Episode 39: Tactics for the “Final Mile” of Marketing

You need to always be marketing. A steady, consistent marketing campaign will do more for the long-term health of your practice than any other effort you might make. And so let’s get down into the details. Let’s explore the ins and outs of what a sustainable and effective marketing plan for creative entrepreneurs looks like at a practical level.

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Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?

If you’ve been listening to 5 Minutes on Creative Entrepreneurship from the beginning, then you know that these episodes are structured around the five topics of Money, Minutes, Marketing, Management, and Motivation. Dealing with all five aspects of running a creative service business is critical, because they all interrelate, and impact each other. But of the five, marketing really is the most critical. Without effective marketing you won’t have much money to account for, or minutes to manage, or functions to fill. And so in our upcoming episodes we’re going to zoom in on this most critical component of running a creative practice—how to find great clients, and maintain a steady pipeline of opportunities.

Most creative entrepreneurs end up relying primarily on word of mouth referrals for their new business. That’s fine as far as it goes, but there are a couple serious liabilities to this dependence. First, referrals rarely move up the chain to bigger and better clients. Referrals function at a peer level, or down the chain of influence—rarely up the chain. And so the quality of your client base quickly plateaus. But worse than that, when you rely on referrals, you are never in control of your new business. And when things get slow, you’re out of luck—and finally taking responsibility for your marketing at that point may be too late.

And so you need to always be marketing. A steady, consistent marketing campaign will do more for the long term health of your practice than any other effort you might make. And so let’s get down into the details. Let’s explore the ins and outs of what a sustainable and effective marketing plan for creative entrepreneurs looks like at a practical level.

In order to proceed I will need to assume that you have already listened to episode 9 on the critically important function of establishing a narrow positioning statement. And I’m going to proceed with the assumption that you have taken that step—that you’ve answered for yourself, the three positioning statement questions of “what you do,” “for whom you do it” and “how it benefits them” in a succinct, and focused way. I also need to assume that you’ve thought about a corresponding content strategy that validates this positioning statement—you can go back and listen to episode 24 if you’ve forgotten about content strategy basics.

But having established your statement, and determined the kind and frequency of your content around this focus, you have to start getting the message out. And that is essentially all that marketing is. To be great at marketing simply means that you are able to clearly and succinctly say what you do and why someone should respond—and then find the right channels to get that message in front of those who would be interested. Everything else is just tactics.

Of course tactics are important. They are the last mile of all your efforts. What good would it be if you have a massive power plant generating energy, and broad infrastructure to move it out—but never make that last set of connections from a transfer station to the surrounding homes and businesses? Your marketing tactics are simply that last bit of effort to connect the power of your creativity to the places where it’s needed.

But that last mile can be challenging. Making that final connection to individual prospects has similar challenges to delivering the last mile of energy. One single power plant can generate sufficient energy for people hundreds of miles around. But you need miles and miles of wire, and thousands of telephone poles, not to mention all the human resources needed to build, maintain, and deliver it to every house and business.

And this is the challenge of marketing. The people you need to reach are distributed all over the place, and are active on so many different channels. Some are on Twitter, some like Facebook, others stay off social media altogether. Some listen to podcasts, some watch videos, some still rely on old fashion cable television. How do you close the loop with prospects when their channels of attention are more fractured and distributed than ever?

This is the challenge of modern marketing. And dealing with this “final mile” of marketing using tactics that are sustainable and efficient is what we’ll be covering in weeks to come.

And so until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.