Marketing Basics: Playing To the Right Crowd

Over the past few months, I’ve struggled to find new freelance projects to supplement my regular proofreading and blogging income. Only recently was I able to admit to myself the reason for this partially self-imposed period of limbo: I wasn’t sure what I was looking for.

Obviously, it’s impossible to put together an effective marketing campaign when you’re not quite sure what you’re marketing, or who you’re marketing to. After the jump, the three most basic questions you need to ask yourself before launching your own campaign:

1. What Product Are You Selling?

And get specific about it. For example, if you’re trying to break into copy editing, are you looking to break into magazine editing? Book editing? Medical publishing? Do you want to proof corporate marketing materials? Web content? When asked what you do, it’s better to say, “I specialize in copy editing for academic book publishers” than “I’m a copy editor.”

2. What (Intangible) Product Are You Selling?

This is slightly more difficult to figure out, as you have to put yourself into the shoes of your prospective clients and figure out the deep-down reason they’re looking for a service provider in your area of expertise. This is another case of broadcasting benefits to the customer rather than boring old product features. If you’re considering career coaching, for example, prospective clients may be looking for intangibles like “direction” and “meaning.” When you’re putting together your marketing materials, you need to convey the fact that you can provide these things, whether it’s in your name, your logo, or your space ad designs.

3. Who Are You Selling To?

No one marketing piece you send out will be able to appeal to all possible customers. Tailor your separate marketing pieces to different audiences or, if you really want to be seen as a specialist in your field, pick one target market and stick with it. This ties somewhat into question 1, where I listed all of the different types of copy editing one could consider focusing on. If, as in question 2, you’re considering career coaching, perhaps you could focus your marketing efforts on college seniors, or men and women in their 20s who are going through their quarterlife crises (I swear, it exists). Think about it? What’s your target market? Where do they hang out? What do they read? Which web sites are they surfing. These are the places where you need to become most visible.

The questions above may seem simplistic, but so many people rush into the freelance life eager to leave behind the 9-to-5 grind, but unclear on what they’re hoping to accomplish.

You may need to ask yourself these questions multiple times in the coming years, as you reevaluate your business, and where it’s headed. Both dreams and businesses evolve.

How many times have your goals shifted?


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