The 30 Minute Marketing Plan for Self-employed Professionals

The 30 Minute Marketing Plan for Self-employed Professionals
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I have always believed marketing is applied common sense. Over the years I have been slightly bewildered by people who considered marketing to be difficult to understand. I’m not saying that success is easy – but I am convinced that by going through a clear strategic thinking process anyone can develop a clear and coherent marketing plan for themselves or their business.

Given this belief, I jumped at the opportunity to create a 30 Minute Marketing Plan for Self-employed Professionals, for a group of senior professionals who were now working as freelancers: as interim managers, as consultants, or on specific projects.

What is special about this group – and any self-employed professionals – is that they are marketing themselves. They are the personification of Tom Peters’ famous “Brand called You. As Peters put it: “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” There is no one for whom this is truer than for self-employed professionals.

In creating this plan I brought not just my experience marketing top brands (including the global marketing of the ice cream Magnum), but also my training and experience as a coach. What I love most about coaching is that it recognizes that each person is an expert on their own life, and that given the right conditions they can come up with answers that are uniquely right for them. There is also a lot of research to show that if a person comes up with the solution themselves they are much more likely to follow through on it.

So here’s the thinking process for creating your own plan, in five steps. Give yourself time to reflect on your answers. I suggest giving yourself 30 minutes to complete the process. You can do this for your whole business – or for a strand of your business that already exists, or that you wish to develop.

Writing the answers helps – you can download a template with the questions here or simply write the questions on a sheet of paper as you go along.

Step 1: What Benefits Do You Offer?

“Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?” Tom Peters, bestselling business author

What’s special about you? Why should someone choose to work with you rather than someone else? Think about what makes you different. What’s the added value that you are bringing? We all have unique added value that comes from our distinctive experiences. Think about them and write them down!

Step 2: What Do You Want?

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” Wayne Dyer, inspirational thinker and author

What are you passionate about? What do you want to spend your time doing? How much time do you want to spend doing it? Have you a financial goal?

(Some people have told me they found it easier to state what they did NOT want – if you find that easier then that’s great too!)

Take the time to think about what you want, and write it down!

Step 3: Who Do You Want To Work With?

Think about people and organizations that would benefit from your unique strengths – and people and organisations with whom you would dearly love to work.

At this point you may want to characterize the type of people and organizations rather than being specific.

Write them down!

Step 3 (B): Now ... Be A Little More Specific About Who You Wish to Work With

If the people and organizations you have identified above (your targets) are pretty generic, make a couple of them more specific: instead of writing “medium-sized retail outlets”, name a specific one you’d like to work for. Instead of writing “women who are struggling because they have no time to think”, write down the names of a few women who you would like to work with. You get the drift!

Step 4: Prioritize!

"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management

One of the things I love about having a clear marketing strategy is that it helps you to work out where you can most profitably and usefully put your limited time and energy.

Here are some matrices that have proved helpful to others on deciding which targets to focus on. Have a look at these and decide where in the four quadrants on the matrix each of your targets sit. (You can download these matrices here – if you have already downloaded the full template, you have them! - or simply sketch them on your own sheet of paper.)

Before I introduce a third matrix, let me ask a question: how much of your existing and past business has come from people with whom you have a personal connection, whether direct or indirect?

(Direct contacts are people who know you or have met you; indirect contacts are people who have heard about you – perhaps from someone you worked with previously or from someone who has known you since college.)

According to Forbes Magazine 41% of jobs are found through networking. There are no figures for self-employed professionals – but the figure is likely to be much higher. So the third matrix invites you to think about who you know, and how you might get to know new people.

The very act of filling in matrices like these helps you to think in greater depth about your targets. Have a look at the chart above and compare where your targets sit. (Sometimes at this point people go back to step three again, and identify new and perhaps more fruitful targets.)

Step 5: Action Plan

“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and philosopher

You now have a clear idea of the benefits you bring and what you want. You have created a list of possible target organisations and people and you have prioritized them. Now you are ready for action.

Marketing is an art – frequently there is no right or wrong way of doing things. The way you choose will be influenced by you, your strengths and your personality, so bring a feeling of play and lightness to thinking about actions; get your creativity going. Remember, you don’t have to implement every idea you come up with!

Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself in considering the actions you should prioritize:

  • Do I know enough about the targets I have identified? Is my information up-to-date? Do I know who the decision-makers are? What’s important to them?
  • Am I clear about what I have to offer them? Is my offering optimized to benefit them?
  • Are there tools, databases or organizations that can help me?
  • How do I go about engaging with targets, if I don’t yet have any contact with them?
  • If I have a relationship with them how do I nudge them or bring my skills to their attention?

Importance of Research

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him (her) and sells itself.” Peter Drucker, business author and expert.

Research is an important (and frequently overlooked) action. Think about how you might research your target so that you know how to meet their needs. Here are some ideas to get you going. (Remember what I said about marketing being common sense!)

Social Media ≠ Marketing

I am amazed at the number of people I meet who think that marketing means having a Facebook or Twitter account.

Hopefully having read this far you understand that social media does not equal marketing. It’s one of a myriad of tools available to market ourselves, a useful tool, but like all tools it has to be used in the right way.

I would go as far as to say that if you don’t enjoy Twitter or Facebook, then, as a self-employed professional, you shouldn’t use it. I would also counsel strongly against farming these out to a third party. Like it or not, successful use of Twitter or Facebook requires you to show up and be authentic – it’s Brand You again! (If you are in any doubt, have a read of the New Yorker article You are what you tweet!)

Here is my subjective evaluation on social media for the self-employed professional.

Meeting and engaging!

For me, the most important action for self-employed professionals is seeking out opportunities to meet, engage with, and understand more about those you have identified as your targets. You’ll have lots of ideas on this (remember you are the expert on your own life!), but if you need help to get going, you can look here.

Your actions

List three actions you will take over the next week to implement your marketing plan... and then list three that you will undertake over the next month.

Your very own personal marketing plan

Now you have your very own personal marketing plan – tailored to your unique strengths, and to your individual desires. Hopefully creating it has made you think in a fresh way, and you have generated some great ideas you can act upon.

One of your actions might be to revisit your plan in 30 days and spend another 30 minutes refining your thinking.

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” Pablo Picasso, artist

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