Being in the business world is far more challenging compared to delivering a workshop or keynote speech. In May 2011, I established my learning and development consultancy, In Learning.
With great excitement and enthusiasm I hit the road, it was fun then and it is still fun. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. So, the delivery aspect has been much easier for me and I do keep sharping my axe on a regular basis.
The true challenge is in getting a regular pipeline of prospects and converting them to clients, ideally on-going clients. The training business has been defined as famine and feast. When things are on the move they are truly at an accelerated pace, but when things slow down they are slower than a tortoise.
In the effort to understand how to increase the flow of clients as to minimise the famine period, the marketing strategy applied to the business becomes crucial. Marketing strategy is usually defined as the goal of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.
With the ever-growing use of technology for a business to create that market awareness we need to consider:
- Free social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest to name a few. Everyone I have met has their own take on this; for some a great success in terms of getting clients, but for many just a pure awareness tool.
- Paid social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn advertising. Some say its great, while others see it as a waste of money.
- Google Ad Words. They are amazingly successful across many industries including training; as long as you have a professional setting this out for you, otherwise expect failure.
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an excellent tool. Once again get a professional involved otherwise you are throwing your money down the drain.
- Email marketing – a great way to stay in touch with your existing database. You can use tools such MailChimp, Constant Contact and GetResponse.
- Online and offline publications can be very powerful as you are giving value at no cost to existing and future clients. Write for magazines, carry out blog writing and use the great feature in LinkedIn called “create a post”.
You can go further into online marketing by having a YouTube Channel, eLearning, mobile apps and much more. The options are endless.
Now comes the twist to the story. In reality, marketing is all about building and developing relationships with people. We as humans are social animals, so no matter what amount of technology you implement, nothing can beat the face-to-face interaction with people.
This means its time for some networking. The classic idea of networking is to go to events. Events that could potentially get you business, where you meet like-minded people and build and develop relationships. Many times a number of these events can be an expensive affair and the return on investment is nil.
My brother and in many ways someone I aspire to, Nick Sakhuja, is a master at networking. It is in-built in him and he finds it extremely strange when people are unable to do so. I have seen him work the room and more importantly what he does outside the room has a far greater positive impact for his business.
Not all of us are naturals at networking. Some of us, including me, find this difficult and join professional bodies that teach networking and guide you to become a better networker, organizations such as the BNI and Referral Institute.
Networking is about the attitude of gratitude. It is not a transaction of deals but a spirit to grow beyond your business and to give value to others. Remember, you are highly likely to do business with people you like, and usually you like someone who appreciates you.
Many people ignore the importance of networking but when you look into history this has been a crucial element in creating alliances and gaining prosperity. Are you ready to rethink your marketing strategy?