Reluctance to Market

Talking with a copywriter earlier in the week, I noticed that she and I have a problem in common. We both share a reluctance to market ourselves.

It’s a common problem among copywriters, and I think it’s a result of wondering whether we deserve to be marketed — whether we’re good enough.

But to succeed, we have to market ourselves. And there are things to learn about marketing ourselves from other contexts.

Let me tell you a story from my prior life.

My last year as a marketing manager, I ran the marketing for a product line worth around $475 million in revenue each year. That no doubt sounds like a lot, but it really wasn’t.

Our product was an up-and-comer, a new product with new capabilities. Each day, in theory we were coming into the office to fight against established competitors for market share. So you’d think we’d concentrate on the strengths, new features, compelling benefits, and craft strong marketing to beat up on the competition.

But often we didn’t. Often we got caught up in the warts of the product.

Every product has warts. No product is perfect. But we’d lose perspective on that. Somehow, we wanted the product to be perfect, and it never was. And when looking at the competition, all we could see was a shiny, appealing, supposedly perfect façade — and that was discouraging. It’s hard to compete with perfection.

Take heart. Your competition isn’t perfect either.

No copywriter is perfect. Trust me, I’ve worked with many of them. And I can, painfully and humbly, point to my own flaws as a writer. Just because I’m blogging doesn’t mean I’m TS Eliot or Ernest Hemingway or even David Ogilvy.

But if you read biographies of each of those men, you’ll notice their flaws. Just this week, a new edition of Farewell to Arms came out with 47 alternate endings, which were discarded, one by one, as Hemingway ruthlessly edited his work. No one is perfect. Not even Hemingway.

Your litmus test shouldn’t be perfection, because you’ll never get there. It should be value.

In other words, can you add something? Can you take the hassle out of content creation? Can you speed up production? Can you improve a website, or draft a marketing plan, or create a case study?

Of course you can. Or if you can’t today, you’ll learn to do it tomorrow. The writer’s life is all about adding initial value, and then expanding your value as you get better and acquire new skills.

So here’s a little exercise I’d love to see in the comments. In 10 words or less, what value do you bring?

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: July 12, 2012

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