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If My Work is Good Enough

By Kelly O'Brien
Posted Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"If My Work is Good Enough, I Shouldn't Have to Market, Right?"

Don't you think that good work should speak for itself...that if you're good enough at what you do, you shouldn't have to hustle up business?

I've been working with a lot of really Smart People lately. Physicists, Economists, Chemists, Electrical Engineers, Programmers, Researchers and highly educated professionals of many kinds. These folks are at the top of their game and world-class contributors in their chosen field.

Here are some of things they've said to me about marketing:

"If you're good, the money will come; we're above the money game."

"It feels sleazy to have to sell our market impact..."

"Isn't there an implied value to what we do? Why do we have to market it?"

"Yes, I'm angry that I have to market. It's not why I chose this career."

If you can relate to any of these statements, you're not alone. Even these really Smart People have to face the harsh reality that great work can't protect them from the "M Word" (marketing). Whether you've taken an entrepreneurial route, or work inside a large organization, marketing is a life skill that's essential for survival.

I remember fighting this reality early on in my professional career, limping along and barely surviving as a business because we were in denial about the reality of our situation: that if we didn't step up and figure out how to attract more clients, we'd be out of business.

Of course it wasn't until I was in a whole lot of pain (i.e., cash flow was a problem) that I changed my behavior. I had a choice to make: figure out how to bring in more clients or perish!

If you want to get your professional services understood, valued, and used in the marketplace, ignoring this responsibility is not an option. So as a Smart Person, do what comes naturally: LEARN your way out of your problem.

We're all on a learning curve about something, regardless of PhDs, technical expertise, or years of professional success. For many professionals, finding yourself at the bottom of the Marketing Learning Curve is a frustrating experience. To make matters worse, your target clients are on a steep learning curve about the value of you and your work!

So the key is to move both yourself and your target clients up the learning curve. And knowing how to market, then skillfully applying this knowledge to your target audience is what will get you there.

Here are the four stages you have to go through (picture a staircase or ladder, with one stage on each level). In turn, you can take your target clients through these stages to learn about you and your firm:

Stage 1: Unconsciously Incompetent. In other words, you're clueless. This is when you don't know what you don't know. For you, it could be not understanding the driving principles behind effectively marketing a professional service...or the 5 P's of marketing a professional service that you must follow, in exact order, if you wish to be successful. For your target clients, it could be that they don't know you exist or that they have no idea what problems you can help them solve. Ignorance can be bliss, but it won't get you more clients!

Stage 2: Consciously Incompetent. Now you're anxious. You've become aware of what you don't know. Reading this article could move you to this stage. Witnessing a colleague or competitor win a contract that you missed out on could do it. For your target clients, this could happen if you do a free or low-cost assessment of their needs, or give them a short case study illustrating other client successes that they've not been able to achieve on their own. Bottom line: you're more motivated to close the gap between your current state (in pain) and your desired state (pain-free and successful).

Stage 3: Consciously Competent. Armed with new knowledge, you're starting to feel more confident. With some effort, coaching, courage to try new things, and small successes, you're starting to get better results for your efforts to attract more clients. It still takes a conscious effort to do the right things, but you're on your way. For your target clients, this stage means that they see "What's In It For Them" to do business with you, are confident that you can solve their problem better than anyone else, trust that you'll not let them down, and see a clear path of action to get their needs met. This is a good place to be, because it means there's a good chance that you'll close the deal.

Stage 4: Unconsciously Competent. Like tying your shoes, this is when it all feels natural and easy. You're probably here in your chosen field of expertise. With the right approach and accumulated successes under your belt, you'll get here in your ability to attract more clients. Your target clients are here only after they've gotten the results they want and can solidly trust their relationship with you over the long haul. They voluntarily and enthusiastically refer you to others. They eagerly ask about and await your next solution or offer of how to continue helping them. This is a blissful place to be and will get you more clients than you ever thought possible!

Facing your "marketing reality" can be a tough pill to swallow. To make this easier, give these things a try:

* Start with increasing your knowledge. Read some articles about marketing in your particular field that you might not normally bother with. Attend a talk or workshop about marketing that typically wouldn't make it into your schedule. Expose yourself to new ideas and fresh knowledge. A good place to start is my free articles at:


* Next, pick one new thing that you've learned and schedule it into your calendar to try. Start small, get some successes under your belt, and keep moving. Aim for one new marketing action every week.

* As you start experiencing better results from your actions, you'll notice a shift in how you feel toward marketing. It won't feel like such a burden. It'll feel like a natural part of what you do. It won't be "someone else's job." You'll actually start to enjoy it (trust me, it can happen - I used to HATE this stuff!).

* Be patient with yourself and with the process. You didn't become an industry expert overnight, nor will you become a great marketer instantly. If you really want the freedom to do the work you love, you've got to commit to the life skill of funding your passion for the long haul.

* Don't let naivetŽ or arrogance stand in your way. Marketing is not about hustling, twisting arms, misleading, or shameless promotion. It is about sharing what you know with the right target clients, in a way that they can understand and see the value for themselves in the good work you do.

A very wise and successful business professional recently told me the key to his success: being willing to do the tasks that most other people aren't willing to do - even if you don't want to do them. Marketing may not be as difficult as your chosen profession, but it's still a stretch for many of us. Your willingness to try new things that most others won't, already puts you ahead.

About the Author
(c) 2004 TurningPointe Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved. Marketing educator, Kelly O'Brien, is creator of the "Create a TurningPointe!" Marketing Bootcamp. To learn more about this step-by-step program, and to sign up for FREE how-to articles and 20-page marketing guide, visit (


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