20 October 2014
Define your freelance work
—without marketing tools
by Al Sabado
What is marketing? Levinson defines it in his book, Guerilla Marketing: How to Make Big Profits from a Small Business, as “everything you do to promote your business.” But let me tell you this: You don’t have to do that!
Let's cite a classic example. Nearly two decades ago, I became fascinated with the story of a man who gave up his day job and started to create a product he believed would significantly benefit consumers and customers alike. He studied the product, learned every aspect of it, tested it, and finally, brought it to stores for display and purchase of customers. He told store owners that they’d just pay him when people bought the product. His product was sold out and he was paid for the purchases.
Question: Did this man use any marketing strategies to promote his product? Yes. But did he use questionnaires, flyers, billboards, brochures, business cards, TV or radio ads, SEO perhaps, and other marketing tools to promote his product? He did not. Notice, if ever he did implement marketing, the best marketing tool he used was the product itself, which he created. Guess what, this product became among the most trusted household and corporate brands that has lasted many decades in human history. The brand is now known as Panasonic, founded by the man named Konosuke Matsushita.
From Mr. Matsushita’s example, we can note that as a businessman, he believed in his product and he knew every aspect of it by heart. Question: Is this how we perceive the product or service we offer? Do we truly believe in what we do and deliver? Most importantly, how much do we know about our product and service offer? Are we confident about it?
Avoid creating illusions. Enterprises may have succeeded using marketing strategies. But as customers and consumers, we’ve also witnessed how some promising marketing strategies ultimately failed. I’m certain you also have your share of disappointments when companies failed to deliver the promise of their marketing tools.
Take for instance, a billboard of a juicy burger along the superhighway. The sight of that juicy burger on billboard probably made you hungry and crave for it. So you thought about it the entire time you’re driving along the highway, until you finally spotted the store that sold the burger. With no second thoughts you pulled over, excitedly stepped into the store, and ordered the juicy burger. At last, your juicy burger was in front of you! But it turned out, the burger on billboard was actually a small dry bread that didn’t look or taste juicy and yummy at all. Was the marketing strategy successful? No.
While I need not mention company names, kindly allow me to cite another more concrete example. Let's talk about PLDT. Few years back, after I switched to the telephone company's Internet subscription (from its sister company, SmartBro), the company started calling me up to ask me if I received the billing statement for the month—sort of a way to remind me to pay. And the company did this a number of times until I got fed up and wrote the management to stop calling me because (a) I've been paying in full and on time, even before I receive the billing statement, and (b) our family has been a PLDT customer since the time the company began. The company would also call me occasionally to offer me the latest product, which I'd politely decline by telling the diligent agent, who'd even call on Sundays and boldly ask me why I wasn't interested, that I don't need the product. Now, question: If PLDT can offer its new line of products, why can't (and shouldn't) it improve its basic products and services, such as the telephone and Internet? Why should customers be compelled to upgrade when the basic telephone and Internet subscription should be sufficient?
The burger and telephone companies apparently created outstanding marketing tools. Nonetheless, the marketing content created was an illusion that did not match the actual products and services delivered. What these companies need is not a marketing tool, but an honest product evaluation and effort to improve their products and services.
So freelancers, let’s be cautioned here. No topnotch marketing tool, strategy, or campaign can beat the essential elements of addressing the concerns of any business. And I dare say again, you don’t need marketing tools that can actually do your business more harm than good. Instead of exhausting your efforts coming up with marketing strategies and tools, focus on the product and service you offer. Knowing your clients is good, true. But knowing every aspect of your product and service offer is the best. By that, you’ll later discover you don’t have to search for clients—because they find you, when you have focused on and mastered these essentials of the trade:
In that order.
You and I may—and we will—encounter failures achieving these three business elements from time to time. But understand that succeeding in any business entails a process, where we learn from our failures and transform them into solid foundation for our freelance business. When we recognize our failures and understand ways to avoid them, we begin to succeed constantly. And so our business doesn’t just end—it endures the tests of time.
Product–service KNOWLEDGE. Remember that trends come and go. So better be sure you don’t rely heavily on them (e.g., social media); otherwise, your freelance business might just disappear with them when they vanish into cyberspace. Allow your product and service to survive and take root without relying on trends. How is that possible? Again, study the aspects of your product and service offer.
Don’t be caught off guard answering clients with “I don’t know.” Learn to answer difficult questions clients might ask. Because if you can’t answer their questions, they’ll find someone else who can. But don’t just answer! Understand as well the answers you give every time. That should keep you busy enough, instead of spending much time promoting your business! Your product and service knowledge will eventually develop your entrepreneurial confidence. So focus on knowing and understanding your product and service. Nobody else (not even trends, and never should it be your clients) will do that for you—but you!
Product–service QUALITY. So the client returned to you the work you delivered, due to some errors, flaws, or whatever deficiencies they found in your work. Now, that’s bad news. But don’t sulk! Pull yourself together ASAP and perform the required amendments on the work. Don’t even think about throwing in the towel. Consider this a learning experience and priceless training, from which you can achieve “grounding” in your chosen endeavor. Don’t you ever hide from clients when similar situations like this happen!
Be brave enough NOT to explain or cite excuses to defend your flawed work. But quietly and diligently improve the work and gladly—yes, I say gladly—return it to the client as soon as possible. Be sure you have clarified with the client the time or date he needs the rectified work back. This way you can adjust accordingly and not waste any efforts you put into amending the work—just because the client no longer needs it the time he hears from you.
Product–service DELIVERY. I will have to say, stop the habit of updating your clients about the project status! You don’t have to do that! Are you saying that when you don’t update your clients about the project, they can worry because the work stops, or that they can’t trust your word when you said you’d deliver on this or that date when you don’t give project updates? You’re creating for yourself the unnecessary task of giving clients regular project updates, when what you should be doing is to focus working on the project and making sure you deliver on time! You may not realize this but by giving project updates, you don't just add to the bulk of the work; you double the work.
Remember that at the time you agreed to accept the project, the client already discussed the job requirements, which should be clear to you. The client also agreed to your project terms (rate and work schedule) with the confidence that you’d deliver. On your end, everything about the agreement was acceptable as well. So start working—no project updates required! If you delivered work for other clients, this client will be confident you'll deliver this time as well.
Allow your clients to trust your word, without having the need for you to give project updates. You know what you're doing, right? Because if you don't, you wouldn't accept the project in the first place. Aim to simplify your work and not complicate it. This way, you guarantee delivery on the date you said you'd deliver. Now, if a client insists on receiving from you regular updates and you know this isn’t your work style, then you may politely decline accepting the project.
Levinson, Jay Conrad. Guerilla Marketing: How to Make Big Profits from a Small Business. London, United Kingdom: Mackays of Chatham, 1993.
Panasonic Global Home. Retrieved from http://panasonic.net, 2014.