Q: Steve, I know you used to practice law, and that is what I do too. I love the law but I hate having to do the business side. I wish there was a way that allowed me to just do what I love to do. – Kenneth
A: With apologies to The Graduate, I have one word for you:
Let me explain: Like you I am sure, I get a lot of e-newsletters (some of which I actually signed up for!) And, also like you I bet, I mostly don’t read them.
That said, one newsletter that I always look forward to receiving and reading is from an attorney named David Ward. But Ward doesn’t write about law, rather he shared really great marketing tips and strategies that any professional (not just lawyers) can use to grow their business.
In fact, though I don’t know David Ward, I have been so impressed by his output that I thought I should contact him and see if he could help me answer this question, which is, essentially, ‘Help! I’m a professional. I don’t know a lot about business, and I really don’t want to, so what do I do?’
Ward says that the answer to this common dilemma is essentially paradoxical: The way to get more free time to spend on your profession is to spend more time mastering marketing.
He himself is a good example of this. When he first started out in his own law practice, he was “broke as a joke.” But, “when I learned how to bring in more clients, and better clients, everything changed.”
So, how can a professional bring in more business through marketing? There are three steps to the process he says.
The first is learning to specialize. Ward says that one of the main goals of your marketing must be getting more referrals, and that is most likely to happen if you specialize. Not only will other professionals be more likely to refer business to a specialist, but you can also charge higher fees.
Moreover, you will get more referrals from clients, he says, if you “develop the habit of giving clients more value than they expect or have paid for. Smother them with attention. When you do, you invoke the law of reciprocity. Your clients will feel psychologically compelled to reciprocate.”
The second way to grow your business as a professional is to learn how to create a great opt-in marketing list. Ward says that his absolute favorite trick for getting more business is by creating an opt-in email list.
“There is nothing better,” he states matter-of-factly.
You create a list by having a great website where people agree to give you their email address and permission to hear from you in exchange for getting some desired content. It could be an e-newsletter, or an e-book, or a video, or a white paper, whatever. “By getting people to opt-in to your list, and offering them real value by what you send them, you will begin to create a tribe of people who love what you do, and recommend you to others.”
Let’s say for instance that you are an acupuncturist. The idea is to create a website and e-newsletter that offers real value to patients and visitors – not just information about you and your practice, but information that acupuncture customers would likely find valuable – holistic health advice, natural products, links to interesting articles, homeopathic remedies, daily meditations, etc.
Once people see that you do offer a lot of value, then they will remember you when they need what you sell and use you themselves and /or refer people to you.
The third way to grow your business is to learn how to delegate. “When I was making lots of money but had no time for anything but work, the key to my success as a sole practitioner was getting comfortable with delegating. This is difficult for many [professionals] because we are very uncomfortable relinquishing control. But I did it and it allowed me to work only 3 days a week.”
Ward says that all of this combined will get you more business and will create that most beautiful of all things in small business:
Money while you sleep.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible.