… Isn’t through osmosis!
Once again I’ve heard from a newly launched advocate asking me “why can’t I find any clients?” It’s not unlike others who have asked that same question, or similar, like “how can I market my business? or “how can I get my first client?” or “what am I doing wrong?”
I receive these frustration emails regularly. Frustrated not-quite-making-money-advocates who want to start and grow a health advocacy practice…
And so I reply by asking them, what have you done to market your practice and your expertise?
Their replies are often variations on the following:
- I joined APHA!
- I bought your books!
- I met with SCORE representatives!
- I talked to a friend of my nephew’s girlfriend’s brother who knows a guy who builds websites!
So I ask, “What did you learn? And then, “Have you done anything with that you learned? Have you read the books then taken action on what you read? Did you follow the advice the SCORE representative gave you? Did you list yourself in the AdvoConnection Directory? Have you branded yourself, or developed a website using best practices, or collected email addresses and issued newsletters, or done any public speaking?
IF I get a reply at all, it’s usually, “I really hate the idea of public speaking.”
And THAT proves to me that this person who has written to me expects to build a business by osmosis… as if they joined the Alliance, or bought a book, or met with a SCORE representative – that they somehow they expect the very activity of doing those things will make their phones ring.
It doesn’t work that way!!
Building a business isn’t about buying something or joining something, or even reading something… it’s about delving into the resources, embracing them, taking action as a result, correcting the things that go wrong, then finding more resources, delving into them again… etc., etc.
You can’t expect that just because you joined an organization, bought a book, or found a consultant, that the information you learned will osmose into your daily business habits. You must take action!
Let’s look at it another way.
How did you learn to drive? Did you pick up the freebie booklet at the DMV, then take your drivers test? Of course not. You read the rules, took a test, practiced behind the wheel and if you were good enough, you got your license.
How did you get your college degree? Did you just pay the tuition and buy the books? Or did you read them, listen to lectures, participate in labs, study for tests, and get good enough grades to get your degree?
How did you find a life partner? Did you read books? Join an organization, then wait for someone to show up at your door? Or did you put yourself out there in the mate-supply space, talk to lots of people, kiss a lot of frogs, then find Mr. or Ms. Right?
Anything worth having is worth working hard for – and there is no better satisfaction than working hard to build a strong business.
Taking Shortcuts Will Cause Your Practice to Fail
For the first 3 to 5 years of a practice, the HARD work will be the promotion of your practice – not the advocacy work itself. No matter how difficult the advocacy work, the marketing will require more effort. I often cite the 80/20 rule. In those first few years, 80% of your time will focus on business and marketing / 20% of your time will be client-facing, billable hours. In those few years, that will turn around to 20% of time spent on your business and marketing, and 80% will be billable work with your clients.
How do SUCCESSFUL advocates build their practices?
Successful advocates and practice owners will tell you that they are IMMERSED in private-practice marketing. They continually work on many pro-active (with the emphasis on ACTIVE) marketing activities. They speak, participate in social media, make phone calls, hang up flyers in the local supermarket and library, build email lists and issue regular email newsletters…. rarely does a day go by when they don’t do something to market their practices.
You’ll never hear from those successful advocates, “Well, I tried that once and it didn’t work” because they know that a potential client must be exposed to their brand 7 to 9 times before they will remember a new service and business exists. So they work hard to make those 7 to 9 times happen, over and over again for every new client… until…. soon their marketing is supplemented by word of mouth once some successes have come to pass.
So – forget osmosis. If you aren’t going to participate in networking activities, like those the Alliance offers, or if you aren’t going to embrace and execute the dozens of marketing ideas and activities that have been developed specifically for private advocates – then really – don’t bother joining or buying books, simply expecting osmosis to work.
If you do want to be successful, then commit yourself to what it’s going to take to get the marketing job done to make your phone ring and your email sing!
Then – do it.
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Photo Credit: Ali K. Williams / Flickr / with modifications made to the titles of the books