Admittedly, Lorna and I didn’t get into the freelance business knowing a whole lot about marketing. In fact, most of the things we know we learned thanks to the marketing gurus we’ve hired from time to time.
At the same time, we know how hard it can be for new freelancers to lay out the cash for marketing advice and materials. We also know that for many of us, marketing is practically a four-letter word. Unfortunately this fear and/or ignorance of marketing can make moving from a small freelancing venture to a full-fledged business rather difficult.
To get around this, Lorna and I often find ourselves … borrowing … marketing campaigns from other fields. Oh sure, I know there are piles of research, an analytical method, and other factors that weigh in when it comes to successfully reaching your target market, but there’s also an underlying theme of common sense. What works for one business could theoretically work for another, right?
We think yes. That’s why we’ve developed the following list of successful marketing campaigns through the years – adapted for the savvy freelancer. Some of these we’ve tried to great prosperity, and others we simply think sound like a good idea.
A local pizza company sent our business a coupon for a free pizza as a way to welcome us to the small business community in our city. They got us from a list of all the businesses that applied for a city license (the list is free to the public). Freelancers could do the same thing for local and/or web-based businesses. Many of us find our work from people building their websites for the first time, since they typically need some great content. Try contacting your chamber of commerce or using social media networks to find new businesses, and offer them a discount as a way to welcome them to the world of business.
These insanely-expensive blenders (we’re talking $900 here) are way out of the price range of most people. However, the company’s “Will it Blend?” campaign makes the entire idea of a $900 piece of equipment really fun and almost practical. How? They have a mock scientist blend pretty much anything that sounds ridiculous and fits in with current pop culture (things like Chuck Norris and ninja action dolls). They then make a video and post it on the site, which is pretty popular overall. Though I doubt most people buy that particular blender, the company has other products, too. Freelancers could do the same by offering an insanely expensive item that no one really expects to buy (I’ll write your sci-fi, erotica, vampire-ninja doctoral thesis for $10,000) and make it really fun to draw people to the site. They can then peruse your more reasonable services and products.
I remember a radio ad for Corn Nuts from my high school days wherein consumers were encouraged to “Bust a Nut” by opening a bag of Corn Nuts. It was, of course, both hilarious and inappropriate. These borderline-dirty types of marketing campaigns work pretty well, since I can still recall the ad to this day. Freelancers who are targeting a certain demographic and are comfortable with the approach (think IttyBiz) can certainly benefit from pushing the envelope in their blogs and marketing techniques.
One of the main reasons Starbucks has been so phenomenally successful as a company is their approach to the way they treat the concept of coffee. Despite a public who really can’t tell the difference between good coffee and sludge, they introduced specialized jargon, roast variation, and snobbery into the caffeine world. Basically, they offered high quality goods to customers who don’t really know the difference. The result? High prices and massive worldwide consumption. Freelancers could – and, in my opinion, should – strive for the same high quality of goods, no matter who the client is. When you offer really good writing all the time to all your clients, word will spread, and you should be able to command the same ridiculously high prices that Starbucks does.
These companies have a reputation for taking returns on pretty much any piece of merchandise – receipts and packaging not required. They almost never ask questions and are pleasant in their approach. I don’t know about you, but that means a lot to me; and I shop at both of these companies on a fairly regular basis. Freelancers can do the same by offering changes and alterations to their text or web design without making a big deal over it. If clients know they can count on you to make them happy with the outcome, they will tell others and come back for more.
The other day, I purchased alphabet-shaped tater tots and Nemo-shaped noodles. These delightful goods were offered at exorbitant rates and taste like sawdust. However, my daughter absolutely insisted. Why? Because the grocery store cleverly placed them on the bottom shelf, right where her eyes hit. Stores are notorious for this kind of activity, and it makes sense. If you put your product where your demographic is bound to see it, your sales will increase. Freelancers can cultivate a similarly purchase-minded demographic and bombard them with advertisements and good deals. If I’ll spend $5 on tater tots, who knows what clients will be willing to shell out for?
How many times have you seen those Payless Shoe Source “BOGO” ads? The idea is based on the concept of “Buy One, Get One,” although I think they’re cheater-Peters, as it’s really “Buy One, Get One Half of One.” (Buy one, get another at half price.) Still, freelancers can totally borrow this marketing method in order to improve their return-customer rate. Why not offer first-time customers a discount on their second project? This helps create get them in the mindset of hiring you repeatedly.
How is it that The Gap keeps expanding and narrowing their focus all at the same time? What started out as sort of hip clothing store has parlayed itself into a whole series of stores, each with a different focus. Consider Gap Kids, Baby Gap, and Old Navy. Each has its own demographic (kids, babies, and cheap people), and by “specializing” in this way, they’ve actually been able to market to even more consumers. Freelancers can develop this idea for themselves by specializing in a few areas. Have a client whose startup needs a web site, why not refer him to the “small business” department of your freelance business?
Marketing yourself can be a scary (and expensive) proposition. Unfortunately for many of us, it is a necessary evil. Adapting some already successful marketing ideas to your own business has a couple of advantages, not the least of which is that it’s actually kind of fun.
If you’d like to get free marketing advice and ideas, consider subscribing to the Marketing Eggspert blog right here on Sparkplugging!