Ever provide information and later find out you made a mistake? Admitting you're wrong is humbling. But admitting you're right, knowing you're competent enough to do the best job, can be more challenging.
Most of us will experience many job changes throughout our careers. While you can do your best to prepare for and ensure a promotion, sometimes a promotion comes when you least expect it.
You smile as your boss tells you the news and think to yourself, "Why me?" And before you even begin to calculate how much more money you'll earn per week and how your responsibilities will change, your supervisor stops you in your tracks. He gives you your first deadline under your new title and tells you he expects great things from you.
This week's dilemma discusses when to use your game face, when to admit you don't have all the answers and where to get the knowledge you need to do your new post justice. How do you find the tools you need to be successful in a new marketing position?
If you've been prepared for every single promotion you've been given, what other challenges keep you from doing your best? 100,000 "MarketingProfs Today" readers are available to help make your job less aggravating. Submit your dilemma and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.
This Week's Dilemma
I have worked in accounts all my life. My company, a small ISP, had a promotional campaign last year and I was asked to help coordinate it. My bosses liked my input so much that one year later I'm promoted to Marketing Rep. Now, this is a new area for me and I must admit it bothers my confidence as to what kind of a job I can do with it. I'm not even sure where to start. I'm trying to enroll in a college to do a degree in marketing. But the work starts now. The competition in providing Internet access is stiff and we only provide dial up access. What should be my first approach, my strategy for taking on this new position? How do I learn the basic stuff that governs marketing—and get the tools I need to excel in my new job?
—Jack, Marketing Rep
Standing out from the crowd in an overcrowded field
I write and edit for businesses to help their marketing and sales efforts. It's frustrating because everywhere I go, I see others who are doing the same thing. Since many businesses provide a unique selling proposition along with their list of accomplishments, I thought it would help me to do the same. I've been struggling to do this. How does a writer stand out from the competition?
—Jane, Freelance Writer
Summary of Advice Received
The most popular advice is to make yourself stand out by showing how you're different from everyone else. This isn't an easy thing to do, but readers offer tips on how to go about setting yourself apart from the competition:
- Discover your unique selling proposition
- Target your market
- Remember this mantra
1. Discover your unique selling proposition
Talk to your past clients and figure out what makes you different from other people in your field. Barb Chamberlain, director of communications and public affairs at Washington State University in Spokane, gives advice on setting yourself apart from the competition by sharing the results of your writing:
Ask your clients to supply you with information on RESULTS from the pieces you write, and include that information as part of your portfolio. Something like this (more finely tuned): "Wrote new materials for sales team used in cold-calling; responses to cold calls increased 15% over the previous year using old materials."
You need to have the data on hand to back this up, and don't play fast and loose with the numbers. If they increased their sales force by 15% and that's why the responses went up, you can't claim it. But if you CAN claim it, you'll impress your prospective clients, and your current clients will appreciate the fact that you want to know that you're producing results for them, too.
Lena Claxton, marketing communications writer at Claxton Communications, poses several questions:
Do you have any specific industry experience? What kind of businesses do you help? Entrepreneurs, small, medium, large? Use this experience! If you are proficient in Internet writing, direct marketing or marketing communications, then choose one or two related areas. Also examine what are the main benefits that customers get from only you—you're never late with a project, you write in a conversational style or you have a particular system that generates results. If you are too modest, you could ask people who are familiar with your work for their opinions—you may be surprised.
Sherra Sewell, president of The Marketing Studio, looks at it from a different perspective:
I have had the same challenge and am approaching it like this: your unique selling proposition does not have to be about how you write. It can be a consistent behavior that demonstrates your writing or the service level you provide. For example, every time you call on a new client or prospect, present him or her with a clever line you've written about the respective business or industry, on a card or in a fortune cookie format. Or every time you call on a new prospect, leave behind a whole batch of cookies with a catchy card attached. Your prospect will see that you have done your homework about his or her business, that you are creative and a good writer and that you are willing to go the extra mile to win the business. And actually, it won't take that much of your time. Whatever it is, be consistent so that it does indeed become your mantra.
Ohm. Ohm. Having a mantra sounds like a great idea. You can also travel down the road and take one of two paths—special knowledge, or special deliverables—according to Guy Smith, principal at Silicon Strategies Marketing:
Specialized knowledge in your client's industry helps make the sale as there is less project ramp-up time, more accuracy and better communications if you know a lot about their business. For example, I specialize in marketing technology. Having been a technologist for many years helps me sell my expertise as I can communicate with my clients (techies) and their buyers (techies).
Special deliverables are trickier, but keep you from becoming a niche provider. I used to write for industry magazines, and editors loved me because of two simple deliverables: humor and meeting deadlines. In the computer trades, most technical articles are as dry as a good martini, and humor made my articles more readable and enjoyable (which helped magazine circulation). I also hit my deadlines ahead of schedule, leaving editors more time to deal with the other, typical ne'er do well writers. Find a couple of pain points that most companies have with freelance writers and build uniqueness for yourself from that.
A dog walked into the bar... already heard that? Okay, maybe bar jokes aren't exactly the humor you want to embrace… Moving on: Tony Wanless, principal with KnowPreneur Consultants, encourages valuing your knowledge:
As a full-time writer turned consultant, I feel your pain. Freelance writing is a crowded field because becoming a freelance writer can be as simple as owning a computer and hooking up to email. Therefore, legions attempt it every year and the business becomes commoditized. Obviously, surviving and thriving as a writer is another matter altogether, and to do so it is definitely necessary to stand out.
Writing is a business-services business, like consulting, and the biggest differentiator, or way to stand out in this type of knowledge business, is specialization. Generally, when you write for a living, your main value proposition is a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. This is expertise marketing, most often employed by consultants, and it is essential for any writer.
Pick one or two fields, learn as much as you can about them, and become expert in them. That way, customers who hire you are getting more than just your writing skill: they are also buying your knowledge of and experience in their business sector—the value add. Eventually, as your expertise grows, you can extend your geographical reach and become the go-to person for businesses that need a writer (or consultant) with knowledge of their area. You'll own the niche. It's a slower form of personal marketing, but it will pay off in the long run with higher fees and a more sustainable business.
Stand out with knowledge, behavior, writing style or past results. Go back to past clients and ask for feedback. Most won't mind providing it.
2. Target your market
Not only be specific about your unique services, but also target your market. One reader advises to target a market and provide value to them. This value can be things to make their life, job and business easier or more profitable. You can't help everyone, so target those you can help.
Stephen Mattos, in his article, "The 7 Top Ways Millionaires Become Wealthy," gives food for thought on which market to target if you have not determined the specific markets your services suit:
Find your niche, like the wealthy do. Follow where the money flows, and look for specialized opportunities. Why not target the wealthy themselves? Yes, they are frugal, especially first-generation, self-made wealthy. BUT… they spend openly on investing in themselves and their families. Investment advice and services, business training, software, tax advice, legal, medical, dental, health, real estate, and education are top priorities. They pay well for products and services that protect and grow their assets. Remember, the majority of the wealthy are self-employed entrepreneurs. Followed by medical professionals and business executives.
No matter which market or markets you target, keep in mind what your unique selling proposition is. If it doesn't suit a particular market, don't try to morph your skills into something they are not.
3. Remember this mantra
Mary Katherine, owner of MK & Company, builds on the idea of discovering your unique selling proposition and targeting a specific market. She offers three bits of advice to give you the final differentiator you need. We suggest making it your mantra: "If you are not a master of the English language, then you must become one. Get inside the feeling/heart of the enterprise. Write from that place."
This is not the time to be modest about your work and services. Show what you can do and what makes you different from others. Targeting a market pays off because you get to know people and their contacts for that market. Finally, while becoming the master of language, get passionate about the enterprise.
The easiest thing to do is to gather testimonials from past clients and use these strengths to differentiate yourself.
When you put many heads together, you can get more ideas. Let the MarketingProfs stable of readers improve demand for your work. Tell us what needs improvement, and we'll compose a masterful solution for you.