As an entrepreneur and business owner, learning how to market yourself to potential clients is likely to be one of your biggest challenges. Fail to do it well, and your business will likely stagnate. Learn to do it well, and your business will thrive.  

Developing an understanding of exactly how to market yourself to potential clients not only takes time, it requires a shift of perspective, an alteration of the way we present ourselves to others. It can be quite a daunting feat and is probably the challenge that entrepreneurs fear the most.  It’s no wonder why; our entire life, we’ve been taught to be humble, to avoid bragging about ourselves, about how good we are the things we do. But when you are a solopreneur and the thing you do is your livelihood, your business depends on your ability to talk yourself and your business up.
To market yourself to your target market, you first need to get out of that mindset, forget what you have been told about being humble, and become your own biggest advocate. Only then will you be able to develop an effective marketing strategy.

Here are 7 keys steps to include in your marketing strategy.

  1. Be clear about what you do, and who you do it for. Entrepreneurs and sole proprietors often aim to serve too many niches at once. They try to do it all and their list of products and services becomes overwhelming. Think about a time when you went out to eat and a member of the waitstaff brought you a menu that was the culinary equivalent of a Shakespearean playwright. From tacos and pasta dishes to burgers and curries, nothing lacked from the menu, likely due to the restaurant owners’ desire to provide “something for everyone”. While the intentions may have been good, it is quite often the downfall of many restaurants. That’s because for you and likely the bulk of the patrons that visit this restaurant, flipping through a menu like this can be quite overwhelming.

    The more specific you are in what you offer and to whom, the easier it is to market yourself. In marketing terms, this is called the UVP, or unique value proposition. When developing your UVP, think about what it is that makes your business different from the competition. Narrow in on that. Then, find the best possible way to present it to the specific market in need of that one thing, delivered one way, by the only business doing it—yours.

    For instance, you might be a chiropractor. As a chiropractor, you are fully capable of helping align all of the various types of bodies. Based on this, your UVP might look something like this:

    I provide relief to those in need through chiropractic adjustments.

    Not only is this statement incredibly vague, it doesn’t distinguish you from the competition, and it’s targeted at everyone. Marketing to absolutely everyone is not feasible and trying to will ultimately lead to failure.

    Now, imagine that your experience as a chiropractor has led you to realize that you are really great at realigning soccer players with neck injuries caused by taking numerous headers in games and practices and you get them back in the game quicker because you focus on full spinal health and not just the neck. And just like that, you’ve discovered your niche. Now your UVP might look something like this:

    I get soccer players with neck injuries back in the game quicker through adjustments and full spinal rehabilitation.

    Now that’s a UVP folks would listen to. It’s interesting, it’s specific, and they know right away whether or not you are a chiropractor they should consider. They also know exactly who to refer to you.

    Being specific in your UVP doesn’t mean you need to turn away other potential clients that come to you. It just helps you zone in on the target you hope to reach. Thus, doing so better. Knowing exactly what your UVP is will lead to an understanding of how to market yourself to potential clients.
  2. Know where your target market is: Specifically, where do they spend their time? If you can’t find them, you won’t be able to market to them. I mean this just as much in the virtual sense as in the physical. When they are online, what social networks are they active on? What blogs do they read? Where do they get their information. When they aren’t online, where do they spend their time? What groups are they involved in? What events do they attend? Include face-to-face networking in your strategy and make sure you are in the same places as the folks you want to market to.
  3. Be helpful. If your marketing efforts are always about you, you will face self-induced headwinds. Being generous of thought and simple teachings not only increases your know, like, and trust factor, it showcases the quality of your services and the ease of working with you. Oftentimes when you provide tidbits of your know-how at no cost to the client, they will realize that it is absolutely not something they want to take on by themselves and when they are ready to hire someone, you’ll be the first person they think of because you’ve already demonstrated your capabilities.
  4. Use the power of your personal networks and word of mouth to work for you. Make sure your friends and colleagues know exactly what you do. When one of their clients, friends, or acquaintances has a problem you can solve, they will absolutely recommend you—they just need to be armed with information. Make a list of your contacts that offer a complimentary service and ask to take them out to coffee. Have an honest conversation about how you can help each other, the types of clients you hope to bring in, and the ways in which you can work together to achieve your goals. In some cases, you might discuss a referral bonus while in others an organic partnership with an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” motto might come to fruition.  
  5. Use testimonials and case studies to highlight how you have helped others who have had similar problems. Ask your happy clients to leave you reviews and recommendations on Google, Yelp, LinkedIN or any other place that makes sense for your business (do the same for those whom you helped out for free). These days, people typically begin their buying journey by researching online, good reviews can be the quickest and easiest way to gain new clients. You can also gather testimonials from workshops, speaking gigs, and so on. Sprinkle these throughout your website, across social media, and on marketing collateral. Displaying praise in the words of others can give you a powerful boost in the trust-factor.
  6. Listen carefully to your potential client’s problems. Ask open-ended questions that dig deeper into the issues your potential clients are having. Be empathetic to their situation and genuinely listen. Doing so demonstrates that you are interested in them and not just their business. It also proves that you are absolutely interested in helping them solve their problems and gives you insight into how much this problem is costing them. When you understand what the problem is, why it’s a problem, and the toll it is taking on them personally and financially, you’ll be able to better solve it for them. It also enables you to quote a price appropriately because you have a feel for exactly how much they might be willing to spend on a solution.
  7. Offer your services. After you have addressed their concerns, ask them to hire you. They know they need to solve a problem and you have the solution. So present them with an ask. It can be as simple as “Would you like me to put together a contract?” or “My schedule opens up next Tuesday, would you like to schedule an appointment”? Follow up until you get a clear “yes” or a clear “no”. The absence of an answer is not a “no”.

Now that you have been given permission to promote yourself positively and have a deeper understanding on how to market yourself to potential clients, it’s time to get started in creating or recreating a marketing strategy that works for you and your business.
Let’s use this comment thread to connect entrepreneurs with others whose problems they can solve. Let us know your UVP and how others can find out more about what you do!