Marketing your creative practice is not a one-and-done activity. It’s a process that needs to be sustained over time to bear fruit. There’s no way to replace the impact of slow and steady marketing over time. If you neglect it, you can’t make it up in a hurry. Cultivating regular marketing habits is essential for success.
Prerequisites for Your Marketing
Just in case this is the first article of mine that you’re reading, let me quickly catch you up on a few prerequisites you must have before marketing at all. First, you need to have defined your PinPoint positioning. You need to be able to state clearly exactly what you do, for whom you do it, and how it benefits your clients. The more narrowly you answer these questions, the easier and more effective your marketing will be. The broader and more vague your answers, the more difficult and less effective it will be. If you’d like to learn more about why PinPoint positioning is so critical you can check out this page where we’ve assembled many other articles and podcast episodes on this essential subject.
Essential Content Strategy
The second thing you have to have before you start marketing is a content strategy that validates and demonstrates your positioning. Your strategy can utilize any number of media types and can follow whatever frequency works for you. Continuing to generate content on a routine schedule is part of the ongoing habits you’ll need to develop. Content creation is hard work—it will take up at least half of your marketing time and energy. The other half is simply sending out that content through multiple channels (email, social media, etc.).
But once you have PinPoint Positioning, and you’re beginning to generate content around that positioning, and you’ve begun pushing it out to your channels—the real key to success is keeping it up.
Disciplines for the Marketing Marathon
Marketing can’t be a 100-yard dash—it has to be a marathon. You need to get your message out in front of your audience, and stay in front of them, so that you’re top of mind when the time’s right for them to engage you. And so building up new disciplines and new habits simply has to become a part of your business DNA. Of course, cultivating new habits is not easy. How many times have you set a New Year’s resolution to start a new exercise or dieting program, only to drop it after just a few weeks? Anything that’s valuable and worth doing is going to be difficult. There will be resistance to your efforts, and a thousand distractors will present themselves to you as you endeavor to stick to your plan, but your perseverance will be rewarded in the long run.
Tips for Overcoming Resistance and Sticking to New Habits
My first tip is a book recommendation, Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. This short pithy book personifies the concept of “Resistance” and teaches you how to go to war against this bitter, destructive, and nefarious enemy. All other tips and suggestions aside, unless you first defeat Resistance—and maintain daily vigilance against its guerilla tactics to regain ground—you’ll never build the habits you need.
Another critical tip is to make sure that your marketing plan is in fact a defined plan, not just a good intention. You need to decide what kind of content you will create, and the frequency with which you will produce it. Make sure this plan is realistic and sustainable. If you’ve allowed yourself to get entirely out of shape, you don’t get on the road to fitness by planning on running a marathon next month. Better to commit to one article per month, and actually do it, than daily posting which will last about three days before dropping off altogether.
In addition to defining the kind of content and its frequency, you should also plan out exactly when you will work on it. Marketing, unlike other business disciplines, will never confront you if you leave it undone. If you neglect your billing or project deliverables or your schedule, the natural result will be some kind of crisis or conflict that will call you to account. But not marketing. You can neglect that and no one will bother you. And so you have to be rigorous about setting aside time—and keeping it.
My Marketing Plan
For example, my content marketing plan is pretty ambitious. I write one article and drop one podcast per week. Wednesday afternoons from 4:00-5:30 are blocked off for writing my article. Thursday mornings from 9:30-10:30 are blocked off for sending it out via email, and dropping it on social media. Saturday mornings I block off an hour to write a podcast script, and once per month I set aside three or four hours to record, edit, and produce the next four podcast episodes. I also block off about an hour and a half each week to queue up a week’s worth of social media posts in Buffer. I’ve even thought through and written down a rotation about what kinds of topics I post about each week.
All and all, that’s about 5-6 hours or 10-15% of my time each week for marketing. But if I did not have a plan and a schedule, I would never be able to get all this done.
Do the Hard Things First
One last tip for cultivating habits: Whenever you have hard work in front of you, and marketing is hard work, don’t leave those efforts for the end of the day, or end of the week. Get out in front of the hard things, and tackle them first. Shut off the phone and close your email and get the task done. And don’t be a perfectionist about it. Good content sent out regularly will do far more good than the great article that stays in development for months on end.
Marketing is a habit. Gaining and keeping this habit will be well rewarded.