Great Ideas for your Small Business: Market Your Service-Based Business
Selling your expertise—an intangible product—requires a much different approach from selling a product that sits on the shelf. Some professionals, like doctors and lawyers, are limited by professional ethics to marketing their services through specific channels. If you’re a consultant, you have more options.
One of the best ways to market your services is to position yourself as an expert in your field. This can be accomplished by writing articles for trade publications or general interest magazines—or by being quoted in newspapers and making guest appearances on local or national television. You may think that you could never attract a reporter’s attention, but it’s easier than you think.
The first step is to find out who covers your particular industry at the local newspaper, radio, or television stations. Once you have a name, draft a short introductory letter. Explain that you are available to provide background information, resources, or a quote on a particular subject.
Attach your business card or company brochure. Wait about a week and then make a follow-up telephone call. Be sure to find out when that particular news organization is on deadline, and never call when the reporters and editors are closing an issue.
Reporters are continually looking for new sources. So be patient and continue to send along clippings and items of interest. You’ll find that once you get quoted in one newspaper or magazine, other reporters will begin to call you and recognize your name.
Another good way to attract new clients is to offer them a sample of your expertise. Invite current and potential clients to a breakfast or seminar. Give a brief presentation to whet everyone’s appetite and then take questions from the audience. Ask your existing clients to each invite one or two guests to expand your circle of contacts.
In fact, your current clients are always your best source of new business. You should be spending at least one hour a day soliciting referrals, sending out letters or brochures, or making cold calls. Ask your clients if they can refer you to one or two potential leads. At first they may be reluctant, but if you give them time to think about it, they should be able to come up with at least one or two names for you.
Many consultants find that the cross-marketing approach is another effort that works very well. Team up with a consultant whose business compliments yours—but is not competitive. You might share mailing lists or produce a joint brochure.
Although the “Pig in the Window” approach is not the answer for most consultants, there are plenty of other similarly creative and effective ways to market your services.