I’m always excited when I get to chat with a nurse interested in launching a freelance writing career. It’s fun to hear where they’re at in the process, and I’m happy to give what advice I can (when asked).
I’ve noticed, though, that these newly minted nurse-writers often will – in a single breath – tell me they haven’t yet landed their first client and then ask me what I think about their Twitter handle. Or ask me what title they should put on their business card. Or maybe ask me which job boards are the best ones to subscribe to.
And my answer is always the same:
Why did you choose to launch a Twitter account?
Why are you printing business cards?
Why do you want to subscribe to a job board?
I’m not trying to be rude; I’m trying to find out what their marketing strategy is.
Because, here’s the thing: Every choice you make, in terms of marketing your business, should be driven by your overall strategy. If you’re printing business cards simply because it would be cool to have business cards (and, honestly, doesn’t every businessperson have a business card?), then you’re wasting your time, money, and effort.
So today I want to talk about strategy, because strategy should govern every business decision you make. And since marketing is on the minds of many of you, I’m going to talk specifically about marketing strategy.
Don’t Get the Cart Before the Horse
Strategy answers the “why” question you should always ask before you pursue any initiative in your business. If you say to yourself, “I’m going to spend today setting up a Facebook page for my business,” you should first ask yourself, “Why am I setting up a Facebook page for my business? What purpose does this serve? What goal does this help me accomplish?”
If you say to yourself, “I’m going to spend the afternoon designing a business card,” you should stop, back up, and ask yourself, “Do I need business cards? When will I use them? What do I expect to accomplish with business cards?”
In short, never get the cart before the horse. Never allow your focus to get bogged down in details that don’t serve the bigger picture.
Today, let’s learn how to create some marketing strategies that provide sound answers to the “why” questions.
1. Start with a Goal
If your goal is to land your first (or next) client, you have thousands of potential strategies at your disposal. You could:
Stand on the street corner with a sign that says “Writer for Hire”
Phone up local businesses to offer her services*
Set up a website
Set up a Facebook page
Spend time perusing job boards and other listings
Set up an account at a place like Upwork
Develop a LinkedIn presence
Send postcards to likely clients*
Network with other writers for overflow work
Research potential clients online and email them
Buy a television advertisement to run during the Super Bowl
Wrap a bus
Buy a billboard
Attend a writers’ conference
Sure, some of these seem nonsensical, but I’m trying to illustrate how easy it is to get bogged down and confused when it comes to creating a strategy to achieve your marketing objectives. How do you know which of these approaches to take?
* These used to be tried-and-true methods, espoused by people like Peter Bowerman and Robert Bly. I think they’ve (the methods, not the men!) fallen out of favor now.
The only way to narrow the list of potential options for your strategy lies in thinking further about who your ideal client is and how they operate.
2. Identify Your Ideal Client
If you want to write consumer health articles to be published in magazines and on major websites like WebMD, then your ideal client is an editor at one of these publications.
For a straight content marketing writer, the ideal client might be a healthcare technology company. Or a large health system.
To figure out who your ideal client is, you need to think about the type of writing you prefer to do (is it business-to-business? Business-to-consumer? Something else?) and then consider what types of entities and outlets purchase that type of writing.
You should be as specific as possible when outlining your ideal client because it will help you hone your strategy to a great degree.
3. Learn How the Ideal Client Operates
Once you have identified the ideal client, then you need to consider how this individual works. What I mean is: how does this client prefer to be approached?
For instance, some editors love social media. They send out pitch requests by Twitter and invite writers to send story ideas. Other editors respond best to emailed LOIs with story pitches. You can’t craft a successful marketing strategy if you don’t know how your target client operates.
There’s no magic formula for determining this. You can follow ideal clients on social media to glean clues, and you can talk to other freelancers, network, participate in online forums, and so on, to find out what you need to know.
4. Choose Marketing Channels Appropriate to the Ideal Client
Now we get to the real meat of the “why” question. If you determine that your ideal client interacts frequently on Twitter with freelancers, then it makes total sense to set up a Twitter account for your business. If you discover that your ideal client’s demographics indicate she might spend a lot of time on Facebook, then maybe you set up a business page and invest in targeted Facebook ads.
Or maybe you find out from following an ideal client’s social updates that they tend to go out and find writers via Google search. Well, then maybe you invest in a better website to become an inbound marketing machine.
Note: A vast majority of content directors and editors work by fielding emailed LOIs. This is perhaps the most tried-and-true approach for landing a client there is.
Putting It All Together
As you work through these steps, write them down. Make lists. Draw arrows. Cross things off. Do whatever you need to do to match the marketing channel/approach with the ideal client.
Now, if we take the totality of this approach, you can answer the “why” questions with ease. If I ask you why you’re printing business cards, you can say, “Because part of my marketing strategy is local, in-person networking, and I’ll be attending fifty events this year.” If I ask you why you’re setting up a Twitter account, you can say, “Because one of my ideal clients frequently sends pitch requests by Twitter, and this will allow me to capitalize on them.”
Whatever issue you’re tackling in your business, you can’t go wrong by starting with a goal and then developing a strategy to accomplish it. What strategies are you using to market your business this year?