30 June 2009

The Magic Bullet is Time-Released

We all want results NOW. We have become conditioned in this age of instant messaging to expect clients to flock to our doors and form lines around the building the second we have an online profile posted.

That would be nice.

Reality, however, rarely works that way. Marketing for solopreneurs in the healing arts is a trial and error, prepare and pitch, wait and see, track the stats and adjust the plan
game. In other words, it's time-released. There are lots of reasons for this, but what you need to know today is that building your business takes more time and more commitment to daily effort than you have ever expected.

Getting what I call the foundation pieces in place so that they run practically on their own can take months or more of full time effort, even when you outsource major pieces like designing your website. There are always parts that no one else can do for you -- like drafting your web content -- that take most counselors, NDs, and coaches a long time to get just right.

If you are new in practice, or if you are transitioning from paid employment to full time solopreneurship, think of growing your business as if it's taking care of an infant. It requires constant and scheduled attention, multi-tasking, passionate dedication of effort, and a strong vision of and belief in its future.

The coaching question for you today is: Are your expectations of results in realistic alignment with the amount of effort and commitment you are expending on building your client base? If not, what foundation pieces are missing, and where do you need to spend immediate, focused, unrelenting attention?

26 June 2009

1 Big Easy to Fix Language Mistake that Can Cost You Clients

Therapists and life coaches -- and some NDs -- have developed a way of speaking with clients that is rooted in the notion that it's best to help people explore their own truths and discover their own insights. I'm all in favor of that when working on psychologically transformative issues.

I'm not in favor of it in marketing.

The problem with insight oriented language construction in marketing is that it comes across as vague, insecure, lacking in confidence, and inexperienced. Your prospective ideal client is looking for specific, grounded, self-assured help. Insight oriented language fails to connect with their needs at the moment they are ready to hire our services.

Taking a brief look at a number of websites for self-employed professionals in the healing arts, I've found phrases like the following that aren't drawing in clients:
  • if you feel I can help, give [private practice name] a call
  • if you choose me as your therapist, I will be honored to walk with you in your journey
  • I believe I can help
  • it's hard to choose the right therapist, I'd like to help you sort out the best fit
  • please browse my website and feel free to contact me if you have any questions
It almost sounds like you're begging for permission, or worse, begging for business.

What works better in marketing is conveying a sense of certainty, and giving a bit of direction. The easy fix is: direct, specific, short sentences.

For example, rather than
please browse my website and feel free to contact me if..... a more client attracting call to action would be See the free tips at [your website url].

Take a look at the phrasing on your website and online profiles. Is it direct and compelling? Does it give the impression that you are sure about your own abilities? Can you feel the confidence exuded from every sentence?

24 June 2009

What to Look for in DIY Website Builder Tools

I've been playing with different website builder programs for the last year, to get familiarity with various ones so I can being more helpful to my do-it-yourself clients who aren't that tech savvy. Here's how I choose which company to go with:

1. Can I register a domain name for under $10 and have low cost web builder from same company? Can I have a no cost trial or see the templates before signing up? Are there any templates I like? How customizable are they?

2. Can I have a site with more than 5 pages? 5 is a good basic start, but quickly becomes static and stale. Extra pages allow new content that attracts clients.

3. Does the tool bar look like something familiar like Word more or less, and can I change fonts and sizes, colors, move elements around on the page easily, create bullet and number lists, import from Word, etc?

4. Does the web builder program have cool extra features -- can I import PayPal buttons for e-commerce or does it have an e-commerce feature? Can I easily add my photos, forms, have a blog on the site, collect email addresses (aka contact management system, CMS), easily upload a pdf file (file transfer protocol, aka FTP), add audio or video, add a date/time stamp which automatically updates every time I make a change to the site(lets people know the site is current), etc?

5. Is there tech support available for the web builder at hours that work for me (why is everything on east coast business hours?!) Are there tutorials to help me problem solve?

6. Can I have an already registered domain name pointed to this new website? Is an email account part of the package or extra? Can I transfer an existing domain name to this company, and what do they charge for that and how long does it take?

I think that covers the initial thought process, but if I remember anything else I'll post again. I would add that if you decide to have a site built for you, you may still want to know all these things PLUS, how fast will they work, and can you take over after it's built in order to add new pages and content?

If you can create a flier in Word, you can build a website. Play, create, have fun!

23 June 2009

Change and Consistency

The topics of change and the value of consistency have been "up" for me lately. Events in multiple areas of my life and work are prompting me to think about when change is good, when it might not be, and how can I be consistent during a transition process, and consistent with what. After going through many changes in my professional life through the decades, here's how I'd currently coach my clients on these issues.

Major change is your business is good when it:

  • starts from the identification and assessment of a specific problem that can't be easily fixed without major change
  • involves all stakeholders in the assessment and solution-generating process, including clients
  • develops a solution path that leads to a better way to consistently serve your vision and values
  • crafts a strategic implementation plan with well described action steps
  • puts in charge the players (or parts of your solopreneur psyche) who thrive on taking risks
  • gains emotional investment and accountability commitment from key players and supporters (parts of the solo-psyche)
  • assesses impacts and progress during transition openly by collecting and evaluating feedback
  • adjusts action plans based on feedback, or weighs the costs of not adjusting and provides rationale for those choices
If you are thinking of taking the next leap with your business, major change is likely to be required. Coaching questions you may want to think through would include:
  1. Have you completely assessed the problem you want to solve, involved stakeholders, and developed a strategic plan?
  2. Do you know where objections and obstacles to change will come from?
  3. How can you be ready for that?
  4. Where's your personal emotional investment and level of consistent accountability?
  5. How will you measure progress and impact?

17 June 2009

Think: Dating and First Impressions

Relationship marketing, like dating, is a process of getting good prospects to know you, like you and trust you, so that they will want to see more of you. First impressions count.

If we come across as interesting and nice, or funny or helpful, we likely get a second date. If we come across as an unapproachably emotionally cold, intellectually distant, and like a professional know-it-all, those good prospects go elsewhere.

I'm reading a great book right now called
The Relationship Cure by the famous relationship therapist, John Gottman. It's not about marketing at all, but does have some interesting parallels to consider regarding how we make bids for connection that cause listeners to turn towards us, away from us, or against us. Obviously in marketing our private practices, we want ideal clients to turn towards us, and to want connection with us.

Basically what works in marriage, parenting, friendship and co-worker relationships, works in client attraction as well because marketing for the healing arts is all about using relationship skills to be of service when others are suffering. I'd boil it down this way:

1. Prioritize your prospective ideal clients' needs over your own
2. Engage with sincere interest in their experience of their pain or problem
3. Downplay your wonderfulness (credentials, training, associations, achievements -- nobody likes a show off)
4. Do tell compelling stories about your own life / imaginary clients that relate to theirs, but don't over do it
5. Take time to be genuinely helpful (with no expectation of a goodnight kiss--er, uh, signing up a client)
6. Have a way to ask them out for more dates (follow up marketing)
7. Listen with enthusiasm and compassion, validate emotions and worries, be supportive

This is a qualitative checklist that can be applied to a wide range of marketing tasks no matter who you're trying to date. Um, I mean, attract as clients. Like mom always said, just be yourself, and you'll be fine.

16 June 2009

Things to Do When You're Too Tired to Do Anything

It's being one of those days -- up too early, firefighting all day, dealing with personal pressures, yadayada. The morning's come too early and now long gone, and I still can't wrap my head around marketing.

That ever happen to you? I bet it has.

So here are my thoroughly tested, highly recommended, brain function rescue tips for solopreneurs to try the next time you're in this state.

1. Stop trying to be productive. Seriously. Give in to the energy, go take a walk, fix a better than average lunch, have another cuppa, call a friend or a colleague, catch a nap and journal any dreams afterwards -- indulge in creative avoidance.

2. Declare this a Piddle day. Piddle around with finding and fixing broken links on your website, install a Twitter icon, read some of the backlog of others' ezines you've been keeping, clear out your email inbox -- do minor marketing or business housekeeping. (Oooh, wouldn't be great if someone started a Merry Maids for business housekeeping!)

3. Take care of the guilts. Catch up on your charts or progress notes, do that Google search you've been meaning to do for that client, dust the shelves and pick up the out-of-control / gonna-get-to-this-soon piles in your office, write that thank you note, send the flowers -- do all those little nice things you've said you would, but haven't gotten around to.

4. Try a natural remedies cure. The FES flower essence remedy called Madia is wonderful for helping regain focus and concentration. DHEA and vitamin B-12 help boost and sustain energy. Eat a complex carb like an orange or apple, or a small bit of protein like a cheese stick, or 1/4 cup of walnuts or my favorite: almond M&Ms.

5. Bring your intention back to sharing yourself with your prospective ideal clients. They too have days like this. It's helpful to let them know how you deal with it. Write a blog post, engage a little on Facebook or a professional forum, find someone else's question you can answer off the top of your head. You'll be surprised how the marketing juices start flowing.

I'd love to hear your brain function rescue tips. Leave a comment to this post, won't you? :)

11 June 2009

What's Your Morning Marketing Routine?

Following up on yesterday's blog, I am wondering today what others do in their morning marketing routines. (No, I don't mean like jogging to the Starbucks -- although if you do that wearing a tee shirt with your business logo on it, that might count. LOL)

Like Dolly Parton, I tumbled outa bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition....and then I turn on the computer and get to work. In an hour or less I have done all the following:

  1. glance at the news headlines on my start page -- reassure myself that the world is still out there
  2. check email for urgent notes from clients and friends / family, and skim through AlterNet.org e-news
  3. scan through / respond to new posts on forums for counselors and coaches, get ideas for blogging
  4. scan through Twitter, get more ideas for blogging, and respond to any Tweets from followers
  5. scan through Facebook and do some keeping in touch with colleagues
  6. blog or deal with the urgent emails
  7. check appointments for the day and my other projects task list
Since starting that routine I've generated 6 new clients. Of course, I have all the foundations in place -- like my websites -- and often on my project list is the designing, marketing or giving of a signature talk or the writing and sending of a email campaign. Those activities I do in the second hour of the workday, or later in the afternoon, depending on my client appointment schedule.

The systematic approach really works. What's yours?

10 June 2009

Guaranteed Success Method -- for Private Practice Failure !

Here's the No Hype Truth this morning ~~ most private practices in the healing arts flounder NOT because the counselor, ND, or coach doesn't take insurance, is fresh out of school, poorly trained, or delivers bad service.

Most solopreneurs fail to put the same level of daily commitment into building their business that they put into getting their education. The harsh fact is that you cannot develop a thriving, self-sustaining, self-employed business if you don't ruthlessly focus 50 - 70% of your time in the beginning on marketing.

Any successful business coach will tell you that spending 4 hours A DAY on marketing is absolutely necessary in the first year if you want to be breaking even or doing better than that. Sounds like a lot? Don't worry, there's plenty to do to keep busy -- it may not even be enough!

And, you want those 4 hours to be spent on the most client-attracting tasks possible. Those include:
  • creating a sticky, value-providing website, and continually updating it
  • blogging, Tweeting, and other traffic-driving activities
  • listing yourself in online locator services and/or doing Google Adwords
  • monitoring your web-presence and search engine rankings
  • writing articles for local, hard copy publications
  • outreach to referral sources with personal visits, and follow up materials that give valued info
  • networking interactions where your ideal clients are
  • scheduling, preparing, giving signature talks and / or workshops
  • developing and tracking email marketing campaigns
  • writing auto-responder series and special reports
  • evaluating your efforts, eliminating what doesn't work, maximizing what does
There's more that can be done, but these are the can't-do-without basics.

The trick to making all this easy is to be methodical in getting your foundational pieces in place first, because they will then work for you on auto-pilot while your attention is on more advanced marketing tasks. In the beginning, or when struggling, if you want your business to survive and thrive, it's crucial to spend the needed 4 hours a day and be laser focused with self-discipline, commitment to success, and accountability to the health of your business.

I can't emphasize this enough -- being methodical means to have a marketing map and work on one or two things at a time until they are running smoothly, then move on to the next.

The scattered, unfocused, headless chicken approach is a successful, guaranteed method for business failure.

09 June 2009

Be in business FOR yourself, not BY yourself

Yesterday I was talking with a coaching colleague when one of us used the phrasing of being in business by yourself. That stopped me, and I couldn't quit thinking about how big a difference a simple little word makes to one's empowerment for success when self-employed.

Being in business BY yourself -- it seems to me -- is how many solopreneurs in the healing arts approach tackling all the systems and support structures necessary to getting and serving clients. We see it as a lonely, isolated, almost defeated position to be in. For those of us who are more naturally extroverted social creatures, the circumstance of doing anything by ourselves is distressing and grinds down our enthusiasm for being accountable for the tasks that promote success.

No wonder we then have trouble making our practices thrive.

Being in business FOR yourself -- in my perspective -- is a more empowered mindset. It's knowing you have complete autonomy for daily decisions, long range directions, development of the strategic vision, generating motivations, and harvesting of rewards. It's having total choice about what to do ourselves, to what degree, and what to outsource to others, and when.

Yes, that CAN be scary at first. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating to accept that much responsibility and wield that much control.

But try it, won't you? Your confidence will grow, and you may just come to love it.

06 June 2009

Are You a Business Dabbler?

A coaching colleague has been telling folks that it takes 4 or 5 years to get a solo practice really profitable. That's true for a lot of self-employed people, it seems. But the questions to me are, why and is that timeline the only reality?

You may have already been asked -- are you running a business, or a hobby -- and not realize what that means. Here are my rules of thumb for making that distinction:

You're dabbling at a hobby if you:
  • tell a few friends and ask them to spread the word
  • send a few fliers or postcards to names out of the phone book
  • design a website that talks all about you
  • put a few "articles" on a blog, call it a website, and never update it
  • try to appeal to everyone with every problem because you "can't afford to turn away clients"
  • spend more time getting organized than doing marketing tasks
  • change your pricing too often, or give away your services, or use sliding scale too much
  • use less than 4 hours a day for marketing in the first year (or more)

You're seriously running a business with a commitment to succeed if you:
  • create do-able business and marketing plans before ordering business cards
  • schedule 4 hours a day, 6 days a week to accomplish tasks on your marketing plan
  • hold yourself accountable for keeping those appointments with your business
  • isolate an ideal client niche and use the language they do in describing their problem
  • work methodically in developing the foundational pieces of your marketing message
  • be systematic in pursuing your marketing strategies for connecting with those ideal clients
  • create many ways to give valued help as a relationship-building strategy that gets clients
  • develop an emotionally compelling, helpful to clients web-presence
  • lead with your personality strengths in determining the right marketing activities for you
  • pull together a support team that includes professionals with expertise you don't have
Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? It is.

Being in a self-employed business is like having several businesses going at once. You have to do the all the work that corporations have multiple departments and many people to accomplish. Yes, some of the work can and should be outsourced to those who can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you can (after factoring in trial and error).

If you aren't ready to eat, breathe, and sleep your practice, you've got yourself a hobby.

05 June 2009

SP* Seeks Confidence for Self Promotion

SP = solopreneur. That's you if you're self-employed in a one-person business, as many of my counselor, coach, and naturopathic doctor colleagues are. And having the confidence to promote yourself is about the biggest problem I'm hearing about these days.

Isn't it curious, this lack of confidence? What happened between the moment we make the decision to pursue all that training, believing that we could do it, and the moment that we graduate and start in with the anxiety of, am I good enough? How does that initial confidence evaporate?

One very likely cause is that we stopped believing our own "
can-do" inner voice. We gave away little pieces of our confidence power when someone else had a different idea, or challenged our view, or required evidence we didn't yet know of.

In becoming educated, we learned how much we didn't know. And perhaps that scared us. Then we got out in the world, opened a practice, and realized, holy cow, no one ever taught us how to get clients.

Fear, doubt, need, recognition of our lack of knowledge -- all these erode belief in the self, and a confident can-do attitude.

Here's a hint: if you think you lack confidence for promoting yourself (meaning your skills, your knowledge and training), then
don't promote yourself.

What do you / can you have confidence in? That you have a
desire to help? That you know more than your clients? That you can interpret or reframe their suffering or problem in a way that will help them?

Promote that.

To paraphrase the famous movie line,
If you build on that, they will come.