When you’re working hard to build up your business, it’s normal to believe that you need as many people as possible to know about you. You spend time, energy and money telling everyone about your offerings, going to dozens of networking events, being on as many different social platforms as you can stomach.

You’re trying to get “out there”, aiming for as many people as possible to have heard of your name and your business. And you might notice this starts to feel exhausting, or like you’re spreading yourself too thin.

This approach to marketing is the “horizontal” approach – and it’s not actually the most effective way of marketing. To give you a visual: imagine people queueing up outside a concert venue; the line snakes around the building. With horizontal marketing, it’s as if you’re walking along the queue speaking with each person one by one, aiming to get as far along the queue as you can. If you’re really dedicated, maybe you’d reach 1,000 people this way.

The problem is: you’re only speaking with each person once. It’s easy for them to forget a one-off connection. Also, they know you’re biased; of course you’re going to tell them to buy your service or product. They don’t know you, so why would they trust your opinion?

A far more effective way of marketing is the “vertical” approach. This is where you’re happy with less people hearing about you, but that each person hears of you from several different sources. If we revisit that queue of people outside a venue, you’d be focusing on a select 100 people in the line, and you’d arrange for those 100 people to hear of you in three different ways. Maybe they first receive your flyer, then their neighbour in the queue tells them about you, and then the security guard at the concert venue recommends you too. You’ve reached less people, but the impact is far greater; they’re more likely to check you out further.

Consider where you experience the power of vertical marketing yourself. What film, book or holiday did you choose because a number of different friends and reviewers had recommended it? What product did you see in a magazine, and in a Facebook ad, and in your friend’s house before feeling inspired to try it for yourself?

Vertical marketing is a stronger, more robust approach to becoming known. Rather than focusing on quantity, your aim is quality. You want your name to be heard repeatedly by a select group of people. And those people are, of course, those who you believe will most benefit from your offerings.

For example, a yoga teacher in Edinburgh loves welcoming students who experience desk-related discomfort; she knows her yoga classes are valuable for anyone experiencing upper back, shoulder or neck pain, or RSI. So, she considers who these people are and where they hang out. For example, one prime example would be Edinburgh University lecturers. She then asks herself, “How could one lecturer hear about my yoga classes from three different sources?”

She does some research and discovers there’s a university magazine so she submits an article proposal to the editor, offering a piece featuring great yoga poses for those who do a lot of computer and whiteboard work. She finds out there’s a local event that many lecturers attend so she books a place at that event – or even better, offers to speak or lead a free introductory class there. And finally, she puts up flyers in cafes surrounding the university, where lecturers are likely to grab lunch.

This multi-directional approach means there’s a good chance that a university lecturer will hear about her classes several times and will therefore be much more likely to investigate and ultimately attend a class. The yoga teacher’s name will have been built up in the lecturer’s mind, layer by layer, creating a strong sense of trust.

Back to you. Firstly, identify the type(s) of people you’d most like as clients. Where are they hanging out, online and offline? Create an ideal client profile so you can imagine their daily life and the people, places and publications they’ll encounter.

Then, make a list of different ways you can reach those people. You’ll likely come up with a list that combines writing, speaking, networking, personal referrals, social media, and so on.

Then, start marketing in a focused way down these avenues. Your aim is that your prospective clients will be hearing of you from multiple people, in multiple places.

Vertical marketing is powerful. You’re building a solid reputation for yourself, rather than spreading yourself thinly. So, forget trying to reach as many people as possible and instead aim to reach the right people in a variety of ways.

Get vertical and let me know how you get on, in the comments below!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

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