The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.07

Saturday, February 18, 2023

The top 4 problems all solopreneurs struggle with (#2)

In last week’s article I started writing about the top four problems all solopreneurs struggle with. The problems are:

  1. I’m overwhelmed (and I don’t know what to focus on next)
  2. I need more leads (marketing)
  3. I don’t know how to do XYZ
  4. I don’t know if I’m doing it right

In this week’s article we look at problem #2 - I need more leads (a.k.a. Marketing).

Just a quick reminder

As I wrote last week, solving these problems requires changes in both mindset and skillset.

We will very often need to change our attitudes towards something. As Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” As long as, for example, I tell myself I don’t like marketing, I won’t like it, so I’m almost guaranteeing that I won’t be good at it. (There’s more to this particular story, but that’s for another day.)

And we may need to learn new skillsets, or improve an existing skilset.

Mindset and skillset work together to solve a problem. Developing a skillset also requires that you change, or evolve, your mindset.

Now on to the problem.

Problem #2: I need more leads (marketing)

If you’ve been around any of my writing, you know that I regard “marketing” as such a big problem I had to divide it into two parts:

  • Marketing is what you do to get noticed. Drive them to your website, get them to call you or email you, and you have a lead.
  • Lead nurturing is what happens after they’ve turned into a lead. This is where you find out what they really need, show them how you can help, and build trust that you can deliver the goods.

But we struggle to get either of these right.

Marketing mindset

To “get more leads” (the way we usually describe this problem), there are two mindset shifts we have to make:

The first mindset shift is “marketing takes time”.

In practice this means that you have to keep at it (marketing) for months before it starts showing real results. And then you have to keep at it, consistently, for results to show up consistently.

Many solopreneurs get excited at the latest whiz-bang marketing technique, jump in with great enthusiasm and then are disappointed that leads don’t show up in droves.

The main problem is that people are not ready to buy when we’re ready to sell. We have to keep reminding them that we’re around, and we can help with a specific problem, so when they’re ready, they come to us.

The second mindset shift is “marketing only gets them to your door - it’s what happens after they become a lead that determines whether they buy.”

Imagine you own a roadside restaurant. You’ve put up billboards, lights and flags to make people aware you’re there. And it works - lots of people turn off the road to come and have something to eat.

This is your marketing at work - people are showing up at your door.

Now think for a minute what will make them come in, and what will make them get back in the car again (and never stop at your restaurant again)...

If your restaurant looks clean, welcoming, and you greet them with a big smile, they will come in.

This is your lead nurturing at work - where they make the decision to buy (order a meal) or not.

And of course if your restaurant is dirty, the staff are surly or you make them wait too long, chances are they will get back in the car. And that bad experience is going to stick with them - they probably won’t stop here again.

This is your lead nurturing not working well.

Marketing skillset

At its simplest, marketing can be broken down into the following 4 parts:

  1. Find out where they hang out
  2. Figure out how what would be of value to them
  3. Show up in those places, frequently and consistently
  4. Keep adjusting your messaging until you get decent responses.

Finding out where they hang out is relatively simple. For me, LinkedIn is one of the places my clients hang out, so this is one of the channels to market I use. I will also shortly be starting a YouTube channel, as it is, after Google, one of the most used search engines in the world. Reviewing your channels to market is something you need to do about once a year.

Figuring out what’s of value to them (part 2 of your skillset) is also relatively easy. Your skills or expertise is valuable (unless you’re very, very early in your career), so you just need to take your wisdom and use it in the next two steps.

Which is where the problems start.

You need to develop the skill - or more correctly the discipline - to show up at least once a week in the places your potential clients hang out. More if you can. This is difficult, especially in the beginning when you don’t yet see much results. But keep at it for a couple of months or more, and results will start showing up.

Finally (part 4), the most difficult skill to develop - getting your messaging to resonate with your potential clients. Here’s what I know to be true:

Most marketing fails because the words we use don’t resonate with our potential clients. The words we use to talk and think about our fields of expertise are very different from the words our clients use to describe the problems we can help them solve.

So we need to learn the skill to listen to our clients, identify the words and phrases they use to talk about those problems we can help them with, and use those words in our marketing.

And the best I know to do this is to speak to clients. But when you do, listen more than you speak. When you’ve spoken to 10 or 15 clients, you will see common words and phrases, common problems - and that is what should be showing up in your marketing.

Getting to fall in love with marketing

If you don’t like marketing, you’re not alone. I didn’t either - because I wasn’t seeing results. But as I slowly got better at marketing, I became more and more excited about it. Now, I actually like the writing, scheduling my posts, making videos - because I know I’m helping people and they respond. Some of them even become clients.

But you can’t start with passion. To paraphrase Cal Newport:

...preexisting passions are rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work.

In other words, passion grows from getting good at something - not the other way around.

And you don’t need to be passionate about marketing - but if you get good at it, you will actually start liking it.