For solo PR pros, business development is an important, ongoing process. Continually looking for ways to grow your business is the name of the game, especially during uncertain economic times.
It’s always a good time to build your business … but especially now
In light of the current economic environment, it’s no wonder some solo PR pros are concerned about whether they’re making the right moves in developing business.
One of the most important things you can do during economic tumult is to not focus on it. In fact, industry layoffs are actually an opportunity for solos, although it requires tactful navigation because your audience is feeling the pressure and stress of the layoffs.
Karen and Michelle agree that this year, it’s especially important to have more opportunities in your pipeline than normal. That’s because things seem to be taking longer on the prospective client’s end — things like decision making when it comes to budgets and outsourcing.
“If you’ve talked to two prospects and you're relying on one of those closing, they could take some time to make a decision,” Karen says. “But if you have a full pipeline where you have choices, you don't even have to say yes to everything.”
Michelle adds that it’s a strategic time for solo PR pros to introduce themselves to new people and build or strengthen their connections. It’s also smart to present yourself as a subject matter expert in whatever your niche is.
Karen seconds that.
“Now, more than ever, it's so important to identify, clearly articulate and lean into your key differentiators,” she says. “Public relations is different. We all have different strengths in different skill sets.”
For example, Karen can “rock a funding announcement like nobody’s business.” So, she and her team have a roster of retainer clients, but they also love funding and data projects, which they’re known for. This results in a lot of work coming their way.
“Now’s a good time to think about, what's one thing I do really well that I'm expert at?” Karen says. “And how does that line up with what might be missing in the marketplace? Maybe you’re a measurement guru, and that's something you can start to lean on and sell to your clients. Whatever your superpower is, find it, articulate it and maximize it.”
Actionable ways to build your business today
Get away from the all or nothing mindset, Karen and Michelle advise. You don’t have to have it all figured out before you start. You should also give yourself permission to learn new things and not be afraid to fail along the way.
It’s OK if business development doesn’t come naturally to you — you get better the more you do it.
Start by jotting down a content calendar for yourself. What are some topics you can address on LinkedIn? You can also use the platform to leverage the connections you already have. And cold calling is still an effective mode of drumming up new business… give it a try!
You can ask clients for referrals, too.
“If you feel uncomfortable asking for a full-on referral, ask them for a Google review,” Michelle adds. “Or ask them ‘Hey, can you give me a quote that I can use on my website and social media? Easy peasy. And if you're having a more introverted day, as I often do, create a Google form and send it out with a note.”
And as you begin to develop more opportunities for yourself, it's important to have some key talking points prepared for when you're meeting with a prospective client. Be ready to talk about money right from the get go.
“Begin to frame the value discussion versus people looking at you like you're an hourly employee,” Karen advises. “You want to be realistic and help them to have the right expectation for what your services truly cost.”
Michelle and Karen both share the reminder that business is all about relationships. In addition to building client relationships, you could also consider getting an accountability partner, and it’s smart to have a mentor no matter what stage of life you’re in.
Photo via istock by Getty Images | Credit:olm26250
Want to join Solo PR Pro? Solo PR Pro Premium membership only opens for enrollment a few times a year. Membership is currently closed, but you can sign up for the waiting list to be among the first to find out when we reopen.