Latest News - Marketing Yourself - A Contractors / Interims Perspective
Wednesday Jul 4
Marketing yourself - A Contractors / Interims perspective
I am not an expert in marketing but I have picked up enough along the way to put the basics into practice. My view is that whether we are bum on seat contractors or not we still need to take marketing seriously for the reasons that will become apparent below. Marketing is not difficult to get to grips with, Just like selling or acquiring negotiating skills, it is something that can be learned with a little application of effort and some practice.
Whether we like it or not, we are in business to make money to help us achieve our goals, and to do that consistently and effectively it is important to learn about and to put into practice the basic principles of marketing.
Chris Bell, contract IT Project Manager and member of PCGs Board of Directors, provides guidance on the seven Ps of Marketing from his presentation at the Marketing Yourself event held in Manchester in May 2012.
The Seven Ps of Marketing
Product - What are you selling?
Is it a physical, tangible, item such as a report on your customers business performance? Is it a service such as IT software development? Is it a programme of business change designed to reorganise a company and make it fit for purpose? Are you selling several products and services at the same time?
Whatever you are selling, it is important to be very clear about what it is. For example, IT project managers are not just selling abilities to help the organisation to implement some software, they are also selling peace of mind, a safe pair of hands, the ability to get the job done without upsetting people and so on.
Exactly what business are you in? Can you easily articulate what you do in just a few words that engages potential clients quickly? Have you formulated a so-called elevator statement so that if you bumped into a potential client in a lift and only had a few seconds to grab their attention, you could do it successfully?
Lets take an example. A potential client asks What do you do?. A bad response would be Im an Information Architect working on corporate enterprise-wide taxonomies to integrate metadata with a SharePoint 2010 collaboration solution.... A much better response would be I save companies millions of pounds every year by helping their staff to find information more quickly.
Remember, always sell the benefits of what you do and not the features.
Price - How much will you charge for your products and/or services?
Be careful about the cost of your service versus the value of the services you provide and be sure to articulate the value of your services rather than how much they will cost.
How do you position yourself in the market? Are you at the low, medium or high end?
Also be aware that different sectors (public vs private) and industries have different norms so some research may be in order before you make your pitch. Trawl through the online job boards for your industry and sector to get a feel for this, or contact recruitment consultants and ask them.
Place- Where will you work?
Do you need to be based at home or are you willing to work at the clients site? Flexibility can lead to enhanced opportunities for work.
Again, this is worth settling in your mind in advance of any discussions with end clients or agencies so that you dont waffle at the critical moment of closing the deal.
Also, place is about where the client can find you. Making yourself visible is very important particularly with the huge amount of competition for work in these difficult times.
How will people know how and when to find you? How can you promote your business and what you do?
Here are some practical suggestions some of which will work better than others based on your circumstances:
Hand out business cards to friends, colleagues and potential clients
Post your CV on recruitment websites (e.g. www.interimmanagementjobs.net)
Create a website to promote your services (e.g. http://apt-response.co.uk/)
Join social media groups such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even consider using Twitter!
Join associations and groups to meet people and improve your network of contacts. Winning work through referrals is one of the most cost-effective method for almost any business.
Create a group of like-minded professionals and meet regularly (see the BCN as an example: http://www.bcn.org.uk/)
Post on the PCG Forums and advertise your services there. Fellow members are normally very good at extending a helping hand to colleagues.
Do some voluntary work and get your business promoted in the local press
Stay in touch with past colleagues/recruiters even in times when you are not looking for work.
People - This is you!
It is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can turn your weaknesses into strengths. A SWOT analysis for you as an individual or for your business can be useful for this (http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_05.htm)
If you deliver products and services you need to stay on top of your game. Keep your qualifications and skills up-to-date and be aware of emerging products, technologies, methods and so on for which you might need to acquire skills and above all be prepared to invest (time and money).
PCG has excellent resources from the leading business school Ashridge (available to PCG Plus members).
There are, of course, many other sources of training both online and at physical locations. Learning Tree, for example, http://www.learningtree.co.uk/
Process - How do your clients engage with you?
What process do they need to follow and do they know what it is? Is it direct or through a third party agent? Is there a contract or statement of work that needs to be agreed and signed by both parties? It is well worthwhile considering these processes and looking to keep them as simple and straight forward as possible.
Finally, what evidence is there to support your claims that you can deliver the products or services that you have advertised? Here are some suggestions:
Testimonials from past and existing clients (these are quite easily collected through LinkedIn for example).
Examples of work (anonymised if necessary) completed in the past or physical samples in the case of a product.
References - It is important to remember that although you know what you can do, in the eyes of a new client you are a potential risk until they can satisfy themselves that they are in a safe pair of hands and can trust you. Therefore, as many examples of what you do and how you do it as possible can only help to build this trust.
The Porter Five Force Model
Finally, it is worth considering the Porter Model that explains the relationships and tensions between suppliers and clients and people/businesses trying to move into your space so to speak. You might like to read this article and apply it to your own situation as you put your go to market plans together. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porter_five_forces_analysis
Source: www.pcg.org.uk June 2012
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