How to Market Yourself Consistently This Year (and Stop Making Excuses)

Most of us would rather clean the bathroom than do pushups.

That’s what Dan Ariely discovered.

Ariely is a behavioral economics professor and author of Predictably Irrational. He’s discovered that even though all of us have a tendency to drag our feet occasionally, there are certain tasks that are consistently “backburner” items for most people.

Of the 12 activities listed in a survey of 3,000 Oprah.com readers, exercising and starting a diet are the two tasks people put off the most—topped only by evaluating one’s retirement plan.

According to the survey, most of us would rather work on boring assignments, respond to voicemail and email, and pay bills than take care of ourselves through diet, exercise and retirement planning!

We know better. So why the disconnect?

After all, we’re logical, rational beings. We’ll do what makes sense. We’ll eat the broccoli and skip the chocolate cake, right?

No, not really. And that’s why a whole new discipline has sprung up in the past few decades to explain our behavior—that of behavioral economics.

Behavioral economics says that most of our day-to-day decisions are actually very irrational. We’re driven by factors that can’t be explained with simple logic.

Take marketing, for example. If you’re a creative professional, there are few things more important than marketing your business. But many of us do it only when we need more work, which creates a dangerous feast-or-famine cycle.

It goes something like this:

  1. It takes time to find work, which creates anxiety.
  2. Our anxiety leads us to take on bad clients or projects, which sucks our energy and self-esteem.
  3. Eventually, we become overwhelmed with work we don’t enjoy.
  4. We burn out, take a break to regain our sanity … and then start panicking as we slide into famine again.

Fortunately, there’s a way out of this dangerous cycle. The trick is to develop a marketing plan that you’ll actually enjoy implementing.

There are many ways to do that, but here are three steps that will get you in the right direction:

Step #1: Discover what drives you.
Step #2: Craft a plan that’s aligned with your goals.
Step #3: Take action based on your intrinsic drive.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Step #1: Discover what drives you.

Part of marketing yourself effectively and consistently is understanding what drives you and what holds you back. What factors propel you to action? What factors keep you in paralysis?

Maybe you take great pride in having a thriving business. Or perhaps it’s having great clients and interesting work that motivates you the most. Or the ability to have a truly flexible schedule that enables you to be a better mom or dad.

Whatever the drive, write it down. But try to come up with at least five or six key motivators.

Consider, too, what factors are holding you back. What’s keeping you from prospecting more consistently? Is it fear, lack of time … or are you simply overwhelmed by options? Be honest with yourself and make a note of these too.

Once you understand what’s driving you to action or inaction, work through the following exercise to develop a new and powerful force for action.

Exercise: Learn to associate nonaction with pain.

Behavioral economics teaches us that fear of pain holds more power than does desire for pleasure. By learning to associate nonaction with pain, you can create a new and powerful motivator.

For this exercise, list all the negative consequences that could result from ignoring your marketing efforts. Your list might include landing fewer clients, having a lower income, feeling stressed all the time and not being fully present when you’re with your kids.

Once you have a list, consider the ultimate price of nonaction. If you failed to land new clients for an extended period of time, what would be the consequence?

Would you have to go back to a regular desk job? Would you have to run every decision by a manager? Would your weekends be consumed with grocery shopping, laundry, doctors’ appointments and other chores you can no longer fit in your weekdays? Would your children have to forgo after-school activities, like soccer or dance class, because you can’t get them to practices?

Thinking about these outcomes is not pleasant. In fact, it’s downright painful. And that’s the point. Every time you’re tempted to ignore your prospecting, you want these painful associations to be top of mind.

Step #2: Craft a plan that’s aligned with your goals.

Many of us avoid prospecting activities because we’re overwhelmed by all the different strategies we’re supposed to implement.

There are so many choices today that we fall into the trap of trying too many things without going deep enough with any one strategy.

It’s like shiny object hell out there!

So how do you break loose? Part of the solution is to focus on the handful of marketing strategies that will yield the best results for YOU.

To help you make that determination, try this simple exercise:

Exercise: Figure out what’s worked in the past.

Look back at the last three to five clients you’ve landed and ask yourself:

How did I land these clients?

In other words, what marketing strategy enabled me to attract these clients? Was it word of mouth? In-person networking? A warm email? Referral from another client?

As you answer these questions, you’ll start to see which one or two marketing methods are working best for you. Take note of that, because that’s an important indicator of where you should focus your time.

If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you can expand on this approach. Think about what you value most in a client. Is it profitability? Interesting projects? Greater flexibility? Available resources? Now do some analysis:

  • Make a list of the last 10 to 15 clients you landed.
  • Rank them based on what’s important to you (e.g., profitability, work variety, flexibility, etc.).
  • Take a look at the top five clients on that list. What marketing strategy or approach enabled you to land those five clients?

You may discover that the strategies that generated your best clients are the ones you often resist. And this leaves you with a decision:

Now that you know the truth behind these effective strategies, can you persuade yourself to continue using them?

Or maybe there’s room for compromise. For instance, maybe you’re not crazy about networking events. But there’s a particular conference you’ve attended over the past two years that has generated three top-shelf clients for you.

Could you continue to attend this conference, considering the impact it’s had on your business?

Step #3: Take action based on your intrinsic drive.

Once you’ve identified which strategies to focus on, you’ll have extra “juice” to implement them more consistently because you’ve done the analysis and know they work.

You’re also clear on the ultimate price of failing to act, having considered the consequences of nonaction.

But even with this background work, sometimes it’s still a struggle to market consistently. Here are some additional tools and tricks you can use to add more fuel to your marketing fire:

1. Treat marketing like a client project.

“Trick” yourself into taking your marketing as seriously as you do client projects. Assign yourself clear deadlines and plot your work schedule so you’ll complete each task on time. Stick with this approach long enough and eventually this “trick” will become a habit.

2. Create “effort” goals, not “outcome” goals.

Ultimately, we can’t control whether or not a client hires us. But what we can control is the effort we apply to attracting clients to our business.

From a goal-setting perspective, this means that it’s better to set “effort” goals than to focus on “outcome” goals.

For example, rather than saying, “I’m going to land two new clients this month,” you instead tell yourself, “I’m going to attend two networking events and follow up with five prospects this month.”

Also, it’s better if you can break your effort goals into smaller increments (daily as opposed to weekly or monthly). If your time frame is too long, you’ll be tempted to procrastinate.

3. Set goals that speak to you.

Everyone has goals: Retire by age 55. Travel the world. Buy a bigger house. Get a nicer car.

There’s nothing wrong with these goals. But do they truly speak to you?

Make sure your goals are tied to your dreams, not someone else’s. Otherwise, it will be even more difficult to motivate yourself to achieve them. When your goals are aligned with your core values and vision, you inherently “amp up” your drive.

4. Get an accountability partner.

Find a partner who will listen to your goals. Someone who will follow up with you on a regular basis to ensure that you’re taking the actions you’ve committed to taking.

It’s embarrassing to have to admit procrastination or inaction to someone else. That alone can be a big motivator to stay on track.

5. Play games.

Some of us are driven to win. If you have a competitive streak, game-playing is a great way to achieve your prospecting goals.

Working with a partner or a group, set up a scoring system and goals. Then, it’s game on!

Players accumulate points for every marketing action, such as writing a blog post, attending a networking event or sending out a certain number of prospecting emails. Everyone keeps score and can compare results every week for additional motivation.

6. Wake up an hour earlier.

If your reason for not prospecting consistently is lack of time, then give yourself an extra hour. Wake up an hour earlier each weekday. Make this time sacred and reserve it only for prospecting.

7. Recondition yourself with a new empowering association.

In Step #1, we talked about associating nonaction with feelings of fear, dread and anxiety. Although negative associations tend to be more powerful, positive associations can also help.

Consider rewarding yourself when you complete a marketing task: “I’m going to buy myself a latte after I make these prospecting calls.”

Or: “I’m going to take the afternoon off if I attend that networking event in the morning.”

8. Master a new skill that has a marketing side benefit.

This is another type of marketing “trick.” Distract yourself by learning a new skill that has multiple benefits beyond marketing.

For example, you could join Toastmasters and learn how to give talks in front of people. Your motivation is the desire to learn and master a new skill. But in the process, you end up delivering talks to a few targeted organizations. This results in meeting new people and generating new prospect leads.

Learning how to speak in public is the focus. Marketing your business (and landing clients) is the byproduct.

How Should You Market Your Business in 2016?

Want more ideas and step-by-step advice on how to market yourself better and more consistently in 2016?

The answers are in my proprietary marketing execution plan for freelancers. And here’s the good news…

You can get INSTANT access to this plan for just $1.

This is a nuts-and-bolts plan for freelance professionals in ALL creative disciplines. You’ll discover how to craft your very own prospecting and client-attraction strategies for the next 12 months.

Plus, how to make the best decisions for your unique situation. And how to craft a realistic plan you’ll actually implement.

You can nab this powerful resource for just $1 when you activate your trial of my brand-new “Get Better Clients Academy.”


Post Categories: Getting Clients

Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)

  • John Thomas

    Doggone it, Ed, now you’re making me want to review your Effortless Productivity course again! 🙂

    • edgandia

      LOL! 🙂

  • Great actionable advice as always, Ed! Thanks for inspiring our marketing efforts. (Love Dan Ariely’s TED talks! :o)

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Holly! Haven’t seen any of his TED talks. Need to check ’em out.

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