When you start Immigration practice the biggest challenge is finding new clients. Marketing is not the strong suit of every entrepreneur but it is an essential component of building a successful business.
A basic marketing plan for your Immigration practice should cover 3 key areas: Brand Strategy, Communications, and Digital Marketing.
1. Brand Strategy
A brand strategy defines what you stand for, what your style or personality is, and what is unique about your product or service. The brand or personality of your business is the image that you put forward to the market so potential clients can quickly identify who you are and what you offer.
One important element of a successful brand is your specialty. Choose a niche to focus on vs. trying to be all things to all people. It makes it so much easier to find and attract clients and focus your marketing efforts when you specialize.
There are three main categories of immigration in Canada: Family class (closely related persons of Canadian residents living in Canada), Economic Immigrants (skilled workers and business people), and Refugees (people escaping persecution, torture, or cruel and unusual punishment). Decide which of these broad areas you have the most interest in or affinity for and make it your specialty. Additionally temporary foreign workers and international students need assistance to gain entry and may choose to apply for permanent residency.
While you still have the knowledge and qualifications to offer more general services to a broader market, it is helpful to focus your services so that you know what makes you unique and also where to find your ideal target client. Over time you can become an expert in a niche area and that aids with reputation and referrals.
A popular mantra in marketing-communication is “When you try to say everything, you say nothing.” You need to know how to talk about yourself and your new business in a way that is clear and concise. Two simple tactics to elevate your communications are to define your audience and develop key messages.
Define your Audience
If you’ve done the baseline work of defining your brand and your unique approach and offering, than defining your audience flows naturally from that. For example, if you are specializing in Refugee claimants than you know that your target clients are refugees. You can further define your audience based on your own special skills and experiences. If you speak a second or third language than clients who need services in these languages are part of your target market. People who share a similar cultural or religious background might be a key audience for you as you may be uniquely qualified to understand their experience, values, and needs.
You want to think of your specific target audience when you develop key messages or marketing materials. One size fits all doesn’t fit everyone. Customized messaging for a specific target audience is much more effective at attracting new clients. Ask yourself what does my audience need, what is important to them, and what are they most concerned about?
Key messages should relate to the wants, needs, and concerns of your specific target audience. They are designed to quickly communicate to your potential clients how you are the best person to serve their immigration needs.
Another important communication tool is your elevator pitch – a 30 – 60 second message that summarizes your business, your area of expertise or special focus, and what makes your business unique and valuable. It’s well worth the time to develop your elevator pitch, so when someone asks, “What do you do?” you can answer quickly and with confidence. When you need to prepare traditional or digital marketing materials, if you have articulated your elevator pitch than you have the basics of your messaging ready in advance and can build more specific campaigns from there.
3. Digital Marketing
The great thing about the Internet is that it has democratized marketing. There are multiple free channels for you to use to market your services as an Immigration Consultant. This is an area that may feel overwhelming for a new entrepreneur so stick to the basics to start and grow from there. You can learn more channels and tactics as you go, so you don’t have to figure it out all at once.
Three easy steps to get you started are 1. List your business on Google Maps, 2. Build your profile on LinkedIn 3. Build your website using a simple platform like WordPress or Wix.
1. Google Maps: It’s free to list your business on Google Maps and it makes you look more professional to prospective clients right away, along with helping to build your online presence. Plus if you make an appointment with a prospective client, you want to ensure they can access easy directions to your office online. Let Google Maps do the work for you.
2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the first social platform you should be on. Serious professionals use LinkedIn to showcase their education and expertise. Your profile is dynamic, you can continue adding to your credentials over time, but at least start with a basic profile as this will give you a digital presence and you can connect with potential clients and other professionals in your industry who you want to network in. LinkedIn makes it easy for you to keep track of people you meet and you could follow industry experts to stay on top of trends. If you blog on this platform as well, you can build up a following over time and attract contacts who may require your services or provide client referrals.
3. Professional Website: This is a must-have in today’s digital landscape. Your website need not be expensive or complex when you first start Immigration practice. There are multiple website builders, like Wix, Weebly, or WordPress that have free templates and free hosting options so that you don’t need to hire a designer or spend a lot of money to get started with a corporate website.
There are multiple channels and tactics to market your new business but keep it simple to start so that you are not overwhelmed. It’s better to do a little bit well and do it sooner when you start Immigration practice, than do a lot and have a big complicated strategy that may be more than you can manage.
A great strategy for new immigration consultants or experienced consultants who are starting their own practice is to join a startup Incubator. Ashton College has a Startup Incubator Program for Immigration Consultants. The Immigration Practitioner Zone is designed to aid consultants in growing their business. IPZ will help you build your network, develop a marketing plan and key messages, coach you in business development, and support you with practical tools and knowledge to build and grow your business.