The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 24.14

Saturday, April 6, 2024

image courtesy of DALL-E via ChatGPT

Build a solopreneur business - Part 4: Design your marketing

This is part 4 of a 5-part series about building a business.

In this series:

  1. Define your niche
  1. Craft your offer
  1. Price it right
  1. Design your marketing (this article)
  1. Start your engines

Build a solopreneur business - Part 4: Design your marketing

Just about every solopreneur I’ve ever spoken to tell me their biggest problem is getting more clients. And we know that marketing is how people get to know about you, so we think marketing is the culprit.

That’s only partially true.

Let’s start with some fundamentals, and see why “marketing” is just part of the problem. Then we will look at how you can design your marketing to make it easier for people to get to know about you, and eventually get more clients.

The fundamentals

There are three fundamentals we need to understand before we can design our marketing. They are:

  • The value of your value proposition
  • Marketing is just the start of the customer journey
  • There are fundamentally 2 types of marketing

Let’s take a quick look at each.

Fundamental 1: The value of your, em… value proposition

The very first thing you need to know is that all the best marketing in the world is not going to work if you are trying to sell something people don’t want or need.

We’re very good at tuning out stuff we’re not interested in. For example, there’s a lot of marketing around Apple products - but if you don’t need a phone or computer, you sort of just don’t notice Apple’s marketing. But when you are in the market (pun intended) for one of those gadgets, you seem to see their marketing everywhere.

Now imagine you’re selling something people don’t want or need. You’ve already guessed it - people are going to tune it out, and no matter how loud you shout, they don’t notice you.

Here’s the good news:

Very often, what we’re selling is not the problem - people actually do need it. It’s how we present it that fails to get their attention.

In last week’s article I used the example of websites for dentists. Try to sell them a website, and you’re competing against all the low-cost and DIY options. But present them with something that “triples the conversion rate from searchers to patients and doubles their lifetime value,” and you’re in a completely different world.

What you need to do:

  • Look carefully at what you’re offering - are you presenting the “how” or “what”, or a compelling outcome?
  • If appropriate, reposition what you’re selling in terms of outcomes.

Fundamental 2: Marketing is just the start

The next fundamental to understand is this:

Marketing just gets them to notice you. It’s what happens after they’ve noticed you that determines if they’re going to buy.

Take our same website for dentists example above. Great marketing is going to get dentists to check out my website (I’m supposed to be good at this, right?). You already guessed it:

  • If my website is shoddy, they won’t pay attention to me ever again.
  • If my website is slick, chances are they will want to know more.

And the website is just the start of their customer journey. In the Tornado Method I describe the 5 stages of your Revenue Engine:

The simple truth is that every stage of your customer’s journey has to be polished and professional. Lose them anywhere along they way, and you’ve lost them for life.

What you need to do:

  • Put yourself in the position of one of your customers.
  • Walk through every step of their journey with you - is every step polished and professional, all the way up to sales, onboarding, delivery and even after?
  • Go polish where necessary.

Fundamental 3: Two types of marketing

The last fundamental is simple—there are two types of marketing:

  • Outbound marketing requires that you go out and talk to people. Think cold calling or networking.
  • Inbound marketing requires that you establish yourself as an expert, so people come to you when they’re ready. Think LinkedIn marketing or public speaking.

On the face of it, inbound marketing is very attractive (this article is part of my inbound marketing). We all love the idea of people coming to you for your products or services - and they’ve already qualified themselves as interested in what you have to offer.

But that’s not the whole truth. In practice:

  • Outbound marketing takes a lot of time and effort, but is faster at generating sales.
  • Inbound marketing takes a lot longer to work, but has a long-tail effect.

Some people are really great at outbound marketing - I know at least one person who does this for a living and is truly an expert. But many solopreneurs are introverts - we would much rather be working on our computers than go to a networking event.

What you need to do:

  • If you’re in the early stages of your business, go out and talk to people - but listen and learn just as much. You will slowly but surely build up a reputation as the go-to person for your niche, even if it’s just in your local area.
  • If you’re up and running, work on your online presence. Articles (like this one), a YouTube channel, on LinkedIn every day - your choice.

More on this in the next bits.

Design your marketing

Let’s assume you have the fundamentals right:

  • You offer something people need and want (outcomes, not how’s or what’s).
  • Every step of their journey with you is polished and professional.
  • You understand the pros and cons of outbound and inbound marketing.

Now you can design your marketing. There are just 3 questions you need to answer:

  1. Where can I find them?
  1. How can I get their attention?
  1. What am I going to do?

Here we go.

Step 1: Where can I find them?

The first thing you need to figure out is where you can find your ideal clients. There are three ways to do this:

  • Find them directly, one at a time.
  • Find them where they gather.
  • Borrow an audience.

Finding your ideal clients one at a time is not a very effective use of your time, but when you’re just starting out this may be the best way to go. Depending on your niche, a Google Maps search may reveal where their offices are, and you can then go visit them, or drop off some printed material (surprisingly efficient in the days of spam filters).

Finding out where they gather is much more effective, because you can speak to many at the same time. Associations, including your local Chamber of Commerce, are a good bet, and many will welcome guest speakers if you pitch it right.

Online locations are another way of getting in front of groups of your ideal clients, but my experience is that this is less effective especially if you’re in the early stages of building your business.

And then you can borrow an audience. Back to the websites for dentists example: I could find all the dentists in my area, but I could also go to the accounting firms who service those dentists. In this case, each accounting firm may have multiple dentist clients, and if I can convince the accountants this is a good idea, the “sale” to the dentist is easy.

What you need to do:

  • Make a list of all the online and IRL (In Real Life) places you can find your ideal clients.
  • Rank them in terms of how easy it will be to show up in each of those places.

Step 2: How can I get their attention?

The worst thing you can do to get someone’s attention is to try and sell them something before you’ve even introduced yourself.

The best thing you can do is to show them you understand their problem, and how to solve it.

Example 1: In our websites for dentist example, the best things to get their attention is to talk about patient churn (how many patients go to other dentists) and lifetime value. If I school myself in these subjects, and speak knowledgeably about it, I am telling them “I understand your problem”. When they know you understand their problem, they are likely to listen when you start talking about the solution.

Example 2: This series of articles is effectively a recipe for building a solopreneur business. I intimately understand the problem (don’t know where to start, what to focus on next), so I’m addressing the problem as well as offering my knowledge and experience freely. If you’re getting value from this series of articles, you will probably pay attention when I start talking about my offerings.

What you need to do:

  • Make a list of at least 5 problems your ideal clients have that you can talk about.

This seems deceptively simple, but there’s a lot under the hood. Most importantly:

What we’re effectively doing here is defining what we are going to be known for.

Defining our marketing in terms of problems our clients have, sets the stage for taking our expertise public. We don’t just sell websites for dentists, we intimately understand the problems they have (and how to solve it). Or in my case, I know and understand the overwhelm involved in trying to build a business, and I’m already demonstrating that I know how to solve the problem.

Step 3: What are you going to do?

Here’s what you’ve done so far:

  • You understand the fundamentals.
  • You know where to find your ideal clients.
  • You have a list of at least 5 problems they have that you can talk about.

Finally, it’s time to design your marketing - to decide what you’re going to do. The principle is simple:

Take each problem you identified, and turn it into something that will show up in the places where you can find your ideal clients.

In the websites for dentists example, one of the problems I identified is lifetime value (the average revenue from each dental patient). I can turn this into:

  • An article (or series of articles) for my website.
  • A talk I can present at dental conferences.
  • A 1-pager they can take away after the conference.
  • A YouTube video.
  • A complementary white paper with the top 5 things dentists can do to increase lifetime value, downloadable from my website or as a drop-off at dental practices.

In fact, I probably want to turn this topic into each of the above. In pictures:

What you need to do:

  • Decide how you can best present the problems in each place you can find your ideal clients.

With 5 problems and 3 places I can deliver this to my ideal clients, I have:

  • 5 talks, each with an associated handout
  • at least 5 articles for my website
  • at least 5 videos for a YouTube channel

That’s a lot of marketing collateral.

Over to you

If you do the work above, or at least check what you have against the steps, you will have a pretty solid marketing strategy and a list of the collateral you will need to create.

That’s it for this week. See you next week for the last part of this series.