On July 9th, I posted here about my initial attempts at getting a marketing plan for BluLob off the ground. This is an update and a general impression of my experiences so far. If you find yourself mentioned here, please understand that I found everyone – with rare exception – to be personable and having the best intentions. That rare exception would be my first item: National Association of Professional Women.
National Association of Professional Women
A couple of weeks ago, I got a postcard from the “National Association of Professional Women”. It offered a free membership and online networking opportunities. I paused but then I figured, “What the hell?” I filled out the card and returned it. On Tuesday, I received a phone call from a very businesslike-sounding woman. She said she would like to interview me for consideration as a NAPW member. I sincerely answered a series of questions about my experiences and strengths. I started sensing tiny red flags when she started two questions with, “As a successful business woman…” I found that rather presumptuous and felt more aware of a script the woman was reading. Eventually, she said I had met their unstated requirements for membership. She began to rattle off a lengthy list of benefits of membership.
I was not born yesterday (just the day after), so I interrupted her to tell her that I was guessing that there was some cost associated with all of this. She told me in her flowery way that they had two membership levels, each as a one-time fee. One was $698 and the other was $498. Clever. Probably most who fall for this go for the cheaper one and that’s why they offer one that’s $200 higher than what they really expect to get.
I told the woman that I had ZERO dollars to spend on this. Truly. No money at all. She gave me the option of a $289 membership with fewer advantages. I reiterated that I can spend zero dollars. She tried a $189 membership, then an $89 membership. Clearly not getting it, and assuring me that I had correctly identified a scam. I also happened to Google the organization while on the phone with her, and found this. She finally said something about a free trial membership, and I managed to politely get off the phone.
Lesson learned: don’t fill out anything for an unknown organization without some extensive Googling beforehand.
I went to a second meeting with eWomen. This time it was a dinner meeting with more people – maybe forty. Dinner was decent. The meeting had some interesting aspects. Some women had display tables for their businesses, which provided a topic for conversation. I am sort of awful at small talk, so I was grateful for this. There were a couple of speeches, and two sessions of “speed networking” with 4-5 women per group. One of the speeches was on the “Elevator Pitch”.
The Elevator Pitch is the idea that you prepare a quick rundown of your business that serves as a miniature commercial when you meet new people that ask what you do. You begin with asking a question like, “You know when people have a hard time getting ________ done?” And then person is supposed to respond in the affirmative. Then you follow up with “Well, what I do is _______.” You’re supposed to identify a “pain point” that you help people resolve, and then tell them how you can help them with it.
I am still dubious of this approach. The woman who gave the speech – and who gives paid workshops on it for a living – is very nice. Like too nice. Maybe she is earnestly like that, but her enthusiasm and friendliness is almost off-putting. I hesitate to outright call it insincere until I get to know her better, but you probably know what I’m talking about. And the Elevator Pitch approach itself seems to turn an ordinary person into an actor on stage. I don’t want to deal with actors myself, and I don’t want to appear sales-y to others. And what happens if the person says, “No, I really don’t know people who feel that way”? If I heard the Elevator Pitch, I might be tempted to say that because I could sense that I was supposed to give a manipulated response in order for the script to work.
I do recognize the importance of identifying that “pain point,” especially since I provide services. I want to develop a website that speaks to the real problems that people (and businesses) have. And I believe I have real solutions that will help them make their businesses look amazing. It’s not a matter of lack of confidence in the work I do. I just want to be myself.
This reminds me of the Showtime show called Bullshit, starring Penn and Teller. I love this show. Many episodes are about people who make up phony solutions for real problems. They make a lot of money doing this, and manage to do it year after year without real results because the people who invest money in their “services” truly invest emotionally as well. I am beginning to realize that there are lots of people in the business world who do this as well. They make a living out of helping (or pretending to help) businesses grow through various approaches. The Elevator Pitch is not new, and I imagine lots of people earn money telling you how to do it. I can’t tell yet if the Elevator Pitch helps anyone generate business, or merely pretends to.
Okay, anyway, I did join eWomen that night (luckily “eWomen Network” doesn’t have a bunch of bad results in Google). With my new membership, I got a free workshop for the Elevator Pitch. It will be next month, and I’ll report back here.
I’ve responded to a handful of part-time and contract job job postings on CraigsList this week. This has resulted in nothing but one response which turned out to be a check cashing con. I reported this to CraigsList’s legal department.
I also posted an ad for my design services. Also zero response…until today, day 7. I got a small illustration-type job. I will continue to try this marketing technique. Hey, it’s free and requires only time to repost the ad once per week.
A fellow attendee at the eWomen morning meeting I went to heartily endorsed Google AdWords for advertising one’s business. She said her business got 3 clients in the first month from it. I signed up on July 8th. Since then I’ve gotten over 20,000 impressions, 18 clicks, and zero clients. I guess I’m doing something wrong. Here’s the text of my ad; I probably need to talk benefits instead:
Your website designed by a true
artist and web expert. Blue Lobster
I sent out a small batch of follow-up emails to people I met in March at a business expo. Two people responded, and one of them wanted to talk at greater length about working together. She works at a mailing service, and I met with her at a Starbucks on Tuesday. Our meeting was awesome. She not only may have some contract work for me with her existing job, but she is looking into starting her own business and it seems I would be her designer of choice for that venture. She gave me a folder full of samples from the mailing service, and we chatted about the relative merits of each design. I was grateful for the samples, which I immediately took to my design class that day to enhance my demonstration of the design principles.
I also spent Monday lunch with a nice lady I met at the eWomen dinner. She is a writer who specializes in writing for websites. We are both artists, and she seems really down to earth (a characteristic you can probably tell by now that I value.) If eWomen comes to nothing else, I hope to generate some friendships with other women.
All in all, though, all my networking so far has resulted in zero business. I hope that this changes with persistence.
I will have my first official marketing planning session with Avaunt next Monday. I am still a long way from identifying a niche to market my services to. I hope that in this meeting I can explore a number of options and come up with something that is uniquely “me”. I would love to work with the colorful/kooky/funky/artsy style that I seem to do the most. Like that blue lobster drawing up there in the banner. I just don’t know if there is enough of a market for that stuff. Again, I’ll report back here.