How to develop a personal marketing plan to get ahead in your career

If you aren’t an owner or partner at a firm, you may not feel much pressure to market yourself. However, even if no one is pushing you to bring in new business today and you’re not looking for a job, you want to devote time to marketing to build your reputation and position yourself for new opportunities at your present firm or elsewhere. Learning to market yourself effectively can make a substantial difference in your career. Ideally, your firm will actively assist your efforts because you are bringing attention to the firm, but either way, your first step is to develop a personal marketing plan. (more…)

How to get more clients like your “best” clients

All clients are not created equally. While we know that, many of us actively pursue any client rather than focusing on a specific “ideal or best client.” The fear is that if we limit ourselves to only seeking one client type, we may not be able to make enough money. Even if that could be true for your business (but probably isn’t), it is beneficial to identify what kind of clients you really want and how you can get more like them. Here are 4 steps to get you started: (more…)

Attract more clients with niche-focused marketing

One Customer in Prospect Pyramid - Get the SaleAre you worried you may lose business if you don’t market to every kind of client you’re capable of handling? A lot of marketing by professional services firms suffers from focusing on too broad a market. Although being more general theoretically gives you a larger potential audience, you can’t really be everything to everyone and your prospects know it. In fact, a Hinge Marketing study found that the fastest-growing firms tend to be specialists in a carefully targeted niche. Why is this? What are the benefits of focusing on a niche practice? Here are 7 of them:

1. Differentiating your practice. We’re all suffering from information overload and offering your audience more generic services and resources won’t set you apart and get you noticed. Marketing a specialty sets you apart from the competition because it forces you to clearly define what you do and what you know in a highly specific way that is different from other firms.

2. Fewer competitors. There are tons of firms that say they serve business owners or high-wealth individuals or they can handle a laundry list of issues for any size company. So if you target your marketing message that broadly, you are going to be competing with all those firms. On the other hand, focusing on a particular industry, type of service or other niche means you have a smaller group of firms who directly compete with you.

3. Better quality leads. How good are the leads you are getting? Are they truly solid prospects? Do you have a high conversion rate? Marketing yourself broadly may bring in more calls, but if they don’t convert to business then it’s not really helpful. Having a well-defined specialty means people have a better sense of the kind of work you do and whether your expertise is a match for what they are looking for from a firm. The ones who call you are specifically interested in your niche practice and that means they are more likely to become clients.

4. Becoming an expert. Your prospects don’t want a generalist; they want a specialist who understands their needs, concerns and industry/situation. By defining a niche, you can really get to know it well and showcase that expertise. Monitor the relevant developments and trends, learn the industry and the key players, influencers and competitors. The more you know about your niche, the better you can provide insightful information to your audience and position yourself as the go-to expert.

5. Knowing your audience. If you have a niche, you need to know who you are targeting with a lot of specificity. Who are they? Where are they? What are their challenges? Where do they turn for information? Imagine trying to understand all of this if you have a general audience. By specializing, you are in a better position to understand how to help your prospects solve their problems and make them satisfied clients.

6. Targeting your message. When you focus on a niche, you can develop better distribution channels for getting your message out. You know where your audience is and you can deliver the message to them. That means taking the time to join and get involved in the groups your audience is involved with, write for the publications they read, and build relationships with the influencers they trust.

7. Maximizing resources. If you’re trying to hit everyone, you will be stretching your time and money very thin. Instead concentrate your resources on your niche. You will find it easier to leverage your marketing and content efforts. Whatever you’re doing to showcase your expertise – writing, speaking, networking, search engine optimization, partnering – can all work together to help you amplify your message and get you more bang for your buck.

Still worried about losing potential clients you were qualified to handle? Marketing a niche doesn’t mean you’re only taking clients in that one area. And there is nothing to say you should only have one niche. The larger the firm, the more specialties you may want to have. However, keep in mind all the benefits described above and stay focused on your best niches for success.

7 great ways to research your ideal buyer

Buyer Persona Speech Bubble People Customers Profile ClientsHow much do you know about your ideal buyer or client? In my last post, I covered 14 things you must know about your buyers in order to effectively focus your marketing. Now the question is where you can find that information.

In developing a buyer persona or client profile, you want it to be based on real data and research, not just what you think is true about your market. To that end, here are 7 ways to gather that information:

1. Existing data from clients/prospects. One of the first steps you should take is to look at what clients and prospects have already told you about themselves. When new clients and prospects come in, you should try to gather as much information as you can, such as their individual and company information, demographics, needs, how they got to you, etc. Go through your own database (or create one if you don’t already have one) and analyze and segment your contacts. You may be surprised by how much you can learn about what types of clients are attracted to you, at what times and under what circumstances. The data can reveal niches, trends, patterns and other useful statistics allowing you to better target your ideal audience.

2. Appending data. Often you can’t collect as much information as you would like directly from contacts. People hate to fill out forms and it can be difficult to get answers without annoying clients and prospects. In some cases, you can fill in the gaps by appending your data through third parties. There are services offering to fill in gaps in your data with financial and industry information, contact names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. There are also data mining and aggregation services which gather information from public sources and the internet.

3. Analytics. Your email, web and social media analytics provide a great deal of useful information to help you to create and hone your buyer personas. Understanding how, when and where people find you online and engage with you can reveal a wealth of information about them. For example, the key words they are searching online can tell you about their concerns or reveal trends. The third party sites sending traffic to you tell you about what information sources they may be using. When you produce content, analyze which types and outlets result in more site visitors, registrations, email click-throughs, and social media sharing to determine what resonates with your audience.

4. Surveys, interviews, focus groups. It’s crucial for your buyer persona to incorporate feedback from actual people. Affirmatively reach out to your clients and prospects. Find out how they found you, what their chief concerns and motivations were, how they went through the buying process, and what they like about your services.

5. Competitive intelligence. Yes you need to focus your research on your buyer, but you should also look at what your competitors are doing. In what ways are they targeting this buyer? How are they positioning themselves? You should look at their website, marketing materials, clients, and social media and web traffic. How are buyers connecting and engaging with them? From where are they getting their traffic? What distribution outlets are they using? The idea is to consider what are they doing differently from you and what lessons can you learn about your buyer.

6. Industry sources. It’s crucial to understand the industry in which your prospects operate. What is happening in their industry? Who are the relevant players? What are the key concerns? Research and subscribe to publications, blogs and other information resources relevant to your audience’s industry. Think about how these developments impact your clients and prospects both positively and negatively.

7. Social listening or social media monitoring. By actively monitoring social media channels, you can gain valuable information about your target audience. You can use social media to learn about industry developments and concerns, find influencers and communities, check out competitors, research leads, explore content ideas, and pose questions to your prospects. Join relevant LinkedIn groups, use Twitter to search for appropriate hashtags, follow companies and competitors, and set up alerts to stay current on your market.

You can do all of the above on your own, but there are also tools and service providers to help you with each of them. There are plenty of recommendations online for everything from CRM systems and marketing automation software to web analytic and social listening tools. For some suggested tools, see Social Media Today, Blogging Wizard and Curata.

Some of these may go beyond your needs and that’s fine. As I said in my last post, the important point is to not gloss over creating these profiles. The more you know about your buyer’s needs, the better you can tailor the substance of your message as well as how you promote it to them.