The key to marketing any professional service is to establish a focused positioning statement that will allow you to demonstrate value in solving specific problems for particular kinds of clients. You have to answer the three key questions of a narrow marketing position statement: what do you do, for whom do you do it, and how does it benefit them?
The more general, expansive, or vague your answers to each of those questions, the less effective your marketing efforts will be. The creative entrepreneur that offers “creative services” to “small to mid-sized business” for the benefit of “branding” will get almost no traction with their marketing. The designer that offers “poster design” for “private secondary schools” in order to “build school spirit and encourage volunteerism” will know exactly who to reach out to and what to say.
I’ve written extensively on the important topic of positioning for creative entrepreneurs in my book, Blazing the Freelance Trail, my articles, here, here, and here, as well as in my podcast 5 Minutes on Creative Entrepreneurship, specifically episodes 8, 9, and 10 as well episodes 25 and 26.
What Comes After Positioning?
But let’s suppose you’ve already done the hard work of establishing a focused positioning statement, and you’ve produced some content that shows how your creative problem solving benefits your client base. What then? How do you go from planning to marketing implementation?
Too Many Channels to Choose From
The effort to establish a positioning statement, and validate it with content, is hard enough, but then you have to start reaching out. And that process can take so many forms it’s paralyzing. Do you focus on social media? Do you run Google Ads? Hire an S.E.O. expert? Do you build a following on YouTube or Instagram? Do you start networking? Cold calling? Attending conferences?
Any and all of these things may be worth considering. And some are simple enough, like posting to social media, that they should become a part of your basic marketing habits. But there is one channel that I believe is best suited to active marketing for creative entrepreneurs, and that is LinkedIn.
Why LinkedIn is Perfect for Marketing Your Creative Practice
There is no harm in posting to Facebook and Instagram, especially since tools like Buffer make it so easy to queue up and schedule posts to multiple platforms in advance. But just posting to social media is not enough. Social media is a passive approach to marketing, leaving you little control over the results.
LinkedIn, however, is a professional platform, where people expect to engage professionally. Additionally, unlike Instagram, LinkedIn profiles are not pseudonymous. You can clearly see who it is that you’re interacting with, along with all of their background information and whether or not their professional interests align with your offerings.
One of the most helpful benefits of spending your primary marketing time on LinkedIn is that, as you view and research prospects, many of them will see that you viewed their profile and look back in return. When you see a potential good fit with someone who’s looked back, it’s a perfect time to reach out and connect with them.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator—Absolutely Worth the Investment
In order to make the most of your time on LinkedIn, you need to find other professionals whose interests and needs fall clearly within your positioning. To do that you’re going to need the advanced search and filtering capabilities of LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator.
Sales Navigator allows you to search for prospects by all sorts of filters including industry, title, seniority, size of company and so much more. Here is a sample set of Sales Navigator search criteria for someone with the fictitious positioning described above—a poster designer for secondary schools.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows you to save all these search parameters and it will even alert you when new profiles are added that match these parameters.
A LinkedIn Litmus Test for Your Positioning
Not only is LinkedIn’s search feature a practical means of finding prospects, but it also can help you determine whether or not your positioning statement is valid and focused enough in the first place. If you can’t set filters that result in a set of profiles that can be realistically and thoughtfully engaged, your positioning is not yet focused enough.
Simply Start Viewing Profiles
Once you have a list, it’s simple to take the next steps. Start viewing the profiles. If a profile seems like a good fit, send a polite connection request. And if any look back, go ahead and make a friendly introduction.
Among the prospects that you reach out to, many will look at your profile, and so it’s important to make your positioning statement clear on your profile page, and link to featured content as well as work samples that validate your positioning.
Setting Your LinkedIn Rhythms
Getting on LinkedIn each day, and doing some active profile reviews and connection requests is a significant part of your marketing. Everything else is really just follow up. As you build up your network and continue to promote occasional marketing content, you will be building your presence in the minds of your prospects. You can always increase your activity if you feel like your marketing needs a boost, but I would recommend setting a reasonable, sustainable, and minimum activity threshold so that you are daily building your connections and staying in touch.
Many Other Options, but Start with LinkedIn
There are of course many other channels to explore, but if all you have is 20-30 minutes a day for marketing, I would spend it on LinkedIn. It’s by far the most productive and controllable marketing activity you can cultivate.