Tuesday, January 20, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: Establishing a marketing bottom line

When I did my first business plan, I thought I'd have to do maybe 10 or 20 queries a week to get the kind of work and income I needed.

Today my plan is quite different, and it's landed me a lot of high-quality and high-paying work. The key has been to have bottom lines and stick to them.

Here's the simple fact about bottom lines: Without them, you'll spread your querying around so haphazardly and so broadly that you'll feel panicked and confused about why your work isn't fulfilling your professional and financial needs. But once you establish your marketing boundaries, you're free to focus on what you want to query and where to send it.

I focus my bottom lines on three terms:
  • How many queries to send a week.
  • How much the client pays.
  • How the client pays (ie, on acceptance or on publication).

If you have a business plan, you know the answer to those questions. If you don't, it might be worthwhile to sit down and answer those questions quickly--because they will guide your bottom line marketing behavior.

Today, I'll tackle the first and tomorrow I'll elaborate on the second.

Question #1. How many I send weekly: Three queries, minimum.

There are several ways to arrive at this number. Erik Sherman has a whole matrix for helping you figure out how many queries you need to send in a week to get enough work. When I started out, I didn't have a clue how many queries I'd have to send before I made a sale, so just to be safe, I assumed I'd need to send 15 a week. That was my goal.

I quickly failed. And failed. And failed.

Now I have a better idea of the number I need to send before I make a sale. But for me, there's a difference between what I know I should do and what I'm capable of doing. To me, three queries a week seemed doable, it didn't overwhelm me and it seemed like it might be enough to make a difference.

If querying is particularly painful for you, the number may be one a month. If you're particularly prolific, you may think nothing of sending 10 or 20 queries a week. The point is to choose a number and stick with it for at least a month.

Check in with yourself: Does that number work for you or are you spending more time resisting working on your queries than sending them? Are you berating yourself for not meeting your goal instead of sending the next query?

Adjust your number according to your answers.

What's your weekly query minimum?


Anonymous said...

This is very thoughtful, Heather. I struggle with the bottom line, too! Good luck with your goals. It sounds like you've found what is doable, and that really is key to sanity, isn't it!

Kim said...

Great advice! Last year, I set a pitching goal for myself that, like your initial goal, was too high. This year, I decided to try to pitch just four stories a month, and guess what happened? With a more realistic goal--and the pressure off--I pitched four stories in the first week!