These days, when it comes to growing your business, all you hear about is online marketing. And it's what everyone would like to use to attract more of their ideal clients.
After all, if more prospective clients simply found your website online, you'd get more business, right?
Well, it's not so simple. After engaging in online marketing for more than 20 years, I've learned a lot of things. And one of those things is that online marketing can be a complete waste of your time and resources.
If your clients are individuals or solo business owners, online marketing can be very effective; it certainly has been for me.
But if your clients are business managers in larger companies and C-Level business executives, online marketing has severe limitations. And putting a lot of time and energy into that kind of marketing will only lead to frustration and disappointment.
It really starts with who your ideal clients are and how they find professional service businesses such as management consultants, business coaches and corporate trainers.
Let's say a CEO needs help with their business strategy. Do they jump on Google first and look up "Strategy Consultants"?
Never. No, they ask those they already know – their trusted advisors. Or they contact someone who's written a book or who gave a talk at their national conference. They look for credibility.
And once they've found someone, then they'll take a look at the consultant's website. So some degree of online marketing kicks in at the back end of the marketing process, but not so much on the front end.
That's why it's important to have a nicely designed and well-written website. Prospects will definitely check you out there and if it hits all the right notes, it increases the chances they'll work with you.
One of my clients, Mark T., is the kind of strategy consultant I'm talking about. He works only with corporations, and only at the C-Level. His engagements are worth $ 100K or more.
Today Mark told me that he has never had a CEO call him out of the blue because they saw his website online. All his business comes from referrals and from high-end speaking engagements at conferences.
Another client of mine, Keith H. is a high-level business coach. And although he has a great website, he does not depend on it for new clients. Most of his clients come through networking with the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).
If you're the kind of professional who provides services to larger businesses, is there any kind of online marketing you should be doing?
Yes, and there's kinds that that you shouldn't be doing either. I'll discuss them all in this article.
First, what online marketing is a waste of time?
1. Any activities to make your website visible. Why? Because you don't care if your clients find you online as you know they're not looking for you there until they know about you first through other channels. SEO strategies and endlessly tweaking your keywords won't get you much, if anything.
2. Facebook. This platform isn't going to give you anything if your clients are from larger companies. Facebook ads? Forget about it. Your ideal clients are not hanging out there.
3. Instagram. Seriously? A complete waste of time.
OK, so what does work?
1. A well-designed and well-written website. As mentioned before, this is essential for credibility once you already have the attention of your ideal clients.
2. Personalized emails. Email is the single most powerful online marketing tool for independent professionals. I talked about this at great length in my ezine last week.
3. Content marketing. Essentially, writing articles and posting them on your blog or other online sites and sending to your list. This is useful at no matter what level you do it, even if you have a small list. You want everyone in your network to know what you're thinking about and what you're working on. It keeps you visible and relevant. And once you have the attention of your ideal clients you can use your articles to demonstrate your expertise.
Writing makes you a smarter, more effective professional. And it can dramatically increase your credibility. At minimum, write one good, substantial article every month. Posting it on LinkedIn and Medium can sometimes attract extra attention and sign-ups to your list.
If you want to learn what business topics are most popular these days you might want to check out BuzzSumo.
4. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the one social media platform that makes sense for independent professionals. Having a good LinkedIn profile is as important as your website as people who learn about you will check you out there and see who you're connected to.
But where LinkedIn really excels is as a prospecting tool. In an instant, you can zero in on your ideal clients, their position in the company and who can connect you with them. I'll explore this further in future articles, as LinkedIn is a powerful tool that very few know how to take full advantage of.
5. Twitter. Publishing tweets about what you're working on and articles you've published keeps your network informed – but not for directly promoting your business.
These days, it's really easy to get sucked into online marketing activities that go nowhere. It's not a good use of your time and your energy. And it tends to be passive instead of proactive.
If you sell your professional services directly to larger businesses, your ideal clients are simply not looking for you online. So don't waste a lot of your time there.
Instead, you want to use online marketing tools such as email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., to support your primary marketing activities: networking (personal connections and meetings), speaking (presentations at conferences, etc.) and writing (articles, blogs , ezines, etc.)