"Call us today and change your life," proclaimed the hot pink flyer on the bulletin board. It was signed "Sunrise Hypnotherapy" with a phone number and a blind email address. No practitioner's name appeared anywhere on the flyer.
Posted near it were numerous other leaflets, advertising everything from life coaching to bookkeeping. Fully two-thirds of the flyers I spotted were similarly anonymous. Some displayed a business name; others simply described the service, e.g. "acupuncture." But the names of the people offering many of these services were curiously absent.
I had to wonder if these nameless flyers ever produced a single phone call. It seems to me that if you are going to trust someone to change your life, you would like to know a little about them first.
Surfing the web, I discovered the same baffling omission on the web sites of numerous independent professionals. Entrepreneurs targeting the corporate market seemed to be just as likely to conceal their identity as those oriented toward consumers. Management consultants, executive coaches, and seminar leaders alike were promoting their one-person businesses by mentioning only their company names, and referring to themselves in the plural as "we" and "us."
If I were searching for a professional to help my company solve a problem, I would be pretty skeptical of an individual who identified him or herself only as "Exegesis Management Group." If I'm going to consider hiring a consultant, coach, or trainer, a good starting place would be knowing the professional's name.
Where are the people behind these offerings? Why have they decided to cloak their identities and promote an anonymous business instead of their talented, experienced selves? What misguided or outdated advice are they following that makes them believe this is an effective way to market their professional services?
Marketing a service business is not the same as marketing a product. Potential buyers of your service don't have the same opportunity to touch, taste, or test drive what you offer as they do when buying a tomato or a car. To spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a service they can't sample in advance, your prospects must be able to trust you. And to build their trust, they must get to know you.
Examine your web site, brochure, or flyer with a critical eye. Does your name appear prominently on the first page? Is there a bio of you in an obvious location that describes your credentials and experience? What about a photo? If visitors or readers want to get to know you better before contacting you personally, do you offer them options like a newsletter, articles to read, or your speaking schedule?
If your firm has more than one principal who provides services, identify them all. If the business is really just you, but you bring in subcontractors as needed, that anonymous "we" in your marketing copy isn't fooling anyone. Feature yourself as the company founder and describe your expertise. Identify some of your subcontractors by name and give their backgrounds, so customers can see who they might be working with.
Perhaps you have unconsciously been copying the marketing style used by large consulting firms, seminar companies, and national service providers in industries like financial services or health care. These well-known companies rely on building their brand to attract new customers by promoting the organization as a whole instead of the individuals within it. But these firms spend millions of dollars and take years to build those reputations. You don't have that kind of money or time to spare.
The strongest asset you have in marketing your business is actually yourself. Providing visible evidence of your experience, credentials, and capabilities is what will ultimately convince skeptical buyers that you are the right person for the job. Allowing them to get to know you will build their trust. You deserve to be the star of your own promotional materials. So stop hiding behind an anonymous marketing image and let your customers know how talented you really are.
By C.J. Hayden