Tried These “Under-the-Radar” Marketing Tactics for Your Writing Business? (Guest Post)

Got this great guest post from busy and talented commercial writer, Lori Widmer. As important as marketing is, it’s also something that so often gets turned into this big, gnarly, scary exercise that ends up reliably but unnecessarily freaking out commercial freelancers. NOT that it’s some piece ‘o cake, but, as Lori points out, it makes sense to examine – and adjust, if necessary – some of your common perceptions about marketing. Enjoy!

Marketing is not brain surgery.

There. I said it. Too many times we hear the word “marketing” and think of complicated, time-consuming plans that have to be worked to death in order to be effective. If that’s how you’re marketing, you’re probably doing it wrong.

That’s because I spend just a few hours a week marketing and I’m usually quite busy. My plan is jotted down, not charted out like an expedition map. The simpler the better, in my view. I market every day, busy or not. If you’re looking to simplify and get more impact from less work, try mixing a few of these ideas into your current strategy:

Use invoices as sales tools. Why just send an invoice when you can send an invoice that also announces sales, recent business successes, or newsletter sign-up information? These are clients who have already bought from you. Remind them why with short pieces (under 100 words) announcing your new product, your new sale, or your latest sales success.

Engage in stealth marketing. Some of my best marketing success has come from not marketing at all. It’s what I call stealth marketing, and it’s little more than showing up, befriending, helping, and maintaining the connection. In one case, a client told me I wasn’t very good at marketing. This was as she was revamping her business in order to fit my proposal into her current business model. She never realized it, but I had marketed to her without doing more than showing up, befriending, helping, and maintaining the relationship.

Close the circle. The sale isn’t over when the client buys. It’s over when you have a satisfied client. Go back to those clients who bought from you recently. Follow up on that sale by first asking if they’re satisfied. Then send the invoice. At invoice time, ask for feedback – how can you be of further assistance? Was the product to their satisfaction? Were they happy with the overall experience?

Get caught promoting clients. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are great places to promote clients when they’re not looking. Send out that press release link, give them a congratulatory shout-out, or Retweet their message with your own praise attached.

Promote a non-client. When was the last time you helped someone you knew would never be a client? It’s something so easy to do, and yet so few of us think it’s useful or even necessary. Refer someone to a non-client or former client when possible. I surprised a client I’d fired by sending customers his way. Why? Because I believed his business was a good fit for those customers. It didn’t matter that he and I couldn’t come to terms. What mattered was that I kept it business only – nothing personal.

Ask for the referral. You’ve just finished a great project with your client. You’ve done follow up to ensure satisfaction. Now is the time to ask. “Do you know of anyone else who might need my services?” Tap into your client’s network to expand your own. By asking for a referral, you’re able to spread the word about your business by asking for an introduction from an already satisfied client. It’s word-of-mouth marketing kicked up a notch.

Rethink your view of marketing. Use marketing to meet people, not sell to people. If you must, view it as networking, but remember the result isn’t about selling. It’s about meeting and connecting. Don’t go into every conversation thinking you have to sell. You don’t. You should be building the relationship. Sales come later.

How often do you market?

Have you used any of the above, and if so, can you share a story?

What are some of your most effective marketing methods?

Which of your marketing approaches do clients respond to most?

What is the toughest part of marketing for you?

Lori Widmer veteran freelance writer and editor who specializes in business writing and marketing strategies for writers. She is co-founder and co-moderator of the About Writing Squared Five Buck Forum for writers, and author of the upcoming book, Marketing 365: Daily Strategies for Small Businesses. She blogs for writers every day at Words on the Page

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

19 replies
  1. Rita Marshall
    Rita Marshall says:

    I’m fortunate that my one niche is very concentrated in a small geographic area — tweets on my clients and short prospecting emails usually bring in work. Now that I’m expanding into a new niche across a much wider geographic area, I’ll continue that but also start asking for referrals.

    The “invoice sales tool” is a great idea. I just realized that my small, local Cable TV provider does this. Every month I look to see what their message is — free trial channels for that month, promos or just an update on the company. It’s the only bill I (somewhat) look forward to opening!

  2. Cathy Miller
    Cathy Miller says:

    Great ideas, as usual, Lori. The part that nails it for me is Rethink your view of marketing. I think many of us equate cold-calling with marketing. Thus, the fear factor. I like to think of it as touching base. And that takes many forms. It can be sharing some good information, just chit-chatting or letting them know what I’m up to. Love your idea about the invoice.

    I mentioned on a previous post here that I visited a client in San Diego when I was down there for the 3-Day Walk. By just chit-chatting, I ended up being hired on a retainer and am now officially a line item on their budget. Who knew how exciting a line item could be? 🙂

    Good ideas here, Lori. I’ll have to steal a few. 🙂

  3. Chad Stamm
    Chad Stamm says:

    Great tips! I’d add direct mail to this list, as well. Specifically, postcards. It is so cheap to design, print, and mail postcards. And your return is through the roof. I’ve made back the entire cost of 200 cards six or seven times over in the last six months. And that’s with ONE client.

  4. Lori
    Lori says:

    Super idea, Chad! I’ve had some good success with postcard campaigns in the past.

    Rita, amazing how something extra to the bill makes us take notice, isn’t it?

  5. Danica
    Danica says:

    Now if someone would come up with a better way to market when your market isn’t where you live, I’d like to know. I write for independent coaches but where I live isn’t where most of my prospective clients are. And yes, I did my research before choosing my niche.

    So what low cost suggestions would you give someone whose client base is not in their local market?

    Thought I’d ask.

  6. Devon Ellington
    Devon Ellington says:

    If you start thinking of “marketing” as an exciting way to expand your circle, it’s less of a chore and more of a positive. I’m basically a shy person (although people laugh when they hear it). But I’m interested in other people and what interests them. Yes, some of that is selfish — I write fiction, so everyone is material. But, when it comes to the business writing, if you actually listen to people and ask questions, you can offer something helpful and find yourself with a client just because you happened to meet someone at the Chamber of Commerce meeting or met them and then ran into them at Stop N Shop when they were having a bad day, and they realize you can write them out of their box.

    I’ve run into more people in Stop N Shop, the liquor store, and Christmas Tree Shops that I met at some event or other, and we happened to collide in the store when they were having a crisis, and there’s a job. Nothing like figuring out an ad campaign over the winter squash.

    And then you go home and make sure the verbal agreement is followed up with a written contract ASAP. But people here are pretty good about keeping their word, unlike other places I’ve lived, and don’t expect something for nothing.

    I’m a big fan of the postcard mailing — a brochure mailing once a year, followed by quarterly post cards with “Hey, how are you? Thinking of you. Need anything?” The brochure mailing gets about a 3% return, but the postcard mailings usually get about 25%. Worth the postage and the time.

    Schedule the marketing like you would any other job on your calendar, but also be open to unexpected opportunities. If something crosses your desk, don’t put it off until your “marketing hours”. Jot off a quick suggestion or hello and send it immediately.

  7. Lori
    Lori says:

    Danica, actually most of my clients (except for one) aren’t local. I use these tactics with all clients. I get in touch via email, snail mail, phone (reserved for second or third contact), and social media. It’s rare I meet a client in person.

    I’ve never tried negotiating a deal over squash, Devon. Sounds delicious! I’ve always been impressed by your postcard mailer success. It really does work well, especially with existing clients.

  8. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    I love your invoice idea, Lori! I actually have a bigger hang-up around marketing to former clients than strangers – possibly because the rejection would sting more since I’ve actually worked for them. Postcards are within my comfort level and the invoice idea would be too.

    Danica, at this point I market only to non-local prospects and I do so through email. Not terribly innovative, but it works for me.

  9. Susan Landry
    Susan Landry says:

    Awesome post, Lori! Sometimes it’s hard not to look at marketing as a chore. For me, the hardest part is making room in my schedule for it. But if you don’t carve out the time to promote your services regularly, the dreaded “feast or famine” cycle of freelancing is inevitable. Yep, I know from experience.

    I totally forgot about the “invoices as sales tools” idea – thanks for the refresher! And thanks to Chad for bringing up postcards – I have a whole stack in my drawer from last year that I have yet to send out. I guess I should get to it. 🙂

  10. Lori
    Lori says:

    Susan, that’s always hard. But think about sending out maybe two emails today to a client. Or spend time on Twitter saying hi to clients you’ve worked with. Simple stuff still counts. 🙂

    Thanks for the link, Jeff!

  11. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Lori, for a great post, and thanks to all you added their parts… Marketing is often described in pretty conventional terms, with all the usual traditional avenues, to the point where the message gets lost in the info-drone out there. Which is why I especially appreciate stuff like this, that takes a fresh look at how we market, and offers very cool (and no doubt-effective) alternatives to the norm.

    What I see in many of these ideas is goodheartedness, bordering on Random Acts of Kindness, and there’s a really important lesson there: always come from a place of serving, and helping, not objectifying people as possible income streams.

    And I’m not saying that most of us are that way – just that it’s easy (especially when things are tight and we need to get business in the door) to go into survival mode and not be coming from the most enlightened space.

    When we think in terms of getting to know people, and building relationships and helping where we can, it just feels better, it can be less stressful, less icky feeling (if you’re coming from a creative background and have an innate aversion to “marketing” in a mercenary sense…) AND can grow our business.

    No, we can’t always be completely selfless – it IS a business, after all – but more of these kinds of things can go a long way.


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