Friday, January 23, 2009

30-Day Marketing Challenge: The perils of self-promotion, part 1

I started this week talking about why you should care about how much your work fetches. But an even more fundamental question comes from writer Roz Spafford:
The hardest thing for me as a writer is the feeling that marketing oneself is rude and presumptuous. I have a new book out (Requiem, poems) but it seems intrusive and self-aggrandizing to be announcing it--even in this post! Though I am always interested in hearing from other writers about what they are doing and publishing, for myself I keep imagining that there are more polite options (perhaps in some dream-past) in which one is "discovered" rather than "marketed!"
Tomorrow, Kristen Fischer, author of Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs, will share how to psych yourself up to market despite the feeling that it's rude to do so, but today I wanted to consider this from a more psychological perspective.

Because I've been there.

Isn't it rude to keep bugging editors about your ideas? Isn't it something that only shills and hucksters do? And don't we serious journalists hate it when flacks try to sell us some story we aren't interested in?

Look at those words: Rude. Bugging. Shills. And, most important, "stories we aren't interested in."

Now look at the work you're doing. Do those words fit? Is your work boring? If it is, I can see your resistance. But I'm willing to bet it's not. I'm willing to bet, instead that you're using marketing to beat yourself up. You--and your work--deserve far better.*

Now for the marketing tip: If you can't get over the idea that marketing is impolite, consider thinking of it as helping your client. You don't know: That editor could have been sitting there waiting for a great story. And there's yours. Thank god you showed up when you did! This gets back to my idea that all of us should be of service to our clients as our primary aim.

Robert Middleton of the More Clients Blog is of the same mindset--but he knows many business owners aren't. Recently he asked business owners what they thought of when they heard the terms "sales" and "selling." Guess what? Almost all of them thought of used cars.

"We see selling as a necessary evil," he explained, "
something to be avoided at all costs, an undertaking that's rather unsavory, maybe even unethical, and certainly beneath the dignity of a professional service business owner."

Sound familiar? If we think that way, being "discovered" sounds a lot more appealing. But there is another option. In Middleton's wonderful post from last year, he offers an alternative. He calls it Selfless Selling:

Selfless Selling includes these attributes: The focus is primarily on serving the customer; the attitude is one of generosity; the agenda is to educate and inform, and the perspective is that of "win-win."

Selfless selling, he says, requires a new mindset. Here's how he advises you get it:

To discover the spirit of Selfless Selling inside you, here are some questions to ask yourself in any selling situation:

• How can I be of service?
• What do I need to know to help this person?
• What is their current situation and what is their biggest challenge?
• What information would be most valuable to provide?
• What stories would be most useful to share?
• How can I be clearer and demonstrate the value and the benefits?
• How can I make the choice easier?

We can find out the answers to some of those questions by reading the magazine and looking for what kinds of things they like to cover and the way in which they present their information. We can present our queries in the style in which the publication is written. And we can ask editors we meet about their biggest challenges and what's most valuable to them. Heck, some editors will offer that information in a very kind rejection letter.

What do you do when you start feeling like marketing is invasive?

* A momentary aside, because it's my blog and I can: It seems to me that women are probably more likely to fall into this "it's rude to market" trap. After all, good girls don't speak up, don't talk back and don't make a pain of themselves. Even dyed in the wool feminists like myself sometimes shrink from attention and what I perceive to be pushy, obnoxious behavior. Here's a reality check: It's not rude or pushy. It's business. This is why men earn more than we do. They ask for more. Men also negotiate better contract terms and put up with less inappropriate behavior from editors than women. I say it's time to get over it and ask for what we're worth.

Photo by gbSk.

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