Episode 40: What Do You Have to Offer?

Before you start thinking about marketing channels, you need to think long and hard about what messages you intend to send through those channels. Ultimately you need to let prospects know you exist and have a service to offer—but what is that service? And how can you make your services stand out among a crowded marketplace of similar services?

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

The essence of marketing a creative service is simply getting the message out about what you have to offer. To do that you have to find and utilize the right channels. But before you start thinking about channels, you need to think long and hard about what messages you intend to send through those channels. Ultimately you need to let prospects know you exist and have a service to offer—but what is that service? And how can you make your services stand out among a crowded marketplace of similar services?

In today’s media landscape we are all subject to an overwhelming number of channels and messages. Advertisements are everywhere. They’re in our inbox, our mailbox, our social media feeds, our entertainment, they’re posted on streets and along our highways, they’re inserted into our podcasts and radio stations, and even embedded in the games we like to play. As you approach the task of marketing your creative service, you are going to have to compete with a cacophony of messages that can easily drown out whatever it is you have to say.

Since there is so much noise in the marketing channels we’re all exposed to, for your message to get through it’s going to have to stand out from all the rest. So what signals can you send that that won’t be lost in the noise?

As a creative entrepreneur your marketing messages must speak to the real needs to your prospects not to your own fascination with creativity. Far too often creatives write articles and post to social media about topics related to the craft of creativity. These topics are highly relevant and interesting to your peers—to other creatives—but not so much to your prospects. Your prospects want to sell more products, or get more opportunities, or find more investors. They really are not interested in the latest fonts released by the Berthold (Beer-told) Type Foundry—as beautiful as they may be.

Another tendency of creative service messaging is to simply engage in promotion—announcing the showing off recently completed work. While it’s entirely appropriate to include this kind of self promotional content as a part of your overall mix of messaging—it should certainly not be the mainstay of your messages. Lastly, they also don’t need to hear, yet again, how important branding is.

What they need to know is how your particular services are going to help them meet their specific goals. And how your abilities as a creative will accomplish this better than the thousands of other creatives offering essentially the same services.

So what do you offer? This is the first question of the three questions that define your positioning statement. And the more you pinpoint your answer to this question, the easier it will be to break through the noise, and get the attention of your prospects. The broader and more expansive your answer—the more you will be lost in the chatter.

This necessity—to fine tune your signal, by offering one clear service that meets a specific need—goes against the grain of most creatives. The typical answer to the question of what you do, as answered on the overwhelming majority of creative’s websites is “whatever you might need!” You want to claim to be “full service.” You can do print, identity, web, video, SEO, everything they might ever need. But when your answer to the question of what you are offering is “anything” then any signal you send out is going to dissipate into all the noise.

In order to break through, and get a hearing, your messages must be finely tuned and speak to the specific needs of your prospects. And that means you need to pick one offering (or a very small set of related offerings). You might think that offering everything casts a wide net to pull in many opportunities, but in fact, that wide net is so porous that you’ll end up catching nothing at all. When it comes to marketing, focus is your friend, and variety is a villain.

So before you start sending out messages via email, social media, or any other channel, start thinking through your answer to the first positioning question—what do you do? What do you have to offer? And be specific.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.