Simplify your marketing

Recently I wrote about being asked to do a manuscript evaluation for free (which earned a big fat “no, thanks” from me) and a commenter suggested that maybe briefly reviewing the ms and offering some affirmative feedback would ensure the author returned when they were ready for an edit.

The thing is, I’m not their mom; if they need unpaid affirmation, they should ask her. What I am selling is editorial services. What I am looking for is clients who are interested in editorial services. If you don’t know that this is something that you need to pay for, you are not a good match for me.

Freelancers often don’t understand the difference between demand generation and lead generation, so they get confused about where to put their time and don’t understand how to convert people into paying clients. So, they try to get people who have no intention of paying for their services to pay for their services by doing a lot of things for free first (see “briefly reviewing the ms and offering some affirmative feedback” above). In simplistic terms, they are trying to generate a demand for their services.

For our purposes, demand generation is about creating a market for our service (editing). By creating a market, I don’t mean identifying one, I mean creating it. Making people aware that they want or need something they didn’t know they needed.

Consider any new technology, like, say, virtual reality headsets. First, you have to convince people that they want or need a VR headset. So far, most people aren’t convinced. So marketing around VR headsets is largely about demand generation—trying to get people to believe they need a VR headset. Ask Meta how well this is going for them.

The writer who doesn’t know what editors do and isn’t at the point of hiring one is a demand-generation prospect. You have to teach them what editors do, convince them that editing is worth paying for, then convince them that you’re the right editor for them to pick (and pay). That is a LOT of work. And there are many opportunities to lose the sale—the writer might give up writing, they might decide to publish without editorial support, they might decide to hire someone who isn’t you.

Lead generation is about finding leads, that is potential prospects who already know that they want a particular product or service. That’s like cell phones. The demand has already been generated. All Samsung has to do is convince people to buy their phones, and not someone else’s. For writers who already know they want a developmental editor, all you have to do is convince them to hire you.

That is a lot less work.

Suppose you have a thousand people you’re marketing to. You spend an hour a day broadcasting to a wide group of people, explaining why they should hire an editor. In a month you’ve spent 20 hours on marketing.

Ninety percent of these people aren’t writers and won’t ever care about being writers and won’t ever hire you. Of the remaining 100 prospects, suppose you briefly read their work and provide affirmation. Suppose that takes two hours each (which deeply underestimates the amount of time this kind of thing takes, but let’s pretend). You’ve spent 200 hours on this effort when you could have done paying work or played with your daughter.

A month has (on average) 174 working hours in it, assuming you’re working full-time, M-F, eight hours a day. You’ve spent 220 hours so far.

Of these 100 writers you’ve provided free feedback for, at least 70 are never going to see the benefits of hiring an editor because they haven’t completed their ms (and never will) or they plan to have their wife do the edits or they’re going to publish without editorial feedback. Now you have 30 possible clients. Maybe you follow up with them occasionally, spending twenty minutes a month on each potential client. That’s another ten hours you’ve tacked on to your 220.

Of these 30 people, most of them aren’t going to hire you, either because you’re not the right person for the job, their budget won’t stretch, or the timing doesn’t work (you’ve already booked another project in the slot they wanted, etc.) So, let’s say 80 percent decide you’re not the one.

Now you’ve landed six clients with 230 hours of marketing work. Suppose six clients will keep you fed for two months. That means you have to do 230 hours of marketing every two months, along with all of that editing.

That is an IMMENSE amount of work.

But lead generation is different. Lead generation focuses on identifying people who already know they will probably hire an editor. If you market to 1,000 of those people, you’re already way ahead. If you spend the same hour a day for a month doing broadcast marketing to them, you’ve spent 20 hours marketing to people who already know they will probably hire an editor.

Let’s say that 80 percent of these people will never hire you. That leaves 200 clients, which you have to agree is much more than six and so far all you’ve invested is 20 hours in marketing.

Now, let’s say that the first step, “identifying people who already know they will probably hire an editor” takes some time. It will probably take a couple of hours a day for a couple of weeks to identify 1000 people interested in hiring an editor. Let’s call that 100 hours. Now you’ve invested 120 hours to yield 200 clients. That’s a huge win over investing 230 hours to win six clients.

So, that’s why I don’t go chasing my tail trying to convince the world they need an editor. I spend my time finding people who already know they need an editor and then try to convince them to hire me.

Now, of course, I’ve made up these percentages based on what I’ve experienced, but regardless of what percentages are actually correct for you, it’s easy to see that focusing your efforts on people who already know they need an editor is a less time-consuming process.

Editing is not a new technology. Many writers already know they need to hire editors. You just have to identify those writers.

That said, if you want to go to all the work of demand generation, feel free. I, and every other editor who uses lead generation, appreciate your efforts on our behalf. Without you to educate authors for us, we might have to do it ourselves.

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