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Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Upgrading My Marketing Mindset

Marketing Makes Me Ill

I admit it. I’m a hater, at least when it comes to marketing for myself. The idea of trying to sell my own services is the stuff of nightmares. But as a solopreneur, I’m learning you simply have to suck it up and find a way to do it.

That’s not to say we have to sound like those annoying car salesmen who used to frequent the limited TV channels when I was a kid. We just have to learn to put ourselves out there and give people an opportunity to ask us about the services or products we offer.

As a writer, the most common of these is pitching. Unfortunately, my brain has twisted that word into a rather unappetizing pretzel as palatable as the afore-mentioned care salesman. Though I can’t get completely away from pitching, I have been able to soften the word so it doesn’t stick in my craw.

Proposing vs. Pitching

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to write proposals and that’s where I start to hit my stride. I spent far too many hours working with a proposal team in my last job, and have taken much of what I learned in those hours to heart. There are plenty of do’s and even more don’ts about proposal writing. My favorite of all of them is the “so what?” approach to evaluating a proposal.

The “so what?” approach essentially looks at all you’re offering the client or customer from their standpoint. If you can’t show the benefits of something you’re offering, or demonstrate how it will make their life easier, they’ll likely read it and wonder why you even included it. Many things fall into this category including lengthy descriptions of your assets and attributes. Believe me, a potential client doesn’t give a horse’s patoot how many years you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to feel comfortable handing over not only their hard-earned cash, but tasks they want done on time, within budget, and above all, done right.

Testimonials from previous customers are great, but in this day and age, they’ve probably already looked at your website and seen the testimonials.

The Key is in the Customization

Remember all those resumes and cover letters you’ve sent out over the years? And remember when you finally learned that sending generic ones would most likely get you passed over no matter how good your qualifications were? A decent proposal (or pitch or query or whatever word you choose to use) is much the same. Sure, I use a template. I suspect most freelancers do. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel every time we propose a job. But you have to take the time to learn something about the client and their company.

Sometimes, they’re not very forthcoming about their business, so you have to read between the lines. Sometimes, you’ll get a little bit of information from your direct questions, but the real gold comes from doing a little research, and from conversations and emails. In short, from less formal communications.

Lately, I’ve found that asking an innocent question in the context of the conversation will yield gems you weren’t expecting, but which will give you insight into what the client is really trying to accomplish with the service or product you offer. (From here on out, I’m just going to talk about services since that’s what I do. Product marketing is an entirely different ballgame anyway).

Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts

In the last couple of months I’ve learned a few useful things about potential clients and proposals which are making me look at the whole process from a much less revolted point of view.

  • Rarely is the service you’re proposing your contact’s priority. They’ve been given the task of coordinating with potential candidates, but they have a lot of other responsibilities which are more important than what you’re proposing.
  • Patience is rewarded. Because of the first point, you may experience long lags between your responses and theirs. Get used to it. Check in once a week or so, but don’t be a pest. You’ll often learn where things stand priority-wise if you ask for a little time to respond to their latest request.
  • Always believe that no news is good news once you’re communicating with the potential client. I’ve sent out my share of queries which never even get opened, so I know what it feels like to send my best efforts into a black hole—every freelancer and solopreneur I know has files full of rejections by silence. So when you do get someone to respond, take it as a yes until such time as, god forbid, they tell you no.
  • (This one should probably have gone first, but this list is not in order of importance) Spend time on the company website getting to know who you want to be working with. This is where strong investigative skills come in handy. But you can certainly take note of the obvious things like pages on their site (for me, one of the first things I look for is evidence of a blog. If it exists, I look at how active it is, and when they last posted). From there, look for the services or products they offer, the people they serve, and the problems they solve.
  • Leave room in your proposal for services above and beyond what you’re proposing. Make sure you have a clause which covers you for “scope creep”. I see many freelance service providers complaining about clients who take advantage of them.  Putting the “scope creep” clause in the proposal and contract tells the client exactly what they’re signing up for and when additional work will require a new or modified contract.
  • Whether you’re dealing with the company President or someone 20 steps down the ladder, respect and consideration go a long way. Those gate keepers have the power to lock you out. Never lose sight of that. I’m reminded of the years I worked in Corporate America. Until computers rendered a lot of secretarial tasks obsolete, every director and upper-level manager had a secretary or admin and woe be to the person who got on that admin’s bad side. When all else fails, put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated by someone whether you’re just recommending them or you’re the decision-maker?
Learning to Wait, Revise, and Rethink

Patience has never been my strong suit. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m gaining a newfound level of respect for a friend who is a commercial realtor. Many times, I’ve seen her comment on the latest iteration of a contract, often in double digits. As I propose and re-propose myself, I’m learning it’s just part of the process. People re-evaluate. When they see something in black and white, it makes them think about what they truly want. They’re not trying to be difficult. They simply want to be clear on how the problem they’re facing should be solved.

I’m also gaining an appreciation for marketing, and despite the many voices telling me it’s just a numbers game and I have to send out a million pitches, I believe we have to find what works for us. When I hear someone say they get sick to their stomach whenever they pitch, yet they spend a significant part of their day doing it, I have to ask Why would you want to do something that feels like a bad case of morning sickness? Be creative. Find something that works without the physical discomfort.

I’m one who gets physically ill just thinking about selling myself. But I’m also not willing to give up on myself, so I’m taking my own advice and looking for a better way. Part of that is talking to people who more about putting yourself out there to gain recognition and trust rather than playing the numbers game. I spent enough of my life playing with numbers. I’m learning I prefer words, hands down.

Gratitude Always Works

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful there is more than one way to reach my goals.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples I see before me. Some, I’ll incorporate into my strategy, others I won’t. It doesn’t mean any of them are bad. Some are just a better fit for me.
  3. I’m grateful for dance nights, even when the DJ plays the same old boring dances instead of the many new ones we’ve learned. I get my exercise, my social engagement, and my hugs.
  4. I’m grateful for the upgrades I’ve made in my house in the last week or two. They’re neither expensive nor earth shaking. But they make me feel better, clearer, and more confident of my ability to attract the things I dream of.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, manifestations, inspiration, motivation, companionship, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

The Facebook Live associated with this post can be found here.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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December 12, 2014 Today’s quandary #shericonaway #copywrite

To copywrite or not to copywrite, that is the question.

Today, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. But before I proceed, let me provide a little back story: As my loyal readers know, I quit my job a year ago to focus solely on writing. In that time I have completed the first draft and first revision on one novel and the first 50,000 words on a second one. I’ve also learned that getting a novel from inception to publication is not a quick process.

In July, I purchased a copywriting course from AWAI, believing that this might be the solution to my cash flow until I started publishing novels. Well into the third chapter of the course, I found myself floundering, struggling to even get myself motivated to do the work, in part because bald faced sales pitches have never been of interest to me, and, in fact, I skim through one or two that I receive just for the amusement value. Do people really get sucked in by this stuff? Of course they do, or it wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry. But could I look myself in the mirror after doing that kind of writing? Hard to say.

So, what’s the dilema, you say? Seems pretty simple, right?

On the one hand, finishing the course and following the guidelines would likely bring me a source of revenue while the novel writing/editing/revising/promoting process continues. It might also give me a platform with which to do said promoting. On the other hand, I find myself resisting every attempt to continue the course and, in fact, have already decided to skip over one part which has me completely blocked. On the other hand, why am I really pursuing it? If it’s true that doing what you love with passion and devotion will attract whatever you need, then using my writing with the sole intent of making money is surely sending the wrong message and might well stifle my truly creative endeavors.

Yet, a girl has to eat, the mortgage must be paid, the cats must be fed and vet bills met. I do have the other option of trying to drum up more accounting business, but frankly, that makes me break out in a cold sweat, even more than finishing the copywriting course and marketing myself that way.

Writing has always been my passion, my resource and my refuge.

I’m not really looking for someone to give me an answer here. The fact is, whenever I’ve been faced with a serious decision, a major turning point, a struggle or a frustration, I’ve always turned to my very best friend in the world: the written word. I have innumerable brain dumps in which I poured out my thoughts, feelings, concerns and woes to either a piece of paper or a computer screen, knowing that I’d get a completely non-judgmental ear. Sure, I wouldn’t get any sage advice or sympathy either, but maybe that’s not what I was looking for. I truly believe that every answer we need is inside ourselves, either via our connection to the Universe as a whole, or through the experiences our spirit has had in the many human lifetimes it has already passed.

Sometimes, just the act of getting the words out into the world is enough to stir those mental juices into finding a solution or making a decision. My hope is that this time won’t be the exception to my lifelong rule. Often, just saying or writing the words opens a door to allow just the right piece of information in.

I ask you this: What do you do when you’re on the horns of a dilemma, unable to move forward until you’ve given yourself an answer?

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned making lists, though in this case, I don’t see a list developing, other than a list of questions. I’ve found, though, that some problems and questions lend themselves better to lists and others to just a free flow of thoughts. In this case, I’m going to go with the free flow. What about you? How might you approach something like this?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for an avenue which helps me pull my thoughts together.
2. I am grateful for the creativity with which I have been blessed.
3. I am grateful for quiet, rainy days which lend themselves to deep thoughts and staying in my pajamas all day.
4. I am grateful for the cleansing rain which has bathed my home this week. I pray that those adversely affected can soon make a full recovery.
5. I am grateful for abundance: inspiration, cogitation, laughter, love, friendship, joy, health, harmony, peace and prosperity.

Namaste

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