Let me ask you a question. Are you planning on buying a refrigerator today?
How about a phone … or a root canal … or a new pair of underwear?
I may not know you, and yet I’m confident that the answer to these questions is No, No, No and Watch it, mister.
Interestingly, I’m also quite confident that sooner or later, you will purchase all four.
The difference, of course, is timing – we all need to buy or replace these things eventually, just probably not right now.
Listen To This Post
When it comes to sales, timing plays a huge (some might say, refrigerator-sized) role in your success. It’s way easier to sell something to someone if they are already in need of it.
Consider the example of my local Toyota dealer.
Our three-year lease on a Highlander runs out next month and these guys have been calling weekly, pursuing us like a peckish terrier who’s finally figured out that the treats are in your pocket (or whatever).
They’re doing whatever they can to convince us to walk away from the car and give it back to them.
I’ve found their eagerness puzzling and so I called my friend Steve Roe of Roe Motors in Grants Pass, Oregon and asked him for some perspective. He sized it all up immediately:
“It’s partly because they believe the car is worth more than what the buyout price is. But it’s also because they know that if you turn that car in, you are in the market for a new vehicle right now.”
Nearly everybody buys a car; most people don’t buy one today. Toyota knows that comes January 18th, I’m not most people. If I turn that car in, I need a replacement right away.
For solo professionals, unfortunately, this degree of prospect timing insight is rare.
Because while plenty of people and companies switch financial planners, hire new HR consultants, outsource training, and find themselves in need of any number of other services every day, it’s pretty tough to determine who needs what and when before the fact.
But what if we could remove timing from the equation?
What if, instead of hoping that our sales pitch falls on the right ears on the right day, we took a different approach, one that keeps us in front of everyone we know, on a regular basis, forever?
If that happened, and because we’d always be there – friendly, helpful and clear about whom we work with and the kind of work we do – the people we know would naturally seek us out when they had a need that we could fill.
I hope you’ve guessed by now that I’m suggesting you publish an email newsletter.
Not a blog that you post on your web site in the hope that some Googling stranger stumbles across it. Not a networking meeting that you attend, trolling for prospects. Not an email blast that you only spit up whenever you’ve got something to sell.
I’m talking about a consistently published piece of useful, original content that positions you as a likeable expert and, that is sent to a list of people who have given you permission to talk to them.
Do that, and the need for prospect timing goes away.
Here’s the bottom line. As a solo professional, the two most valuable assets you have are your knowledge and your existing relationships.
You can run around hoping to find people who are ready to buy today, or you can publish a newsletter and let them find you.
What’s your biggest e-newsletter question? Take the one question survey here.
Great advice once again Michael.
I thought this article was heading toward search marketing or retargeting, but email works too.
One additional thought: why not have a newsletter AND a blog.
I use the same content in my newsletter and my blog – and then I use social media to invite new people back to my website to read a particular blog post. A percentage of those new visitors will become email subscribers.
Email only goes to your list, but your blog is open to the world. You may find that some of your blog posts can generate more than a few “Googling strangers.”
Thanks for writing and I totally agree – I have both newsletter and blog and I use all the social media too. But for me, step one is the newsletter, primarily because it goes to a list as opposed to just out in the ether. As a man who met his future wife in his own apartment through friends, I’m all about staying close to home!
Hi Michael, Sure, I’d love to write/publish an e-newsletter. I’m a non-fiction print writer(newspapers, magazines, 5 different print newsletters, one soft-cover book) a fast typist and a pretty good photographer, but I’m overwhelmed about how to set up an e-newsletter. WordPress looks interesting, if I just understood all the lingo. I have writing skills to market but I’m also an essayist. I don’t have a background in business and industry, so B2B isn’t for me. I’m in Mexico for the winter and am working on some travel pieces. Looking for that
damned right niche! I’m a stranger in a strange land and trying to find my place.
Thanks for writing. And I know, there are a lot of moving parts with a newsletter and it can feel complicated. At a high level though, it’s really just like publishing a magazine: content, design and a delivery system.
You’ve got the content skills. In terms of design and delivery, you need an “email marketing vendor.” Check out Constant Contact (my favorite), MailChimp and Aweber. All of these offer both templates (design) and the delivery system. There’s a learning curve, but they are all intended for nontechnical people. Of course, you could also hire someone to take care of these other pieces and then there’s less for you to learn.
It’s all very doable.
P.S. Heading to Mexico with my family Christmas week so I’ll keep an eye out for you!
I not only publish my own newsletter, for example; https://t.e2ma.net/message/xrz6h/lqmab.
I also create video newsletters for busy professionals (mostly CPA’s) to send to their clients so they can stand out in a crowd, for example; http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=651093a135ffcb33e139dddb4&id=e535646bd5&e=.
We will post the content to their blog and send out the newsletter and link back to their site.
Come to think of it, why don’t you do that anymore Michael?
Kind of a long explanation on why I switched back to including the entire newsletter in the email, rather than requiring a click through.
In short, and while the click requirement results in more social sharing, more subscribers and way more reader comments (note how few comments we have here compared to in recent months), I realized that the experience with the click required is worse for current readers. They don’t like it and they are (way) less likely to read the newsletter. Given the choice between pleasing the people I already know and expanding my list, I’d rather accomplish the former!
Thanks for commenting,
Yes! I have written an e-newsletter for many years. It is always so gratifying when someone contacts me and says, “I have been reading your newsletter for years and now is the time for me to talk with you about coaching. Yes!
Hi Sue! To me, that is the perfect prospect. They already feel like they know you and, having read your stuff for a while, you’ve filtered out those who would not be a good match. Excellent!
I am glad I was able to help answer your question. Buying and leasing a car can bring about many great questions. Your questions are an excellent newsletter topic because I am sure many other people have the same question. Often times, too many times we think about the questions at the time of purchase. The ownership questions that come later are just as, or more, important.
Thanks again for your insights the other day Steve. If I lived within even 500 miles of you I’d be showing up at your doorstep for my next vehicle (maybe you could open a Boston branch office?)!
Great timing, Michael…
I was just thinking of starting a new newsletter when you posted this. I’ve had a newsletter in the past, and I’ve written them for others, but I got stuck picking my own niche before, so I stopped writing my newsletter.
My challenge is I get stuck “picking the right sub-niche.” I’m most passionate about helping coaches (I’ve been one myself and had some big breakthroughs working with them) but I worry that it’s not niche enough.
So then I think “Well, business coaches” since I’ve been one of those too and enjoyed working with some. Plus, they’re more marketing minded. But reaching them specifically is much more of a challenge.
Many of the coaches I know well aren’t business coaches either. And I’d enjoy helping them, though most of them couldn’t afford paying me to write their newsletters (which is a core service I’d offer).
It’s easy to get stuck spinning on this stuff. The last time around I decided to “just get started anyway” but never really found a targeted market along the way (though that newsletter was for “small businesses,” so “coaches” would be more targeted from the get-go.)
It’s not an easy question, I know. Perhaps because choosing a niche is THE essential question. Narrowing down to something that works for you is fantastically effective, but often, not quite so obvious before the fact.
In terms of the newsletter, I’d recommend that you just start writing. Maybe it’s a newsletter for coaches to start, and over time you narrow it. However it evolves, I wouldn’t let a lack of a sharp focus keep you from starting. In my experience, publishing nothing is much worse for your business than publishing something that still needs improvement.
Thanks for your encouragement, Michael. I needed to hear that.
So do you not tag anything you write with keywords for SEO purposes? (I get that you’re not writing to target certain keywords in the first place.)
And do you synch / syndicate your posts to LinkedIn or anywhere else for people in your network to see? I tested that with LinkedIn for my previous small biz newsletter and got almost no visitors at all. (Just curious on this, since you recommend getting in front of everyone you know, not just your target audience, right?)
I don’t do anything deliberate in terms of SEO. I’m much more focused on growing my network from within. I think for most of us solo professionals, we don’t need dozens and dozens of clients so it’s less a numbers game. A small group of loyal readers can bring you all the work you need. That said, from an SEO perspective, simply writing about a given topic over and over again (I rarely go more than about 15 minutes without uttering/writing the words solo professional) brings that to you anyway.
On the LInkedIn question, yes, one of the great things about publishing content is that you now have something to post, tweet about, contribute to other blogs, use as fodder for a book, etc. Once you write it you can share it many many ways.
Thanks for commenting, all the best in your work,
Thanks for your input, Michael.
That’s a great point about writing about the same topic over and over eventually bringing search traffic.
Not sure if I want everyone I’m connected with on LinkedIn to see what I’m doing, but yeah, there are definitely many options to share!
I’ve had a MailChimp monthly newsletter http://www.guidingpositivechange.com for a few years now. It took a little bit of practice to figure out how to do it and now it’s one of my primary ways of connecting with clients. I take the time to write it well with good free content and my open rate is generally about 50% which is good.
I use the main article as my blog post on my homepage, have a page with all the past articles and also have a newsletter page on my website to open the whole thing if one is so inclined.
It’s been a great way to continually hone my writing skills, offer great free content and keep in touch with people on my mailing list.
Writing the newsletter and getting more confidence about my writing and how useful it can be for others was part of what lead me to recently publish a book too (“It Ain’t Easy But It’s Worth It: Ten Keys to Positive Changes That Last” by Sohlea Rico) which is receiving great reviews and is opening all sorts of doors. So you never know where a newsletter will lead!
So, if you haven’t got a newsletter, I’d encourage you to do it and Michael will no doubt be a great guide to how to do it well and as easily as possible.
p.s. Interesting that you have gone back to having the whole article in the newsletter. I never did make the change to linking it but your idea lead me to change my homepage to be a blog. Thanks!
Sounds like you’ve got things well under control! That’s terrific; I love seeing people use their writing effectively in so many different ways. And congrats on the book, that’s a HUGE accomplishment.
When I started my enewsletter many years ago I sent it every other month, because I didn’t want to “bother” customers (although my readers really complimented me on it). Gradually, I increased it monthly. Now, at the urging of a business group I belong to, it is a weekly newsletter. When I went to weekly I reformatted and added a client showcase. It’s a real hit. Clients enjoy getting the kudos for building their brand and others enjoy hearing about the successes of other businesses.
I email to my list, but also post on my blog site (allebranding.com) and on my web site with an index page reference (e-alle.com/ALLEnews). It’s been working well for me.
I always enjoy reading your newsletters, Michael. Thank you for sharing great advice.
That’s great, Alexandre! Sounds like you’ve got it all working. One question: why is your blog site not part of your web site? Two different businesses?
Hey, Michael, good question. I have not been able to secure alle.com (a speculator is sitting on it) and unless you know my url (e-alle.com), it is not intuitive to find my site. I was able to secure ALLEbranding.com which is how a lot of people remember my company, so I use that domain to host a version of my blog and it provides another avenue to connect prospects to my site.