Most of us don’t give much thought to marketing unless we are up to our eyeballs in a business and really challenged by having to figure out how to sell what it is we have to offer.
However, did it occur to you that when you are applying for a new position, lobbying for your brilliantly innovative program at work, or simply persuading a patient to follow through with your wise treatment and advice, that you are “in marketing mode”?
Having just completed a 3-month advanced marketing group coaching program with Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing, I thought it might be useful to share some of the pearls I harvested from the experience.
Just what marketing really means is a mystery to most doctors. It certainly was to me in the beginning of my business. And the concept did not exist for me when I was in private practice!
Earlier, I wrote a blog post on this subject in response to a conversation I’d had with a physician client. In short, the word “marketing” evoked a visceral discomfort, of an intensity aligned closely with gallstone colic or severe dyspepsia!
I’m happy to report at the end of the three months program that, not only am I symptom-free, but I am delighting in the experience of marketing, as much as if I were having a gourmet dining event. Okay – that’s a bit exaggerated. But it feels pretty good!
In a nutshell, marketing describes the mindset and the accompanying activities that create an awareness of your ideas, person, products or services – it’s everything you have to believe and then do, to get people to invest their hard-earned resources (money, time and energy) in your “stuff”.
And your “stuff” could be anything you want to persuade people to invest in – your book, your qualities as the ideal candidate for a position, your political stand, your gizmo, your medical advice, or your consulting services.
It is a relief to realize that a significant part of marketing lends itself to a process – I call this process “building a relationship”.
The marketing process involves five basic steps (this is adapted from Robert Middleton’s wonderful InfoGuru Manual for marketing):
1. Move someone from Stranger to Connection.
Most people’s worst nightmare (second only to public speaking) is cold-calling. Why? Because we are trying to get total strangers to trust us with their resources in exchange for whatever it is we are selling. A pretty tough call, hey?
But what if we put our efforts with strangers into simply connecting with them? No hard sell – just a warm friendly smile, a willingness to have a conversation, and an eagerness to know more about the interests, concerns and hopes of the other person. Or just asking a friend to make an introduction, so that when you call that person, you can use the friend’s name. Or contacting people in all those organizations you belong to – alumni associations, county medical associations, church, synagogue or mosque. Your shared membership is often good enough to raise the trust level a notch. Even just having your photograph on your practice website or billboard can create a sense of familiarity.
How difficult can that be?
2. Move them from Connection to becoming Acquainted.
Once people feel a slight connection to you, their interest is at least mildly aroused. At this point, they are more likely to be willing to listen to your “marketing message”. This latter might be your “elevator speech” (your brief description of how you or your business serve others), an introductory letter that opens with “I enjoyed speaking on the phone/meeting you/being introduced at the function”, or your cover letter and resume. People are at least likely to be open to knowing more about you and your offering. And you are still not in “selling mode”, where you are asking them to cough up their resources.
3. Move them from becoming Acquainted to Getting Information from you.
Once people know you by name, they have been introduced to you, and you have their attention, they are more receptive to your “offers”.
To further the marketing relationship, how much more comfortable might others be hearing from you if you presented them with some useful information?
Imagine if they could pick up a copy of your complimentary “tips” booklet or report, receive a well-crafted resume and three great references, or sample your wares in some way that demands little investment from them. Now they are starting to sense ways in which they might relate to you, trust you, and need you, especially if what you are offering matches their desires.
Still not too much of a stretch….correct?
4. Next, move them from Getting Information to having an Experience of you.
Your potential clients or patients need to have a , because they want to feel confident in your ability to satisfy their needs before spending time or money on you. Perhaps they need to hear you present at a meeting, or participate in your teleclass or brown bag lunch discussion, or interview you in person. Other ways for them to interact directly with you or your business include coming for a complimentary screening test, attending your educational lecture, taking part in a workshop, or offering a complimentary consultation. And provided you have taken the time to understand your ideal potential clients, or hiring boss, or patients, and given them a hearty taste – to their liking – of what the full offering might be, you are very close to a deal. If at this stage, you discover you are not well-matched, you’d do well to step away. Wouldn’t you prefer to know that now, and spare yourself your own frustration and the pain of a disappointed customer or new employer?
5. Finally, move them from Experiencing you to Calling them to Action.
Believe it or not, this is one of the most overlooked steps – actually letting your prospects know what the next step is, and guiding them to take that step!
How often do you get all wishy-washy when you’ve told someone all about the wonders of your practice or business or professional job skills, and they say, or imply, “So what’s the next step?”
Do you say “Let me pull out my calendar and we can schedule our follow up meeting right away”? Or “Call xxxx phone number within the next seven days for your complimentary screening test” Or “Sign up for the class by clicking here or calling this number”? Or “I’d like to call you next week to follow up on the interview today and find out what my next step is. Will that be okay?”?
Or do you mumble something about looking forward to talking in the future, and then walk away or put the phone down, kicking yourself for feeling like a fool?
A good marketer will create a plan, replete with details for each stage, as to how to advance their relationships with their prospective customers through the five stages.
And an even better marketer will thrive on the creativity and fun that this process encourages!