Did you miss our March meeting? Don’t worry, we have your back! Cindy Brummer, user experience designer and creative director for Standard Beagle, shared her recommendations for making the most of your marketing budget. And let me tell you, she didn’t pull any punches!
Let’s face it, most freelancers are better at working in the business than on the business. We’re so client-oriented and focused on getting the job done and the project delivered that marketing tends to take a back seat. But how do we expect to attract more business if we don’t do the marketing?
It’s easy to come up with a list of excuses for not doing it. Time and money are right at the top. For freelancers, time is money, but there are ways to break down this barrier and put in place a marketing plan that works for you. Here are Cindy’s top recommendations for what packs the most punch when it comes to your marketing budget.
3 components for marketing on a shoestring
Cindy says there are three main components to marketing on a shoestring budget:
Let’s take a look at each one in detail.
Digital content is your opportunity to show off your expertise. Take the time to make sure your content is well written and informative. Use a variety of media to engage your audience on different levels. Here are some of the key forms of digital content:
Writing a blog is perhaps one of the easiest and cheapest marketing tools available. The trick, though, is reaching and retaining your audience with content that they want to read. In order to do this, you need to make sure your blog posts are educational and add value. How do you do this?
It’s not about how many words you write, it’s about how much content truly covers the topic (especially if it’s a HOW TO so that the user doesn’t go searching for another article to fill in the blanks).
Break up those long posts with pull-quotes, bullets, formatting and well-designed text, images and videos to keep it interesting. This also makes it easy for readers to skim it and still get great info. Consistency is key, so set a publishing schedule and stick to it.
The blog is also a prime source for building your contact database. A main reason for having a blog is to capture emails so you can continue to market to them. Make sure to include a call to action like:
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The money is in your email list. These are the people that OPTED to hear from you. Never buy a list or just add people that you know. Cultivate a list from the people you meet (ASKING first), use the sign-up on your blog and on your website. Then send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. It doesn’t have to have a bunch of topics. It could even be an article you’ve already written – just tweak it. Remember that it must look good on mobile.
Don’t try to be on ALL social media – or even 3! Pick one, or two and work them consistently. Think about your audience and where they are most likely to spend their time. Are they mostly on Facebook and Instagram, or is your audience more likely found on LinkedIn? Look at Facebook Groups – not just Facebook in general. Take advantage of different kinds of media. Video is king on almost all platforms now and it doesn’t have to be overly polished and produced. Remember to change the messaging according to the audience.
My Facebook voice is more of a behind-the-scenes look, whereas my Instagram voice is quirky, fun, edgy and to the point.
We may live in a digital age, but sometimes old-fashioned marketing can still make an impression, especially if you’re not afraid to get creative.
Your business card is your opportunity to shine and stand out. Make them cool! Your cards should be fun and memorable. Use different shapes or add colored edges. Select heavier stock so they feel thicker. Yes, this is more expensive, but cards usually won’t break the bank and it costs pennies more to add a compelling message or offer on the back – OR a fill-in-the-blank “how we met” card.
UPrinting is a great site for ideas with lots of affordable printing options. MOO is another great source, but a little pricier. Can’t afford a designer? Overnight Prints has lots of premade designs to choose from and unique printing options.
If you really want to up your game, investing in a logo and establishing some basic colors, fonts, and elements to create a look that you can use repeatedly actually makes your life easier when you go to create something. It doesn’t feel like a blank slate. You can create templates so that every proposal and every customer contact, like your newsletter and blog, can share these elements. Again, consistency makes you look like a pro and become recognizable.
Brochures or Handouts
The classic 8.5 in. x 11 in. tri-fold brochure is for plumbers and IDK…your grandma! There are so many other options if you want to have a leave behind in all manner of sizes and folding configurations. Take a look at UPrinting for all the folding options and ideas. Even flyers are being offered at affordable pricing with metallic options, shape options or silk paper.
More visuals, less copy is best. It should be easy to skim and evoke the feeling you want people to have when they use your services. These can also live on your website as a downloadable file. Just be sure to capture those emails before they download the brochure!
Networking is a valuable tool for making new connections and building relationships. It’s not about making sales. That happens after you build the relationships. So where do you start? Here are a few suggestions.
Look for existing groups focused on topics or industries that interest you. If you can’t find anything, try starting your own meet-up. Don’t be afraid to look at other social groups – it’s a chance to meet people who are outside your industry.
Remember that you are there to build relationships, so have fun and be curious. Try to add value for the people you meet by teaching them what you know in teeny snippets (so they want more!). You can also do this by doing or forming a mastermind group and holding teleconference meetings so you can network with anyone anywhere. For more networking tips, check out this Freelance Austin blog.
Some of our favorite networking groups in the Austin area are Women Communicators of Austin (WCA), Metropolitan Breakfast Club, Rotary International / Rotary Club of Austin and Texas Women in Business.
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. If you get them remember to GIVE them. Make sure people understand what makes a great referral for you.
Where to start?
Now that you’re ready to put a marketing plan in place, where do you start? How do you begin building an email list and an audience for your blog?
Start with Networking. ASK people if they would like to get on your list in person and on LinkedIn. When you publish on LinkedIn include a “join my newsletter” link back to your site with a companion article when they land. Remember to publish “articles” not posts on LinkedIn so you own the content. For good UX and not getting dinged by Google, don’t post the same article in multiple locations – it may seem efficient, but it will be seen as plagiarism by Google. Consider doing some videos about what you would love to share and teach people in your newsletter, make it fun! Maybe create it on TikTok with graphics.
Consistency is key
What is Cindy’s number one piece of advice? Be consistent. Know how much time you want to invest in marketing and have a plan, then execute on it. Doing one thing daily or weekly – executed well – pushes the bottom line monthly and builds followers, fans, and customers.
If you want to nerd out on UX and learn about focusing on what customers want check out Cindy’s guru Jarod Spool.
Here is a great case study by Jarod our web designers will appreciate.