There's a revolution going on in the professions. Doctors, dentists,
architects, lawyers, engineers, designers and consultants facing increasingly
severe competition are marketing themselves aggressively. In the past, advertising
was not considered professional. Now it's becoming more widely accepted,
because it's becoming almost essential. The world is changing.
Professional schools are grinding out graduates by the thousands. In
some fields there are too many experts. The market is glutted. Competition
is fierce. Even established firms experience a painful feast or famine
cycle, because it's difficult to complete one job while looking for another.
Referrals used to be enough to build a profession practice. In the past,
if you did a good job, people would come back, and they would send their
friends. That happens less often today, and here's why:
It can be frightening for the small firm or the sole practitioner. In
trying to promote themselves, professionals have at least four strikes
We have a mobile society. People move every 3.6 years; so businesses
left alone tend to shrink. You can't coast.
Consumers want more for less. They are price shopping, and less likely to be loyal.
Huge chains are taking over and mass-merchandising professional services.
They don't know what to do or how to do it. Very few have taken business
courses in school.
Specialists are mostly left-brain dominant (rational, logical, linear-thinking),
quiet types who simply prefer to be themselves and do their own thing.
Sales and marketing, on the other hand, require some right-brain (creative,
emotional, intuitive, yes, off-the-wall) thinking, and even some risk-taking.
Like knocking on doors.
In addition, professionals want to appear ethical and not too different;
so they can't advertise blatantly or be outlandish. They believe their
hands are tied.
Finally, those who do try to advertise face the media glut. So when
they do advertise, they get disappointing results.
According to Newsweek, we spend more than $34 billion annually on national
advertising (more than $400 per household). Network TV advertising messages
just for you. Today in Denver there are roughly 118 newspapers and magazines,
36 radio stations, 15 TV channels and several hundred ad agencies. (I tried
to count them, but quit). The Colorado Association of Realtors is spending
nearly $250,000 just to promote three words: "Take Another Look."
(That is, take another look at the real estate market. It's getting better
As a professional in private practice, how can you possibly compete
with the big bucks? The answer is simple: by being clever, staying busy,
and turning some of your energy toward marketing. I remember hearing,
"It doesn't matter what you do (in sales and marketing) as long as you do a lot of
it." And I beleive that's true. Here are some helpful suggestions from our seminars:
- Use a distinctive business card. Vistaprint is the premier provider of high-quality yet inexpensive business cards. Get 250 premium quality, color business cards FREE!
- Keep an updated list of your former patients or clients. They are
your prospects for further sales. (They're buyers.) CardScan is the easiest way I've found to store and update my network (www.cardscan.com). It's worth a try.
- Cultivate the art of speaking to people. Tell them what you do. Don't
keep it a secret.
- Put a sign outside your office.
- Return all phone calls.
- Read the newspapers, ezines, blogs, social media. Look for people with problems you can solve. Contact them and suggest a meeting.
- Advertise by word-of-mouth.
- Give away specialty advertising items: pens, calendars and such.
- Be nice to people.
- Sponsor a team.
- Run for office.
- Read "Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind," by Al Ries
and Jack Trout (Warner Books). It may be out of print, but well worth finding.
- Join a networking group such as ExecuNet.
- Develop an information pamphlet or brochure.
- Make a video production for public access cable TV.
- Use a recall system to remind patients or clients to come back.
- Know the fundamentals of selling. Read "The Greatest Salesman
in the World," by Og Mandino. Visit a local SWAP club (Salesman With a Purpose).
- Make a portfolio (sales kit) to use in presentations.
- Turn your background materials into an online
- Dress for success.
- There's no substitute for excellence. Deliver what you promise.
- Give a free demonstration.
- Go to parties and events. Loaf by the swimming pool. Chat with people when they
are relaxed; listen for problems you can solve.
- Get involved in political, professional, civic, recreational and
- Write a newspaper column or journal article, or create your own blog or website.
- Make reprints of your published articles and use them as handouts.
- Sell your article to a magazine (consult "Writer's Market").
- Broadcast yourself. Create a YouTube channel.
- Get written references (testimonials) from satisfied patients or clients.
- There are more than 300 clubs in Denver and probably many in your
citycall and ask to speak to them. Give your speech a catchy title.
- Teach a class or seminar through a church or community college.
- Give and attend open houses.
- Call past patients or clients; take a genuine interest in them.
- Ask for referrals from satisfied patients or clients; (Referrals
seldom happen automaticallyyou have to ask).
- Take someone to lunch for no particular reason, and have a good sharing.
- Advertise in online directories or in the Yellow Pages.
- Advertise using Google Adwords.
- Give a free sample (give away as much as possible, as fast as possible).
- Mail or e-mail a newsletter that includes some of the following: recent discoveries in your field; testimonials; an offer of some kind; a calendar of upcoming events; a map showing how to find you; cartoons; thank-yous for referrals;
and a few one-liners. (P.S. Don't mail your gift calendar on January 20th as one real estate agent did).
- Smile a lot.
- Write a letter to the editor or any of your favorite publications.
- Send engraved announcements whenever you do something big.
- Send cards to your patients or clients on holidays, birthdays and special events. Electronic cards are fine, paper cards are better.
- Nourish your network of business contactsdon't let them wither and die.
- Buy mail or e-mail lists and use direct mail.
- Send a marketing letter to your peers, people in related professions,
your prospects, and influential people. Get samples at www.cover-letters.com.
- Write a book.
- Make liberal use of news releases and public service announcements.
- Ask to appear on local radio or TV.
- Do a survey of past patients or clients to get feedback and hear their ideas.
- Telephone newspaper or magazine editors to suggest story ideas.
- Create a media eventfor example, a conferenceand invite the press.
- Get a booth at a trade show. Or ask to share a booth with a friend.
- Have your license plates say what you do. As a career consultant,
my personal plate reads AJOB4U.
- Develop a support group of 10 other professionals, your own personal board of directors or trusted advisors. Meet at least monthly. Refer to each other.
- Use symbiosis. Team up with other consultants or professionals. Offer complimentary services.
- Get listed in service and trade directories.
- Subscribe to and advertise in specialized newsletters, journals and magazines.
Online advertising can complement print media.
- Sponsor community events.
- Ask you accountant, lawyer or dentist if they know of people needing your help.
- Take a millionaire to lunchask for ideas.
- Use real peoplesatisfied customersas "references." Take
them along on important sales calls. Or invite them to seminars you give. They'll close sales for you.
- Join your local chamber of commerce.
- When people ask you for help, say yes.
- Finally: Believe in yourself, others will too.
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