Marketing Monday

How To Get Money From People You Don’t Know

One of my extracurricular activities that keeps me out of trouble is being on the board of a local nonprofit. My normal fuction is going to meetings and saying obvious things.

A few weeks ago, however, the ante was upped. A packet arrived with a list of businesses to solicit donations from and their contact information. I panicked. I am not good at asking people for money… I have a hard time even asking people who owe me money for money!

But I had to deal and here's what I've learned about asking people you don't know to give you money.

Get background information on the person or business.
Having a name of who you can talk to at a business and information about the person/business can give you a little bit of an edge in this uncomfortbale situation. Has he given money before? Does she prefer email to phone calls?  Has the business recently changed ownership? These are all good things to know. Ask around in your social circle or email your friend the supernetworker and get at least some of the information ahead if you can. I asked a few ad reps at the newspaper I work for, so helpful.

Go in person if you can.
I have too many businesses to do this with but I can tell the ones I visited in person had a lot harder time saying no then ones I called. Looking like the nice wholesome person that I am also didn't seem to hurt.

Be clear.
In the first sentence, I give my name and the organization I volunteer for. This way, they know I'm not trying to sell them anything and they can start thinking about the organization and how/if they want to give. Using their brainpower to figure this out rather than figure out who I am is a step in the right direction.

Be brief.
Small business owners don't have a lot of time and respecting that is key.

Be kind, even if they say no.
Sure, money is tight now and some poeple can't give. That said, if you're a jerkface about them saying no, you are not only representing yourself but the organization. They may not remember your name but they'll remember who you were representing the next go around. Being kind and gracious to all is only beneficial to your good karma but to the organization you represent…because you never know.

All in all, this hasn't been the terrible experience I thought. One place I called gave $100 without batting an eye. "That's a really special organization" the woman said when I went to pick up the money. And doing this little uncomfortable exercise in some ways made me realize just how much it was.

How To Get Money From People You Don’t Know

One of my extracurricular activities that keeps me out of trouble is being on the board of a local nonprofit. My normal fuction is going to meetings and saying obvious things.

A few weeks ago, however, the ante was upped. A packet arrived with a list of businesses to solicit donations from and their contact information. I panicked. I am not good at asking people for money… I have a hard time even asking people who owe me money for money!

But I had to deal and here's what I've learned about asking people you don't know to give you money.

Get background information on the person or business.
Having a name of who you can talk to at a business and information about the person/business can give you a little bit of an edge in this uncomfortbale situation. Has he given money before? Does she prefer email to phone calls?  Has the business recently changed ownership? These are all good things to know. Ask around in your social circle or email your friend the supernetworker and get at least some of the information ahead if you can. I asked a few ad reps at the newspaper I work for, so helpful.

Go in person if you can.
I have too many businesses to do this with but I can tell the ones I visited in person had a lot harder time saying no then ones I called. Looking like the nice wholesome person that I am also didn't seem to hurt.

Be clear.
In the first sentence, I give my name and the organization I volunteer for. This way, they know I'm not trying to sell them anything and they can start thinking about the organization and how/if they want to give. Using their brainpower to figure this out rather than figure out who I am is a step in the right direction.



Be brief.
Small business owners don't have a lot of time and respecting that is key.

Be kind, even if they say no.
Sure, money is tight now and some poeple can't give. That said, if you're a jerkface about them saying no, you are not only representing yourself but the organization. They may not remember your name but they'll remember who you were representing the next go around. Being kind and gracious to all is only beneficial to your good karma but to the organization you represent…because you never know.

All in all, this hasn't been the terrible experience I thought. One place I called gave $100 without batting an eye. "That's a really special organization" the woman said when I went to pick up the money. And doing this little uncomfortable exercise in some ways made me realize just how much it was.

Wednesday Writer Spotlight: Mark LaFlamme

So I have several great friends who happen to make extra money writing. Not only that but they're good at it!

I was trying to figure out how I could get information from them as far as how they make it work and feature them on the blog.

For the next few Wednesdays, I'll be featuring writers I like and how they hone their craft, use the internet, get writing ideas from life, and rake in the dough.

I just finished Mark's latest novel Dirt by going to bed way past my bedtime for about a week straight. In addition Mark's blog The Screaming Room is not just about newspapers and writing but life. He does the funnest things with material on the police scanner (I wish I could get an editor to do a blog like this!). Mark is edgy, interesting, and good at his job.
 
Now you are a newspaper reporter and author. What percentage of your time do each of these things take up? What about income percentages?
 
Marklaflamme I'm a reporter pretty much full time. By that I mean, I'm officially on-duty between the hours of 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. But unofficially, I'm always on the job. Always waiting for a news tip, scrounging for information, hanging out with sources. That's the way it's got to be for me. If I wanted a job where I simply punch a clock, do my duties and go home, I'd be in a different field. Grave digging, perhaps. Or proctology.
 
At the same time, when I go about being an author, I'm in a different zone. I do the bulk of my writing after midnight, when the news deadline has passed and most of the world is sleeping. That's make-believe time and I have no problem separating it from news time. In an odd way, it's like having multiple personalities. There's Mark who sticks to the facts and Mark who breaks off into fancy of all varieties.
 
As for income, it breaks down like this: the newspaper gives me a check every two weeks and its largely the same each time. Royalties from the book trickle in once a month. Some of the checks are decent, some are puny, still others are pleasantly surprising. The way I see it, income from book sales always has the potential to explode where income from the news business always remains static. Consistency and uncertainty. I like that balance, except for those times that I'm penniless and starving.
 
Both of your jobs seem related to writing. How do you keep things separate? Do you keep things separate?
 
I'm walking down a dark street near the mills next to the Lewiston canal. One eye is scanning the landscape for potential news. A criminal in the act of his crime, a homeless man with a story to tell, a band of thugs planning evil deeds.

From the other eye, I'm looking over the great, abandon mills and imagining them filled with government scientists at work on mind control experiments, or possibly alien autopsies. That's the author eye, co-existing with the reporter eye. Occasionally the two blend and something from the news realm will creep into the realm of fiction. More than occasionally, I think. I can always pilfer from the real world for my fiction. The other way doesn't work so well.
 
You are all over the place social networking wise: Twitter, Facebook, commenting on other blogs. How do you find that helps you as an editor and/or as a writer?
 
I got into those networks because book promotion experts will tell an author that they will perish without them. I haven't decided if they are right or now. It's clear, however, that a novelist can bring attention to his work to vast clumps of people that way. To not do it seems insane. I've run into people through Facebook and Myspace who have read and enjoyed my books. We become friends and suddenly, all their friends are my friends. If you do the math, it's frightening. Thousands of people who would otherwise never hear of you are suddenly exposed to your book covers and various pitches on your profile pages. I've garnered new friends and new readers that way, though there's no honest way of estimating how many.

From a news standpoint, the social networks are a great way of cultivating sources. Need information on something quick? Put a query up in your Facebook status and you'll get hits, I guarantee it. More and more reporters are taking advantage of this all the time.
 
Why do you think Lewiston/Auburn area has such consistently interesting news? (blobs in the sewer, criminals on the run, etc.)
 
For Lewiston, it's reputation precedes it. When something happens here, people give it an extra long look because so many bizarre things have happened here in the past. We don't have as many murders as say, Portland. But when people are killed here, there are almost always twist. The last murder I covered involved a young man accused of strangling his mother. As it turns out, he had been having sex with his mother who was also involved in a sexual relationship with her son's wife. To me, that's Lewiston flavor, dark and twisted.

Before that it was a man who shot his father through the window of his home, killing the old man dead at the head of the table where he was the focus of a birthday party. A sniper form of patricide. As the story unfolded, it was revealed that the shooter had been sexually abused by his dad all his life and now, all grown up, was exacting his revenge.

Before that, the bodies of two men were uncovered in a wooded area next to the railroad tracks. The killers had gone to a supply store for shovels and went through all of this work to cover up the crime, and then left the foot of one of the victims sticking out of the ground, where it was spotted by a hunter.

All of these things are unfortunate, but from a news standpoint, they are just tasty as hell. I don't know why Lewiston is such a great news down. There is an abundance of substance abuse and mental illness here, but it's more than that. In Stephen King's "It," the people of Derry had been submersed in the oddities of their town for so long, they no longer seemed like oddities. Lewiston feels that way a lot of the time.
 
Is all this doom and gloom about newspapers getting to you?
 
No. I'm as sensitive to the suffering others as anybody. More so, maybe. But I'm clinical about things as I'm going about reporting them. I'm there to gather facts for the reader and I try to gather as much as I can. I'm not ghoulish. My motto at work is "I don't want bad things to happen. I just want to be there when they do."

I've been at it 15 years now. Maybe it will all catch up with me one day – all the bodies and screams, blood and suffering – and I'll become a gibbering idiot. But then, who'd notice?
 
How do you think newspapers need to change to sell more papers? 
 
Admitting the problem is the first step. Those that don't recognize that they are in trouble are dying or already dead. Those that accept the explosion of technology as a friend rather than a threat might be okay. The Sun Journal has gone multi-media. We use the Web to get our news to readers. We post video and sound clips. We have a Twitter account which provides news updates. I consider it steering into the skid rather than just locking up the brakes and waiting to crash.
 
How do you find inspiration for your fiction? Your latest novel Dirt is dark and indicates research related to the physical and psychological nature of what happens during and after death. 
 
Dirt For one reason or another, a lot of my fiction focuses on that theme. My first novel "The Pink Room" was about a grieving man trying to use the science of string theory to bring his wife back from the dead. "Dirt," of course is about a man so unwilling to accept the loss of his bride, he digs her up and goes about his life. I have dozens of short stories on the same topic. If I ever find myself on a therapist's couch, maybe he or she can figure it out. In the meantime, I don't think about it too much.
Story ideas are everywhere. They come to me all the time. It's like being in a snow globe with ideas falling instead of little plastic flakes. It drives me crazy sometimes. I have notebooks filled with these concepts for short stories or novels and I know I'll never be able to get to them all.

Some of these ideas come out of nowhere, when I'm driving around or just sitting back and watching TV. Many of them – hell, most of them – come in the form of dreams; either full on dreams or the weird, semi-delirious things that happen in the mind at the edge of sleep. "The Pink Room" came from that gray place between sleeping and consciousness. So did "Dirt," so dig "Worumbo," which hasn't been published yet.

I think inspiration comes on the best when you are not actively seeking it. It's astounding how many ideas for a new work or for advancing a current one have come while I'm in the shower. I really should shower more often, as everybody knows.
 
What has been the best investment of your time and money, PR-wise, to sell more copies of your book?

None of the predictable things. Advertising in local papers? Not worth it. Better off seeking out talks or book signings and getting news coverage for free. Virtual book tours? My publisher paid for such a service. The company sends out press releases and gets your title reviewed on a handful of blogs. That's the kind of thing you can do on your own without forking over a fistful of dough. Not worth it.
Sending out review copies has worked well for me. Giving talks at libraries and schools has been helpful, though I despise public speaking. Book signings, always. It's not the number of books you sell, it's the exposure your book gets through store advertising, signs hanging in the bookstores, etc.
I like to have bookmarks printed for each new book I publish. I can leave stacks of them at bookstores, scatter them around airports, pin them up on bulletin boards everywhere I go. Very small investment – I think I paid $139 to have 5,000 bookmarks printed – very versatile use.
 
Do you do freelance work? If so, how do you seek out jobs? 
 
Freelance jobs have a way of finding me. Magazine publishers need writers and know of me through my journalism work. Same with business profiles and big shots who need a speech written. I don't seek the work much. I did try advertising myself as a sort of literary gun-for-hire on Craigslist, but I got mostly offers of a sexual nature in response.
 
Do you have a set routine or time of day where you do your writing?
 
Sort of. Somewhat. Not really. I get up at noon and squint at e-mail and other correspondence. After a half pot of coffee, I might bang out a column for the paper or a post for the blog. I go to work and take care of the quick and dirty stories I've been assigned. I cover news as it breaks and usually have to write fast to meet deadlines. News usually stops breaking in accordance with press time at about midnight.

I spend an hour or so with my wife after work and then come to my weird writing room. If I'm working on a novel, I'll go at it until three or four in the morning. My minimum is 2,000 words a night. If I fall short of that – if say, I come up with 1992 – I'll go add eight words just to keep the discipline. "The severed head was found six blocks away" is a fine phrase if you need to make up eight words on the fly.
 
You seem to produce so much content for your blog, write books, work a full-time job, and have friends and family. How are you not writing constantly?
 
I'd like to ask you the same question, frankly. I'm always snapped out of a relative dry spell by yet another reminder through my feed reader that a new post is available at Breaking Even.

I am writing constantly, by choice rather than necessity. When I go long periods without producing anything, I get antsy. My feelings of self-worth plummet. I do odd things and tend to get into trouble.

 Writing is always a distraction and that, maybe, is what the people who become writers need more than anything else. I think there's a lot of psychology there and probably a good thesis paper to be produced on the topic. I don't need to write scholastic papers, however, and so I don't explore it much. Although, now that you mention it, maybe I'll go write a blog on it. I mean, if I don't do something, I'm just going to get into trouble, right?



To see Mark's blog, order a book, or learn more, check out www.marklaflamme.com.

So You Have A Website, Now What?

Today's Presentation at The Maine Grind's Winter Lecture Series

Today, I gave an afternoon presentation about web promotion at the Maine Grind in Ellsworth, a local coffee shop/gathering place.

The people who came were just as interesting as what I presented. We had good interaction and lots of discussion between group members. I came out if it really energized about what is going on and what is possible, both with their businesses and with mine. After, as if to continue the good momentum, I got to go to a good party with food and friends. I walked back home tonight thinking how lucky I am and how things really do seem to be coming together. I hope you had a similarly great day!

If you want a copy of the Powerpoint presentation I gave, I'm more then happy to send it if you email me. (I think I could probably post it here, I just can't seem to figure out how.)



Otherwise, I linked to some additional resources to those who want more information about social bookmarking, microblogging, social networking, blogging and search engine optimization. It's pretty general but can give a good jumping off point if you are considering promoting your site. I even included some good blogs to read if you are interested in internet marketing/internet PR in general.
List of Resources: As a PDF        As a Word Document

How I Saved A Non-Profit $150 This Year (And You Can Too)

So I'm on this board for a regional domestic violence advocacy group. I often wonder why I'm on it, in part because I don't have a lot of fundraising clout/rich friends and in part because I don't have a lot of ideas about these sort of things. I figure the people who are in the thick of the programs are the experts who know way more then I do.

But I noticed a few months ago that I was getting a lot of mailings: copies of the minutes, financial statements, etc. in the mail. I noticed they were the same information that was sent out over email to the board members on a regular basis.

I emailed the director, asking her if she ever thought about having people opt into recieving notifications by email. I figured this would save some money. She's since put out the invitation to get information by email only.

I did a quick calculation at our monthly meeting tonight and if just ten of the board members opted to recieve information by email, the organization would save $150 in postage per year. Can you imagine if you let others like our donors or volunteers also did this?

My little idea was apparently useful. And yours are too!



Here's what I'm thinking: there is no doubt that a lot of us will not be able to be as generous this year financially as we'd like to be. Non-profits are onto this and expecting to see less financial giving this year as a result. A lose lose? Not quite.

In lieu of giving money, perhaps as a volunteer you can help your favorite nonprofit find ways that they can save money off their bottom line. It's worth a shot and if the organization is actually willing to make some changes, there is no reason why they shouldn't listen to you. There might be something really obvious that only you can see.

What's Your Favorite Way To Get The Word Out Online?

I love the viral marketing possibilities of the internet. The fact that a great idea with little to no funding can get the exposure it deserves with a little hard work is one that I completely agree with.

As I'm nearing the end of finishing a few web projects, I can't help but wonder what the best ways of promoting them are.

I've learned a lot with this blog, mostly through trial and error.

Off internet promotion
First, I would have never thought to write a press release when I started my blog. And I think it's fun how many people I know in real life actually read my blog regularly. Just adding my blog address to my email signature and telling people about my blog has given me more traffic then I ever thought.

Blog Giveaways
I've had a few blog giveaways to increase traffic but neither were super successful. Maybe it's the hassle of having to do a little extra work (like commenting on a post) but this is something I will only do when I have something really cool and worth a substantial amount of money to give away.

Social Networking
I also found that some social networking is worth the effort but easily get out of hand. (I literally set a timer or I get sucked in.) The key though is not to use social networking entirely for self promotion. Those people  are annoying; who wants a one-sided friendship, online or off? So I selectively promote posts on social networking sites and the rest of the time work on being friends with people.

Microblogging 
Twitter was slow to start as far as driving web traffic my way but the lack of time commitment it took made me stick it out. It's a nice way to passively keep in touch and forces me to think "clever and brief" which is something very helpful to have in the back of my mind when blogging. Have you noticed I talk a lot?

Paid Advertising
I did buy a web advertisment with the newspaper I work for. I can see from the stats that my profile gets a lot of views (over 1,000) but this has only translated to a few clicks to my website. Could it be that people don't quite understand what an online communications person does? Could it be the economy? Sure, but at least now when I mention to locals what I do, they are moderately familiar with the idea, and that's worth something. Even big companies have to remind people that they exist.

Free Advertising
I still do Entrecard but I refuse to spend more then about five minutes a week on it. The traffic it does drive my way is random and brief but it's helped me find a few interesting blogs. I also love to browse Craigs List and other free online listings. Why not put my name in that directory? Or trade links with that other website I like?

SEO
Thinking of what search engines look for when I'm writing has taken some work. Links into my blog, links out of my blog, key words, it all helps people find me (and me find them). Asking myself "How can I make this something people are looking for?" is a little annoying but a lot of my traffic is search engine driven so it's worth it. It's not quite marketing to people but marketing to a search engine. Interesting concept.

So what I want to know from all you internet savy people is what has worked for you? How do you hear about cool things online? How do you promote any work that you're doing online? I'd love some new fun ideas that have worked for other people! I can get ideas I could try anywhere but I'd love some testimonials. Can I get a witness?

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