Thursday, May 21, 2009

Developing and Maintaining Marketing Momentum: Q&A with Rachel Weingarten

Today is Guest Post Day in the 2nd annual WordCount Blogathon, so give a big Serenity for the Self-Employed welcome to Rachel C. Weingarten, a New York City freelancer, president of Octagon Strategy Group and author of the fabulous Career and Corporate Cool (which is sitting on my bookshelf as I type).You can read her blog at or follow her on Twitter @rachelcw. Rachel mentioned on Twitter that she was trudging through some long client proposals, and I asked her a few questions about how she created the persistence to keep at it. Here are her answers.

First, tell me your approach to querying: How often do you do it, and how do you schedule it/ensure that you get to it?

I wish that I could say that I was incredibly organized with my queries and pitches. I'm not- initially. To give you a really corny metaphor, I tend to see it as planting seeds (bearing in mind that as a NYC resident I'm more of an avid window sill gardener so my metaphor probably won't work for agricultural professionals): I sprinkle some carefully chosen seeds in my little patch of land, as they start to sprout and grow, I pay more attention to the fastest growers while continuing to nurture the other seedlings.

I then lavish my attention on the plants that seem to have the most promise and generally will ignore if not repurpose the ones with no growth at all. In other words, I care for my prospects consistently, but don't really worry or waste my time on the ones that seem to offer no promise. Instead, I will tweak or work much harder on the elements that can provide the greatest long term payoff. That said, and to take the gardening metaphor one step further (what can I say? it's spring) much like perennials, there are some prospects that seem to have withered on the vine but magically come back to life after an extended period of time.

I'd advise people to be open to renewing relationships that once held promise. Too many people become annoyed when a prospect doesn't immediately pan out and can risk building a renewed relationship because of residual impatience. For me at least, it's crucial to keep a long term approach to all prospecting. I recently snagged a new client when he wrote to me in response to an announcement e-mail I'd sent in 2004. I kid you not.

You mentioned on Twitter that you do long proposals. What do they usually consist of?

You know, I've been told by my business mentors, advisers and colleagues that I should consider charging for my proposals since in the past I offered way too much information and long term brand building approach. Before I work with a company I like to do as much research as possible to ensure that I'm the right person for the job and that my skill set matches their needs.

I'll then usually offer them a breakdown of the problems that they face as I see them and the ways in which my company and I can help them. Unfortunately, sometimes I'm too good at offering potential solutions because there are companies who think that they can tackle these issues on their own. Most of the time though, their approach to doing it on their own doesn't quite work, either because they don't have the necessary skills, contacts, intellectual prowess or connections or because they lack the imagination to actually bring these elements to life in a viable and engaging way. For those reasons, I've streamlined my proposal process to offer carefully tailored suggestions on marketing, branding, promotion, corporate communications or reputation management among other things and also have started charging for consultations since even my most casual suggestions or recommendations add so much value to a company.

You say that momentum is important for your persistence with querying. What do you mean by that, and what does that look like in your work life?

I like to use Newton's Law of Inertia to inspire me: An object in motion stays in motion/an object at rest stays at rest. When I'm tired or worn out it can feel like nothing is happening or changing. Conversely, when I'm energized and in the midst of a great project or am close to landing a new gig, I find that I will have more energy and excitement about pushing forward and getting that deal. The hardest part is getting started.

If you're a creative person or an analytical one you can use every query as a building block to get you to the next point. I never consider a proposal that's been rejected as a failure, even if I'm crushed at the time because I always learn from my mistakes, which is a form of persistence in and of itself. I can also use the elements in future projects or simply open myself up the the possibility of continued pitching which becomes less painful when done in volume. Too many people become dejected or give up when facing a wall; I simply find another way to scale it, walk around it or knock it down--if and when it's appropriate of course!

How long did it take you to figure out the momentum thing with querying? Do you remember how you learned it? Was there a moment, or a series of events that drove it home?

You know, initially I would have answered that I'm still learning it, because the economy is so depressing that it can be easy to give up. I did have an a-ha moment, though:

I was asked to pitch for a project that I was incredibly excited about at the time. To be honest, I don't even remember what that project was, but it was for an industry I'd never worked with, but the timing and elements made me believe it would be a great fit. It was a nightmare to work through the proposal elements, as I customize each and every one. I finally finished it, submitted it and was promptly rejected with no explanations or apology. I was crushed. Literally within days a colleague sent a prospect my way. It was for the exact same industry I was now so well versed in. I was able to go to an in-person meeting and really own the subject and present them with options that weren't nebulous, but perfectly matched for their demographic and needs. Had I not been willing to really work to understand the topic on the first go round, I'd never have been able to take that knowledge forward to the next prospect. And yes, I did get a long term engagement from that one!

For readers trying to develop the momentum you have, how would you advise them to cultivate it?

Keep Going.
Ignore the naysayers.

Learn from your mistakes and successes.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
And repeat, and repeat--and then some.

You will not achieve success on every go round. You will not even achieve acknowledgment half the time. What you will do, though, is toughen yourself to rejection and also work to develop a rhythm of trying, refining and defining the personal or professional brand elements that will help you to get more business moving forward. The only time you truly fail is when you just stop trying.

Thanks, Rachel. This is just what I needed to read today!--Heather

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