Marketing is a basic skill that every woman in business should foster in order to remain on top of her game. But marketing does not apply only to business owners and solo professionals. Employees, too, need to market themselves daily within their organization and in the industry at-large. The goal of all marketing is to develop yourself into a valuable resource, thereby making your input, your service and your product a critical part of other people’s success. It makes you more desirable, and this is important whether you are looking for your next client, a promotion at work, a raise or opportunities in a different organization.
One marketing battle that women struggle with is this: Marketing makes them uncomfortable or at the worst, they think of it as dirty word! As a person who thrives on marketing, I have given this a lot of thought and have spoken with several colleagues for their thoughts and opinions on this topic. Below are some of the common themes that I uncovered along with strategies to reevaluate the role that marketing plays in your work. I believe that marketing is the best life skill to embrace, and I hope that these strategies will help you to move beyond these barriers and perhaps even turn marketing into one of your favorite activities!
Theme 1: “I don’t know how to network effectively.”
This is the most common theme I hear from women. This baffles me because by nature, women are relationship builders and at its very core, marketing is about building relationships. To build relationships, you need to build a strong network of trusted business professionals from a variety of industries so that you can make and receive quality referrals. Women sometimes have a negative connotation about the word “networking” or simply don’t understand how to network while maintaining their integrity. This is a much broader topic than will fit into this article, but the gist of networking it this: Networking will not likely bring you immediate gains. You will, however, start to build a list of respected colleagues and business professionals with whom to form strategic alliances or partnerships, conduct business, share clients, and build a list of prospects who may eventually hire you or send quality referrals to you. By networking with others in this way, you are building your credibility, which may happen slowly, but is a key part of marketing effectively. Equally as important, you must become a resource for others in your network. Try approaching your next networking event with the intention of helping at least three people with their business needs instead of collecting twenty cards that you’ll probably never do anything with anyway.
Theme #2: “Marketing makes me feel phony and dirty.”
As women, we tend to share a need to be authentic. Relationships based on false information are not worthy of us. Take a moment and consider the people with whom you do business – your hairdresser, your favorite clothing boutique, your accountant. I am willing to bet that these people have sharp skills and have been able to provide you with a quality service; otherwise you would not be going back to them. Now, if they can provide you with a valuable service, charge you for it and even ask for referrals, why is it that you have a hard time doing the same? When you find yourself in a rut, ask yourself, “How can I talk honestly about this situation and bring my values into play in my business?” Once you answer this question, you can start to implement these ideas into your personal marketing plan.
Theme #3: “I don’t know how to get started.”
There is no one “right” way to market yourself. An easy way to start is to reach out to others and be genuinely interested in their businesses and their needs and make quality referrals when you can. This gets back to the idea of forming a relationship. Use your relationship building skills in the context of marketing because this is in fact what you are doing. Your goal is to build trust and respect of others so they will add you to their mental Rolodex of high-integrity service providers to refer business. Part of personal marketing is simply “showing up,” meaning that you attend events or meet someone for lunch or coffee. As an employee, this is also a valuable strategy because your lunch hour is one of the best times for form relationships with people in other departments that you normally don’t work with. The point is, you must get out of your office and talk with people. If you haven’t tried this approach yet, try it for a few months and you’ll be ama zed at your long-term results.
Theme #4: “I don’t want to exclude anyone from my market by developing a niche.”
This one strikes a chord with me because it is such a common character flaw that many woman share: We try to be all things to all people. To be effective in business, it is important to know and enforce your boundaries by focusing on that which you excel, which ultimately will allow you to serve your clients to the best of your abilities. This may sound complicated, but it’s not. This is what I call “Developing Your Story.” Start by deciding who you are, what you offer and what you don’t offer, and whom you will serve. Second, answer this question: What is unique about you, your product, service and knowledge? Once you commit to these basic tenets, only then should you start developing and implementing your marketing program. You will find it infinitesimally easier to decide where to locate your target market and you’ll be able to spend your marketing budget with much greater results.