Angela Booth had a great post recently that you should check out: Sell Your Writing: Create a Marketing Campaign.
She tackles marketing in a way I really love, because I think it addresses the fears many freelance writers have about the actual act of selling their writing services.
She offers a reminder that marketing doesn't mean you have to make cold calls. It doesn't mean you have to send out constant queries or cold email pitches. You do have to "put yourself out there," but you don't have to shout from the rooftops. In fact, you don't have to do anything uncomfortable for you. There are endless marketing tactics out there - something will work for you. When you find the right mix, I actually think you'll enjoy it!
So to pick up on the topic Angela brought up--planning your marketing campaign--I'm going to give you a brief step-by-step you can follow if you haven't formally done this yet.
Create a Freelance Writing Marketing Plan
Before thinking about specific marketing campaigns, it's important that you have an overall marketing plan. Try this:
- Download my free one page marketing plan template. (link to the .pdf is at the bottom of the guide page - the page linked above explains what each section is to help you fill it out).
- Think about your target market, and jot down a few specifics in your plan - what type of businesses, what size of business or publication, what niche or industry, etc.?
- Do a little research. See what the trends are in that target market - is everyone downsizing (could be good if it means hiring more freelancers; could be bad if publications are completely shutting their doors). If the trends look bad, consider another target market to focus on.
- Pick at least three goals. Remember to make them specific and measurable. For example, a goal might be to earn $50k in your next full year freelancing or it might be to get published in two large women's magazines over the course of a year - note that there are numeric goals that can be measured, but that they can also be measured time-wise.
- Now come up with a few strategies to reach those goals. A strategy for earning $50k per year, for example, might be to release several of your own informational products. Another might be to launch a paid membership site. Another might be to write for lesser-known, but well-paying, trade publications.
- Now you can think about tactics - the specific things you'll do within those strategies to reach your goals. For example a tactic might be to release white papers or free reports to promote the sale of your information product. Or you may market your services by pitching op-eds and letters to the editor to publications related to those trade mags you want to write for. On my one page marketing plan, I've broken down tactics monthly - think about what tactics work well seasonally (like giving something away for free during the holidays).
- Now make note of your strengths and weaknesses (in relation to the competition). Everyone has weaknesses (less experience, no tested marketing ability, no funding for paid advertising, etc.). Everyone also has strengths.
- Jot down a quick list of the products and services you'll be offering, how you intend to price them (even if not specifically), where you intend to sell them (such as through your own professional site), and your general value statement (what value will you be promoting to prospective buyers?).
- Also make note of your marketing budget. You'll need to know this up front to adequately plan marketing campaigns.
From Marketing Plans to Marketing Campaigns
When you have a yearly marketing plan to work with (an abbreviated one page marketing plan or a full marketing plan), it should serve as your guide in planning specific marketing campaigns.
For example, let's say you're a finance / debt management writer, and you've decided to launch a series of short e-books (paid) at the beginning of the year as a new income stream to reach your revenue goals. Looking at your marketing tactics laid out monthly, you've established that January would be a good time to launch and promote the e-books, because people are thinking about getting out of debt, making more money, creating a family budget, etc.
Now that you know that, you'll actually map out the specific tactics for that single campaign. Here are some tips to help you do that:
- First figure out how much of your budget will go towards the campaign--you'll need to know that before committing to paid marketing options.
- Always keep your target market and your strengths in mind--that goes for your value proposition too. Never lose sight of the real value to buyers. Here you'll perhaps want to emphasize your experience / credentials in finance, and how the information you're offering will actually benefit the buyer or solve their problems.
- Decide on a time limit for the campaign. If you don't have an end date, where you'll start a new campaign, you'll have a difficult time measuring results and adapting the plan to improve sales.
- List every marketing tactic that could work to reach your target market within your budget. For example, let's say you come up with:
- Publish a free report as bait for the paid e-books / reports.
- Comment on relevant blogs with a link to your sales page.
- Mention it on your own blog if you have a related audience.
- Send out launch press releases, specifically to online outlets like relevant blogs.
- Offer to write guest posts on finance blogs, or other blogs your audience might frequent (for example, you may write for a parenting blog to appeal to people about family budgeting).
- Join several new communities, participate actively (without spamming), and put a link in your signature.
- Use CPC (cost per click) advertising such as Adwords.
- Use CPA (cost per action) advertising like an affiliate program.
- Buy a few banner ads on relevant sites for the length of your campaign (and include tracking code so you know where the clicks are coming from).
- Send review copies to reputable folks in the niche, and ask them for testimonials.
- Host a blog related to the e-books to bring in traffic.
- Optimize your sales page / site for search engine traffic.
- Launch a podcast on the topic to bring people in for free, and promote the various products on the show.
- and anything else you can think of
- Now go through that master marketing tactics list and start narrowing it down. Think about how much time you'll really be able to spend each day on marketing. With that information, plus the general length of your campaign, you can choose what you feel will be the most effective marketing tactics to pursue. Don't try to do everything at once. Spreading yourself too thin can give you the opposite of your desired results. Just as specializing in writing can lead to higher pay, so can specializing your marketing efforts.
- Make sure your tactics are measurable - you need to have some way to know if a tactic is working. That way you can always weed out ineffective tactics and introduce others later.
So that's it in a nutshell--a simple step-by-step way to go from an idea to a real marketing campaign for your freelance writing services, informational products, or even your income-generating websites and blogs. Remember, marketing is incredibly flexible. Being uncomfortable with one aspect doesn't mean there aren't plenty of others that you'll love (and that will prove wildly successful)!