Whether you are a freelance writer or an independent contractor, smart marketing connects a product or service with a customer.

There is a lot of complicated terminiology involved in marketing. An illustration may help. If you are holding a farm auction sale and you post a sign letting everyone know it will be at the farm on Saturday, that's advertising. If you also take a truck down Main Street with a sign in the back about the event, that's promotion. If the truck hits a fire hydrant spraying water 50 ft into the air, that's publicity. If you convince the fire department to issue a statement laughing about the incident, that's public relations. If all of this was planned ahead as a guerilla awareness tactic — that's marketing.

Marketing, to be successful, involves a great deal of careful planning. A marketing communications plan covers all aspects of marketing — advertising, public relations, promotion and publicity. Depending on a company's stage of development — and its budgetary resources — any or all of these communications tactics will be combined to produce a strategy aimed at keeping the client's name front and centre in the minds of its target audience.

Every plan has to start somewhere. Great marketing starts with solid research.

Even if you are an independent contractor running a one-person consulting practice, simple research will help you be far more efficient in targeting your new messages. Ask your prospective clients some questions:

  • What are you looking for in contractors?
  • What drives you nuts about working with consultants?
  • Why did you fire your last "hired gun" ?

Knowing what worked, and what didn't, helps create messages that speak directly to clients' expectations and to dispel their fears.

When you have those messages you can begin designing the plan to communicate them to your customers. Remember a website is one key tool in the toolbox of advertising possibilities. A website can communicate longer messages than a business card or a brochure. In fact a website can begin the interaction with a prospective client.

Another cost-effective marketing tool is email marketing. This can be a very effective way of getting your product or service on the radar screen of a prospective audience. Note - you should always use permission-based lists (or create your own).

Last, but far from least …

Almost every aspect of marketing is about building relationships. Living up to a brand promise, consistently delivering value, playing an active role in the communities where customers live, supporting charity initiatives that resonate with customer values. All of these actions reinforce the relationship with an audience and keep your business name top of their mind.

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