A few years back, I had a brief stint as an independent consultant selling beauty products. It was a brief stint because despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get super excited about beauty products and, therefore, wasn’t very good at selling them. However, my time as a consultant taught me a thing or two about marketing a consultant or contractor business.
Anyone who has worked as an independent contractor or consultant; ie real estate agents, tutors, personal trainers; knows that while you are marketing products and services, what you’re really marketing is yourself. If you’re running a one man show, customers that don’t like you will go somewhere else and you loose that business. Consequently, the most effective form of marketing for an independent contractor business is marketing that allows people to meet and interact with you, the contractor.
Community events are a great way to meet new people and make connections within your community. You never know when you’ll meet someone who needs your services, can recommend you to someone else who needs your services, or can partner with you to make your services better. When I was a beauty products consultant, I rented a booth at an arts and craft fair at a local school. One real estate agent I know sets up a booth at the town’s annual 4th of July parade and hands out free waters. A friend of mine who owns his own website building company joined a local networking group that meets weekly and has been a great source for referrals. If you need more ideas for community events, check your city website or contact your local Chamber of Commerce.
Host An Event
In addition to seeking out sell established community events, don’t be afraid to host your own. I’ve heard of agents hosting annual Easter egg hunts and Christmas cookie parties. Many people who sell boutique items host parties at friends houses to connect with new people and demonstrate their products. You could also host a client appreciation event where you provide food and door prizes as a thank you to those clients who have provided you with business and referrals over the years.
To be honest, I used to think car magnets were an ineffective form of advertising. Who is going to pay attention to your magnet as they’re speeding down the freeway? But then I found myself in this scenario. Almost every day I go to school to pick up the kiddos. And nearly every day I see the same mom driving a big black suburban with a magnet advertising her Stroller Strides business. I didn’t pay attention to it the first few times I saw it, but now that I’ve been seeing it for six months I practically have the phone number memorized. Your car magnet won’t attract the attention of people on the freeway, but it will attract the attention of people who frequent the same spots you do.
You didn’t think I’d go through a whole blog article without plugging my favorite type of marketing, did you? Direct mail is an effective tool because it allows you to consistently target a specific audience who is likely to do business with you. You are advertising yourself, so make sure every piece has your brand, your name and in some cases your face. I recommend mixing things up and dropping pieces on doorsteps as well as mailing. Drop and walk allows you to meet face to face with potential customers and make a personal connection that is most likely to persuade them to do business with you. Plus it saves money on postage!
In addition to branded mass mailings, it’s also a good idea to send personal mail, especially to those who are already your clients. A couple months ago I went to a small boutique in Palm Springs and purchased a gift for my sister. A few weeks later, I received a handwritten note thanking me for my business and offering me 15% off my next purchase. I had had a great experience while in the boutique and the card was icing on the cake and a great way to motivate me to come back.
As an independent contractor or consultant, you’re not just marketing a service or product, you’re marketing yourself. It’s important to find creative ways to reach out and make a personal impact on clients, potential clients and business partners. People do business with people they like and trust.