This week, I’d like to stress what is actually a very traditional, seemingly unsophisticated aspect of marketing: the importance of making direct, personal contact with prospective customers.
Much of the material available on marketing these days emphasizes new, innovative e-marketing techniques. Now, there is no doubt that this approach should certainly be part of your overall strategy. However, call me old-school, but I am a firm believer in the necessity of getting up from the computer and venturing out into the real, rather than virtual world, because that is how the long-term customer relationships that will eventually form 80% of your business must be cemented.
As we have discussed previously, as a beginning, independent entrepreneur, what you are really selling is yourself, at least as much as your product or service. Your goal is to make prospective customers feel comfortable with and trust you. This will take a little time, but it will result in the bonds of loyalty that are absolutely essential for your ultimate success. You may prove me wrong, and if so, more power to you — but I don’t think this can be accomplished purely through the click of a mouse.At this point, I can envision those of you who know me thinking: “Sure Howie, your computer skills are in the lowest 1% percentile of western civilization, so of course you think this way.” And you’d be absolutely right! But I’m not advising you to forgo e-marketing, just to supplement it with a healthy dose of shoe leather. I don’t particularly like to discuss my own marketing and networking efforts at this blog, but in this case, I think a few specific examples will help clarify my point:
1. About two months ago, I read briefly from my upcoming civil rights memoir at an open reading at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. The center’s assistant director, who was running the session, asked me afterward to keep in touch with him. I did, and now I will be invited to present my book to the Writer’s Circle community when it is published.
2. Two weeks ago, I discussed my memoir and displayed civil rights memorabilia at an open house at Studio Pause in Alexandria, hosted by E.W.I.s own Sushmita Muzumdar. Less than a week later, I was offered several paid writing assignments by a photographer who discussed her work at the same open house.
3. Last weekend, I took a marketing and blogging workshop at the Writer’s Center, where I chatted and exchanged business cards with several other writers taking the class. A few days afterward, one of those students, an administrator at the Baltimore Museum of African-American History, invited me to read from and promote my book there when it is released.
Could I have secured these invaluable marketing and promotional opportunities by e-mail? I don’t think so. Was I just lucky? Perhaps, as I’ve certainly undertaken similar networking efforts which did not yield results. But get out there enough, and good things will come your way. They may not be the ones you most expected, but new horizons will open to you.
I’m no expert at literary marketing — in fact, I’ve just recently started down that path. I’m used to music marketing, which is a whole other world. Accordingly, I try to target events and venues where I figure to enjoy myself and feel comfortable. I’m not likely to attend a convention of science fiction or children’s book authors, because I won’t fit in, which will be obvious to prospective customers. I travel light — just a business card is really all you need to make your first connection. Later on, you can follow-up with more information on yourself and your business, and send out a sample of your work.You may not see yourself as a natural marketer or salesperson — I know I’m certainly not. So, as Jerry “Iceman” Butler used to sing, “Make it easy on yourself.” Bring along a friend for company and moral support, particularly if you tend to be shy among new people. Better yet: let your comrades in the EWI community know when and where you will be reading, exhibiting, cooking, dancing — whatever. We will be there to support you, so keep us informed of your appearances (by now, you may have noticed that I’m not exactly reluctant to let you know of my music and reading schedule!).
Remember: it’s Empowered Women – not Woman — International. We’re all in this together!
By Howard Feinstein, Empowered Women International Board Member
Coach’s Corner is a bi-weekly blog for the EWI community, passing along news, events, articles of interest, and tips on growing your business. We are all on this journey together, and no one — certainly not yours truly — has all the answers. Accordingly, I hope you will contribute your ideas and experiences to this forum as well, c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.