Now for the big topic—MARKETING. When it came to marketing, I was completely ignorant. I was an IT Specialist in my prior profession and had taken some college courses in business, finance and accounting but not, heaven forbid, marketing or sales. I truly dreaded this part of the job. In fact, I think it was this component of being self-employed that prevented me from opening my own business sooner. Actually, as you will see, it turned out to be not as bad as I imaged.
Marketing is too encompassing for a single post so I’ve broken it up into three posts: branding and networking, lecturing and volunteering, donations and trade shows. I spread out my marketing investment over three years loosely following these topics. I’ll start this post with branding and networking.
During my years in the business world (even though it was computer systems), I learned that first-impressions are very important. I was told over and over that the business card is a prospective client’s first impression of you and that this impression will rarely change in the future. My years in my prior career told me that this was probably a reality.
Branding can include many things, logos, business cards, brochures, ads, websites, blogs, give-a-ways, etc. I decided that my first investment would be a logo and a business card. I always use local businesses, if I can. I think my graphic designer, Creative SOL, did a superb job on both the logo and the business card. The final result is the image I have included in this post. The cards are printed on the best stock with a glossy finish. I love them.
Since this depleted my first year budget, I decided to do my own website, after all, I developed Intranet systems in my old job. Sure. Why not? I have to say the site was nice and flowed okay but let’s face it, I don’t speak marketing. I am not a copywriter. That is not my profession any more than being a graphics designer was. As soon as possible in my second year, I had my website and blog designed and developed by professionals. I used the local firm, Advantage Internet Marketing, and I have been very pleased with what they produced. Their service is great, too. I have received many compliments on it from others.
I added trifold brochures in the third year. Also, designed by Creative SOL.
Networking is complex and seems to break down into many types. Primarily, I focused on local networking, conferences and social media. For me, social media wasn’t too intimidating, after all, I did not have to meet anyone in person. Since, I was already on Facebook because of my family, I added a business page for Old Bones Genealogy. I then established profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. That has been my limit so far for social media sites. I post all my blog posts on these four social media sites. Over time, I have accrued friends on all sites.
One of the business people I met during my logo/business card project, recommended a local networking group called South Carroll Business Association (SCBA), which meets monthly, so I joined it. I also joined a small leads group named South Carroll Business Connections (SCBC) that meets weekly. Later, I added the monthly Carroll Marketing Group (CMG) to my list.
I attended a couple of the meetings of SCBA and CMG feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I wore my usual conservative dark colors and stood around not knowing anyone and too intimidated by all that was going on to initiate any conversation. Until red.
One advantage for me in joining LinkedIn is that I found an article on networking for the introvert. That is definitely me. Reading this article, I found out about the color red. There were many suggestions in this article but I liked the one about wearing bright colors, especially red to attract attention rather than fade into the background. So for the next meeting I wore a red top and jacket. It really works. Folks came over to me and said hello. I felt more at ease and today I really enjoy my time at these meetings.
You are probably wondering why, as a professional genealogist, I would join these groups since they were only local business men and women. What did I get out of it? I discovered that I learned more about marketing and made many valuable connections. And surprisingly got a few customers.
I have been l lucky in that I was able to attend a couple of genealogy conferences in my first years. In 2010, I attended the APG Roundtable, the APG PMC and the FGS Annual Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 2014, I attended the National Genealogical Society (NGS) in Richmond, Virginia. I hope to attend another conference in 2017. These conferences were wonderful—I got to network with my peers and meet some of the names I had only seen on books or the Internet. Conferences are great networking opportunities if you can manage to attend.
This ends my first foray into the world of marketing. My next topic will expand my experience, increasingly moving out of my comfort zone with lecturing and volunteering.
See the earlier posts in this series:
Introduction – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 1
Education – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 2
Startup Team – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 3
Business Planning – Becoming a Professional Genealogist: My Journey – Part 4