What will you do differently this year to build a stronger business? I share my personal top 5 marketing resolutions - but it’s not all about work.
I thought I would start 2017 by looking ahead and sharing what I think will be important in growing my own marketing business this year. I hope you might find some of this helpful too - no matter what your business is.
We are not alone!
I’ve used ‘solopreneur’ as it’s a term I hear more and more and with good reason, there are plenty of us now going it alone. 2017 is my eighth year in the world of self employment and, according to the Office for National Statistics, there are more of us than I thought. Of the 5.4 million UK businesses registered in 2015, 4.1 million didn’t employ any staff and are just run by the founder.
I was fortunate to meet some good people last year, read some inspiring articles and, I hope, develop a little further. Some ideas started to take shape in 2016 and have formed the basis of my plans for this year. But, like all New Year resolutions - they’ll only work if I stick with them. So, 2017, here we go…
Seek a trusted sounding board
“Change the way you see things - and the things you see will change…” Wayne Dyer
Having said that the self employed are not alone in numbers, we are often alone in the way we work. It can also take time to build a support network of people we can trust - so we inevitably make decisions in isolation. I like this quote from Wayne Dyer because it sums up one of the biggest challenges of being self employed - finding an external perspective that can bring the change we want - but perhaps can’t see.
I have never worked with a business coach but I know many successful people that do. However, good advice doesn’t always have to be paid for. Some of my most energising conversations last year were with fellow business owners - so this year I will make it a point to drink more coffee with people whose feedback I trust.
If there’s one thing I have found in the self employed world - people can be very generous with their advice. If these conversations also help me actually get things done, so much the better!
Do the networking I enjoy - and stick with it
One of my friends has stopped what he described as “structured, expensive, time-consuming, face-to-face networking events.” Where he has found more success is with social media engagement - because he enjoys it. This is a great point. I know people who have built their business through networking groups, but it’s not for everyone. And if you don’t enjoy something, it usually shows.
Personally, I am not averse to a cooked breakfast - but my biggest hurdle is consistency. My networking is like infrequent gym membership and we all know what a waste of time it is if you only go every three months! I started 2016 with good networking intentions and there’s no doubt I could see the value of the connections I’d made. Then I got busier, so I stopped. Now it'll be an uphill start again.
I think the lesson from his experience and my own are that, it doesn’t matter what form of networking you do - social or face to face, the key for success is to do what you enjoy - and stick with it. Consistency is key this year.
A clearer focus on ‘why’
"People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it." Simon Sinek
One of the best quotes I discovered in 2016 came from Simon Sinek. He found that most companies do their marketing backwards. They start with ‘what’ they do and then move to ‘how’ they do it. But most of them don’t actually tell their customers ‘why’ they do what they do - and perhaps that’s because many don’t actually know.
For years I have been able to tell people what I do (although this still needs work) but, I’d never shared the ‘why’. In my mind it’s very clear. I started working as a freelance marketing consultant because I’d had my fill of organisational life. I’d always wanted to be self employed and, at the time in 2008/9 there were many people setting up on their own - often for the same reasons. They needed to build their businesses and tell their own story, I identified with that. I knew I could help. So my experiences and values drew me to the smaller business - and it’s very satisfying helping others shape their vision of what they want to create.
When I tell this story at networking meetings - people lean forwards and listen. This year I plan to better refine my ‘why’ story and what I stand for. Not only will it help me better connect with people with similar values - it will be a powerful self-motivator for those days where self employment isn't always as rosy as it might seem.
Create better content for my target customer
I work with quite a diverse client base, it’s something that I enjoy. However, there is a pattern to their needs. Many offer a knowledge based service like myself - but they don’t have the time to do their own marketing, are worried about whether they can get it right - and quite often don’t enjoy the writing side.
When I looked back at some of my content last year, I couldn’t see how it was of any help to my target audience in solving some of these issues - and frankly, what’s the point of that?
So, instead of writing articles that have often pleased or amused myself, this year I plan to write in a way that will better resonate with who I’d like to help. It’s a golden rule that I have sometimes ignored - understanding who we are talking to and what matters to them.
Be easier to do business with
When I started as a marketing consultant I was actually quite hard to do business with. Even my accountant said he couldn’t understand what I did. The reason was actually quite simple - I didn’t have any services other than ‘marketing consultancy’ which is a very wide term. To a potential new client it was very hard to get a feel for what working with me would actually be like - or cost. And the reality is that if we are not sure about something, we usually hold back.
New for 2017 I have created a simple section on my website called ‘Work with me’. It takes the guesswork out of what I offer. I am a big fan of the Watertight Marketing approach which recommends a clearer path to purchase for new customers. These low risk ‘gateway products’ should hopefully make it easier for potential new clients to see what I do, understand how I can meet their needs and ultimately encourage them to find out more.
Make more pottery!
One of the best things I did last year was to start pottery. After a day of Google Analytics there’s nothing as satisfying as using the creative side of the brain and my hands. Inspired by the TV show ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’ - think of the Bake Off but with clay - I found myself making bowls, jugs, mugs and even managed to create a few surprise Christmas presents.
We all spend a lot of time in front of a screen - so it’s very important to take time away. It was a refreshing change and a counterbalance too. With more evening classes booked for 2017, I might have to revise that services page again…
I hope some of my personal resolutions strike a chord with you. If you’d like to read more solopreneur marketing tips, these are two great articles on the Watertight Marketing blog.