If you are itching to spend some time early in the year to make some major inroads into building your client base, this will be right up your alley.
You want to build not only revenue right now, but create a vibrant pipeline of future clients.
You want to be more visible so you can spend less time selling and more time doing.
You aren’t looking for get-rich-quick schemes, but are committed to the reliable consistency that is the mark of a true professional.
Still with me?
Cool. The place to start is with your website. It is after all, your billboard, NOT an afterthought.
Tactic #1: Refresh your website.
At least once a year, take a look at your site with fresh eyes. Is it modern? Easy to use and navigate? Does it fit with your brand and your audience? How’s it working for you? Is it bringing you qualified potential clients or wasting your time with bad fits?
Here are the questions you want to be asking to decide what needs refreshing:
- What’s the last post date of your blog? If it’s more than a year ago, you don’t have a blog, you have a slug. Either commit to updating it regularly or take it down. You can repurpose old posts into articles and put them in a separate section of your site.
- Do you mention dates that make it seem like you haven’t updated your site in a few years? Unless it’s an Oscar, Tony or Emmy, nobody cares that you won an award in 2008. Lose the dates, keep the (significant) awards.
- Take a look at your photos. Be honest now—are they looking a little sad? Getting new photos taken may not be your idea of a scintillating time, but I guarantee they will freshen up your site (not to mention your social media pages) and ratchet up your game.
- Is your copy all in third person? Maybe—just maybe—it’s time to step into the light. Yes, if it’s all about your company, third person may well be the way to go. But if you ARE the company, then try talking about yourself and your work in the first person. It feels odd at first—but to the reader (aka your future client)—it’s like a personal conversation that draws them in.
- Does your site have a front-and-center opt-in to stay in contact with you? You do not want to make people dig three screens down just to add their names to your mailing list. And no, social media icons do NOT count.
- Is your contact form actually working? Test it. If it goes somewhere other than your primary email address, how often are those messages checked? Nothing annoys a potential client more than hearing nothing back from an initial inquiry.
- How long does your site take to load? I can’t even count the number of times I’ve clicked on a site link that took so long to load I gave up (sidebar: now is also a good time to go through all your social media profiles and test the links to make sure they are sending your visitors to the right place).
- Is it time for video? You don’t have to get fancy—or even expensive—depending on your brand of course. But if shooting the right video will build your audience, it may be an investment that you’re ready to make.
- Does your site make you happy? Does it feel like you? Does it represent how you want your message projected into the world? If not, it’s time to invest in a remake—perhaps simple, perhaps sublime—to catapult you into the realm you are ready to join.
So please. Do yourself a favor and take a good hard look at your website. Whether it’s a tweak or an overhaul, you know it’s time.
Once you’ve got your message firmly in place for all to see, you are ready to build out your platform—and make some magic—with
Tactic #2: Make media work for you.
Here’s the thing about media: it’s a little like dating. If you attach yourself too much to a specific outcome, you will be disappointed.
You want to approach getting more media coverage as the cherry on top of an already luscious sundae. If you NEED it to sell your services right now, this minute, you are spending your time and money in the wrong place. Desperation in media never attracts the right people to your doorstep.
Don’t have the budget to hire a media maven? No worries—all you need is to carve out two to five hours a week to work at it, bit-by-bit. It’s a process, not an event.
Step 1: Define Your Sweet-spot Audience. Before you even think about media, be crystal-clear on your ideal audience. Who are your best buyers? One way to go: create a client avatar. And keep that image firmly in your head as you discover where your ideal clients spend their media time.
Step 2: Explore your options. Where is your best future client or target likely to trip over you? Traditional, big media outlets—broadcast, digital or print? Or niche players that may never make a big splash nationally/globally but are filled with your ideal crowd? Give this process short shrift at your peril: avoid the pure ego-feeds and go for those that truly fuel your progress.
Step 3: Choose Your Top 10 Media Targets. Yep, I said 10. Not 50, not 25, but 10. Because you want to stay focused on the prize: upping your visibility where it matters most. The less time you have available, the smaller your target list should be (note: even if you’ve got the budget to hire yourself some media help, keeping your target list small increases your traction).
Step 4: Build Out Your Media Contact List. You want to get to know the reporters, bloggers and producers who control access to the kingdom you want to enter. Do the legwork required to build your list. Scroll through articles on your Top 10—what bylines consistently appear? Dig into the articles your target writes. Does he/she seem to have a consistent point of view? That tells you how to approach them. Think of these folks as prospective clients you want to court—understand their interests and hot-buttons and make it personal. Best place to reach them if their digital address is elusive? Twitter!
Step 5: Know How Media Folk Think (And Work Best). This is where a little empathy goes a long way. They are on deadline. They have editors to satisfy. The best have many potential sources—you get one fast shot to respond to their request and that’s it. Assume the ONLY thing that matters is their story. Get clear on the angle first and quickly decline if it’s not right for you (but don’t discount the value of being the contrarian interview). If you’re pitching a story, put some bait on the hook. Nobody gives a fig that you just opened your business, but they might care deeply if you link it to breaking news, a hot trend or compelling story.
Step 6: Arrive In Uniform, Ready To Play. Nobody asks an empty suit back for a second shot. Do your homework—over-preparation can be a virtue if it means you’ve created a perspective no one has articulated yet. You need to be 100% on your game. Close your email, shut off the phone and completely concentrate on your interview. If you’re on camera—whatever the platform—comb your hair, put on some make-up and look like you’re happy to be there. Just because you’re on video and not in a television studio does not give you permission to lower your standards.
Step 7: Repeat. Media is a process. The pros who get the best coverage for themselves build media into their everyday work life. They remain on the lookout for new media partners and outlets. They build relationships. They make courting their media an integral part of their work and actually have fun with it.
Fun? Yes, I did say fun. Because let’s face it—if you see courting and working with media folk as drudgery, it’s not for you.
Tactic #3: Build Your Digital List.
You might think this isn’t all that important, especially if you’re getting plenty of leads by referral and have a decent close rate.
You would be wrong.
Your digital list—however you decide to use it—is the only direct feed to your audience that YOU own. It’s not subject to LinkedIn’s connection rules or Facebook shutdown. It’s yours to happily—and privately—build the client base of your dreams.
A few ground rules. While you own the list, you don’t “own” your audience. It’s your job to earn—and keep earning—their attention. That means quality content, limited commercials (never, EVER more than 20% of your content. Under 5% is even better for sophisticated brands) and absolutely, positively, zero spam.
I would further say that it’s hard to go wrong if you view your list in the sacred trust category: respect, honor and duty matter.
With that in mind, here are some tips to start growing your list…
- Offer focused, quality digital content. Know your audience—if you’re just starting, be clear about whom you want to pull in. And create consistent (generally weekly or bi-weekly), reliable, compelling content. How will you know when you’re firing on all cylinders? People you’d like to work with start interacting. They might write you a quick email response, comment on a blog post, retweet or like a post. Don’t use their hiring you/buying your products as your first sign. Engagement first, commerce second.
- Have a you-can’t-miss-it sign-up on your website. It should be above the fold on each page (in the masthead is perfect) and should visually pull the observer in. Chances are your list sign-up is your “big banana”, the one thing you want visitors to your site to do. We could debate whether to do “pop ups” on your site till the cows come home. Just do it. I guarantee there is a way to make it work within your brand and the stats consistently bear out a 50%+ sign-up increase.
- Sprinkle additional sign-ups across your site. I invite people to sign-up after every post. If they enjoyed reading that one, they might well enjoy having them delivered automatically, right? Look for a balance of invitation, great visuals and white space.
- Trade something of value. Offer up a free piece of content ONLY available to new subscribers. Whether it’s a PDF download or a quiz or a white paper—make it brand-relevant and good enough to pay for. Because if your free stuff is that good, your paid work must be bad-ass indeed.
- Market your content. You put a lot of thought into your content—from blog posts to articles to videos. Put some of the same effort into distributing it. Post it on your social media platforms (and on Twitter take the time to use a short URL to increase your re-tweet potential). You’ll drive folks to your site—boosting your SEO AND building your subscriber base (when they can’t resist your giant sign-up bar).
- Use social share buttons. Make sharing your content easy breezy. A basic WordPress plug-in upped my social shares by almost 50%. Make yours not only a no-brainer, but highly visible.
- Brand your stuff. Choosing a cool or sexy or, well, unforgettable, name is just smart. Not for the sake of hipness, but to perfectly capture your intent, your brand and your market position. What makes you memorable?
- Get in the habit of automatic promotion. This means putting a link in your email signature and your social media profiles. Build it into ALL of your promotional material—from your guest blogging byline to your bios across literally every digital platform you occupy. And don’t forget your face-to face interactions—telling your story at business events, being introduced when giving speeches and workshops. Don’t make them work to find you or your best bits.
Building a list isn’t glamorous. It isn’t sexy and some would even say it isn’t fun (I totally disagree with them by the way). But if you are truly committed to building your brand, your idea, your book, your company—it’s essential.
Make it personal, make it real and make it something you are excited about. Because just doing it by (and for) the numbers won’t keep you at it.
Tweetable question: What tactic made your email list take off?
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