There are many ways to answer the question, and yet there are no easy solutions — otherwise we would all be in business and everyone would be rich, and there would be no need for marketing and PR firms like ours, right? Well, I could give you a very long answer about researching your target market, developing your USP (unique selling proposition), creating a dynamic marketing and communications plan around your unique story, executing it well, then measuring your success, adjusting your strategies and repeating.
This is what we do, and we do it very well.
But what I prefer to do here is to take the long view. A more philosophical point of view, if you will.
So here goes. The way you get more business is to provide value.
What do I mean by that? I mean stop worrying about getting business and start helping people. I’m talking about giving away free stuff. Free labor. Free time. Share your expertise — extravagantly — and the business will come to you.
“But . . . but . . . but . . . I need money! I’ll go broke!” I hear you say.
Well, if you have excess capacity in your business anyway, what are you losing? But the truth is, you won’t go broke. Just the opposite. The more value you provide:
- the more people are drawn to you;
- the more exposure your skills and services receive;
- the more people talk positively about you to others and refer you for business;
- the more people trust you and are willing to let you into their sphere of influence;
- the more people feel indebted to you and are willing to go out of their way to do favors to help you;
- the more experience, case studies and contacts you develop that you can leverage for paying work.
So what kind of value can you provide? You’re probably already doing some of these things, thinking of them as PR or marketing, and haven’t even thought about it as “providing value,” but everything counts. Here’s a short list to get you started:
- Share your knowledge by creating content through blogging (like this!), social media, videos, newsletters (printed or electronic), articles, e-books, etc., to grow your reputation as a thought leader.
- Start and host a Meetup and speak on a topic related to your business that would be helpful to participants, giving you the chance to “show off” your expertise to other business people.
- Volunteer your services for a nonprofit agency. Not only do nonprofits perform important services for your community, making it a better place to live for everyone, there are other benefits. Often non-profits can provide benefits such as tax credits, recognition on their Web site or special event sponsorships. And volunteering with non-profits often affords you access to board members who are well-connected business people — people whom you might otherwise not have the opportunity to meet
- Offer yourself as a free speaker to business, civic and professional organizations. If you have a compelling topic and you are a decent (notice I didn’t say excellent — decent is good enough) speaker — you’ll have all the speaking engagements you can handle. Clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis that meet weekly are always looking for speakers, and they are loaded with business people. While your speech should not be an advertisement for your business, but rather information that can really help people, just sharing your expertise in front of an audience of business and professional people will open doors.
- Help a start-up business by sharing some “lessons learned” with the new owner.
- Mentor young people in your profession. This can take the form of creating internships in your business (either paid or unpaid), volunteering to sponsor a student chapter of your professional association in a local college or high school, allowing a student to shadow you for a day, speaking to a class or judging a student contest. Get involved!
So here’s my list. What can you add to it? Add your ideas in the comment section below.