Marketing Tip: Do You Know Who You Are Marketing To ?
Often when I speak with people about marketing professional services, I discover that their idea of targeted marketing is to run an ad in their professional journal….not the journals for the professions that their prospective clients read…no, the journal of their own profession ! Worse are the people who just place ads willy nilly, deploying the well know “shotgun” marketing approach. If either of these define your marketing plan, then read on.
What is your niche ?
Try this exercise for a moment. Get out a piece of paper and in the center top of the page write down the type of mediation you practice. Then underneath that word write down all the different iterations of that type of mediation that you’ve seen. After you’ve done that, look at the different words and circle the ones that match something in your background. For example, I recently spoke with an attorney who had worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture until her husband’s job moved them to Atlanta. She knew Atlanta law firms weren’t hiring, and hanging out her own shingle wasn’t a viable option. I asked how she had come to work for the Ag department. She said it was simple – she’d grown up on a family farm, so it was a natural to go to work there after law school. Well, I said, why don’t you specialize in mediations between banks and farms in rural Georgia ? Clearly there aren’t very many mediators and arbitrators in that market, and her knowledge of the agricultural environment made her someone both sides could trust.
There doesn’t need to be an excessive amount of business in a narrow market sector for you to make a living there. You just need to find a niche that you can own exclusive of any meaningful competition. Think how simple it would be if there weren’t 10 other mediators or arbitrators fighting for the same book of business. Even if there were a couple of competitors vying for the same business, if something in your past makes you stand out (like our attorney who grew up on a farm), it will make it dramatically easier for you to capture a good portion of this niche.
Who is your ideal client ?
Regardless of who hires you, in order to market to them effectively you need to understand what defines your ideal client. To do that, think back over past mediations and try to answer some of these questions:
Perhaps you haven’t met your ideal client yet. That may be because you haven’t identified one. Stand back and assess your past mediations. Pick out as many details as possible that define what made certain mediations easier, faster, or smoother. Build a list of those details and combine with it the things from your past that make you unique. Together they help you build a profile of your ideal client.
But you shouldn’t be marketing solely to prospective client
The second category is also one that most people think of – the professional referral. If you do domestic work, perhaps you get referrals from the clergy, financial advisors, behavioral health professionals and others. If you mediate business issues, perhaps the referrals come from CPAs, trade associations, or attorneys in that specific area of practice. Regardless of your area of mediation, you need to understand who those professional referral sources are and cultivate them. Remember that referring business to them will keep you at the front of their minds when it is time for them to refer a client to a mediator or arbitrator !
The third category is one that most people don’t understand – one we call “carriers.” Remember when your children came home from school with the stomach flu because one of their classmates carried the bug to school and spread it to everyone else in the classroom ? That person who spread the bug is a carrier. We also have carriers in business, but instead of carrying bad bugs, they carry good news. They’re the people in your contact list who know everyone, communicate frequently, and don’t know how to keep their mouths shut. While they might not be people who directly refer business to you, they’re the kind of people who derive great joy in knowing exactly who to refer others to, and you need to make sure that you’re on their horizon so you can be the beneficiary of this largesse.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Marketing is expensive and time consuming. Bad or ineffective marketing
can be deadly to your career. You need to take the time to build a plan,
and that requires more than an evening or two. Think carefully about the
specifics of your market and your ideal client. Spend time soft marketing
to referral sources. Remember to say “thank you” for every referral.
These simple efforts will help you build a practice where you stand out as
the first choice of anyone needing a mediator or arbitrator in your chosen