- Christie Mims is the founder of Coach Pony, a company that helps new life coaches learn the business side of coaching.
- Seven years ago when she left her full-time job to start her first coaching company, she took some pretty common-place advice on how to market her business.
- But after not getting any clients, she realized that that approach was sinking her company. So instead, she did something counterintuitive — focusing on one marketing strategy rather than multiple — and it made her her first $100,000.
- Mims shared with Business Insider where she went wrong and what she did to fix it, along with her advice for any new freelancer, consultant, or coach looking to grow their business.
Seven years ago, I quit my lucrative consulting job to start my own business as a career coach.
Like many new business owners, I was worried about how to best market my business. There were so many options! Facebook, LinkedIn, public speaking, networking, writing. Honestly, the list felt pretty endless.
So, after talking to friends, family, and anyone with even a lick of business experience, I did what seemed logical: I started with everything.
I had heard that you need to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall in order to figure out your marketing, and I took that to heart. The more places you are, the more chances you have to be discovered, right?
I got my Facebook page up, my Linkedin page up, and my Twitter account active. I started writing on my blog, I pitched other blogs, and I offered to speak all over the place.
Not being overly familiar with any of these marketing channels, I gamely plugged away. I posted, I wrote, I tweeted, I pitched, and then I woke up the next day and did it all over again. My hope was that if I just randomly shared enough, people would come!
My hopes were wrong. After weeks of hustle, I had nothing to show for it.
My bank account was draining fast, I was exhausted, and I was worried that my new business was already on the verge of failure. So I faced a choice: Keep doing what I was doing and run out of money, or try something different.
I opted for something different.
Here’s the thing: At the time, I didn’t actually enjoy Facebook, or Linkedin (shocking, as a career coach!), or even writing that much.
And because I didn’t enjoy it, I wasn’t very good at it.
While sitting on my couch worriedly looking at my computer one night, I thought: “What if I only concentrate on one type of marketing that I actually like, and see how far I can get?”
So I stopped posting regularly on my social media accounts, I let go of the pressure to blog every week, and instead I decided to focus my time on public speaking. I chose public speaking because I was comfortable doing it, I liked being in front of a room, and I knew it would help me build trust with potential clients quickly.
I spoke for free at first locally in DC, to anyone who fit my demographic of professional women (and many who didn’t), and it worked! I started to get real, paying clients. I found speaking engagements by checking out Eventbrite, asking friends and family, googling “events + women + DC,” and watching hashtags on Twitter like #DCwomen, #DCevents, and #DCmeetups and seeing what came up.
I’d try and attend events first as a participant to see if the group was a good fit for me and my style. If it was, I’d chat with the organizers to see if they were looking for speakers. If invited to speak, I’d ask the organizers if I could make an offer at the end of my speech, and if they said yes I’d give everyone in the room a one-time chance to sign up for my introductory career coaching package at a discount. Those that did would often then sign up to work with me over a longer period, and that’s how my business became profitable.
With more experience and more confidence, I doubled down. I started pitching myself beyond local events, and reached out to bigger conferences and online organizations that catered to my people. I focused on career websites primarily, places like Careerealism (now called Work It Daily) and The Muse, and if they didn’t already offer webinars, I pitched them on the idea of my leading a webinar for the benefit of their audience.
I was always careful to research each organization or website up front, and make sure that I offered to speak on a topic that was both relevant and interesting for their audience, and also fit in well with my coaching work. If allowed, I’d make an offer to work with me at the end of the talk to the attendees. If that didn’t fit with the organization’s rules, I’d direct everyone to something free on my website to check out in order to draw them into my world and introduce them more deeply to my services.
Because I was so focused, I became much better much more quickly, and it showed in my bottom line. Within a year of going all-in on public speaking engagements, I had made over $100,000 for my coaching business, and I still wasn’t regularly using LinkedIn or Facebook or any of the rest of it.
Long story short: Focusing my marketing saved my business.
In his book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg McKeown shares the idea that you can spend a lot of energy on many different things and make a tiny bit of progress in each, or you can focus entirely on one thing and go so much farther, much faster.
While it initially seems logical to put yourself out there in many places, many solo-preneurs have my experience — they are spreading themselves too thin, and not doing any of it well. And therefore the results are not good.
But there’s another problem: Many people overlook how different the major marketing platforms are from each other, and how much skill and time it takes to become good at even one of them.
For instance, to be great on Linkedin, you need to understand how their algorithm works, how groups work, how to write well in terms of posts and blogs, and how the platform is constantly changing.
On the other hand, something like public speaking is a completely different skill set. It involves writing pitches, putting together a great talk, learning how to give a great talk, and learning how to use your talk as a marketing tool.
You get the idea. Most people aren’t willing to put in the work to get really good at one thing in marketing, because they are still trying to be everywhere. But if you do spend the time to really learn your marketing channel well, you’ll immediately stand out. And when you stand out, it’s easier for clients to find you.
Given that there are so many places to start, where should you begin?
To figure out how to focus your marketing, the easiest place to start is with what you yourself enjoy and are good at in terms of communication. Why? You’re going to be spending a lot of time doing it.
So, start with one of these big four communications areas, and choose your favorite:
- Public Speaking
- Social media
Next up, using your chosen communication strength as a guide, brainstorm places where you might find your clients.
So, for example, if social media is your favorite way to communicate, and you are in the health or beauty business, Instagram or Pinterest would be a great place to focus your marketing. Being visual platforms, they cater strongly to clients in those industries.
Let’s say, on the other hand, that you are a health coach or nutritionist and you hate social media but love to write. Given that, you might market your business by writing articles for Mind Body Green or My Fitness Pal — in other words, big health or wellness blogs that draw in people interested in learning more about those specific topics.
The really cool thing is that the major organic marketing channels are so powerful, if used correctly you can support yourself as a new entrepreneur by choosing just one of them.
How do I know? Well, I stopped public speaking after about 18 months because I decided that putting on real pants and having to brush my hair was no longer my favorite thing to do. So I took up writing as my next marketing platform, and made my next six figures … in six months. And then after a couple years of big business growth, I stopped writing for awhile and — yep, you guessed it — I turned to social media.
You see my point: By focusing and going all-in on each platform, I became really good at using them, so the revenue kept accumulating, and my business keeps growing.
Here’s the bottom line: Focus on what you like. Let go of the rest. By doing so, you will become great at that type of marketing … which means more progress more quickly, and more clients for your business.