Few words are as misunderstood and misused as the word marketing. It seems that no matter what the activity—from sales to public relations to telephone solicitation—it is called marketing. Marketing does not mean selling; it means identifying a need in the marketplace and finding a way to fill it. As it applies to writing, marketing means letting potential clients or editors know who you are, how you can help them, and why you should be the first and only person they call. If people don’t know who you are or what you can do for them, that isn’t going to happen.
It’s all a matter of attitude. When you have a marketing mindset, you are always asking yourself, “What is the problem and how can I help solve it?” Since every problem is unique, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, your solution must be custom-tailored to each problem. The better your investigative technique and problem-solving skills, the more likely you are to land the assignment and to build ongoing credibility. To stand out from your competitors, you need to have marketing savvy. To develop it, try to adopt the following behaviors and actions.
Think of life as a marketing call.
Believe it; live it. Realize that every single thing you do or say is an element of your personal marketing strategy. “Everything” includes the quality of your work; your attitude, appearance, and demeanor; the message on your voice mail and how quickly you return calls; your marketing materials and how well they demonstrate your ability to communicate; samples of your work and the way you present those samples; and all the ways in which you interact with the world.
Set aside a certain number of hours a day or each week for marketing.
Make them sacrosanct. Don’t say, “That’s a great idea, but I’m too busy working.” Remember all those times when busy-ness gave way to nothingness and you kicked yourself for failing to fill the pipeline. Don’t kick yourself; take time, make time to market yourself and your business.
Take your own advice.
Do for yourself what you would advise your clients to do. They are paying you to help them get their message across, and you are telling them all the best ways to do it. What about your message? If your recommendations work for others, won’t they work equally well for you? Write down your advice to your clients; then scratch out their company name, and write in your own. If all else fails, pretend you hired a marketing consultant to help you.
Attend networking events. Do face time; pass out business cards; collect business cards; follow up with phone calls or notes. If life is indeed a marketing call, networking events are golden opportunities to meet people, to determine what they may need and how you could supply it, to make a good impression, and to let them know enough about you to want to know more.
Join organizations and get involved.
Carefully select the organizations you join, and play an active role in their activities. The possibilities are vast. You can choose among professional, civic, trade or industry, charitable, leads, and small-business groups. But before you sign your application form, ask yourself these three questions: Does the focus of this group interest me? Can I grow professionally and personally from my involvement? Are those who belong people I want to know or who could further my business goals?
Solicit referrals from satisfied clients or editors.
If you have done a good job and your work is valued, ask if there is someone else to whom your client might refer you. If you aren’t asking for referrals yet, start now. Every satisfied customer has a full Rolodex or
e-mail address book. Even two names could turn out to be valuable.
Think outside the box.
Get involved in activities that put you outside of your comfort zone. Most of us have unexplored areas in our lives—things we have thought about doing but have never taken the time to do. There are two good reasons to try this: First, it will expand your horizons and you might have fun; and, second, it will put you in proximity to people you would not ordinarily meet.
Create a Web site; then promote it.
The Internet is a mighty presence in our lives, and it is essential to have a presence on the Web. If you are in communications and you want to get your name out there in cyberspace, a Website is one way to do it. But (there is always a but), if you do launch your own site, know what you hope to accomplish; do it well or hire someone to do it well for you; put in lots of meta tags; register it with beaucoup search engines; change it or update it frequently; and promote it, promote it, promote it. A Website can be effective, or it can be a frivolous and extravagant exercise in feeding your ego.
Be your own PR person.
No one knows how good you are as much as you do. No one else has such a vested interest in your success. No one can tell your story as well as you can. So why not put all those ingredients together and mount your own PR campaign? If you believe in the product—as well you should—no one can sell it as well as you can.