How to market yourself

Just as a great product is rarely a success if poorly marketed, simply having skills, knowledge, experience and even track record is no guarantee of success as an interim manager.

Many aspiring interim managers underestimate the amount of marketing they need to do to succeed. They may believe that simply dusting down their CV and lodging it with a few interim service providers is all they need to do, but nothing could be further from the truth.

On average only 20%-25% of interim assignments are placed through interim service providers. The rest are organised directly between the client and the interim manager. In addition, many interim service providers are less inclined to work with unproven interim managers. This means that marketing yourself effectively is a critical component of success. This can seem daunting for those who have never had to market themselves in this way before and may feel ill-prepared to do so, but here you will find hints and tips to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and get you on the road to success. While it is important to remember that, for most interims, this is only a means to an end – i.e. to win assignments – and you are not aiming to become a marketing expert, time spent honing your marketing skills is never wasted. You will benefit in many ways and they will have a massive impact on your interim career:

  • Less unwanted downtime
  • Real enjoyment of the gaps between assignments as you build your confidence in being able to find an assignment when you need it
  • Better assignments – you don’t feel you need to take the first one that comes along

Marketing your company

Although you may be the only employee of your limited company, you need to wear many hats. In this case you need to wear the Sales and Marketing Director’s hat. Simon Berry of Interim Assignment, who runs the IMA/Interim Hub workshops and helps interim managers market themselves effectively, offers the following tip. “Many interims find it helpful to think of marketing their company rather than themselves. Although it simply seems like semantics, it will usually promote a very objective and much more productive mindset”

Defining your product

Interim managers often define their product as their past title e.g. I am an Interim Finance Director, or as the skills, knowledge, qualities and experience they have e.g. I am a business-oriented, results-focused project manager. Whilst such an approach can be valuable, particularly in developing CVs for interim service providers, it is not usually what grabs the attention of potential clients in the first place. The vast majority of clients are looking for solutions to their problems and what grabs their attention are interim managers who specialise in solving problems similar to theirs. For example, if you are the practice manager of a large accountancy firm looking to grow the business and seeking an interim manager to do so, you would be more likely to be attracted to a Business Development Interim Manager specialising in the profession than a non-specialist. Mostly providers and clients like to buy from a specialist rather than a Jack-of-all-Trades.

Simon puts it like this: “Imagine you had severe back pain and were in a supermarket confronted by a bewildering array of painkillers. Suddenly, you see one with the slogan “Targets back pain fast”. Which would you buy?”

Many interims resist specialising as they feel they are cutting themselves out of a vast market by doing so and therefore will win fewer assignments. In reality this is not so. Whilst specialising will narrow down your target market, you will significantly increase your chances of winning an assignment in that market.

Of course you may have more than one specialisation and that is fine, but market them separately to avoid the ‘Jack of all Trades’ label.

To help you identify your product think about:

  • What problems (NB not all problems are negative – a problem might be how to grow business, how to launch a new product, how to break into a new market) have you solved before? What was the situation before and after your intervention? What were the critical actions you took to achieve the results you achieved?
  • Who faces similar problems? What types of organisation? Are there many of them? Would they see solving the problem as urgent or important?
  • What types of problem do you enjoy solving as well as being good at solving?

Next resource: Personal branding