"I don't have time to market."
It's a common complaint from self-employed professionals. When you are the only one who can serve the clients, manage the business, and perform all the sales and marketing functions, time becomes the most precious commodity you have. How can you find time for marketing with so many other important priorities? There are many time management techniques at your disposal, of course. You can defer tasks or delegate them, chunk down projects to smaller steps, and set aside time on your calendar for making calls, writing letters, or updating marketing materials. Perhaps you have already tried all those methods and discovered that time is still scarce.
Maybe the real answer is not to find more time for marketing, but to MAKE time. Every day, you take part in many time-consuming activities that don't include marketing.
What if you could integrate marketing with all those things you are already doing? Here are some examples of how that can work:
1. Attending workshops, business mixers, and cultural events. Whenever you plan to attend an event like this, consider inviting a business contact to join you. Just extending the invitation will contribute to building a stronger relationship between you. If your contact decides to attend, you can often get to know each other better in a more relaxed way than meeting one-to-one.
2. Having lunch or coffee with a prospect or colleague. If you are already planning to take time meeting with someone, add a third or fourth person to the party. Those invited will usually appreciate the opportunity to make new contacts themselves, and you may find conversation flows more easily when there is a group.
3. Traveling to another city. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, arrange to meet for lunch or dinner with a client or colleague. On a business trip, this is usually much more enjoyable than dining alone. As a tourist, a meal you would be eating anyway takes no time out of your vacation schedule, plus you'll often get local tips about where to go and what to do.
4. Taking a walk, visiting the gym, and other forms of exercise. Meetings with business associates don't have to take place in the office or a restaurant. Invite someone to join you for a walk in the park, run around the track, or a game of tennis. You don't have to learn to play golf in order to get exercise and do business at the same time.
5. Reading an article. Any time you read an interesting article in the newspaper, a magazine, or online, think of three people you could send it to. Writing a short "thought-you-would-be-interested" note and forwarding the item will take only a moment, but can make a big impression on the recipient.
6. Shopping, dining, or running errands. Every time you leave your home or office, you meet new people. They are behind the counter at the office supply store, in line at the coffee shop, sitting at the next table, or shopping in the same aisle. Whenever you find yourself chatting with strangers, remember to introduce yourself by name and occupation. You'll be surprised to discover how often this will lead to a connection that can result in business.
7. Attending social events. The best business relationships often begin casually in social environments. Keep your business cards in your pocket when you attend a wedding, housewarming, holiday party, or your child's soccer game. After you ask, "How do you know our hosts?" or "Which child is yours?" make your next question, "What do you do?"
8. Relaxing. You may have a long list of marketing projects that will take time but not your full attention. Consider doubling up these mundane tasks with a fun activity or some pleasant company. Enter business cards into your contact database on your laptop at the beach. Make phone calls from the hot tub or a park bench. Review your prospect list while watching old movies or listening to music. Ask your kids to help you stuff and address envelopes. Take your project to a friend's house so the two of you can work together on marketing.
As you can see, there are many ways to include marketing activities in your busy life. So instead of wishing you had more time for marketing, why not make marketing a part of the time you are already spending?
By C.J. Hayden