If you’re a consultant or programmer for hire, guess what? Most people don’t know who you are or what you can do. You can try the scattershot approach and advertise yourself blindly. This usually involves printing up a bunch of business cards, brochures, and designing a web site. The problem with this tactic is that it’s exactly the same method everyone else is using too. How do you stand out in a crowd where everyone looks alike? You don’t.
To advertise yourself, the simplest and most cost effective way is through a web site. However, most people create a web site that brags and boasts about who they are and how wonderful they are. Nobody cares.
What potential customers really care is what can you do for them? if your answer is “Whatever you want,” you don’t know your business yet.
To successfully advertise, you need to concentrate and focus. In my neighborhood there are plenty of photographers but only one who specializes in photographing dogs, cats, and other pets. If you want a portrait of your dog, guess which photographer you’ll try first?
That’s what a speciality can do for you. You don’t want to attract any customer. You want to attract a specific type of customer. This may seem counter-intuitive since this means limiting your potential market, but it also means you’ll get a larger share of a smaller market. The other option is to get a tiny share of a much larger market and compete against everyone else fighting for those same customers.
If you focus on a niche market, you’ll have that market pretty much all to yourself. So the first step to promoting yourself on your web site is to decide what type of customers you want? Ideally, pick the most lucrative ones. That way you’ll get paid more while dealing with fewer customers.
Given a choice between opening a 99 cent store or a luxury store, guess which one makes more profit? Now guess which one has to work harder to make its money? The 99 cent store has to deal with shoplifters, robbers, and obnoxious people. The luxury store has to deal with that problem too, but on a far smaller basis.
The 99 cent store has to sell 100 items to make $100. The luxury store has to sell one item to make $100. It may be easier to sell a 99 cent item, but if you need to sell so many of them, it’s suddenly not so easy any more.
So to advertise yourself on your web site, first focus on a target market much like a photographer specializing in pet portraits. Next, give away a free sample.
In the restaurant business, you can give away free food samples in a shopping mall to passing shoppers. On a web site, you can give away a free sample by simply providing useful information.
For example, if you’re a programmer specializing in databases, turn your web site into a forum where people go to ask questions about databases. Once you start answering these questions, you’ll establish yourself as an authority on that subject.
In the beginning, simply create a FAQ list of common database problems and answer them. Now anyone can read your answers and determine for themselves the value of your knowledge. By providing free information on your web site, you advertise your competence and establish your credibility at the same time. This is far better than parading a list of schools and degrees you earned as a way to promote yourself.
When you help others with their problems, they’ll likely turn around and help you with your problem, which is to get customers.
The structure of your web site should be geared towards what Seth Godin calls “Permission Marketing.” The idea is that you present an offer and wait for people to step out from the crowd and accept your offer. Now those people are the ones most likely to purchase your product or services.
So your web site needs to appeal to a niche market and then present an offer to get potential customers to contact you by giving you their contact information. This basically gets people to pre-qualify themselves as likely customers for you. That’s a whole lot better than promoting your college degrees and hoping someone will call you.
Whatever your speciality, you can find a niche market to target and present a free sample. Find what you’re most interested in and that’s a niche to focus on. A web site isn’t a billboard for everyone to see. A web site is really a focused message towards the people most likely to give you money. When you look at a web site from that perspective, you can see what you need to do to make your web site as effective as possible for your business, whatever that may be.