You've created a great product, or developed a solid, high-value service. Your slick, shiny new web platform is up and running. You're open for business and eager to start paying the bills with this new venture of yours. Unfortunately, no one's beating down your door, or clamoring to click your "buy" button. What gives?
You could draw up a marketing plan outlining a strategy involving low-cost information products, mailing lists, events, and Facebook ads. And in fact, I encourage you to do so. But before you go crazy putting together a 50-page, in-depth document with bullet points and cost projections, I'd like to share with you my own magic bullet for attracting clients and projects:
I know. It sounds incredibly woo-woo. But I'm a huge believer in the power of good karma as a means of raising visibility, establishing oneself as an expert, and bringing in new clients and projects. It's all about helping others. Here are four ways to fill up your own karmic piggy bank:
1. Share your wisdom online. Seek out the virtual water coolers around which your target clients are congregating, and join in on the conversation. Take note of the questions people are asking in industry-specific forums and, if you can, answer them. Do the same in the discussion sections on various social media networks, such as LinkedIn or Brazen Careerist. Add your two cents to the comments sections on blogs, and be active on email lists and online groups.
You can also establish your authority by being active on user-generated question and answer sites like Quora and Stack Overflow. While Quora is organized into topic areas users can follow based upon their interests, Stack Overflow is geared specifically toward programmers. Other industry-specific sites also exist. Wherever you can, add value to the online conversation. The more helpful your input is, the more people will start seeing you as an authority in your field.
2. Become a one-stop knowledge shop. In addition to flitting about the Internet, dropping wisdom where you can, begin providing industry insight on your own site. Create free or low-cost information products, such as webinars or ebooks. Start a weekly or monthly e-newsletter. Launch a blog on your professional site, or share relevant news and tips on Facebook and Twitter (or both!). Once again, providing a bit of value to others will allow you to establish yourself as an authority, and will also raise your visibility. Information products could also act as stepping stones to your higher-cost products or services. By giving just a taste of what you have to offer, chances are that people will soon be hungering for more.
3. Look for opportunities to collaborate. It can be natural to take a good, long look at your competition and think of them as only that: competition. But you each have strengths and weaknesses that distinguish you from each other and, because of that, finding ways in which to work together could extend your reach (and their reach) exponentially.
Guest blogging is one example of this. Savvy bloggers and entrepreneurs employ this practice regularly when they want to tap into a peer's audience or client base, by creating guest posts for sites that could in some ways be considered competition. Affiliate marketing is another example. Why not promote each other's ebooks and consulting services, as long as they've created something you believe in and admire? In one case, I even partnered up with someone whose client base overlapped with mine, to throw a speed networking event. We were able to split up the planning responsibilities, and double our attendance. Yes, I still consider her to be my competition. Sort of. But she's also my colleague and, now, a friend.
4. Network like hell. And be aware that to network is to do more than just work the room at industry events, collecting business cards you'll never look at again. Networking can take place at your book club, your hair salon, or your yoga studio. It can take place at your continuing education class, or when communicating with friends, family members, or former colleagues. And yes, it can take place at industry happy hours and cocktail parties.
When you find an opportunity to network with someone, don't just focus on what they can do for you. Try to learn as much as you can about the people you're chatting with, and brainstorm the ways in which you can help them. Perhaps you can send them a link to an article you know they'll find helpful. Perhaps you can share a job lead or industry contact. Whatever you do, know that if you help someone out, they'll remember you.
Steph Auteri is the founder of Career Coaching for Word Nerds, a company created with an eye toward building a community of fellow word nerds and publishing professionals who can share stories, experiences, tips, and resources with their peers, and also connect with established experts within the industry. Steph offers one-on-one coaching and consulting, and an e-course for freelance writers.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) provides its members with access to tools, mentoring, community and educational resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth. Our organization promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment.