Wednesday, October 17, 2007

low-cost marketing techniques - part five

This post is part of a series, based on a talk I gave on the subject of inexpensive marketing techniques to the Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada.

How do I market myself as a professional organizer? How do I market my professional organizing business?

5) Traditional marketing techniques: Print and media advertising

When most of us start a business, these are the obvious techniques many of us gravitate towards. Everyone needs business cards, right? And brochures or flyers. Maybe some direct mailing. A yellow pages ad. Paid adverts in print and (if we can afford it) other media like radio and TV. Oh, and a website. Everyone needs a website now, right?

One thing most of these techniques have in common is that they can quickly become very expensive. There may be a place for these techniques in your marketing strategy, but if you're trying to keep costs low, you really need to pick and choose the most effective techniques for your particular business.

If you've been in business for a while, what has worked well for you in the past? Each type of business has its own special needs, something I didn't anticipate when I began marketing my professional organizing business.

As a consumer, I rely on the Yellow Pages when researching unfamiliar businesses. I assumed my potential organizing clients would feel the same way. I bought listings in three of Toronto's five Yellow Pages books (at a cost of over $350), and in the four months since the books have been published, I've had only one client-related call. (Which didn't even lead to new business for me.)

Most professional organizers will tell you that they get most of their new business from referrals. Our potential clients have many fears about bringing strangers into their homes and personal lives, and need to feel a high degree of trust - something they can get from a friend or neighbour (or trusted professional) who has past experience with us.

Where does that leave new organizers?

The good news is that potential clients depend on their instincts, and can often tell within minutes of meeting an organizer whether or not they feel safe with this professional, and want to hire them.

(The bad news is that potential clients depend on their instincts, and can often tell within minutes of meeting an organizer whether or not they feel safe with this professional, and want to hire...)

Most professional organizers I've spoken with have not had success with media advertising (in newspapers, for example). In fact, one organizer I know has said that the only calls she got from her newspaper ads were newspapers wanting her to buy more ads.

Business cards are the number one traditional investment that most organizers have found worthwhile. As part of a networking strategy, they are gold. I've even had clients ask for stacks of my cards to pass out to their friends.

Are websites important for professional organizers?

If your prospective clients are Internet users, maybe. If your other advertising is tied to your website (and I'll mention a case regarding car signs in a later post where this is key), then your website can be a great place for people to find out more about your business.

Your website doesn't have to be flashy and expensive - in fact, the simpler it is (considering that we're professional organizers, after all), the better. Just make sure the overall look and feel of your site is in line with the image you've chosen for yourself as an organizer. If you can't afford a web designer, explore cost-saving measures such as blogging (which will be covered in a future post) and bartering services, rather than settling for a cheap, amateur-looking site.

Think of the head shot issue mentioned in a previous post. Do you play true to type? The more that every aspect of your marketing - including your website - corresponds to who you are and what you do, the better your chances of conveying integrity to your prospective clients - and the better chance you have of them trusting you.

(Oh, and please have someone proofread your website! Spelling and grammatical errors are very off-putting to well-educated potential clients! Your website copy is so easy to change, it's a crying shame to see many professionals with error-riddled websites. How do I know? I read the sites when I'm prospecting for my editing business...)

Direct mail is very expensive, and for many businesses it doesn't give a good return on investment (ROI). As an organizer in a new city, however, I found that personally distributing flyers door-to-door in neighbourhoods I had earmarked as good markets for my services was a great way of getting my name known, and generating profitable leads for new business.

I have a background in visual art, so I created a simple flyer for myself on my computer, and had it inexpensively photocopied onto colourful paper at a local copy shop. I like to go for daily walks anyhow, so I figured if I just took a handful of flyers on my walk every day - driving to the neighbourhoods I wanted to explore and distributing as many flyers as I could within an hour - I'd kill two birds with one stone.

90% of my clients in my first year of business came from leads generated by the flyers.

List the traditional advertising methods that have worked for you in the past. Incorporate the lessons you have learned from these strategies into your future marketing.

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