How To Market The Crap Out Of Yourself

I recently watched a video by very talented lady Marie Forleo, in which she touted the importance of marketing above all other things — even more important than product.

Say what?

Come on. It makes perfect sense. As Forleo pointed out, you can have the most high-quality product in the world but, unless people know about it, your business is sunk.

Many of us dread marketing as a necessary evil. I know I did. I wanted nothing more than to just practice my art. But recently, I found myself in the middle of some great brainstorming sessions, and I also had a blast writing up my marketing plan. And now? I’m eager to finally put that plan into action.

Have you written up a marketing plan yet? Why not!? Even if you’re not launching a fancy-pants career coaching practice or consulting business, your freelance business could still benefit. And it’s not scary at all! I swear!

Here. I’ll walk you through it.

1. Write up a mission statement.

Your mission statement does not have to be a long and involved magnum opus. It should, however, list your business goals — monetary and otherwise — and should also specify the things that set you apart from the competition.

My mission statement is a mere three paragraphs long, but yours could be longer… or shorter. Either way, this part is important. Writing out your mission statement can help you clarify exactly what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. And as you make future business decisions, you can refer back to it and ask yourself: does this bring me closer to my business goals?

2. Specify your target markets.

Chances are, your product or service won’t appeal to everyone. So list the people you’re trying to help, and get specific.

Once you’ve pinned down your target markets, you can start researching the best ways to reach them. Where do they hang out? Which social networking sites are they on? Which blogs are they reading? Do they participate in any online forums, or attend any professional conferences? Knowing all of this will keep you from marketing blind.

3. List your products.

In times like these, it helps to diversify. To give you an example, here are the products I’m offering through my career coaching practice (plus a few I plan on offering in the future): three different one-on-one coaching packages; several consulting packages; group e-courses and teleclasses; an e-book; and perhaps some swag (mostly because I’m dying to own a travel mug that says “word nerd” on it). Get creative. People may actually be more amenable to purchasing your big-ticket items if they’ve already tried — and loved — your lower-priced offerings. Holy shit! they’ll think. I gots to get me some more of that!

4. List your competition.

And then look to see what they’re doing right. And what they’re doing wrong. And what they’re not doing at all. How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? And, in the end, should you even consider them competition? If you can set yourself apart from them, perhaps it will leave room for future collaborations.

5. Finally, list your marketing tactics.

This is the fun part. (Then again, I get excited when I get the chance to make roasted Brussels sprouts and eat them in bed whilst reading a stack of fashion magazines. Still, I think you might actually enjoy yourself here if you allow yourself to tap into your creative side.) Referring back to number two — your target markets and where they’re hanging out — come up with some marketing ideas that go beyond simply direct mail-bombing people, and pricey space advertising. Think about how you like to be marketed to. What makes you decide to shell out the cash?

And then? Write a really long and wacky list. Seriously. Go all out. You may not end up doing everything on your list, but at least you’ll have options. And the more options you have, the more you’ll know about what works and what doesn’t.

Some of the things that made it on to my list?

  • coordinate a speed-networking event, and find a fellow coach, writing prof, media company, educational institution, professional organization, or publishing company to co-sponsor it.
  • join a planning committee for or host a panel at an industry-specific conference.
  • offer a free giveaway at someone else’s event.
  • advertise in industry-specific magazines, blogs, websites, or newsletters.
  • hold seasonal contests.
  • start a monthly newsletter.
  • gather testimonials for my website.
  • offer a reward for referrals.
  • start focusing my magazine pitches on career-related content (instead of… um… sex).
  • promote myself as an expert by answering questions on sites like Brazen Careerist or LinkedIn, or responding to reporters’ queries on HARO.
  • create a Facebook page.
  • start guest posting like a madwoman.
  • attend more networking events.
  • etc.

And.. you’re done!

Just don’t file your marketing plan away and forget about it, like I did. Start to market yourself long before you’re ready to launch (you can learn a thing or two about creating buzz right here) or, if it’s too late for that, start right now. And once you’re up and running, don’t stop marketing. Don’t become complacent.

Complacency is the kiss of death.

So. What’s the wackiest thing you’ve done to market yourself?

Related: 12 Ways To Market An Ebook, Product Placement: The Resume T-Shirt

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