“Marketing is what you do to make the sale possible — before your first contact with the prospect. Selling is what you do to make that contact and close the sale,” Parker writes.
Both of these are an important part of starting a business. But for many freelancers, marketing is an almost insurmountable task.
According to Parker, there are two primary reasons writers fail at marketing. First, she says they try too hard. That as writers, we expect to come up with the “perfect” marketing pitch – something unforgettable, something smashing.
The truth is, you have to be in it to win it. Or as the instructor of a marketing class Parker took said, If you’re there, you’ll get your share.
Chances are good you don’t suck. I mean, you may, I haven’t personally evaluated your work, but so long as you don’t completely suck, if you put yourself out there you will do some business. But you won’t do any business if potential clients don’t know you exist.
Second, Parker says that writers fail because when they get busy, they focus on the client work and fail to continue marketing themselves. When we’re swamped, like in up past our ears so that all that peaks over the piles of paperwork on our desks is our eyebrows, the last thing we want to think about is finding more work. But guess what? If we don’t, when we finish wading through that pile of papers, there won’t be another one waiting.
In order to make sure you don’t end up in a dead zone, with work behind you but none in front of you, it is essential that you develop a marketing plan and that you stick to it. This is not nearly as daunting of a task as it may seem.
The fist step is to do some market research. At the most basic level, marketing research is figuring out who your clients are and what they want.
If you know a few people who fall into your target demographic, invite them over for pizza and beer and tap their brains. If not, do what I’m doing.
Today, I began doing the preliminary work for my own market research. I put “Astoria” and “Chamber of Commerce” into Google and hit the search button. After realizing that there are a lot of places named “Astoria,” I refined my search and found the Queens Chamber of Commerce website. Listed there are a ton of local businesses.
I began by scrolling through them looking for likely prospects. I believe that my services will be more in demand among service vendors than among retailers; there may also be some demand from manufacturers. In addition to looking for potential clients / contacts, I checked out local small business events on the site’s event calendar and scanned the list for potential competition.
My next step will be to compile a list of contacts and contact information. I will write up a few questions (Do you hire a writer for your marketing materials? Would you? Why or why not? What would you pay for said services?) and then call, tell them I’m starting a small business and would like to ask them their opinion on a few things.
I’ll ask about what these people read, where they look for services, and what kind of small business events they attend.
Recording the answers for a dozen or so calls will give me a pretty good feel for the potential demand for a writer in the area. It may turn up potential competition. If I need more information, I make more calls, until I feel like I have a good idea how to reach the clients that I want to work for/with.
The next step will be deciding what steps to take based upon this information.