Marketing Rule #1: You Can’t Help Those Who Won’t Help Themselves

Networking means endless coffee dates and follow-up to build trust and relationships

I recently met with a prospective client who thought he might need a little help with his marketing. Make that a lot of help.

I asked him what he was doing now to market himself. A really bad business card with a kind of perforated sticker thing that you could punch through with his phone number, except that it didn’t really work. No website, newsletter or social media; no brand, not even a crappy brochure. As a last desperate effort, I asked him if he was doing any networking. His answer: “That doesn’t work—I went to a networking meeting one time that met at 7:00am and nothing happened—nothing!” No problem believing that.

These days, you need  a website to be real. Electronic communication channels keep your name in front of your audience, but it’s the networking–endless coffee dates, following up and building relationships one potential client at a time–that grows your business.

Once you have a body of work and a client base, you start to gain some traction and clients and colleagues refer new clients, and all of a sudden, you have a business. It takes time, commitment and tenacity; and sometimes you just have to trust that this is the right thing to do. There isn’t anyone who has built a successful business who won’t attest to the power of relationship-building.

This guy had been limping along for years. I kept suggesting marketing activity that would create a brand and visibility, identifying a modest price point and timeline, but he found reasons why none of these things would work for him.

So what did we do? You know the old thing about how you can’t help someone who won’t help himself? That’s something I learned early on. It’s a hard lesson, because I love marketing and I love to help people, but sometimes you just have to walk away.

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