Righting Wrongs about Writers

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There are a couple of myths about writers that I think could bear to be addressed, specifically regarding those of us that earn a living at it.

Most Writers are Starving Artists

Popular culture and the worried parents of English majors often think of writers as that guy at the coffee shop who’s trying to make it big by writing the next great American novel on his MacBook while living in his friend’s attic. Fortunately, writing isn’t just an art, it’s a skill. Those of us who practice it professionally are mostly doing fine, thank you.

Very few people make a living writing books, especially not fiction. Most modern writing jobs are either related to technical writing or marketing. What we write lives on the internet, on corporate servers, and in instruction manuals. I’m not saying that novelists don’t exist, of course, you’re just a lot more likely to run into one of us regular desk-jockeys than the more romantic inspiration-based people.

Great Writers Don’t Need Multiple Drafts

Good writing is very rarely produced in a flash of inspiration. None of us is that good, and if you are you’re missing out on your potential greatness.

Your first draft is just a basic breakdown of what you’re trying to say. If you want to produce something not just readable, but truly interesting, you’ve got to rework it a couple of times. Go through your writing a couple of times and think about how somebody who’s more interesting than you might say what you’re saying…

Writers Work Alone

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re the only one staring at your work, you’re going to miss some glaring issues that a second pair of eyes can clear up for you in short order.

The problem with working alone as a writer is that we, being mere mortals, tend to understand what we wrote exactly the way that we intended it, not the way that we actually wrote it. As a result, we have a natural tendency to produce inferior work when we’re working alone.

One of the first and most important lessons that any writer learns when they become a professional is to seek out and treasure feedback, whether it’s from an editor or from a client. That feedback is going to make your work look better and save you from possible miscommunication and embarrassment.

Writers Have a Magical Talent

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve been told by friends and peers that they “just can’t write”. They don’t mean that they can’t form coherent sentences, just that they can’t organize their ideas into a long-form readable format.

Fortunately, pretty much anyone can learn to write competently. It takes some study and practice, but it’s not so intuitive that you couldn’t make a step-by-step course for it (as literally every school and university can attest). So, if you want to learn to write, just Google it and start practicing!

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Stop the Sleazy Injection of Sales into Marketing

I’ve spent several years now working with, for, and around  small businesses, and easily the most common issue that marketers run into is that clients conflate and confuse us with salespeople.

Your business needs both marketing and sales to grow effectively. They aren’t the same, and they shouldn’t mix too much if you want to avoid sabotaging both efforts.

Mixing Sales and Marketing is Sleazy

control1First off, let’s be clear that trying to push conversions through your marketing strategy comes across as incredibly sleazy.

Nobody want’s to be friends with a sleazy car-salesman type person. More importantly, nobody trusts a guy like that to treat them like a real person, which pretty much shoots your entire marketing effort in the foot right there.

To make a metaphor out of it, if marketing is like chatting with your neighbor about what you do for a living, then trying to inject sales tactics into a marketing project is like suddenly revealing that you work for Amway or Mary Kay halfway through the conversation. It makes people feel defensive and destroys perfectly good friendships.

Breaking it down…

Businesses naturally want to mix marketing and sales because budgets are usually tight, and they sound kind of similar on the surface; both are about making sure you’ve got plenty of fresh work to do, after all. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarity ends.

Iterate-Marketing-Funnel-03The first thing I want to make sure you’ve heard of is the concept of the marketing funnel. It’s a bit oversimplified, but it works great to illustrate the point of this post.

The marketing funnel is the process by which marketing leads to conversions, from raising awareness, to generating interest, to conversions, where it turns around and leads on to consumer advocacy. If you’re not familiar with the concept, please click on the earlier link, and feel free to do some more googling on the subject before reading on.

Marketing is About Awareness

When you bring on a marketer you’re laying the groundwork for sales. Marketing works to raise awareness about your existence and about what you do; it works at the very top of the marketing funnel. We build up your website and social media pages to bring your brand to a mass audience. This group of people isn’t your customer base, it’s your fan-base or your friend group. They don’t necessarily buy your product, but they’ll recommend you to people who will.

For example; think of Elon Musk’s Tesla; the vast majority of people talking about them won’t be able to afford a vehicle for decades (or maybe ever), but those same people are the ones who made them famous and successful by spreading the word and generating excitement.

Sales, on the other hand, works in the middle and at the bottom of the marketing funnel, working with people who have already expressed interest in your product and turning them into paying customers.

Marketing Doesn’t Aggressively Convert

Good marketing results in conversions, but it doesn’t go out and “make” them.

Sales is about finding people and getting them to buy your product. Marketing, on the other hand, is about making your business interesting, approachable, and human so that your customers will come to you.

Your marketing efforts should be designed to engage people on a personal level and establish yourself as an active member of your community by giving your company a personality and relatable interests. Leave the closing of the deal to your salesperson.

Small Businesses Need Internet Marketers

7483834044_9ab1dba92dIn the last year I’ve had friends and family ask me how “playing around on the internet” could possibly be worth actual real-world money. Then, as we talked, they’d whip out their phone to google for a good lunch place.

The Internet Is The New Primary Marketing Medium 

When’s the last time that you used a phone book to find a local service like an electrician, a landscaper, a lawyer, or an internet service provider? When’s the last time you actually called a number from a billboard?

For me, and most millennials, the answer is somewhere between “I can’t remember” and “not ever”. For Gen X-ers an older it’s become fairly uncommon as well. If you need to buy something in this day and age you’ll pull out your phone and check on the internet before you consider other methods.

It’s silly for any business today not to do everything they can to elevate their presence on the web.

Just Existing Isn’t Enough to Get Noticed

Since most business owners are clever and hardworking people, they do read the tea leaves and get a website and a few social media accounts. Unfortunately, that’s usually not enough, Everyone has a website, and unless people aren’t already looking at yours, it won’t rank much better than your competitors’.

You have to update your site regularly and interact with your community on social media to drive traffic and keep people’s attention. Unfortunately for modern entrepreneurs, this type of marketing is a process and takes a lot more time than the buy-it-and-forget-it ads of the pre-internet era.

Entrepreneurs are Busy People

Most startup business owners put in something between 60 and 80-hour weeks just to make sure their business runs. They don’t have time to sit down every single day to talk to strangers on Twitter and Facebook, catch up on industry news, and write blog updates for their site.

Even for the people who understand the importance of marketing on the internet, and take the time to do so, they often fall into what I call the “sales trap”.

Entrepreneurs Usually Excel at Selling, not Marketing

Internet marketing isn’t really about converting, it’s more about generating leads, and making it easier to generate more leads that you can work on converting later.

The “sales trap” is falling for the overwhelming desire to sell something to everyone you interact with in your marketing efforts.

control1Internet marketing can generate sales directly, but primarily it exists to raise general awareness about you and to make you easier to find through internet searches. That means that most of the people you reach out to won’t become customers. Instead, you’re creating a base of popularity that will encourage potential customers to come to you.

Since this usually means that, in the early stages of your campaign, your marketing efforts won’t bring a significant return in terms of sales, this can feel very frustrating to someone who is used to making things happen rather than helping them grow.

Hire a Pro

Traditional marketing was often actually more expensive than hiring an internet marketer is today. We tend to shy away from paying for internet marketing because it’s in cyberspace, and, on some level, we still don’t think it’s real.

If you’re running a small business, and you just don’t have the  time, energy, or patience to deal with running your own internet marketing, call me up, and let’s do lunch.

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