Have you ever experienced sales famine?
Those weeks or months when the phone is hardly ringing, the enquiries dry up and you don’t know where the next sale is coming from?
The feast and famine cycle can be fatal for your business and freelance career. In times of sales feast you can be so busy that you find it tough to fit in any time for marketing. This is a big mistake because when you’ve fulfilled all of the sales you had, you realise that you’ve not done anything to generate more and then you have famine, and it can takes weeks or months to get out of famine, often meaning that you use up valuable cash resources in the process.
But how can you avoid the feast and famine cycle?
There is only one way. To create a marketing strategy for your business that produces a steady and consistent stream of new clients. Does that sound good?
If so, keep reading because I’m going to explain the steps you can take.
1. Know Your Perfect Customer
Marketing your freelance business involves targeting. You can’t market to everyone, everywhere. It would cost too much, waste too much time and bring you customers that aren’t suitable for your business.
So how do you know who to target? You have to create a profile of your perfect customer.
There are different ways to do this, for instance if you’ve already sold some of your products and services you might have a customer that stood out? Someone who you really enjoyed working with and whom your products and services really helped?
If you’ve not started selling yet you can think about who you can help the most and also who you would enjoy working with. For instance if you’re a Will writer you likely want to be targeting people who have had an important change in their lives, for example new parents.
So in this example new parents would be your target and you build a perfect customer profile by making it more personal. Exactly what does your perfect customer look like on paper? You build on the profile with a rough age range, description and even give your perfect customer a name so you can personify him or her. You can include additional information such as the type of life they would lead, things they would spend their time doing, etc.
Then once you have your perfect customer profile we start to look at their problems.
2. Know the Problems Your Perfect Customers Face
What problems do your perfect customers face, what keeps them up at night worrying?
Using the example above, young parents will be very conscious about looking after and protecting their children. So a Will writer could tap into that concern and offer a solution.
It’s not about being opportunistic; it’s about knowing who has a problem that you can solve by sharing your knowledge and advice, products and services.
If you’re not sure what problems your perfect customer faces and what is keeping them up at night then ask them. Either pick a customer that you already have or find someone who meets the profile, a friend, family member, past colleague and talk to them. Find out what is really important to them and how your knowledge and experience could help them.
So you’ve got a perfect customer in mind and you know what problems they face. That’s great – but you can’t sell to your profile, you need to find real people who fit that profile who are willing to pay you for your products and services.
3. Know Where to Reach Your Perfect Customer
Knowing where to reach your perfect customer is easier than it sounds.
You know who you’re looking for, now you need to know where they spend their time. Where do they go online to look for help and advice about the types of problem that you can help solve?
From our example above, where would new parents spend time? A new Mum is likely to spend time on Facebook, keeping in contact with friends, colleagues and family, perhaps even sharing baby pictures. A Mum or Dad might spend time on parenting blogs, especially those that specifically talk to new parents. They might also join groups in Facebook that talk about this topic and join forums connected with websites where similar people gather.
It doesn’t have to be online places. You could also meet your perfect customers at offline groups, clubs for new parents, etc. However an offline strategy will take more time and has to be fitted into the day when the clubs are open, an online strategy can be conducted when you have time.
You need to get yourself along to exactly the same places. But what do you do when you get there?
4. Share Your Best Advice
The worst thing you can do is go to these places and try to sell.
You’ll stick out like a sore thumb and be ignored as the sleazy sales-type that no one wants around.
Instead you need to spend time building relationships and sharing your knowledge and experience. Look for people asking questions where you can help and get involved. Give the best answers you can and share as much information as possible. The more you do this the more your perfect customers will notice and pay more attention to what you’re saying.
This is part of the important process in getting people to know, like and trust you before they’ll start to buy from you.
But when does the buying start?
For that to happen you have to start to build your own community.
5. Build Your Own Community
When I say community I’m talking about giving your perfect customers the opportunity to ask to hear more from you. So getting them to be interested enough in what you have to say to join you on your own website.
Some people will naturally do this as they appreciate the answers you’ve given about your topic; others might accept a private invite. For example, after you’ve answered someone’s question in a forum or group, drop them a little message explaining that you talk much more about this topic on your own website and it would be great if they wanted to join you there. Then on your own website make sure you have a simple way for people to get more from you by email as email marketing is still one of the very best ways to create opportunities to sell your products and services.
As you start to build your email list you’ll be building your own community of your perfect customers who have given you permission to teach them more about your topic of knowledge. This is an extremely valuable asset – as the list grows so does the community and it’s from this community that can generate sales.
But how do you move from giving free advice to having people buy your products and services.
6. Offer Relevant Products and Services
It’s possible to give a lot of free advice and share a lot of knowledge without it taking away from the products and service that you sell. It actually supports the sales process.
For instance with our Will writer example, you could give a lot of advice on what to consider before getting a Will. What to include, where it should be kept, how often it should be reviewed, the reasons why you need one and the consequences of not having one.
None of these topics will actually involve writing Wills, that’s your paid service. So as you build your community, you build a list of your perfect customers who are learning more about why they need what you offer, and exactly where to come to get it – to you.
Then you gently introduce your paid product and services when people are ready to move from researching and learning about your topic to buying.
There are many ways to do this, including having your products and services on your website with good explanations of why they help, as some members of your community will want to buy sooner than others. Also, using an auto responder with your growing email list that starts sending emails after people have subscribed and teaches your perfect customer more about the topic each week, before making a specific offer for them to buy.
The great thing about this type of approach is the more time you spend talking to your perfect customers and answering questions, the more you can develop your products and services to be more relevant. This will make them so much more appealing and your sales process easier.
The Bottom Line
Ensuring that your business doesn’t fall into a period of sales famine is critical. Following these steps will not only help you gain initial clients but ensure you keep a constant stream of new business.
Today’s Micro Action
Take some time to go through these steps. Are there steps that you don’t currently use? Put time in the diary to focus on them and develop your strategy to ensure your business never suffers famine. I talk about avoiding the feast and famine of sales in greater detail in my free eBook – click here to get your copy.