Panic marketing: Do you need to break the habit?

by Rachel Smith
18 June 2021

If you typically get snowed under with work, hit a slow patch and do a bit of panic marketing (and just general panicking), I’m right there with you.

I’ve tried to make marketing part of my work week but gawd it’s hard, isn’t it? For Rachel’s List, we have help to stay on track, but in my own business, deadlines take priority and I tend to squeeze marketing into the gaps.

And listening to Deliberate Freelancer’s 100th episode with Jennifer Goforth Gregory (a content marketing maven who’s also appeared on our podcast), I heard the term ‘panic marketing’ and realised that’s exactly what I do.

And I’m not the only one doing it

I polled our FB Gold community about their own marketing efforts and it was insightful. Around 36 percent of respondents confessed to doing ‘no marketing at all’; 33 percent were ‘trying to be more organised with marketing’ and 19 percent admitted that ‘panic marketing’ was all they did. Eeek.

“I’m currently a panic marketer but trying to become more organised,” says Louise Baxter. “I’ve gotten most clients through word of mouth, LinkedIn and existing contacts, so have lacked a solid strategy until now. I always feel like I’m not doing enough.” 

Alison Hallworth has the same struggles. “I market like I parent. I’m all do as I say, not as I do.  My clients all have smashing strategies and regular content but I’m sitting over here in the corner doing god only knows what!”

Sharon Timms can relate. “I’ll post relevant work on my website and post to socials… but then I lose interest and forget,” she explains.

I hear you, Sharon.

Why we need to break the panic marketing habit

There’s no benefit to being in a ‘reactive’ state all the time. Not least because it’s stressful.

Plus, you may find you’re marketing with no real strategy but just a ‘let’s chuck a few LOIs at the wall and see what sticks’. Or you might spend an hour updating your socials with ALL your latest links and clippings, then not touch it again for a month.

Result? LOIs without a strategy or follow-up are likely to result in… well, crickets. And your social feed may look nice and busy – for about an hour – but then it’ll be dead as a doornail until the next panic marketing push.

A freelancer friend of mine, John Burfitt, does the opposite of panic marketing – he has a tried and tested strategy he follows each week that keeps his pipeline full.

“I used to have a brilliant boss who was very much into the concept of relationship marketing,” says John, “which involves regular contact with all my key publishers and business clients. This kind of marketing is one-on-one. It is not trying to be anyone’s new stalker or best friend, but it is knowing what that person needs and then doing my best to deliver upon it.”

Better than panic marketing? Word-of-mouth marketing

Clients and editors talking about you behind your back isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact, doing a great job and letting word-of-mouth marketing work for you can be a solid way to build a business.

It’s a tactic Angela Denly has used and one she says has worked way better than sporadic social posts. “My ‘marketing’ consists of building relationships with people and trying to be helpful so they think to refer to me,” she says.

Referrals are invaluable for Anna Spargo-Ryan, too. “The best sales pitch I have is the quality of my work. Most of my clients are repeat clients and the people in their circles.”

Word of mouth is a big part of Nina Hendy’s marketing, too. “Being recommended by others is priceless as a freelancer, so networking with others is crucial,” she says. “I also use LinkedIn and keep my website up to date – and I launched The Freelance Collective for Australian creative freelancers to list themselves and market themselves, so that clients can reach out directly – and I’ve personally had job leads from the platform and landed ongoing work.”

A multi-pronged marketing approach

Though they were in the minority (just 8 percent of respondents to my FB poll said they were ‘super strategic’ about their marketing), I was impressed by what some of the Gold group members do to market themselves.

Writing and sharing regular blog posts, embracing SEO and keeping her website updated and fresh are all tactics that work for Sharon Lapkin. “While I’m strategic about marketing, I sometimes fall behind when I get busy and weeks go by without a blog post,” she says, “but I have an ongoing calendar for blog topics and promotions. I also engage with target markets on Linkedin and treat my current clients with respect and kindness.”

“I ask for Google My Business reviews, include testimonials on my website and a portfolio of work – and do the odd blog,” says Amy Clarke.

Emma Lovell‘s got her marketing down pat – she even pre-scheduled four months of content before going on mat leave. “I use Airtable to plan my content and then schedule with Hootsuite,” she says. “I planned out 3 posts per week for each of my channels. I would love to be having more consistent blog content going out, but it is steadily growing.”

For Ellen Hill, it’s all about in-person networking. “We go to strategic community and business groups and pick up work – commercial and editorial leads – without fail at every one of them,” she says.

A consistent posting schedule – where your clients hang out – is also key

When you’re busy, pre-scheduling content – and popping back in periodically to answer comments and engage with your audience – can save you heaps of time but still bring you work.

Lynne Testoni is a case in point. “Every time I post one of my articles on LinkedIn I get a commission so I’m trying to do that more regularly,” she explains. “Usually new work comes from an existing client so I guess it’s a reminder to them that I’m around.”

John Burfitt follows a strict social media posting schedule on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. “I post at least 3 times a week on all platforms. The ‘keep in touch’ tactic I use and the social media posting is, I believe, what keeps me very busy – and work just keeps flowing in.”

Sending consistent newsletters to clients has worked for Emma Lovell, too. “I’d really underestimated the power of sending monthly eDMs,” she explains. “After each EDM, I have secured a client. Getting directly into the inbox of your clients and reminding them you are there is super important.”

Do you fall prey to panic marketing or have more of a strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Rachel Smith

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