I couldn’t have been on the street for more than 10 seconds.
That’s how long it takes to walk from the parking lot to the front door of the Sheraton Commander hotel in Harvard Square.
But as I did, I heard a car horn; it was my friend Ed, who just happened to be driving by at the exact same moment.
I gave him the finger – I’m kidding, I waved – and walked into the hotel lobby, still amazed at the coincidence:
- I hadn’t been in Harvard Square in at least a year. I hadn’t been on that stretch of sidewalk for at least five.
- I checked with Ed later. He drives by that hotel just once each week on the way to a client.
Ten seconds’ difference for either one of us and we would have missed each other. The odds of Ed and me being at that exact same spot at the exact same time were exceedingly small.
And as much fun as it was to cross paths that way, if I told you this was my preferred method for keeping in touch with friends, you’d rightfully respond with some version of, “Come again?”
That kind of totally random, once in a blue moon event is not a reliable way to accomplish anything.
And yet, for many small professional service firms and solos, that’s more or less how your marketing works.
Every time you go to a business event; every time you meet a stranger; every time you write an article, post on social media, give a presentation or talk about your work, you’ve got one thought:
“How do I turn the other person into a client?”
That would be nice if it worked, of course, but it comes with two big hurdles. Not only does the other person have to need/want what you’re selling, they have to need/want it right now.
If they needed it last month and already hired someone, you’re too late. If they won’t need it for another month – or year, or five years – you’re too early.
Timing – a variable that has nothing to do with your skills or the quality of what you’re offering – is a critical factor in selling anything.
But what if you could remove timing from the equation?
What if, to use my Harvard Square example, I were permanently visible there on that sidewalk? Now, it wouldn’t matter when Ed drove by – the odds of us intersecting would rise considerably.
Your marketing needs to repeat
I’ve been publishing this newsletter for 19 years. I didn’t begin with the intention of finding clients; I just like writing and in 1999 email was cool and cutting edge, so I gave it a try.
What I discovered, though, and what I’ve benefited from ever since, is that if you can find a way to stay in front of people, over and over again, some of those people are going to hire you.
When? It varies. Five minutes for some people, five years for others.
But it doesn’t matter. As long as I keep publishing, I’ve removed timing from the equation.
I don’t need you to be ready to buy the day we meet. I just need you to let me keep showing up in your inbox, month after month. Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready.
Note, by the way, that it doesn’t need to be a newsletter. A networking group where you see the same people regularly satisfies the repeat element as well.
As does a podcast, regular videos, even a social media presence if you’ve got an audience who truly is paying attention.
As long as you can find a way to stay in front of a (relatively) consistent group of people over time, some of them are going to come to you or refer you when a need arises that you can satisfy.
Here’s the bottom line.
When it comes to marketing, I’m not that interested in things that only happen once, no matter how big. The newspaper profile story, the keynote speech, the guest blog post, even publishing a book.
Those may be fun, but in my experience, in terms of generating business, they don’t lead to much.
Instead, I just keep showing up, over and over and over again, in front of the same group of people, confident in the knowledge that sooner or later, you’re going to drive through Harvard Square.
- Have you ever given anybody the finger in Harvard Square? Explain.
- Was it Ed?
- What’s your go to tactic for removing timing from the selling equation?
Share your comments below!
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Good morning, Michael! I do have a thought about this post. I have thoughts about other things too, but I doubt you have time for that. As well as putting something in front of people regularly, you are very good at keeping it interesting and/or providing value EVERY TIME. Your posts either educate me or amuse me and, most often, they do both. If you just sent email after email, I would either send it to junk or unsubscribe. So it’s that fine balance of quantity AND quality. You have both down to a fine art. Hit-and-miss doesn’t work, but neither does over-communicating – that just becomes background noise. Have a wonderful weekend giving people the finger (I mean waving).
I agree it has to be information that people value, or the entire formula falls apart. I’m glad you enjoy the newsletter (and I appreciate your commenting here regularly!).
1. No. But one time I was at Harvard Square and there was an elderly Asian man playing an (I assume) Asian stringed instrument that I am not familiar with. A woman marched up to him and started screaming at him that his music was REALLY TERRIBLE and he should stop playing. I’m not sure the man even understood English. It was quite a spectacle. I wanted to tell the woman to just move along if she didn’t like the music.
2. I don’t think so unless Ed is an elderly Asian man who is a street musician.
3. I publish what I believe is an interesting and informative newsletter on the 2nd Friday of every month. But the thing that people seem to love about it is my free book giveaway at the bottom. A lot of readers skip over everything and just look at the book giveaway!
I love your book idea, Michelle. It’s so funny how compelling “free” is to people. A good marketing reminder to all of us!
I agree with Laura that what makes your newsletter so good is the blend of information and entertainment — it’s stellar!
And that makes me realize I need to pay more attention to the intro & closing of my EOM newsletter to people who’ve requested a list of my upcoming classes…I usually dash those off at the last minute, when in fact I should be working on them all month long.
Michelle’s idea of a giveaway is good, too — while I can’t give away a free class every month, I could say “let me know if you’d like to be in the quarterly drawing.” Great stuff from all three of you — thanks!
I agree that the intro and closing matter a lot. On the giveaway side, it need not be something of your own. Michelle doesn’t write the books, she just highlights one she likes each time and makes that the prize.
Thanks as always for writing (let us know what you decide to give away!).
Did my MBA at Harvard and yes, have had the pleasure of giving the finger there….quite intentionally!
You must know Ed, then?
Kind of like building an ice rink in your backyard, filling it with water, and waiting for it to freeze. Hmmmmmmmmmm….an oldie but a goodie!
Skate on by any time, Cliff!!