Spotlight On Lessons Learned From Your Very First Marketing Efforts
Remember all that passion keeping you from doing anything until your slogan was finalized?
Remember how painting the entire town with your company colors was doable with just a few thousand fliers and volunteers?
Remember the feeling when you got some press?
Remember when no one seemed to notice a thing… and then suddenly you were in business?
Remember when you just happened to be in the right place at the right time?
Remember how long it took (or how short)?
Remember the all-the-rage strategy that didn’t work for you?
You do remember, don’t you?
Well, I aim to make sure the world learns what you learned–and to correct a mistake I made when I started marketing my business online in earnest.
Last year I asked everyone in my blogging neighborhood to com share the three unique “corners” of their businesses. It was a take from Erica Allison’s earlier post inviting bloggers to share their business for referral juice. It was fun, I learned a bit more about the folks whose company I’d come to enjoy online with each new comment.
The mistake? The comments just sat there.
I hadn’t promised to do anything special, but–waaaaaay later–it occurred to me that I could have made it even more fun by giving everyone their own spotlight the way Erica did for all of us (thanks, Erica!). This time, I will.
Share the first lessons you learned about marketing your business in the comments and I’ll pick one to share every other Friday, with as much link love as you want.
So speak up! Whether you’re living your dream life or still struggling, the world needs learning from people who’ve been in their shoes.
(Oh, and I’d be happy to have you share your three corners, too!)
Enter your email to get random special notes from me about marketing copy, language, and grammar you can put to work as soon as you read them. It’s not a newsletter–it’s your chance to pull me aside for answers to your own questions, too!
One of the very first lessons I learned about marketing my business is simple – you never know where your next client will come from. I’ve attended personal affairs where I wouldn’t be thinking about business at all, and wouldn’t you know it some family friend starts asking what I do for a living, one discussion leads to another, and just like that, bam, I’m “on”. So I learned that you are always in a position to market your business, and you better be ready to share your business at the drop of a dime. Sharing is more than handing out a business card, you have to talk about your business without sounding like a sleazy salesperson. It’s more than memorizing a scripted elevator pitch, it’s about having a genuine dialogue with someone who may or may not become your next client.
I’ve learned to apply the same lessons with digital marketing. Social media is networking on steroids – and the same rules apply. I never know where my next interaction will take me, but I’m always “on” online. I don't sales pitch, I share information and provide solutions. I listen to what people talk about to figure out their hot buttons. I don’t post anything I wouldn’t want a client to see, and I treat my online interactions as though my past, present and future clients will see every word. That next client is always lurking in the background, and I want to be sure they form the right impression of me!
MissKemya This is a lesson everyone should learn as they market their business, Kemya, and I don't even know where to start in agreeing with you. But I do have to say, thanks for getting that in about the elevator pitch! I think we could do without the stress, and the world could do without all those audio-templates! I had tried to create one myself, but I stopped because when you're in conversation with--as you said--friends and family, and they ask you what you do, you don't want to sound like your tape recorder stepped in to answer for you!
I don't know about my first lesson, but my favourite lesson is that there's no set marketing tactic or formula that will work for every business.
I nearly killed myself with exhaustion doing everything the gurus said I should do. In the end, I said, f it and decided to have fun. I stopped marketing completely. Apart from the occasional blog post, I stuck to twitter because it was a lot of fun and I was meeting a whole bunch of really cool people.
One of those cool folks RT'd a tweet about a web design blog looking for writers and applied. Got accepted and wrote my first post for them. The same week I had an email from the editor of another web design blog who wanted me to write for him.
Long story short, I get 80% of my work through twitter now. I do no SEO (probably should change that). I keep an eye on who's checking out my profile on linkedin and which companies are following me on Twitter. Then I contact them asking whether they hire freelance writers or if there was anyway I could help them.
I hang out on Twitter and just... socialize.
For me things changed the day I started thinking of marketing as socializing.
merylkevans I keep a diligent eye on my followers and actively seek out new ones. If I see it's a company, consultant or even a one man shop in my area of interest, I connect with them and ask if they work with bloggers.
I also routinely announce my availability. A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a tweet that said something along the lines of 'I haven't had a juicy ebook to write for a client in a while. Anyone looking to have an ebook written?' I got 2 inquiries within 10 minutes.
Of course that was a happy coincidence and it doesn't always yield results but I keep trying :)
Also, when I say 80% it doesn't mean I actively look for clients everyday or they come to me everyday. I have a few long term gigs which gives me room to market naturally.
Hope this helps!
Samarowais Thanks for sharing your experience. I occasionally announce my availability when I complete a project. So far, it led to one bite -- a bad one.
Samarowais merylkevans I've asked someone else about those "I'm ready to work for you" tweets. I kind of like your casual version of asking; most of them are a lot less appealing, and I asked someone via DM once if she'd ever seen any results from that kind of tweet and she said she didn't know... because they were auto-tweeted... and because she had no way of tracking how people find her!
merylkevans Samarowais I tend to respond to requests for writing help (I haven't in a while, actually); people are grateful as we work it out via DM or email. So I basically just go for the low-hanging fruit: people who want help now, and on Twitter that means Right. Now. I have a huge chance of building a relationship within a few exchanges that leads to a job.
ShakirahDawud merylkevans To be honest, when I sent that tweet I wasn't thinking marketing. I was thinking 'I haven't had a good ebook project in a while' and suddenly thought, hey, I should tweet that!
One thing though - use these marketing tweets rarely. Do them too often and folks will get tired.
Not sure how I feel about automated marketing tweets.
Samarowais ShakirahDawud Exactly. I rarely tweet promotional tweets because I know they get bothersome. Yet, I'm finding that being a resource and engaging hasn't led to anything (I also help my client with social media). It's like we're doing everything right and little to show for it.
merylkevans ShakirahDawud Meryl, this weekend, go through your followers and see which companies follow up. Then DM them sending a simple 'I was wondering if you guys work with freelancers and if yes, who may I contact?'
Try doing the same for folks who visit your profile in LinkedIn - I feel that's a bit more targeted as folks on LinkedIn usually land on a profile after searching for a particular keyword. Use a general email that says 'I noticed you looked at my profile. Were you looking for a particular kind of copy written? I'm a freelance writer with experience in.... Let me know if I can help in any way.' or something along those lines.
Samarowais ShakirahDawud Thanks for your generous help, Samar. I've done the DM thing. Will give LinkedIn a shot. Thanks again. Let me know if I can do anything for you.
merylkevans Samarowais Appreciate your tips, Samar--making for a very nice spotlight one of these Fridays coming up, too, I must say!
Samarowais As I said to texascopywriter, you always get those tips that go, "Just get people to come to your website, and you'll be in the money!"
But it really doesn't work that way online unless you're Amazon--especially for service-based businesses like most of ours. We need to build the relationships first. So marketing for you is as simple as socializing, but I can see it's a bit more targeted than that, since you pay such close attention to who might need your help.
ShakirahDawud texascopywriter Ha! No matter how often I blog or how good my posts are, my blog has never picked up. I stopped trying once I figured out that the aim wasn't to make my blog popular but to provide prospective clients a glimpse into my writing style.
Right there with you on relationship building. And not just work related. Reach out to people. I've suggested home remedies for flu, movies, given travel tips, DM'd condolences etc.
Think of it as socializing and it becomes a whole lot easier :)
Samarowais ShakirahDawud I agree, Sam, that it's about socializing. I don't have tons of engagement on my FWD blog, but the engagement I do get is quality stuff. I hadn't thought of it as a showcase for my writing abilities. I've always just used clips for that, but I think you're on to something here!
Hmm ... I honestly don't remember except that it was probably the first marketing job I had with a telecom company for paging products. It turned out to be a promotion I regret taking as I moved from a fun, challenging team to one that was depressed with no inspiration or desire to making things happen.
ShakirahDawud Yep. I had to leave the company as there was no way I could move to another group within the company. Thankfully, I landed a job quickly and cut my commute big time. I was also pregnant -- it was challenging to decide whether to tell the interviewer. I did.
merylkevans Oooh, I knew there was more to this story! So how did you "market" yourself to the interviewer? Did that person ever tell you why you were chosen?
ShakirahDawud I assume you mean the second company that I left for. If so, I had experience that fit their requirements and could do the job. I think that's mainly why she chose me. After meeting with the team and getting all the info from the interviewer when we were nearing the end of the interview, I said that I debated whether to tell her about the pregnancy. Because I'm an honest person who didn't want to surprise them after the hire -- I told her.
Well, I would say my first lesson was realizing that the type of firm we set out to be wasnt going to happen. We started out as a web design & development firm, hoping to target all the small local business in our county. Well, as we kept going to Chamber mixers, etc. we were faced wtih the realization that our local firms were light years behind in technology & Chamber mixers were always the same people just looking for a night out, not real business networking.
Then, after having a bit of luck with some marketing firms in neighboring suburbs the light bulb went off. We compliment designers, marketers, etc by offering them strong programming services. Design was always our supplementary offering, custom development was our ace so we went with it. Now we are trusted by other firms to do their clients work.
I would say best lesson we learned was find your niche and pursue it.
sydcon_mktg Ah, so that's what happens at those Chamber mixers, lol! I'm so glad you shared this--a lot of businesses are afraid to slim down their businesses the way you did by recognizing your strength and letting design go. Thank you!
The first lesson I learned helped solidify my belief that I made the right decision when I jumped from the secure, but stifled, life in the corporate world into the uncertain income and dangerous freedom of the full-time freelance world.
Dragonslayer (a.k.a. hubs) and I discussed my leaving the corporate world to freelance full time for about a year and a half before I actually did it. I knew I could write news stories and produce copy that exceeded client expectations. After all, I'd been doing that on the side for over a decade, anyway.
Problem was...I had no idea how I was going to get new clients. Should I tweet out promotional tweets with a call to action? Do I buy ads on Facebook? The newspaper? Church bulletin? I really had no idea, so I decided I'd just work with the client base I had and pray that it didn't dry up before I had some sparkly new ideas.
I signed up for a Twitter profile and muddled my way through it, making copious mistakes in Twittiquette, yet totally oblivious (most of the time) that I was doing so. I tweeted my health care related stories and my numerous stories for the Houston Chronicle (all done on various topics for paying clients or newsrooms), but mostly retweeted articles and info I found relevant and interesting to me as a journalist and copywriter. I hadn't launched Freelance Writing Dreams (FWD) yet. As I stumbled along, my following slowly growing, I got my first retweet -- it only took about 3 months or so of figuring things out and wondering why no one paid attention to my tweets (seemingly).
I kept on talking and engaging there about other people's tweets and what I thought of the info. I also recommended people who never even said so much as a word to me on twitter because I knew they had great knowledge and ability in X industry or with Y issues or Z technical need. That's when it exploded...potential new clients began to approach me! Yes! With absolutely no smarmy used-car-salesman-type self-promotion or even specifically talking about my business at all.
My mistake? Causing intense anxiety and stress by believing that the digital business world requires the same marketing strategies and tools as the brick and mortar business world.
The lesson? If you curve your eye, mind, and heart outward -- toward others -- rather than curving those things in toward yourself (even though promoting others may run counter to what you've always learned about marketing), good, even great things will begin to happen in your business. It's all about networking, selflessness, and paying it forward.
Sorry this is so long, but I needed to get that out there.
texascopywriter I made mistake after mistake on Twitter, too! And I was seriously embarrassed when I looked back at the post I referenced here because although I really thought it was something for everyone else, and not me, it was missing the people-promoting element that would have truly made it a community-building exercise, and not just a traffic spike.
"Causing intense anxiety and stress by believing that the digital business world requires the same marketing strategies and tools as the brick and mortar business world."
Yes. Took me a good minute to figure that one out, too, because when I searched for tips for promoting your business online, the first tips I got were the ones that echoed brick-and-mortar concepts (traffic, traffic, and more traffic will eventually lead to conversion), which really don't work for new businesses or small businesses that want to grow.
Your spotlight coming soon, Samantha--thank you!
The first lessons I learnt? I don't really know where to start ... I guess the first important lesson online was to treat it in the same way as I was marketing offline (I was doing offline marketing for a LOT longer) - apply the same rules basically - make your services, intentions and pricing available. Your message and your goal SUPER clear. The hardest lesson I learnt was to say no to clients and actually turn down people because they weren't the right fit - it was hard to look beyond the money (but I got burned a couple of times, never to be repeated!)
Ameenafalchetto Turning down is definitely difficult--especially when you feel like you're "on your own" and you "gotta do what you gotta do" to survive. But the more I turn down the wrong fit the better I feel about my business: its direction, its potential--everything gets clearer.
And on your first point: What did you notice happening when things weren't clear that taught you to clarify?
I.will.be.back:) I'm just re-entering the world online, back from my writing retreat, and will be sure to submit one of the early lessons. (although that will take some memory work. I started my business over 25 years ago, eegads:) Cheers! Kaarina
KDillabough I know you're just getting back, but I also know you've got some stories, lady! I won't hold you to it, but you know you're always welcome.
ShakirahDawud Thanks! I sometimes need that little nudge to get back into the fray...or fire...or fun:)