Why Should You Care What I Have to Say?
That right there is a question you should be asking all the time. The world is full of people selling advice. My name is Connor Rickett, and I own Cities of the Mind Freelance Writing. You haven’t heard of me, and that’s fine. Here’s what you need to know: I make my living selling words. Take a moment to appreciate that I sell people an abstract concept which I pull from thin air for hard currency. There’s craft to it, skill, expertise, don’t get me wrong, but at the end of the day I do something anyone could do for free, and they give me money for it. Good marketing is kind of important to my business.
Marketing Never Changes
You could say marketing has changed a lot in the last century. It was long relegated to print on pages, signs, or the sides of buildings and barns. Then Marconi hit us with the radio. Not long after, Farnsworth brought the television. Twenty years ago, no one had ever even thought of the pop up or the banner ad.
The point is, there have always been advertisements everywhere, but there is exponentially increasing “everywhere” to put them! The competition to stand out has gotten steadily more scientific and cutthroat.
You could also say that marketing hasn't changed since some hairy fellow first convinced another guy dressed in furs to trade a sharp rock and fishing hook for the secret of his brand new method of rubbing two sticks together.
Marketing has always been, and will always be, about making a connection with another person. Networking. If you’re selling your product to empty space, you’re going to go broke quick.
Marketing is Creative
The challenge here, though, is that you’re trying to sell something that other people are no doubt selling. On top of that, some people are going to be doing it better, and some people are going to be selling it for less. Goods, services, it doesn't matter; there’s competition. If there isn't right this second, there will be soon.
So how do you stand out? How do you make your mark? How do you stay alive? That’s an especially challenging question for small business owners, since we can’t budget for advertising blitzes or rely on a cadre of brand loyalists to trumpet our next move.
So, you've got to be creative. You have to find the areas other people haven’t and exploit them. More than anything else, that means finding ways to start conversations.
Never Miss Your Chance to Make a Chance
If you’re shy, get over it. Or go get a job where you’re not your own marketing department. You know where I picked up my first paid writing gig? I talked to the guy sitting next to me at the bar. Turned out he needed a writer.
One of the things I bought with the money from that fist job was a pack of 500 business cards. For the record, you don’t need 500 business cards. 250 is plenty for the first run. There I go giving away tips for free again. It just so happened, though, that with my way too many business cards I got a discount bumper sticker for a dollar.
I’d completely forgotten about it by the time the cards arrived, so I was sort of confused by the second box. All the more so because the bumper sticker was shipped in a bigger box than the business cards. It was really a ridiculously large box, so my expectations were rather high by the time I got it open and cleared away the packing peanuts. It was much smaller than I’d expected. About the size of one of those location bumper stickers you see around with airport codes on them.
So there I was, with a discount bumper sticker and the feeling that I probably just wasted a dollar; there was no way anyone could read it on my car unless they were in the process of running into me or I was parked.
For lack of a better option, I stuck it on my laptop. It says, “Need something written?” and that random at of frustration was the best business decision I’ve ever made. I've admired many writers and poets like Jim Morrison.
You see, I work in public most the time, and anywhere I go, there’s that question, just hovering there for passersby. Most the conversations it started never led anywhere, but a number started business relationships. At this point, I think I’ve netted more than a thousand dollars from conversations started by my bumper sticker.
That’s not all that much money, I know, but some of it came in months where it was the difference between paying my rent and not paying it—besides I defy you to beat a one hundred thousand percent ROI in your next ad campaign. In fact, if you do, please tell me all about it. Now, you might point out chances are sticking a bumper sticker on your own laptop won’t help your business along. . . Why do you think I was willing to part with the story for free?
But the lesson behind it might. The point is, never leave your resources unused, never skip any chance to get that conversation going. Money flows through networks, and the wider that network, the easier it is to succeed.
Connor Rickett is a professional freelancer and ghostwriter. Connor is currently in the early stages of fortune and fame (debt and infamy), and he blogs about small business, freelancing, and writing over at his company blog, Cities of the Mind Freelance Writing. Go read his blog or just say hi.