I literally am starting my business. No customers yet. My question is this: I am COMPLETELY lost when it comes to marketing. I have had some suggestions on advertising on Craigslist. I am not comfortable doing so due to the negative reports I’m hearing about scammers and crime. What are your thoughts on this? —Ramona Hartley, Hartley’s Clerical Service
Hi Ramona 🙂
Thanks for the great question!
The first thing that jumped out at me was your use of the word “customers,” which might be telling about how much thought and planning you’ve done so far for your business.
Now, I’m not assuming anything, and your use of that word could be innocuous. Still, it’s important to make this clarification in case anyone else is unclear: When you are providing a professional service where the intention is to create a business relationship (which is what we have as Administrative Consultants) you have clients, not customers. A customer is someone who buys something on a one-time or sporadic basis. There is no relationship beyond that.
This may seem pedantic, but it’s really not because how you understand and decide specifically what you intend to be in business to do (as well as how you do it and who you do it for) informs how you go about everything else moving forward, including marketing. And with marketing (which is also about educating, aligning understandings and setting proper expectations), the words you use are always, always important.
Getting back to your original question, what’s happening here is what I call haphazard marketing because there is no rhyme or reason for your efforts. You don’t really know where to market so you’re just trying to think of anything and everything that might work. In a sense, where there is no intentional basis, it can be said that that is not really marketing at all.
What you need is to come up with some direction for your efforts. To do that, you must first engage in some business planning.
This is an important step because the exercise of planning your business forces you to get clarity around things such as what business you really intend to be in, the kind of money you need to make, who would make the best (most needful and profitable) clients for that service and, given that information, where to best find them.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do this from scratch. The ACA Administrative Consultant Business Plan Template gives you a template already laid out in professional format that gives you a map to follow for the entire process.
Part of business planning is determining who your target market is going to be. This is a frequent topic of business so rather than reposting everything, I want to direct you to the Target Market category of my blog. Here you will always find any and all posts I’ve written on the topic of target marketing so you can begin learning about what that is and how to go about it.
As far as Craigslist (or any of those bargain basement kinds of places such as elance, odesk, etc.) I would tell you to steer clear and not waste your time. It’s really the wrong platform for professional services such as ours. There are many reasons, but probably the most important is that it cultivates and caters to the wrong mindset.
Craigslist (and the like) overarchingly is where penny pinchers go to find bargains. So trying to offer a professional service on that platform is like trying to sell a Mercedes at a yard sale. The people going there are looking to spend pennies and get something for practically nothing. They’re not in the right mindset for that kind of purchase because it’s the wrong environment. You see? And you can’t be in business to cater to penny pinchers if you expect to make a living at this.
Marketing itself is going to be a field of ongoing learning throughout the life of your business. Meaning, you’ll never know all there is to know, but the more you study and read up on this topic, the smarter and savvier you will become. In fact, many will say when you are business, marketing IS your primary job. And this all starts with the business planning process.