As we enter the early stages of the New Year, it is natural to think about and plan our marketing and business development activities for 2005.

And it's also worth keeping in mind that mega-successful business professionals and entrepreneurs market themselves as much as they market their companies. High performers create a personal marketing blueprint to guide their business-building activities on a daily, weekly and monthly basis—that's why we know who they are and what they do.

Whether you are a banker, attorney, independent consultant, real estate broker, accountant, financial planner, insurance agent, corporate executive or entrepreneur, consistent application of the following seven core marketing best practices will enable you to produce the kind of business results you want:

  1. Focus on your ideal customers. Everything starts with customers. Without them, you would never make a sale. It is critical, then, that you define your customer base as specifically as possible—both the companies and the individuals you covet as customers. Test your description with a few customers and prospects who fit the profile. Do they agree with your assessment of them?

  2. Know the "pain" that creates opportunity for you. Think like a business doctor. People buy your services to solve or avoid acute trauma or discomfort. It is unlikely that your customers have you, or your company, at the top of their priority list. They do, however, care very deeply about their problems and desires. Clearly linking your solutions to your customer's problems will allow you to rise in importance in their minds.

  3. Define your personal value proposition. Generally, people do not hire firms or institutions—they hire the people who represent these organizations. So, you are the message, and you are the product. This means that you are also the product manager and the sales force. Therefore, it becomes critical that you be able to describe—in a clear, concise and meaningful way—what it is that you do (what pain you solve) and for whom.

  4. Turn your clients into your sales force. Your clients should be your best source of referrals and your best source of advertising. Remember, referrals are made based on personal reputations and solid relationships. Once a successful project has been completed for a client, let them know that you appreciate referrals and testimonials. To make the referral process easier, make sure that they know exactly the type of person with whom you would like an introduction.

  5. Build high-power allies. Invest time cultivating exceptional relationships with a select team of professional allies, both within and outside your organization. Go to market against a defined target audience in a strategic and cooperative basis with your allies. Build joint marketing plans and determine the roles and responsibilities each party will play. Refer lots of business back and forth, and keep the lines on communication open and honest.

  6. Become a celebrated expert. The best business marketers invest their time wisely by developing their personal reputation. They differentiate themselves by publicizing the qualities and experiences that make them unique. They also use speaking, writing articles, conducting roundtables and seminars, and joining/working with the right organizations to their advantage.

    Ask yourself…which two organizations can I take a leadership role in that will not only stimulate my professional growth but also increase my professional visibility and generate business for me? Join those groups today.

  7. Build your personal direct marketing engine. The previous six ideas require your personal effort (i.e., you need to develop your own target market and value proposition). Leverage these activities by communicating with your prospects, customers, networks and alliance partners in a consistent manner by using traditional direct marketing methods such as direct mail, personal publicity, email campaigns, Web sites and so on.

Why do these practices work? Success is not accidental. The best business developers achieve leverage by developing a systematic, step-by-step marketing process. It is in the process that the gold can be found.

By using this approach in 2005, you will concentrate on the most effective ways to create business for yourself on a consistent basis. You will not have to become a "salesperson" constantly hawking yourself to stay afloat, because business will begin to come to you.

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Rob Engelman is president of Engelman Management Group. Reach him through