The Everyday Solopreneur: Lost in the Marketing Jungle

I Could Use A Map (or at least a Starting Point )

As someone who has spent his professional life working for various companies and organisations, starting on my own (admittedly at a very late stage of my working life), I have zero ideas about how to market myself, my company, or the services I offer.

Disclosure. I use Generative AI tools to help me when writing. From outline suggestions to topics or subtleties, I had yet to think of.

A middle-aged man frustrated working behind a laptop
Generated by Midjourney The Everyday Solopreneur Lost in the Marketing Jungle

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I have experience in spades, but how to effectively get the word out, I believe the term should be visibility, is something I’ve never had to consider before. I naively thought that I only had to make a simple website, throw a few links around, and I’d get at least a few contacts from potentially interested clients. It was a bit silly when I look back towards the beginning of this year.

Handicapped and Limited (and Ignorant)

Understanding and experimenting with different marketing strategies will take much longer than anticipated. The main problem is that I already have a single major contract with a company, and most, if not all, of my contacts are also this company’s clients. This means I can’t approach them as it will breach my contract’s terms and conditions.

No, I have to start from scratch and find potential clients differently. Easier said than done. My target audience is at least medium to larger-sized companies. Short of cold emailing, which is useless to the point of damaging my reputation, I thought networking at business social gatherings and conferences, for example, might be a good starting point.

My marketing problems are compounded by being based in the far south of the Netherlands, so finding suitable social events is like finding a needle in a haystack. It just doesn’t seem to work like that here. Likely I’m missing something important, and no doubt I’ll figure it out, eventually. But it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

Boring But Necessary Marketing Campaigns

At least I have the outline of a marketing strategy now. Not everything will work out, but then I don’t need everything. I only need a few clients to help build my reputation, that is, my ‘visibility ’. These are my main areas to concentrate on:

  • Content Marketing:
    • What you are reading now and other related posts.
    • Write and publicise a long-form article, possibly a ‘white paper’ detailing the issues and problems my offered services aim to resolve.
    • A few other ideas I’m too embarrassed to mention yet (did I say I was an introvert?).
  • Social Media Marketing:
    • I’ll be concentrating my efforts on LinkedIn, at least at first. In my line of business, Facebook, Twitter (I refuse to call it by its new name), or Instagram doesn’t appeal to me or, I’m sure, any potential clients.
  • Networking:
    • As already mentioned, the apparent dearth of local business events doesn’t help.
    • Conferences, similarly, also seem few and far between in the Benelux region, especially in my market.
  • Direct Marketing:
    • Cold emails are off the things I’ll consider for the moment. I know that any unsolicited emails in my inbox are immediately deleted without even bothering to read them.
    • Direct mailing campaign, snail mail, that is. Oddly, I find this an attractive option. If a person has gone to the effort of preparing and mailing me instead of email, I almost always at least open the envelope.

All of my recent articles are shared on LinkedIn already; only they are shared on my personal account. So, for a content marketing strategy, perhaps sharing business-related posts via my company profile would be best. I can always share them again from there in my personal space.

Talking about the mix of article subjects I have been writing about over the last year. Maybe now is the time to split my publishing footprints into a separate business-oriented account.

Why I Detest Email Marketing

As briefly mentioned above, a cold email campaign may work to some extent within certain markets, such as consumer products and so forth. But in my niche market, these emails are seen as SPAM and an irritation. If I were bombarded with crap trying to sell me something, especially with a company name always prominent in the email, it would immediately put me off of considering doing business with them.

It’s a lazy marketing ploy that irritates more than it informs. Worst of all, the negativity severely impacts the company’s reputation. In my opinion, at least as a startup, the last thing I want to piss off any potential clients before we’ve even spoken. These sorts of emails guarantee me putting these people on my shit list, to be avoided at all costs.

Yes, perhaps I’m overreacting; I detest laziness, especially from a company actively looking for business. Put some effort in, god damn it.

Snail Mail: Why I Find It Attractive

We are subject to email SPAM campaigns and circulars distributed by the traditional snail mail. The key difference is that emails are generally deleted without opening, but snail mail has a greater chance of grabbing your attention, even for a few seconds. Most of all, it smacks of somebody or an organisation putting some effort into reaching potential customers. It’s often let down, however, by garish logos, etc., on the envelope. Then, it’ll likely be consigned to the bin (garbage can).

Done correctly and respectfully, though, I will usually at least open and scan the contents. It occurs to me that putting an effort into a direct mailing campaign has a much greater chance of success than a similar email campaign. So, this is the way forward for my brand. I’ll give it a go and see what happens.

Is This The Way Forward?

I’ll concentrate on specific areas for the next few weeks or months. I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m figuring it out as I go. So, these are the tasks I’ll be tackling in priority order.

  1. Prepare and run a small, targeted, direct mailing campaign:
    1. The text must be in two languages, Dutch and English.
    2. The next point may help fine-tune the targeting.
  2. Build a small social media marketing campaign on LinkedIn:
    1. The campaign must be perceived as anything but a marketing ploy.
    2. I have a few ideas, but more on them the next time.
  3. I’ll continue searching for face-to-face networking opportunities within the Benelux region.
  4. Possibly splitting my business-related posts into a separate profile dedicated to my company.

Final Thoughts

As always, the main issue I face daily is a lack of time and, occasionally, energy. I value downtime these days, perhaps more than I used to. So, balancing building a business, the day job, family time, and relaxation is proving difficult.

I also feel sometimes that I don’t have enough productive years left to achieve all I wish for. When these negative thoughts start to get a hold, I’ll take a step back, re-evaluate, and carry on.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my struggles; leave a comment, and I promise to respond, eventually.

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I apologise to my readers for some of the spellings you may feel are incorrect. I was born and brought up in the United Kingdom, and this is the spelling I am comfortable with (Grammarly is happy with it anyway).


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