The average American is bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day. We see messages on billboards, in magazines, on tv and online. But when it comes to marketing in our freelance business, sometimes it can be difficult to develop an effective strategy, because while marketing is all around us, we don’t fully understand it.
Essentially, marketing is making a connection with an audience. The how and why of making that connection depends on where the customer falls in terms of the stages of marketing.
At the start of my career, this was kind of a mystery to me. I knew I needed to market myself, but it felt kind of salesy and disingenuous. On the other hand, it also seemed like this “magical” thing others used to bring people to their business.
But marketing isn’t hocus pocus; it’s a necessary step we need in order to make connections with our potential clients, allow them to get to know us, and ultimately cultivate a positive relationship with them.
Marketing can be broken down into 5 distinct stages, each equally important and deserving of their own strategy in your marketing plan.
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Stage 1 – Awareness
Understand that people are not going to become our customers until they trust us. People are not going to trust us until they learn about us. And they’re not going to learn about us until they first hear about us.
The awareness stage is when a potential client first hears about us and learns what we do. It’s the first opportunity you have to make a connection with a new potential customer.
Here we want to make sure that we have a strategy in place so we make a good first impression, allowing us to lead the customer into the following stages of marketing.
The awareness stage is about initial awareness, getting our name out there and, and creating a new exposure for us as business owners – vital to any marketing strategy.
Stage 2: Consideration
The initial introduction has been made and the client is now aware of who we are and what we do.
In the consideration stage, the customer is starting to do more investigation. They have a business and recognize that we may have a solution to a problem they have and now they’re going to check us out.
The consideration stage is when we need to provide additional information that shows how we operate and the processes that we use to solve our clients’ problems. Here is where we have a chance to prove our value to our potential customer.
At this stage, the customer is essentially shopping for a solution.
It’s really no different than shopping on Amazon, something I do all the time. Finding a new product I like is the awareness stage. Then I move directly to the consideration stage – I start perusing reviews to see what other customer’s experiences have been with the product to see if this product lives up to the claims the seller makes.
Stage 3: Conversion
Here’s where the customer stops researching and decides to make an investment. The conversion stage is where the customer has a comfort level and a trust level with you as a service provider. They are now willing to exchange their money for the solutions that you can potentially provide to their business.
This is a critical stage because this is where the bridge happens – where the customer reaches out and there’s an agreed exchange: they give you money and you give them value for their business.
At this stage, you need to be very careful in terms of how you market yourself to your customer. It’s crucial that the customer knows you are trustworthy and dependable, and that you will be there to provide the service you promised.
I have seen so many bad examples of customers who hire freelancers and then the freelancer flakes out, ghosts the client and basically destroys any trust or confidence the customer has placed in the freelancer’s care! Don’t be this freelancer.
We need to be all in, helping our client, and building trust.
Stage 4: Relationship
The relationship stage is about you creating a solid communication pathway between you and your customer.
This is where you’re going to continue to build a value into your customer’s business, by the way that you communicate with them, execute with them, support them, and by the way you invest your ideas and your mind into their business.
I’m not suggesting to do any of this for free or at a reduced rate, only that you conduct yourself in a way so your customer understands you are “all in” and working as a part of their team. This relationship stage is vital and leads to the fifth marketing stage, the retention stage.
Stage 5 – Retention
Congratulations! You’ve forged a relationship based on trust, communication and support. Your customer now values you as an integral part of their team. This is how you build long-term relationships with customers that can be literally worth millions of dollars.
Through relationship and retention strategies, I have been able to keep several clients as regularly paying clients for more than 15 years. I even have one client that I’ve had for more who has paid me more than one million dollars over the course of our working relationship. That is significant!
To have that kind of value in a customer is a freelancer’s dream, but it’s very possible if you are taking your relationships seriously and honoring the commitment that you’ve made to your customer, serving them well month after month and year after year.
As you move forward in your business, you can’t just know the five stages of marketing. You have to have a strategy for each one.
This is where people get confused. Some think posting on social media is marketing, or just sending an email or putting out your portfolio is enough. Those can be part of the overall plan, but they are only pieces of a larger puzzle.
Each stage of marketing (awareness, consideration, conversion, relationship and retention) deserves its own strategy so you can invest your time and resources wisely in attracting and cultivating your potential and current clients.
If you found these five stages of marketing helpful, you’ll love my (free) Freelance Blueprint. In it, I show you the four pillars of building a successful freelance business. Get your copy here: www.freelanceonfire.com/blueprint.