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Marketing Help Needed; Yup!

Posted by on Oct 29, 2010

As y’all know, I work for myself. I do okay, but certainly not great. Marketing has always been my downfall, and it’s disconcerting after so many years.

by McKay Savage

Of course, I understand the concepts of social media marketing well. I’ve followed my own advice when it comes to that, and it’s helped to a degree. My biggest problem is that my main business doesn’t do online stuff all that well. You may remember that along with a lot of other things I’m a health care finance consultant. Many more hospitals have a web presence now, but that’s about as far as it goes.

I rank number one for my search terms, but hospitals don’t go online to research vendors (that’s what they call us; I prefer the term ‘corporate partner’) for services. Instead, they go to events and ask people they’re not afraid to share information with who they might recommend or who they’ve heard of. Now, by ‘afraid’, I mean to say that hospitals really don’t like other hospitals that are located close to them to ever know they might have some type of problem. It’s kind of stupid because almost every hospital has the same types of issues but that’s the way the world goes.

Anyway, that makes marketing to hospitals difficult. Overall they’re not close to each other. They don’t like making recommendations that might help a competitor. If you’re an independent you just can’t rely on word of mouth when it comes to hospitals; physicians maybe.

What’s a guy to do? I’ve done the traditional route. I’ve sent letters. I’ve sent flyers. I’ve sent postcards. I’ve even picked up the phone and called, although not that often; I hate doing the cold call thing. That plus, unless you personally know the CFO, you’re not going to talk to them. I’ve had 3 different sales professionals who have tried and each one of them told me the same story, and I already knew it because that used to be my life. Well, except I didn’t have a secretary screening calls for me; if it was from out of town & I didn’t recognize the number, it went to voice mail.

Anyway, I’m always on the lookout for more marketing tips. A good source for me as been my friend Shirley George Frazier’s blog Solo Business Marketing, and right now she’s giving away a pdf called 42 Top Tips For Solo Marketers. That’s the link to her site, not to the download. Her site is replete with tons of information, and I have followed her for a couple of years. I do pick up some things here and there, and I really need to start applying more of what she has to offer. It’s a great resource, and I’m happy to mention her here.

Of course, all of this ties in to other topics I’ve brought up this year and in previous years. The best marketing strategy is to find ways to increase your influence. I’ve been trying to do it a lot through social media, interviews, and networking.

Networking, by the way, is how I’ve gotten most of my health care contracts as well. Through email, I do have a list of people I can network with when I really need to get something. The issue for me is that at my age now I’d love having more projects that are closer to home. Some people might think going across the country is always glamorous; trust me, it’s not. Even flying first class, making 2 or 3 stops to get to your final destination, and those long layovers, is irritating and uncomfortable. Now, if I were on a speaking tour, making $3,000 or more a day, I’d suck it up and be happy about it; who wouldn’t?

Anyway, check out Shirley’s blog, and if you have any ideas on how you market your business to the offline world that’s effective, please share.

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Hi Mitch
As I will be marketing my products from as soon as they are available in a couple of weeks I find this post interesting. Networking seems to be the way to go and I’m hoping by giving good customer service I will get repeat orders. My biz is different to yours in that I will be selling physical products rather than services. Hope some people who are in a similar work situation to you will have some helpful advice and tips for you.
Patricia Perth Australia

October 29th, 2010 | 11:36 AM

Thanks Pat. Actually, I’ve yet to find anyone with a more reasonable solution other than networking, but I still put the question out there because you never know.

October 29th, 2010 | 12:38 PM

I love the ‘stop free giving in its’ track’ suggestion! Excellent resource, I’ve bookmarked it and shared it with my network. Thanks for pointing it out!

And is that your B&G macaw?

October 29th, 2010 | 2:19 PM

No it’s not Barbara; I was at a convention 3 years ago and they had the birds there that we could get pictures taken with.

October 29th, 2010 | 3:49 PM

I understand your predicament fully well. I think networking probably is the best way to gain customers. Have you tried using LinkedIn to talk to those higher in the decision ladder?

October 29th, 2010 | 5:13 PM

Yes I have. I’ve made contacts through there, but never had any business with anyone.

October 29th, 2010 | 8:31 PM

I’m very interested on this post, It teach a lot about network marketing, as a new blogger. as a new blogger it’s important for me to learn. Thank you Mitch for sharing…

October 30th, 2010 | 12:11 AM

Thanks for stopping by Jun. Networking is a big thing whenever you can do it, and with blogs, just making your presence felt on other blogs works wonders for your own.

October 30th, 2010 | 1:44 AM
Althea Garner:

There are many people who profess to be marketers and who give sage advice, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to marketing.

Let’s backtrack:
There are companies in corporate America that employ a design dept, a marketing dept, an advertising dept and a sales dept. They also have a billing dept. For most of us, we are all those people rolled into ONE – the SOLOPRENEUR! For us, it’s a time issue and consequently,we either don’t have a strong enough effort in any of those areas or we have to resort to employing outside help, which is expensive.

Then we listen to those who have gone before us and who are themselves successful. They tell us to do what they have done and it will work – WRONG (in most cases), because as an example, you can’t market real estate the same way you market used cars! What you do and how you do it, very much depends on the product.

I have always believed in the ‘heart sell’, rather than the ‘hard sell’, but how do you ‘heart sell’ a product to those who have no heart? By this I mean corporations are made up of people who in many cases don’t have a vested interest – to them, it’s just a job and consequently they really don’t care much. They don’t care about the product or the company and they certainly don’t care about YOU – they only care about their pay check. And THESE are the people you are trying to get past, Mitch!

Most solopreneurs don’t lack marketing. What they lack is BRANDING but branding your product and branding mine, would have to be done in different ways. See where I’m going with this? If you were branded, you would get past the gatekeeper with little or no effort – in fact, the customer would seek YOU out!


October 30th, 2010 | 8:27 AM

Good stuff, Althea. I’ve written about branding on this blog as well and how I’ve tried to brand myself. I know, however, that visual creativity isn’t my strong suit. My main business logo is my my initials, and the same goes for my other business logo. Nothing really stands out, however. But you’re right, in health care I’m competing against some megaliths that have tons more resources than I could ever think of. I can compete online because I put my SEO against any of theirs on a regular basis, but the potential clients aren’t using online search for that type of thing. Otherwise, I’d already be quite rich.

October 30th, 2010 | 12:25 PM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

Health care services – definitely an area of which I know absolutely nothing…marketing them anyway, I know plenty about accepting them. LOL

It certainly seems to be an area wherein networking with others in the field would be #1. The biggest “problem” I see is the fact that you cannot stop…cutthroat and all.

October 30th, 2010 | 8:53 AM

That’s exactly the issue Dennis. If you’re not pushing it, people forget who you are or what you do. I learned this week that I lost one because the guy forgot what my specialty was & didn’t promote me, since I’m the only person he “should” know who does it, nor anyone else. I mean, I’m it, and he forgot? Sheesh!

October 30th, 2010 | 12:28 PM
Dennis Edell @ Direct Sales Marketing:

I might call that one a blessing in disguise; I might even let him go altogether.

Better to have no promotion then to be promoted wrong somehow.

October 30th, 2010 | 2:29 PM

I don’t pay these guys, Dennis. They get a piece when they book me, but that’s why I also don’t really get to call all the shots on it. It’s interesting what these guys will promote me for sometimes, though; makes one wonder.

October 30th, 2010 | 3:28 PM

Geez, I really don’t have any advice other than networking- like meet-ups (hint-hint):-)

I will definitely go check out the blog you recommended.

BTW- thanks for the plug via Twitter…..

October 30th, 2010 | 9:59 AM

No problem, Carolee, although I have to let you know that it had buffering problems when I was trying to listen in.

October 30th, 2010 | 12:29 PM

This is helpful. I just sold my brick and mortar business and I’m trying to put my English degree to use as a freelance writer. Marketing myself has been more difficult than I first thought. There’s a lot of competition out there.

October 30th, 2010 | 4:28 PM

I’m pulling for you, Josh. It can be tough, but there’s a market out there if you can find enough of the right people who’ll pay you fairly.

October 30th, 2010 | 9:59 PM

I’m finding out that the fair pay thing is the difficult part. There’s a ton of jobs for freelance bloggers but most of them want to pay $5 for a 500 word article. I don’t think I could write enough 500 word articles in a month to cover my mortgage at that rate. Thanks for the reply, I’ll be checking on your site for more tips.

October 30th, 2010 | 10:07 PM

Marketing is really something we have to work at all the time, Mitch, and a lot of these times, we might think that they offer no result at all. However, with hard work, I believe we can get there. With networking, I also suggest having a memorable logo on your marketing materials. There are now lots of graphic designers who are able to help you convey your marketing message through your logo alone.

All the best to you,
– Wes –

October 31st, 2010 | 11:17 PM

Thanks Wes. I’m going to continue networking, but I need to get that offline marketing down better, being more consistent with it all.

November 1st, 2010 | 12:51 AM