You know there is a market for what you offer. One of your primary challenges is to increase the number of qualified prospects to whom your product or service is visible.
There have always been ways to get visibility and credibility. When the circus came to town at the beginning of the last century it paraded down Main Street to gain visibility. It worked. Today there are a lot more sophisticated ways to gain visibility. And they are evolving at a fairly rapid pace. Blogs have come on the scene and are growing in popularity for visibility and credibility. I haven’t actually used one yet myself, but am seriously considering it.
If increasing visibility and credibility is part of your overall strategy, let’s take a systematic look at how we might approach planning for it. Determining who you are trying to reach and where you will reach them is a good place to start.
Who are you trying to reach?
To help you be selective in how you will get in front of new prospects it might help to use a clearly defined description of your ideal client or customer. Consider age, education, gender, income and other factors that might make your target unique. Then ask the question: what kind of visibility will be most effective? In-person, telephone, web, email? And in what proportion should I try to divide my efforts? Of course, cost will always be a consideration.
Where will you reach them?
Because technology allows us to communicate and interact without personal presence, more and more communications are of a virtual nature. Here are a few of the ways people are connecting with potential clients and referral sources today.
– Newsletter – The e-mail newsletter is a well established way to continue to have visibility and build credibility. Small Business Leader has helped me to build my credibility. Frequency of publication is a matter of choice and finding what works for your market. A hard copy newsletter still works best in some industries. It’s just more expensive.
– Articles/Book – If you’re a writer, or are willing to develop your writing skills, articles and books of all types will always be in demand. That’s where you can really share your expertise. Archive your articles on your site and use search engine optimization to bring the robots to your site. Do a publicity campaign for your book.
– Speaking (guest expert) – In-person or virtual, being able to speak to groups is helpful. Whether you are the only speaker, part of a series, a member of a panel, or a guest expert interacting with a group, you will have visibility and the format to gain credibility.
– Web Site – For many who use the web as a primary source of research, your web site is a keystone in your foundation of credibility. It may also be a place to sell directly from the site, to fill the pipeline or increase your market size and range by capturing contact information.
– E-mail – Still a powerful way to get and stay visible. Online or e-mail chats, strategically placed classified type ads (see the Marketplace in this issue), and link exchanges can be very effective also, if selectively made.
– Blogs/SEOs – This is the newest and fastest growing way to increase visibility as the size of the internet continues to grow exponentially. Doing either of these will force you to concentrate on keywords and will keep bringing your information to the virtual masses.
– Publicity – This is a huge topic and one we can’t dig into here, but part of your strategy will probably include communication to the media in an organized campaign when you have news to report. Knowing the media your target market uses, is the first step.
– Products – Many service providers have products to sell. They may be information products, support materials, training or accessories around a larger body of knowledge. The concept of tangibility and finite quality can go a long way to increasing credibility. My Save-Your-Business Tele-Boot Camp is a product I have created with a clearly defined syllabus and a specified time frame. Even if people do not choose to participate, I have gained visibility and credibility.
– Networking (formal & informal) – There are trade and professional organizations and other formal networking organizations such as BNI, LeTip and the many chambers of commerce in communities around the world. Becoming active in these will up your visibility and credibility within that community. Lots of people have gained recognition for their service and made valuable business connections at the same time. Informal networking happens anytime people get together around business. It has become a way of life for almost all small business owners. I just met a woman at a seminar who said she had seen me speak on a recent panel. She receives my material and considers herself part of my network. I had not met the woman up to that point, but she knew me. That’s what you’re looking to accomplish.
– Strategic Alliances – Finally, I have found that other small business owners who market to the same population are eager to enter into strategic alliances that offer cross- promotion opportunities. They agree to introduce you through their communications and you do the same for them. This, of course, would include affiliations, and is another area that is growing.
Remember, consistency reinforces credibility. It’s helpful to select “keywords” that you will use again and again in your web content, in your communications and your conversations. I continue to introduce myself as Coach for Business Leadership, with the emphasis on the leadership because that’s my focus with clients and makes me different from other business coaches.
Consider which of these options work for you and give them a try. It still boils down to eventually opening a dialogue and building a relationship, but you need to gain visibility within your target market in order to start the process. Be proactive in getting good visibility so you can continue to build your credibility.