This is Week 23 of a 52-week project/experiment in DIY marketing. Armed with nothing but a copy of the 2009 Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar and my bare wits, I'm applying the skills you need to grow a business in real time, day by day, and reporting on them week by week. See my companion blog, A Virgo's Guide to Marketing, for some in-depth posts, additional links and other marketing-related goodness.
During a speaking gig I did yesterday at a local Freelancer Meetup, someone threw out the question of measurement, as in, yeah, sure, we can do all this marketing and networking and social media marketing and networking, but how is it converting into dollars? How do you decide how much time to put in, and when (and how) do you decide whether it's working or not*?
A very valid question, and one worth looking at as the mid-year mark approaches.
Personally, while I'm nominally (and, to a degree, generally) interested in getting business—speaking gigs and consulting gigs—I've had to take a cold, hard look at what my marketing is netting me. And I'll be honest: I'm not making a mint off this marketing stuff. My consulting business hasn't gone through the roof, nor am I getting paid bazillions of dollars to speak (yet). Really, this year thus far has been about me building audience and getting speaking gigs, period. As far as those metrics go, life is good: my actively engaged audience is up over 25% from the end of '08, and I've done 10 (holy cats!) speaking gigs so far this year, with a few more lined up right now for July and August.
Still, I've suspected for a time that something is getting in the way of my forward movement. I say this because I've been through three different and successful career starts so far in my life—advertising, acting and design—and while they've each required as much work as this start, I made much better (faster, more lucrative, more internally rewarding) headway with any of them than I have been with this one. It may be that my current problem resides with my choice of direction, but I'm beginning to think rather the opposite: that it is because of my lack of choice in direction. I say I want one thing, but my actions are pulling me in multiple directions. And in this climate especially, without focus, it's game over.
So, despite the craaaazy economy, I'm investing some time and money in a couple of classes that I believe will push me out of my comfort zone and force me to look at some stuff I've been maybe overlooking, if not flat-out avoiding. It feels a little funny floating that out there—I know that one of the mantras of the self-employed is "fake it till you make it"—but right now, faking it feels like a serious wrong turn. I have a much better idea of what I'm good at (and not so good at) after hitting it hard for these first six months; I'm looking forward to getting more focused so that I can hit the back end of the year not hard, but precisely.
Oh—and because yes, I'm still blogging this process out loud, this week I got my newsletter written and out, posted to my site four times (and this one once), put together a new presentation on getting attention for yourself in a crowded marketplace and delivered it at a meetup, did a few more free sample consultations, got one of the backlog of podcasts recorded and out the door, reached out to a WordPress Thesis theme designer to discuss some business, and even sang my inspirational song for a roomful of strangers at a party.
And Facebook, and Twitter, and yadda yadda yadda. Of course!
*If you're interested in the maturation of social media in the marketplace, which includes more discussion about accountability, measurement, and mapping of the audience, a good entry point is Chris Brogan's blog, where he's begun talking about the subject.