When I first started my business I was a general life coach helping people with career issues. My first clients I coached for free and they were all people who knew me: a publicist, a colleague, a friend of a friend. After our free sessions were over some of them even continued on a paying basis. And that’s how I became known as a coach-word of mouth. I wrote a newsletter and asked my friends and family to pass it around to their friends. My list grew and I went from there.
But even with all the generosity of my friends and family I quickly realized that word of mouth would only get me so far. To sustain my business I would have to get clients/customers on a regular basis. I did some speaking, some traveling-all at my own expense. I even tried advertising. The return was always very low. It wasn’t until I had my son that I decided to stop and take a long, hard look at my business. It was more important than ever that I figure out how to make it successful, but I also knew that with a young child, my time would be limited from then on. I sought out mentors including Fabienne Fredrickson of www.ClientAttraction.com and author of “The Client Attraction System”, a popular marketing program for solo-entrepreneurs and small businesses. Fabienne is also mom to two young children, so I felt she would really understand the challenges I faced.
Here’s what I learned:
The first thing I changed in my business was to stop thinking my business was for “everyone”. I felt pulled in many directions by different clients. It was also a lot of effort-and money. “It is much more efficient and cost-effective to market to a small niche or segment of the population, even if that segment of the population is vast in numbers,” explains Fabienne. “Once you’ve created a niche in that sector, and your business runs like a well-oiled machine, then it is possible to add other niches if you like. But first, focus on a crystal clear, problem-solving message for one target audience. They’ll recognize you as the answer to their problems and then Client Attraction becomes big-time easy.”
My result: I decided to specialize in coaching people who want to write books. Recently I narrowed my field even more-with even better response–to small business owners and speakers who want to write books to promote their work.
Technology is Your Friend
If you’re a Mompreneur working from home, the Internet is your greatest asset. You can do a lot of the heavy lifting of getting clients by putting a lot of great information on the web via your website, blog and many other places like Facebook or MySpace. When I first started doing this it was really seductive, especially when I saw my list growing into a worldwide audience and me not having to step foot outside my house! I would have been totally happy with those results, but I knew I wanted my business to be really well marketed in other areas and not be Internet-dependent.
Educate Your Friends and Family
When Fabienne suggested I get my friends and family in on my business I thought, “Oh, ask them to pass the newsletter around again”, but she pushed me to do more than that. “In my Client Attraction Home Study System, I talk about using a Warm Letter of Introduction to educate absolutely every single person you know about what you’re doing,” she says. “Most budding entrepreneurs go straight for the ‘cold lead’ approach. Why do that when you can turn your existing network into your unpaid sales force? Your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances love to give quality referrals to those they know, and would do it happily. The only problem is, new entrepreneurs don’t educate those who know them, like them and trust them. Therefore, they’re not yet in a position to talk about you and give you referrals.
With just one letter describing what you do, who your ideal clients are, their biggest challenges as it relates to your work and what they experience as a result of using your product or service, you can create an “unpaid sales force” of hundreds of strategic alliances happy to send clients your way.”
I loved this idea because it told me how to start talking about what I do. I began to educate my family and friends about my business even before doing the Warm Letter, which I’m sending out next month. Already I have new clients from referrals and they’re excellent clients because they’ve already been pre-qualified by people I know.
Get Out There in a Big Way
As I said, I was pretty comfortable working on the Internet from home. I really didn’t want to go out in the big bad world again in search of clients. But Fabienne taught me that I have to meet people as much as possible so they can experience me. Why? “Establishing the Know-Like-Trust factor is crucial,” says Fabienne. “Let’s face it; we don’t buy from someone we don’t know, we don’t buy from someone we don’t like and we certainly don’t buy from someone we don’t trust. And so in marketing a personal service, building that bond and understanding is paramount. The trust needs to be there.”
Getting out there means going to networking groups, attending events and speaking in public. So I joined networking groups that meet monthly and I have two large speaking engagements schedule. But if you can’t travel, don’t despair. There are ways to do some of this from home: I speak once a month by teaching a free class over the phone! It’s attended by people from all over the world and I can do it in the evening when my son is in bed. You can also network in chat rooms or other online forums.
Set Aside Time Regularly to Do Things to Bring in Business
I learned to manage my time to include figuring out how to get clients. Before I would have these feast-and-famine surges in my business when my practice would be full, but because I was so busy working with my clients, I wouldn’t do any marketing. That meant no new clients-and no money– coming in.
“The biggest mistake I see mompreneurs make over and over again is not treating their business seriously,” says Fabienne. “They tend to squeeze in the marketing and business development in between other things or push it directly to the back burner. But the fact is, if you don’t market today, you will probably not have clients in six months. The solution to that is to set a time each day or each week, non-negotiable time, that is used just for attracting clients. Without it, the business is likely to fail.”
The newest feature in my office is a big Year-At-A-Glance calendar where I’ve filled in all my marketing plans for most of 2008. It features speaking engagements, a website launch, new products and a range of networking meetings. I’ve also made the decision to do something everyday, whether it’s answer an email or send out an inquiry, to bring in new business. When I look at the calendar, it’s a little overwhelming-but it’s totally exciting. And that’s exactly what I want my business to feel like.
Sophfronia Scott is executive editor of The Done For You Writing Publishing Company. After 15 years at Time Inc., she left the corporate world to start her own business helping aspiring authors to write and publish their first books. You can learn more about her work at www.TheBookSistah.com.