for yourself (internal projects only), you work on client projects, or you’re employed with a direct boss. You’re only paid to solve problems with what you know.

One of the key things a great consultant does is find the real problems their clients are having. Good consultants solve whatever problem the client thinks they have currently, without digging deeper.

Great consultants dig deeper.

Someone buys a boat

When I worked in the paddling industry we had a great couple who came in and tried out kayaks for months. They were always polite. They brought coffee and donuts to the lake demo days. They often gave us a bit of a hand setting things up or tearing things down. Over the course of months as they searched for just the right boat for their needs, they dealt with every staff member at the store at length. I’m sure that each of us had at least a few hours into the sale of their boats.

On purchase day, I happened to be the one helping them at the lake. Just as they were about to leave to go purchase the boats at our location a few blocks away they asked this question.

Client: So…we’ve tried a lot of boats and talked to a bunch of staff members…

Me: We’re not on commission. Go purchase your boat and enjoy it.

Client: HA! Thanks for making that easy.

They were reluctant to ask what they needed to know for fear of offending me or the other eight staff members they’d dealt with. It was an awkward question to ask, and they were really beating around the bush trying to overcome their discomfort.

By seeing the real question I was able to solve their problem.

Find that fear

A few months back I spent a month talking about being effective with your questions. You don’t have to wait until you’ve started your own business to try out those methods.

When your boss assigns you a project, there is some problem you’re trying to solve. A good boss will love when you find that deeper problem and come up with a solution to solve it, not just the surface issue that’s presenting itself.

Start digging deeper with every project that comes your way. Find that deep fear the client has and take it away. The consultant that can take away those fears is the one that’s going to succeed.

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If you want clients don’t just wing it, have a marketing plan

All month we’ve talked about marketing and how to use your content to bring in leads regularly so you can have a business that pays your bills. Most of that was overall strategy though, not the tactics of really getting the marketing done regularly.

Today we’re going to talk about a plan you can put into place to really get your marketing done without fail.

Plan your content

One of the first things to do is to plan out your content for at least the quarter. This post is being published in May, and I can tell you the broad topics I’m going to write about monthly through November. Yes that means that December is up in the air, but I’ve got months to really nail down the topic for December.

Out of that monthly plan you need to plan your posts. Like I’ve said already, post at least once a week and make it the same day each week. Teach people to expect your content.

I plan my content with a working title and a few bullet points about what I plan to write about. If you have trouble coming up with ideas for your monthly content, pick a topic you’re interested in writing about then search the web for what others are already saying about the topic. Read through some of the top posts and write down how you feel about it. What do you have to say that’s different? Even if it’s pretty similar, you’re going to reach a different audience.

Once I’ve created a title and a few bullet points for a post, from there I sit down and start writing and recording the content.

Plan your times

It’s all good to tell yourself that you’re going to write and it’s an entirely different matter to truly sit down and do the work. If you’re just starting out, I recommend that you pick a time every day and write. Make it at least 30 minutes and block out all other distractions. At the very least plan a single day of the week where you write. Plan another time in the week to record your podcast. Plan another time in the week to follow up with your prospects and clients.

Stick to these times every week without fail. If you’re too busy to get to it, do it anyway. All too often business owners get busy and neglect marketing only to hit a huge dry spell because they didn’t do any marketing. This dry spell often lasts for a month or two with only little projects coming in and then their marketing kicks back in and they have work again, only to let the marketing go.

Plan your week around those times you work on your marketing. Don’t let other responsibilities creep in on them. Sticking to your marketing plan week in, week out is what will turn your business into one that lasts and has leads coming in regularly. Anything less than consistent effort means you should expect the feast and famine cycle that is so often complained about.

If you’re having trouble getting your marketing to bring in leads make sure you get a copy of Finding and Marketing to Your Niche. I contains a 3 step marketing plan to take the guess work out of your marketing.

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How to market when you’re not a writer or blogger

Writing is a muscle. When I started writing — over 1,000 posts ago, on this site alone — I had a poorly developed writing muscle. But by continuing to write and pitch my content to others I got better, and continue to get better. As you read this I’ve published in excess of 70,000 words online this year. I write for publications like Huffington Post, Motivation Grid, and Addicted2Success.

Even with all the practice I’ve had and the feedback I get from my readers I still work hard to improve my writing muscle. Currently I’m working through the Tribe Writers course by Jeff Goins. If you can’t afford a course, begin by having a friend read your posts and offer some critique before you publish. A second set of eyes will help you refine your message and speak to your prospects.

I’m still not going to write

Even if you’re never going to write at all, there are people out there who will write for you. I have someone write my email courses for me based off the content I’ve already written. For some reason I have a terrible mental block when it comes to writing those email courses.

I know a number of other consultants who also have someone write for them. They get on the phone for an hour every few months and talk about the problems they see with their prospects and the writer turns those into outlines for blog posts. Once the outlines are approved the writer does the writing and all you need to do is put the content on your site or submit it to the publications you are trying to get published on. If you need to know who this amazing writer is just ask me.

I’m not going to get someone to write for me

If you’re still making excuses, there is nothing I can do to help you. I presume you’re reading my site because you want to run a better business. If you want that then you’re going to have to do things that require hard work and personal growth in the name of getting that better business.

Stop and read this, then think about it for a second:

If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not you’ll find an excuse.

Writing is not the only way to market your business. Like I said a few weeks ago, you can podcast or go to meet-ups. These will help you but there is little like the written word to get indexed by search engines and earn you clients for years to come. I have posts out there about WordPress topics that bring me clients worth $20k a year — and have for years — all because I put in the hard work once.

Do something that makes you scared because it’s going to reap rewards for years to come in the form of a business that has more leads than you know what to do with.

photo credit: 23544802@N02 cc

Is cold calling or emailing worth your time?

In my first version of Effective Client Email I gave you a guide to cold emails. While I still think the content I provided will help you send better cold emails, it won’t be in the next version of ECE.

Today we’re going to talk about why I’m not including guides on cold emailing or cold calling prospects with your business.

It can work but…

Can cold emails/calls work to get you business? Yes they can, and when you’re starting out you still may need to do that. Cold emailing or calling should only be a stop gap to generate leads while you spend the real time building your business reputation.

The big problem with cold contacting prospects is one of positioning.

Where you want to be

You want to be the expert in the eyes of your prospect. The person that’s best to help them with their problems. You get to this point by putting in some effort with your marketing. You do this by writing case studies of successful businesses you’ve helped.

Most of the time when you cold contact people for your services you’re not the expert in their eyes. You’re simply a service provider trying to get their business. This puts them in the driver’s seat for any negotiations on timing, hours, pricing, or deliverables as you try to earn their business.

Long term, this sets you up for low expectations when it comes to how you communicate with clients. Many of my coaching clients take months to break the mindset and turn into the confident expert that they really are, all because they started from a position of little leverage with their prospects.

So what do I do then?

Now what do you do if you’re just starting? What if you’re sitting in a job you don’t love, wishing you could be out on your own working for clients? In short, what if you don’t have that reputation of an expert yet? Well, for starters, as Jon Acuff would say in Quitter, don’t quit that job yet.

Stay in that job and start your marketing so that when you get out of the job in six months or a year, you’ve built a reputation you can use as leverage.

Use that job to build out your network. Go to conferences and get to know people in your industry. Some projects won’t fit those people you meet, but will fit you, and they’ll send them your way. My network of colleagues refer work to me all the time. The network of colleagues is what got me listed as a preferred provider on many of the software platforms I use with my clients.

Use that time in the job to build up your savings of 3-6 months’ expenses so that when you go out on your own you have a safety net to land in when things are harder than you anticipated they’d be.

If you find yourself out of work one day with no reputation to speak of, then of course do what you need to do to get work in the door and provide for yourself and those who depend on you. Just don’t get stuck in the mindset. Put together a good marketing plan and keep executing on it every week to build your reputation.

If you put the time in now to build that reputation you’ll be able to leverage it for years to come. While others struggle for work, you’ll have more leads than you know what to do with.

photo credit: 64182496@N06 cc

How and where do you market to your niche?

Last week we talked about finding your niche and how by picking a niche you are able to focus your marketing efforts only on those people who are truly interested in your services. Proper marketing can answer the top questions of the prospects in your niche and you won’t be waffling all around trying to answer any question under the sun.

Blogging

The central hub of your marketing effort should be your site. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, in fact I tell all my coaching clients who don’t yet have a site to purchase a theme from a reputable theme company and install it. Add an About and a Contact page. Put some of your work up on your site and then start writing about stuff your prospects have problems with.

I have one coaching client who spent 18 months working on their site. In that 18 months they did no marketing because the site wasn’t up. That’s 18 months of additional struggling in their business because clients couldn’t find them. Don’t waste that time.

On your site you should be writing at least once a week. Writing any less than that will work, but will just be much slower to reap any benefits to your business.

Should you get an email list? Yes you should. Get a MailChimp or a Drip account and send out your weekly blog post to your email list. You don’t need to do anything else at first. Just give prospects an opportunity to get to know you better so you can build more trust with them.

What about a content mix?

Most consultants fall into a trap when they start writing for their site. That trap is they write for their colleagues, not prospects. This is the developer writing about code or the designer talking in-depth design philosophy. Yes your colleagues will be interested in this, but many of your clients won’t be interested in it at all unless the post you write solves their problem exactly, and then they have more work which they bring to you.

Should you write for your colleagues? Yes you should, just not as much as most businesses do. The big benefit to writing for your colleagues is building name recognition in the industry. When I used to write about technical WordPress stuff I got to know many of the top people in the industry and I now get referrals from them. However, I focused way too much on writing about code when I started.

If you’re going to write to your colleagues then limit it to once a month. That means you write three things for potential clients and one thing that your colleagues would read and share.

Guest Posting

If you’re a prolific writer then you may produce more than one post a week but that doesn’t mean you should publish twice on your own site. In fact, when you’re first getting started I think that it’s an error to publish more than once a week on your site.

At first your site has little to no audience and it’s going to take months on the short side to build an audience solely on your own site — unless you start posting content on the places where your prospects are already reading. You’ve already identified many of these places when you identified your niche, now it’s time to find their rules for accepting guest posts and pitch them some of your content.

When you’re looking to guest post for a site the first thing you need to do after reading their submission rules is find someone that started guest posting for the site you’re interested in. Then look at all the content they’ve written, and find the first post they got published. This is the post they pitched and is what you should look to for guidance on the type of content you should be writing. Don’t bother looking at the latest posts. Once you’ve been accepted as a writer you have much more leeway with the publication because they already trust you.

If the publication will let you, add a ‘connect more’ section to the end of every post you write for them once you’re established. It should look something like this:

Connect More

If you liked this content don’t forget to subscribe to my site. You can join the email list and get my free manifesto to help you change your mindset about your business so you can live the life you want to live.

The goal of this section is to bring people back to your site so that you can engage with them over the long haul and build trust with your prospects.

What about Medium, LinkedIn or other platforms?

There are many content platforms out there like Medium or LinkedIn, but should you use them? It’s going to depend on your audience, really. If you’re trying to target recipe bloggers then you’re less likely to find LinkedIn a useful platform for you, while Medium might be.

You need to research your prospects and see where they are already, and if they’re on a new platform then it’s a viable option for you to publish content on.

That goes for any new platforms as well. Don’t bother with them until enough of your prospects are on them. Then spend some time figuring out how to use the platform with your content.

What if you’re not a writer?

I’ve got a solution for you if you’re not a writer and we’ll talk about that later this month. You’re not totally out of luck — there are ways to get your ideas out there in written form for people to read.

Podcasting

Now that you’ve got some form of writing in the bag we can talk about podcasting. Now now, don’t get worried — this doesn’t have to be some big hard thing. Podcasting can be really easy.

My podcast is only around five minutes long. I record it with Screenflow and I use a Blue Snowball to get better audio. I have a Logitech C920 USB camera to capture the video that goes along with publishing on YouTube.

None of those things is hugely expensive or hard to use. Sure, I could upgrade my video using my expensive dSLR or I could purchase a better microphone to clean up the audio a bit more. The question is, would doing either of those things bring me more listeners?

No they wouldn’t.

If you want to get into podcasting you can even just use a decent headset and record the audio off the microphone.

Again, with podcasts all you need to do is spend a few minutes talking about the problems you have seen your prospect talking about. Answer their questions and keep answering their questions weekly. Keep being there and building trust with them and they’ll look to you when they’re ready to spend money.

Email Courses

Once you’ve got some content on your site you’re ready for a short email course. All you need to do to get started is bundle up a few of your blog posts that answer key questions from your prospects and turn them into emails. The key change you want to make is to ask your prospects (students) questions to help them work through the problems your course addresses.

This is going to mean that you’ll get responses to the questions and have opportunities to interact with your prospects, which will in turn build more trust with them.

This type of course is also a great lead magnet to get people on your email list. Offer them the course for free and send it to them over the course of a few weeks, along with your regular blog posts on your publishing day.

How long will this take to bring in clients?

No, this will not be an overnight success for most of you. Many people start down this road and don’t see success in the first month — or second month or third month, and they give up. They swear that it doesn’t really work for them and everyone else is simply lucky.

Everyone else is not simply lucky — everyone else stayed the course for six months or 12 months. I wrote about WordPress development stuff for five years and built my reputation with colleagues and clients. Now I do little content generation for my WordPress development services and focus almost all my efforts on content generation which pushes my books and my coaching services. Even with no new WordPress specific content published in two years, I stay booked for months.

Yes I do essentially no advertising unless some other site asks me for some content and I have more leads than I know what to do with.

There are no quick fixes to building an awesome business that lets you live the life you want to live. It takes hard work and then more hard work. When things get hard, it takes more hard work. When your peers quit because it’s hard, you keep working at the hard work every day.

Then you start to reap the rewards of a business that keeps bringing in leads regularly with little effort. Live like no one else today and do the hard work now so that you can live like no one else later and have leads coming in from every direction.

photo credit: kapgar cc

Want to build marketing that works while you sleep? Find a niche.

I know you want clients. You want lots of clients of decent quality so that you can be picky and choose the ones that fit your ideal client profile. If you want this it all starts with a niche.

Do less to do more

Contrary to the thoughts of most consultants and business owners the best way to get lots of prospects is to say you do less. Narrow your focus down to a specific niche out of the millions of potential clients in the world. Focus on a few thousand that sit right where you want to be in the market.

Focusing down on a niche has one big advantage for you, by allowing you to focus your marketing material. You don’t have to try and figure out what everyone in the market will respond to and then produce reams of content that they might read. You only need to find the problems of your small niche of prospects and all your marketing can target those issues.

This focused marketing is going to pay off long before the scattershot approach of being everything to everyone.

Finding your niche

Before you can really dive in and find your niche you need to do one thing — know yourself and your goals better. The exercise I like most is to take a piece of paper and divide it in half, top to bottom. Now fold it in half side to side. You’ll be left with four rectangles on the page.

Inside these rectangles you are going to list the most important areas of your life, organized by the top four categories. My top four categories are Family, Travel, Business, Fitness. It may take some time to nail them down so don’t sweat it if at first you aren’t sure you’ve identified the perfect four categories at first.

Now what do you want each of those areas of your life to look like in five years? For me in my Family quadrant I know that in five years I want to be able to be around homeschooling my kids a few days a week. I know I want to be able to take them on multi-day backcountry trips without needing to check back in on the Internet.

Once you’ve identified your four quadrants start thinking about the projects you’ve already done. Which ones were the most fun? Which ones make you smile to look at them still? In all likelihood those projects that were the most fun are at least closely related to the niche you should operate in.

Another way to work out your niche is to list all the problems you’ve solved for clients over the last few years. Think hard about why each client came to you and what service you provided for them. It may be that while you did design a site, the client’s real problem was poor sales and what you really did was help them get more sales. The site design is simply the thing you can see that fixed their problem.

Once you have a few ideas that could be your niche it’s time to go back to your four quadrants and make sure that they line up with the life you want to live in five years. For me that’s meant I don’t develop plugins for sale because doing so would mean I need to be around for support daily. I want to cut my required Internet time down to two days so that I can be around for my family.

Finding the problems in your niche

Once you’ve centered on a niche it’s time to start to dig into the problems your niche has as a way to generate your marketing material. The first step is to identify the top problems that your niche has. You should already have a list of some of them from your work to identify the niche, but as you move forward write down every question your prospects ask you. Don’t just answer them once on the phone or via email, use the answers to generate ideas for your blog.

Another way to find the problems in your niche is to go find where the people already are in the niche. There are Facebook groups or forums for any niche around. Find the top five and join them. Now read through most of the content there and see what people are struggling with. Some things you’ll be able to answer right away in the forum or group, so do it. Take those answers and write them down so you can expand on them later in writing on your site (or other sites which we’ll talk about in a future post).

By picking a niche you’re going to be able to focus your marketing message to only those prospects that have the problems you can best solve. Doing this is going to get clients in that niche knocking on your door and leave you booked out for months. I’d love to hear about the niche you’ve picked in the comments.

If you need more help finding a niche get my book Finding and Marketing to Your Niche. It includes a great 3 step marketing plan to take the guess work out of marketing.

photo credit: 49648042@N02 cc

If you want your questions with prospects to flow – it takes prep

This month we talked about a few questioning methods. I hope you did your practicing because without it you’re not going to get better at delving deeper with your clients.

The thing is, you can’t just use a single method of questioning — you need to get comfortable enough with the different methods to flow between them. Just asking WHY five times for every facet of the conversation will quickly sound mechanical. Always using echoing will also sound ridiculous quickly. Only with practice and prep can you easily flow between the types of questioning methods so that you sound natural and can build the trust of your prospect.

Prep how?

Do you schedule 15 minutes prep time before every call? I hope you do, at least if you want to win the work.

So you’ve got 15 minutes before each call with a prospect, but what do you do with that time? I open up my email client and read through every email we’ve sent about the current work. I open up Evernote and go over every note I’ve made as we’ve been sending information back and forth.

Out of that reading I generate at least 5-8 questions I need answered about the project by the end of our 30-minute call. The first thing I do when I’m on the call with the prospect is to let them know what those 5-8 questions are and tell them that by the end I need those questions answered.

No, this doesn’t make you less personable and abrupt with your prospects but rather shows them that you came prepared. It increases their trust in you because if you put this much effort into a phone call with them how much effort will you put into the project?

LOTS!!!

This also sets a clear agenda for the call and at the end allows you to evaluate if the call was a success or not. What I actually say is:

Hey $name, I have 5 questions I need answered by the end of the call. I need these answered to have a successful call. The questions are:…

They weren’t answered

Many of your calls with prospects will result in all your questions answered properly but not all of them. Sometimes there are just too many unknown things in the project and you couldn’t answer them even with two years of phone calls.

If you have an effective call (no waffling around about the weather) and haven’t answered the questions in 45 minutes then the project is likely too big for just sending a proposal. In that case, you most likely need to have a scoping session which is a billed project.

The entire goal of scoping sessions is to figure out the project and make sure that everything is understood. For one I have coming up it means digging into the project and figuring out which of the client needs can and can’t be done with their current infrastructure. If we can’t do what we want then it means we’ll recommend a new option.

Either way, after finishing the paid scoping (or discovery if you prefer) I’ll be able to produce a proper proposal for the client so we can move forward with the rest of the project.

Get better at questioning

Do you want to get better at questioning? Do you want to not sound like a robot as you flow between questioning methods? Of course you do, so start practicing.

If you’re not in a mastermind group to practice with, go find one. If you’d like some 1 on 1 help I’d love to talk with you about how I can help.

Start learning to ask better questions today so that you can land more clients and charge more as you find more value in each project.

photo credit: silverback40 cc