Last week I wrote about the fallacy of ME, ME, ME marketing. One of my readers emailed me and said:
“You’re very good at telling me what NOT to do. Please write about the best ways for me to promote my business.”
For that, I want to go back to an email conversation I had with one of my British colleagues.
Here’s what we talked about.
Q: Many people rely on just having a website and an internet presence on Twitter, Facebook or on a P2P site to do their marketing for them… does this work? And if not, why not?
Let’s take a step back and talk about what I believe marketing to be:
Any activity that helps you find clients and helps clients find you.
Marketing is about understanding your clients’ needs and connecting your product or service with customers who want it.
Effective marketing is a compelling, engaging conversation. It’s about building profitable relationships and creating an amazing experience around your brand, product, or service.
If you succeed in these three areas, your marketing works. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
Having an internet presence in and of itself is as useless as hanging up an expensive billboard in the middle of nowhere. In order to be effective, you have to make sure people find your needle in the online haystack.
It’s not enough to have an online profile on a P2P site or on Facebook. That only benefits the P2P and the world created by Mark Zuckerberg. You need to drive traffic to a site that you own and control.
Q: What is the most effective tool to market yourself? Blogging, Facebook, Tweeting?
My blog has proven to be my most effective instrument in my marketing toolbox, and I’ll tell you why. You can offer the best product nobody has ever heard of and never make a penny. In order for people to buy from you or hire you, they have to find you, get to know you, and learn to trust you. That’s exactly what my blog has done for me.
Today’s search engines have become much smarter. Quantity is no longer king. It’s about quality and engagement. Relevance and social interaction are now built into the algorithm that determines how your pages are ranked and thus found.
Most experts agree that one of the best ways to boost your SEO is to offer fresh and quality content. Most websites are pretty static. Once it’s up, not much changes. That’s why blogs are so effective. Every day or every week you get a chance to connect with your followers and attract new readers by sharing something of value.
Q: To be effective, how much time do you estimate it is necessary to spend on marketing?
It’s a running joke among freelancers that we spend 80% of our time finding the work and 20% doing the work. Marketing never stops. Look at the big brands. We know their logos and slogans by heart. Yet, they continue to bombard us with messages. Award-winning colleagues whom we think of as “established” never stop marketing.
B.L. Ochman, president of What’s Next said it best:
“Marketing is everything a company does, from how they answer the phone, how quickly and effectively they respond to email, to how they handle accounts payable, to how they treat their employees and customers. Done right, marketing integrates a great product or service with PR, sales, advertising, new media, personal contact. In other words, marketing is not a discipline or an activity – it is everything a company is – at least if the company wants to be successful.”
Q: Are there other ways to market yourself other than online?
Marketing is never an either/or. It’s doing this, that and a whole bunch of other things in order to influence perception. If marketing is not integrated into everything you do, you’re not doing it right and you’re not doing enough.
Q: If you have limited time/resources… how do you choose the best marketing tools for you?
The best form of marketing is delivering a stellar product or service. Clients are your best credentials. If you exceed their expectations, they will do part of the marketing for you. Remember: tooting your own horn is necessary but suspicious. What others have to say about you is perceived to be more credible than all the things you will ever say about yourself.
Q: How do you ensure that you are constantly reaching new people and not just preaching to the converted.
Ask yourself this question: What greater community am I a part of?
Most voice-over professionals are:
– Actors & artists
– Small business owners
As a narrator and voice actor, I’m also in touch with:
– Linguists & translators
– Sound engineers
– e-Learning specialists
– Advertisers & Social Media specialists
– People in the entertainment industry
Blogging is a form of content marketing. If I only were to write my blog for a relatively small group of voice-over colleagues, I would be preaching to the choir. That’s why I make sure to write content that appeals to all the groups mentioned above. That way, I widen my circle, instead of preaching to the choir.
Q: Is marketing yourself the same as bragging?
No, it’s not, although it often comes across like that. My advice may sound a bit like a contradiction in terms: If you want to highlight what you have to offer, don’t make it all about you. A blog or brochure is not a public diary about your personal trials, tribulations, and triumphs.
Here’s the challenge: you have to show people what you’re made of, but avoid the ME, ME, ME-stories. That book is usually very thin and gets very old.
Focus on your market. Find out what their frustrations are and offer practical tips, and remember this: Educate without lecturing. Come across as an expert, but not as a know-it-all.
Q: As soon as you have an online presence, you are vulnerable … how do you protect yourself from spam and junk?
Never put your email address on your website. It’s an open invitation to spam bots. Use a spam-protected contact form instead. Use an email program with a solid spam filter, or buy one. Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date. Install anti-tracking software. I also check every new subscriber to my blog against a list of known spammers.
Q: How would you compare the impact of automated tweets, updates, responses, and postings etc. against individually composed postings?
Small businesses have a strong competitive advantage over huge corporations. They can deal with (potential) clients in a very direct and personal way. Because voice actors embody their product, that’s their unique selling point.
Mass emails, tweets, and newsletters can be deleted in seconds. Personal messages, letters, and faxes are harder to ignore.
Ultimately, effective marketing is directed at key individuals. Cater your message to their needs and you’ll be more successful. Remember: marketing is not a sales pitch. It is highlighting a service.
Q: In an overcrowded marketplace, how do you ensure that you stand out from the crowd?
I am going to brag now, but only because it’s based on feedback from my readers. The number one reason readers come back to my blog is that they find content that is relevant and helpful, told from a unique perspective.
If you want to appeal to a wide audience, you have to have a unique point of view. I’m not telling my readers how great I am. I’m simply showing them how they can be more successful if they follow some of my suggestions. In other words: I am not asking them to buy something from me. I’m giving them something useful.
If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. I highly recommend finding a niche and emphasize your specialty in your marketing messages. In my case, I market myself as “The Ultimate European Voice.” I realize that sounds rather pretentious, but for someone living and working in the United States, my European-ness is one of my unique selling points.
More and more clients don’t necessarily want a British or North-American English speaker for a global campaign. Because of my more “neutral” English accent, international companies are interested in my services.
Q: For people who may not be technically minded … do you think it is worthwhile employing someone to do your internet marketing for you?
Technology is a tool that sometimes stands in the way of true communication. There has never been a generation in the history of this planet that has been more connected, yet millions and millions of people miss a real connection.
Technology enables us to send a mass email or newsletter to everyone in our database. It’s as sad and ineffective as cold calling. You’re playing a numbers game, thinking: The more people I send stuff to, the more likely it is that someone will respond.
I always get the best responses from personal contact. I have no marketing guru to run my “campaign”. The reason is simple.
No one is as motivated and dedicated to my business as I am. No one is willing to work as hard for my business as I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t ask for help.
We all have our strengths and I do feel that when I look at certain websites, some people should have used a web designer, a copywriter, or a professional photographer. First impressions are vital!
However, it does pay off to learn how to maintain your own site. Otherwise, you end up paying your webmaster (or mistress) for every small change or update.
Q: Talk a little about keeping the balance right … e.g. marketing versus actually doing the job. Is it possible to do too much marketing?
As I said earlier, doing your job to the very best of your ability is one of the best forms of marketing. If you approach it that way, there is no real separation between the two.
There is a risk of overdoing it, though. I’m not going to name any names, but one voice-over coach regularly plasters the internet with promos for seminars, classes, and the whole shebang. It’s overkill and it’s counterproductive.
If you yell too loudly and too frequently (especially if it is more of the same), it becomes annoying and people will start tuning you out.
Q: How do you think marketing will develop over the next five years?
I’ll have to take out my crystal ball for that one. On one hand I see that marketing is becoming more and more mobile technology driven. YouTube is quickly becoming the number one search engine. Social proof is rapidly replacing expert advice.
If you wish to make a dent in the marketing universe, you need to learn to play the technological game, create visual content and attract, grow, and serve a considerable online following.
On the other hand, it is critically important to always remember that you’re talking to real people with real problems that need to be solved. It’s impossible to meet their needs with a mass email. Marketing can be the beginning of a connection, but it’s only a first step.
Let me put it this way. Creating an appealing window display is one thing, but no level of technology can force people to come inside, let alone become a (return) customer.
Q: Joining the dots … and creating a seamless approach to marketing – creating your own look, logos, fonts etc. Are they important?
Now we’re entering the realm of branding: the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
With thousands of voice-over talent entering the market each year, differentiation is essential. Having a picture of a microphone on your website is anything but unique. What clients are looking and listening for is personality.
Things like a recognizable logo, a catchphrase, and a consistent color scheme have to reflect your personality and your niche.
I don’t have a logo per se, but I consistently use a picture of me, holding a bunch of orange tulips. On a subconscious level, people still associate tulips with Holland, and as a native Dutch speaker that’s a good thing. Orange also happens to be the Dutch national color. Then there’s the pun “tulips” and “two lips” which for a voice-over professional is a nice association.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned about marketing?
1. Marketing is like sowing seeds. You can’t force those seeds to come up overnight, grow into trees, and produce fruit. Marketing is an organic process that requires persistence, patience, and love for what you’re doing.
2. It is pointless to market a bad product because it won’t sell.
3. Even the sharpest tools in the shed get dull after prolonged use. Keep on learning to refine your skills.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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About the author
is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."