Two of the most basic rules of marketing are: (1) know your purpose and (2) know your audience. But as basic as these rules are, they are violated surprisingly frequently. Take, for example, the frequent emails I receive from individuals seeking to write guest posts on this blog or on my lawyermeltdown.com site. Here's one I received this week (names and other details removed to protect the writer's identity):
My name is [name]; I run a blog at [blog url], a network of experienced criminal defense attorneys across [state]. We write a lot of quality content on legal defense, assault charges, domestic violence, misdemeanors, property crimes and other criminal defense topics, something I noticed you also love to publish on your esteemed website :)
I know you’re incredibly busy, so I’ll be quick. I have an article that I’d like to contribute to your site. It’s about Bail and why it is inherently excessive, which I know you and your readers have expressed interest in, and I think they’d like what I have to say. Naturally, if you choose to run the piece, we’ll tell our readers about and promote on social media, so you’d get a traffic boost (and hopefully some new readers, as well). Let me know if you’re interested and we can talk about the next steps.
One way or another, thanks for your time, and keep up the awesome work!
How well did this email work? Let's examine these two basic rules of marketing.
Any marketing endeavor should begin with an examination of purpose. Why are you undertaking this particular project or marketing initiative? What do you hope to accomplish? Is your chosen method the best method for accomplishing this purpose?
Next, you need to spend some time thinking about your audience. Given your intended purpose, who is the most appropriate audience for your marketing message? Where is the best place to reach that audience? What is the best method for reaching them? Does this audience have likes, dislikes, preferences or biases that might affect your marketing message, your approach, or the method you choose to reach them? If you don't know the answers to these questions, it might be time to do some homework.
Going back to our example above, let's look at each of these basics in turn.
Know Your Purpose
First, is marketing the purpose of this email? Of course it is! He's using guest posting as a way to gain more visibility for his blog and for the lawyers in his criminal defense network. He is marketing himself to bloggers and websites as a guest writer. The purpose of this email is to have me agree to post his contribution about excessive bail on my blog or site.
Looking at purpose alone, this writer did a decent job of marketing his guest post - he provided me with the url to his blog so that I could go there and see the post topics and the quality of the writing. He gave me a good idea of his market and the kinds of topics his blog covers. And he made a suggestion of a specific topic for his proposed guest post on my blog.
There were some negatives, though. For example, he doesn't tell me whether the piece he is proposing would be unique content provided only to me. Is this content he's shopping to many others? If so, it might result in me posting duplicate content that appears in other places on the internet, which is something I'd want to avoid.
He also doesn't say exactly who will be writing the post he proposes. His email says he runs a blog that is a network of criminal defense attorneys, which makes me wonder who is actually creating the content. If I were to accept a guest post, I'd want to know who was writing it and whether that person had a perspective or something to say that would resonate with my readers.
And that brings us to the next marketing basic:
Know Your Audience
This is where this email, and the writer's whole pitch, falls apart. It is glaringly obvious that the person who sent me this email knows nothing about my blog or my website, the market I serve, or the topics that would fit into my site. What makes it even worse is that the writer says things like, "something I noticed you also love to publish on your esteemed website :)" and "which I know you and your readers have expressed interest in, and I think they’d like what I have to say."
The email makes it sound as if this writer is actually familiar with my blog or website and what my readers want, even though it is clear from the topics he talks about and the piece he proposes that he hasn't read my blog or site at all. If he had spent some time looking at my blog or website, he would know that criminal law topics are not the right fit for me.
This was a complete failure to identify the appropriate audience for the writer's marketing pitch; in this case, the audience should have been limited to blogs or websites that post on criminal law issues or target audiences with an interest in criminal law topics.
Not only did this writer waste my time and his (although, in fairness, he did provide me with a blog post topic), but the net effect of contacting me with this pitch was not only not positive (he didn't accomplish his purpose) or even neutral, but it was, in fact, negative.
It is clear to me that the writer didn't do his homework, didn't tailor his email messages, and is only pretending to be familiar with my audience, my site and its contents. What does that say about how he - or the lawyers he represents - does business?
It is likely that this same email pitch was sent, word for word, to many other websites or blogs. Perhaps he wouldl get lucky and some of them would be the right fit. But is that the most effective way to go about marketing yourself, your firm, or your practice? Is that the way you want others to go about marketing you or your firm? Is it professional? Is getting one yes worth the potential negative effect of the impression left on the others for whom this pitch wasn't appropriate?
What do you think?