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Your Position: Home - - Key Questions to Ask When Ordering 2.42 pm

Key Questions to Ask When Ordering 2.42 pm

Author: Geoff

Jun. 24, 2024

Essential product marketing job interview questions

What PMMs look for in new hires

It&#;s impossible to pinpoint one product marketing skill that&#;s the most important among recruiters because needs vary.

For more information, please visit 2.42 pm.

While some are building the product marketing function from the ground up, others are developing their existing team and this influences which skills are prioritized.

Some employers will be looking for skills in product positioning, for others, it might be engaging messaging, whereas some will want to hone in on competitive intelligence.

Product marketing skills are as diverse as definitions of the discipline itself; just because one employer may not value talent as much as another, it&#;s essential to be as well-rounded as possible and identify critical hard and soft skills to climb the professional ladder.

Valuable hard skills among recruiters

In the State of Product Marketing Leadership Report , we asked product marketing leaders what kind of hard skills they value most.

83.1% of leaders agreed that GTM strategy and execution are the most important, followed by product messaging (75.4%). While 72.3% noted that value proposition development, and product positioning (67.7%) were also highly-valued skills.

Valuable soft skills

We also asked product marketing leaders which soft skills they look out for during the recruitment process:

The ability to drive good cross-functional relationships internally was valued most by the majority of product marketers surveyed (92.3%), followed by strong communication skills (87.7%), with being a team player coming in third (66.2%) for our PMMs. Adaptability, empathy, and good listening skills were also considered to be core soft skills for a product marketer.

NB: Some job titles may have changed since these quotes were provided.

Tamara Niesen, Director, Global GTM & Demand Generation at Shopify told us how she prefers to find a balance between soft and hard skills when we asked her which skills were most desirable in a new PMM hire:

&#;This is hard for me to answer because I hire on a balanced combination of soft skills and skills, but when hiring PMMs I look for:

Customer obsessed and leading with empathy - a proven understanding of what this means, and examples of how this has been applied to effect change in a roadmap, product launch, or growth initiatives.

Proven ability to pivot between product marketing, and solution marketing, (or a solid understanding of the difference between the two, and when you need to market a product vs. a solution in a multi-product organization)

Communication - presentation-based, written, and verbal storytelling skills, from writing, positioning and messaging, to pitch decks, to solution narratives, to rallying internal stakeholders to support an idea.&#;

During our Product Marketing Insider podcast, we&#;ve also picked the brains of PMMs who&#;ve successfully interviewed for the top roles in the industry about which product marketing skills have helped them get to where they are today. Here&#;s what they&#;ve had to say:

Messaging and positioning

&#;I think one of the key things you need to nail right away is messaging and positioning, they&#;re core to any product marketing role. If you're not good at product messaging, you can&#;t do a product marketing role.

&#;So, be good at figuring out how to message the right people at the right time.

&#;Product positioning is important too, especially if you're working in organizations that have multiple products or have a very competitive industry, so you need to nail how you position your products either complementary or against each other, however, that is, or within a very competitive industry.&#;

-Sarah Din, VP of Product Marketing at Unbabel

Relationship-building

&#;Relationship building, hands down. That's the first thing I do when I go into any new company.

I try to meet as many people as possible, I try to prioritize my time, obviously, with those with whom I would be working most closely, but understanding them at a very deep level, because without that trust initially going in, you're not going to be able to move quickly and get things done.&#;

-Elizabeth Brigham, Director at The Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College

Small group communication

&#;Because product marketing is so responsible for cross-functional communication, small group communication as a skill is so important.

"PMMs rarely ever speak to an audience greater than maybe six people in a room, right? And a lot of the things we do, and I would add conflict resolution as a second skill, is we are communicating in a small group.

&#;More often than not, we're hosting that communication, because we're either trying to make people aware of something or we're trying to get people to consult on something.

&#;Generally speaking, we're often the drivers of this effort and workflow. So, the ability to understand the importance of small group communication and the dynamics of small group communication, and how to fundamentally lead a meeting, is so important.&#;

-Kerensa Hogan, Director of Product Marketing at RingCentral

&#;It's kind of cliche, but communication is so key in a product marketing role, as well as building relationships with different teams and knowing when something is happening.

"Whether that's a feature announcement or a change to the UI or whatever it might be, knowing who that's going to impact and having an overview and being able to think about things like, which teams need to know about this?

&#;And then being able to communicate that clearly and concisely and relate it in a way that influences people, so knowing why it's important to them, and why they should care about it. I think good communication skills are kind of key and I don't think you'd get very far in a PMM role if you can't communicate well.&#;

-Jasmine Jaume, Director of Product Marketing (Support and Platform) at Intercom

Curiosity

&#;As a product marketer, you need to be data-informed with a real sense of curiosity, because no one's going to tell you what data to go look at, or what questions to ask.

"You have to have this sense of curiosity and kind of a desire to dig under the surface to identify trends and see what's happening with the customers.&#;

-Tamara Grominsky, Chief Strategy Officer at Unbounce

Organization

&#;I'm big on organization, especially in a fast-moving startup environment, PMMs have to be very agile and flexible. Things come up, you know, there's a feature the product team wants to announce that you don't know about and you need to figure out how to fit it in.

&#;You need to make sure you're communicating with the right people. When you're running things like big launches, organization is key to making those run smoothly. I like making lists and plans but whatever that looks like for you, just keeping organized and staying on top of things.&#;

-Jasmine Jaume, Director of Product Marketing (Support and Platform) at Intercom

Need help staying on top of your tasks? Take a spin through our top project management tools for product marketers.

Focus & prioritization

&#;As a leader, and I think this is slightly different from an individual contribution, one of the big things for me is having that focus and prioritization.

"As I took on the role, I quickly realized that it's easy for us to let other teams tell us what to do, and that means you're just chasing project after project. So having that focus and prioritization was very critical.

&#;Making sure you have the discipline to say no is important too. As much as you want to be a team player and as much as you want to say &#;yes, I've got this&#; and try your best to not be underwater, you will be.

&#;You need to be able to know how much you can take on and always keep that 10 to 20% buffer - as idealistic as it may sound because there&#;ll always be projects that will be last-minute or a last-minute fire that we need to put down.

"If we don't have that buffer then some other project is going to slip and you don't want to be the reason that happens. So only commit to things you can do and then the others just say no.&#;

-Div Manickam, Director WW Services Marketing, and Portfolio Management, DCG Services at Lenovo

Empathy

&#;I think empathy is a core skill to develop for product marketers, but it's not just empathy for the users, it's also empathy for the teams you need to involve and the decisions you rely on their expertise to help you resolve.

&#;I think one way we were able to elevate our level of influence in the organization was by better understanding those teams, our partners&#; goals, and the things they think about a lot in their day-to-day.&#;

-Samantha Yeh, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Spotify

Want to improve on this? Take a read of how to build empathy and gain insights with a company-wide customer support day.

Product orientation

&#;We need people who can deeply understand these products because they are the subject matter experts internally for the marketing and the sales organizations.

&#;So, they need to be intensely curious, they need to be able to break down this product, and they need to be able to articulate it concisely to peers and customers. So strong product orientation and curiosity is a must.&#;

-Francis Larkin, VP of Product Marketing at InVision

Product marketing interview questions

How would you define product marketing?

&#;Product marketing&#; is a term that doesn&#;t necessarily have a universally shared definition.

It&#;s still a relatively new function and the definition can vary, depending on your industry, market, and job title &#; here are 160 different definitions to prove our point, that&#;ll add some extra perspectives to this crash course in product marketing.

Oftentimes, we&#;re asked to weigh in on the discussion and offer our perspective, so for what it&#;s worth, here&#;s our answer to the million-dollar question: &#;What is product marketing?&#;

What interests you most about product marketing?

When looking at the results from our social media survey and reading the comments left by PMMs, it seems that curiosity and a willingness to learn are the most desirable qualities in a new PMM hire. Even more so than extensive experience and good references, evidently.

So, with that in mind, we suggest asking a question that prompts the interviewee to open up about why they&#;re so passionate about product marketing. Life as a PMM isn&#;t easy, it&#;s a demanding job with a great deal of plate-spinning involved. You&#;re going to need to know your new PMM is dedicated to the cause with as much zealousness as you are.

&#;Deep curiosity takes care of all the rest. If you are curious about something, you start digging into the subject deeply (= willingness to learn quickly), hence, you use your creativity to solve problems, and in the meantime build diverse experiences. Extensive experience in one particular subject is the kiss of death for creativity and imagination."

-Daniela Axinte, Senior Technical Marketing Consultant at Audienz Marketing, and Founder & CEO of Terra3.0

What is your understanding of the product marketer&#;s role?

Just like the product marketing function in general, the role of a product marketer also remains ambiguous and diversely defined. We advise asking your interviewee what their thoughts are on the matter so you can get to the bottom of how deeply they understand the PMM role.

Again, this will also give you the opportunity to work out if you&#;re on the same page so you don&#;t end up employing somebody who doesn&#;t meet your expectations. And it&#;s a two-way street - you wouldn&#;t want somebody to end up accepting a job they hadn&#;t fully understood and end up not being the right fit for the company.

&#;I also look for a general understanding of the value of PMM, what it brings to a business, and how it's different from other marketing functions. Otherwise, you'll get someone who wants to do content or lead gen or events and they'll be unhappy.&#;

-Matthew Engstrom, Global Product Marketing Director at Tinyclues

Can you tell us about a time you&#;ve acquired a new skill and put it into practice?

Another quality that kept cropping up in conversations with our PMMs over on LinkedIn was the ability to take ownership of the role and be proactive in filling any skills gaps. Thanks to modern technology and the World Wide Web, every day presents a chance to learn something new. With those two things at your fingertips, there&#;s an answer for everything.

Asking an interviewee this question will help you gain insight into their professional approach. You&#;re going to want a PMM who is willing and able to go and hunt down information for themselves to develop their product marketing skill set.

&#;The most critical skills for a PMM in my mind are intellectual curiosity, empathy, self-learner, self-starter, having an entrepreneurial mindset, hard worker, and a person that is a great collaborator, and the know-how to lead without authority and harness multiple personalities.&#;

-Hila Lauterbach, Director of Product Marketing at SpotOn Transact

How have you managed product launches in the past?

Get a feel for how familiar with product launches they are and whether or not they&#;ve got any new and innovative ideas to bring to the table. If they don&#;t by default, be sure to ask for some anecdotes of their own - hearing how their colleague handled X, Y or Z has little relevance to their skills and your vacancy.

Can you run us through your product launch process?

This one will help you figure out how familiar the interviewee is with product launches, and whether or not they&#;re going to bring any innovative thinking to the table. Their answer should also tell you a thing or two about their experience with product marketing pillars like positioning, messaging, customer experience, GTM strategies, personas, and narratives.

Less specific to product marketing but still important, this question will also enable you to make a judgment call on the candidate&#;s organizational skills and time management. Must-have qualities for most employees but most definitely for the uber-busy PMM.

Years of experience don&#;t always equate to a better candidate when it comes to product marketing. It&#;s also about their approach and ability to stay ahead of the curve - something which can be fine-tuned in six years, or six months.

&#;Experience is a double-edged sword unless the marketer has been able to evolve with their audience. That's not to say it's a disqualifier - it just wasn't something I looked for right off the bat.

&#;Many of the PMMs with extensive experience I interviewed way back when were too focused on old buying patterns and approaches.

&#;I found a bevy of old-school marketers hidden in plain sight. It&#;s why you see companies with mature marketing departments still pumping out messaging and materials and go-to-market approaches that are too focused inward&#;more focused on their own product than the people they want to serve and the problems they claim to solve.&#;

-Zach Messler, Product Marketing Advisor

What defines a successful product launch to you? And how would you track those metrics?

See if they lean towards a more business-centric or customer-centric belief, or, if you hit the jackpot, that fine balance between the two.

Can you tell us about a time you&#;ve had to pivot or rethink a strategy for a product you have closely worked on?

Willingness to learn was one of the most popular choices when we asked PMMs what the most desirable qualities are in a new hire. But what about the willingness to learn from mistakes? We&#;re all human; we all make mistakes sometimes. What&#;s important is how we react to our errors, what we learn from them, and how we use this to evolve our approach moving forward.

Asking a question like this also gives you some insight into how the interviewee might react to a sudden change in circumstance which requires the product marketing team to pivot.

COVID is the perfect example of this as so many companies around the world had to rethink their strategies almost overnight. You need a PMM who is going to stay calm but remain reactive.

&#;A question about when a product launch failed or a question about dealing with ambiguity.&#;

Ashley Klepach, Product Marketing Manager at FourKites

Can you tell us about a good product out there that you think is poorly marketed? And what you&#;d do differently given the chance?&#;

Keeping abreast of product marketing trends, fails, and best practices should be part and parcel of the job, so see what their knowledge is like. If they&#;re up-to-date with what&#;s going on they should be able to think of one pretty sharp-ish.

What are the keys to building and maintaining strong relationships with sales reps?

Sales representatives are a critical part of your product&#;s success - you need to establish strong relationships with them and equip them with the tools and motivation they need to help your product perform to its optimum potential.

Here, we outline strategies you can use to cut through the noise and engage sales.

How do you help make sure the sales team is positioning a product correctly?

A huge part of the PMM&#;s day-to-day responsibilities is to support sales and strengthen (or indeed implement) the company&#;s sales enablement strategy. Doing a bit of probing around how the candidate would tackle this particular aspect of the role should give you a good idea about whether or not they&#;re up to the task.

Let&#;s pretend we&#;re increasing the price of product X by 10%. How would you communicate this to customers?

Price hikes aren&#;t anyone&#;s idea of fun; you&#;re almost guaranteed to get a bunch of customers kicking off - whether it&#;s justified or not.

So, see how candidates would mitigate negative reactions and churn, and remember to pay attention to how customer-focused their approach is.

Only 60% of our customers are using our online portal. What would you do to drive adoption for the remaining 40%?&#;

Product marketing goes so much deeper than just selling what you have to offer - but do your interviewees know that?

Get an understanding of how they&#;d take your product or service one step further by asking post-conversion questions and seeing what sort of approach they take to common business obstacles. Even if they don&#;t get the job, hopefully, you&#;ll come away with an extra idea or two by the end of the process.

What would your approach to improving retention rates and/or reducing customer churn be?

The pinnacle of product marketing is listening to your customers, but you need to make sure your interviewee knows that, too. Asking a customer-based question around a topic like retention rates, churn, or advocacy will allow you to scratch at the surface of this area of expertise (or lack of).

If they don&#;t appear to be offering up any specific anecdotes from their experience, then a) perhaps consider this a bit of a red flag, or b) give them a hypothetical situation to address. They might just turn it around.

For example: &#;We&#;ve noticed incremental increases in our customer churn rate over the past 3 months - what action steps would you take to reduce this?&#;.

Can you tell us about a time you went above and beyond at your last company?&#;

This one&#;s pretty generic but it&#;ll give you a great insight into what they consider &#;above and beyond.&#;

If it&#;s something bog-standard like &#;working through their lunch break when a crisis broke out&#; have they got what it takes to join your team?

How would you describe your approach to teamwork?

Product marketing is a people-centric role that revolves around collaboration, cross-team communication, and relationship-building across the organization.

You&#;re going to want a team player - someone who will share ideas but also listen to the opinions of others, and someone who thrives off supporting other teams and colleagues.

A PMM sits at the heart of a cross-section between sales, marketing, product, and customer success so teamwork needs to be a part of their DNA. Including this question in your interview will allow you to work out if the candidate is going to tick this non-negotiable box or not.

How do you think digital marketing will evolve in the future?

The product and digital marketing landscapes are constantly evolving. That we know for sure. But while you don&#;t always know how, you do know you need to stay ahead of the curve to keep competitive, so see how candidates could help with that.

NB: This article has been updated in accordance with our latest findings.

Want more senior PMM content? &#;

Grab our leadership report for a deep dive into the latest trends and best practices to inform the next steps for your senior career.

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Copywriters, Find Your Niche: Specializing vs Generalizing ...

How to Find Your Copywriting Niche:

  1. Take a strengths test like the ones shown below
  2. Hire a business coach
  3. Ask yourself the 3 key questions below
  4. Take these 2 steps to confirm you&#;ve chosen the right niche
  5. Establish yourself like crazy

Remember at the beginning of &#;Pretty Woman,&#; when Julia Roberts lists her services on Craigslist for house cleaning, personal assistance and the occasional night of escorting?

And then, later in the movie, she realizes her true talents lie in escorting really rich dudes, and she promptly wins her biggest client yet &#; simply by finding her niche?

Disclaimer: I have never actually seen &#;Pretty Woman.&#;

As a copywriter who used to cluelessly offer &#;writing, editing, and social media&#; &#; and pedicures and drum lessons &#; I can sympathize with the allure of presenting your business as a one-stop shop to potential clients.

Offering the whole kit and caboodle feels like saying,

&#;I&#;m here, I&#;m good at everything, and I&#;m available!&#;

That should be client catnip, right?

Not so much.

At least, not in my experience.

Here&#;s the story of how one Louisiana-based conversion copywriter went from generalist to specialist &#; and ended up writing funny, snarky copy for funny, snarky clients at Punchline Copy and SNAP Copy.

Generalizing, specializing
and the rise of the &#;T-shaped marketer&#;

Let&#;s start with an eye-opening exercise.

(I first learned this from fellow copywriter Jon Lamphier, whom I met in The Copywriter Mastermind. Hats off to Jon.)

Open a new tab and go to your website&#;s About Me page. <&#;do this for real

Now grab a piece of paper and make a tally mark every time you read a line that looks something like this:

From emails to Facebook ads, I&#;ve written all kinds of copy

I work with clients in the tech, retail, and health & beauty industries

My experience as a movie ticket-taker, commercial airline pilot, and elephant therapist gives me a unique perspective on copywriting

If, by the time you&#;re done reviewing, your scratch paper looks like Julia Roberts&#; bedpost in Pretty Woman, don&#;t freak out! (Hey, ain&#;t no shame in her game.) There&#;s nothing terrible about having a wiiiiide range of experience. In fact, some callgirls copywriters find it empowering.

You&#;re still getting new client inquiries and doing projects, after all.

All is not lost. All is not broken.

But you should understand this: Every tally mark on your page further entrenches you as a copy generalist.

And you should understand what that can mean for your ability to generate &#; or not generate &#; killer revenue from great clients.

Generalists get to work on a huge variety of projects and build their skills&#; but they can sometimes come off as Yes Men

Generalists are the copywriters who offer every service under the sun &#; whether they&#;ve done it before or not, whether they enjoy it or not and whether they know they can do a good job&#; or not.

Some clients love working with generalist copywriters, because they know they can throw any project at their writer, and the writer will say:

&#;What could go wrong???&#;

Other clients are wary of writers who wear 35 hats. They&#;re thinking,

&#;How can this writer be the BEST at landing pages, emails, blog posts, social media posts, content strategy, and anything else I think of? Wouldn&#;t that make her a g**d*** unicorn?&#;

Now, there ARE some real, tangible-ass benefits to generalizing. Here are a few:

  • You&#;ll develop a breadth of knowledge across different aspects of online marketing: SEO, copywriting, design/UX, social media, you name it
  • You can manage your client&#;s entire marketing funnel, from first touches on social media to that crucial moment when a prospect becomes a customer (and beyond)
  • You&#;ll become more familiar with the types of clients and projects you really enjoy
  • You&#;ll be the first person your clients think of, no matter what they need, so you get first right of refusal to whatever project they&#;ve got in mind (this is the tack that freelance writer Kristi Hines takes)

I&#;ll dig into these benefits more in a minute. And I&#;ll tell you why it&#;s okay to be a generalist &#; intentionally &#; for a while.

But first, let&#;s talk about the undeniable allure of specialization.

Specialists bring in more $$$ and demand more respect

Copywriters who specialize build their expertise in a given industry or type of copywriting.

They build a reputation for being the go-to writer for:

  • Tech companies that use long content, like Jessica Mehring&#;s team
  • Businesses that need conversion copy and have a sense of humor, like, uh, me

You could be the copywriter for championship Parkour enthusiasts sponsoring a giveaway. Or for luxury botanists targeting tycoons with empty gardens. Or for elephant therapists looking to grow their practices.

Copywriters who choose a &#;niche&#; usually don&#;t take clients or projects outside their chosen specialty. If they decide to, it&#;s because that project is a perfect fit in other ways. But in that rare case, the copywriter is always the one setting the terms. She&#;s not just happily chasing down whatever tiny bone a prospective client might throw her way.

Specialist copywriters can put together Diva Lists of what THEY want in an ideal client.

They earn the respect of their existing clients, who see them as valuable extensions of the team.

This leads to project requests that look like this one, which showed up in my inbox last week:

Wait&#;you have an iterative, flexible strategy based on learning from your users? Are you single??

Compare that request to this one, from a prospective client who doesn&#;t understand what I specialize in (and doesn&#;t seem to know the name of my company):

Which client request would you rather get?

The one from the client who&#;s willing to research what his audience wants and needs, and adjust his offers accordingly? Who&#;s planned his marketing campaigns in advance and understands that you&#;re probably running a wait list?

&#;Or the one from the client who sees your work as filler text&#; tries to haggle down your rates at the same time he&#;s trying to win your interest&#; and doesn&#;t understand why you can&#;t dive in right this very second?

I know which one I want.

Did you just ask me if I was available to write your sequence TODAY?

And if you still need another reason to specialize: Seth Godin says so.

Hold up, let&#;s talk about me again
(AKA Lianna&#;s Hero Journey)

I don&#;t know about you, but having lived in the realm of &#;I can do it all!&#; and now residing firmly in the world of &#;GTF off my lawn with your lowball copy requests,&#; I far prefer to specialize. Just in case you&#;re thinking that the archangel Michael descended from heaven to pat me on the head and tell me I should niche down into conversion copy with a sense of humor, here&#;s how I actually got to where I am now.

First things first: I was a li&#;l baby when I started writing for money.

My copywriting career began during my sophomore year of college, in the least glamorous way possible: hawking &#;writing and editing services&#; on Craigslist. I decided to call my company The English Maven. This was a bad choice for a couple of reasons:

Want more information on graphic lcd display module manufacturer? Feel free to contact us.

  1. Who calls copy &#;English&#;?
  2. Unfortunately, it turns out that most people think a &#;maven&#; is a bird or a portly older lady.

You hear &#;The English Maven&#; and you see:

The few clients I managed to glean from the cesspool that brand name attracted were, understandably, not interested in paying more than $20/hour for whatever they needed me to write.

And they needed me to write all sorts of things. Let&#;s take a spin through some of the projects I worked on over the two years that followed my Craigslist post:

  • I wrote a complete, 10-chapter HVAC repair manual &#; yes, I got to rephrase an existing manual the client handed me
  • I supplied a website called &#;Fan Quarterly&#; with regular reviews of some truly terrible shows and movies, plus a weekly column called Fashion Friday, wherein I picked items I liked from Etsy and made fun of them
  • I edited website and copy for an marketing software company in Russia

I also edited brochures and magazines, wrote social media posts and blogs, etc., etc.

I think I charged somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 for an entire website&#;s worth of copy.

BUT. Some real knowledge and growth came from these admittedly very diverse (and sometimes crappy) experiences.

Sitting down to write my Fashion Friday column one week, I thought to myself,

&#;Hey, you know what? I love writing this. It doesn&#;t feel like work.&#;

Here&#;s a snippet of the snarky, stream-of-consciousness style I was developing:

And here&#;s another one I wrote, having pretty solid fun as I did:

My Fashion Friday column started the most conversations about my work and garnered me the most praise (not just from my mom). It was so good for me professionally and personally that, when Fan Quarterly shut down, I kept Fashion Friday going on my own blog for another year, purely for the fun of it. Meanwhile, everything else I sent out into the universe was met with a resounding nothing.

It was almost like when they say you should do what you love and the money will come. Those crazy people and their crazy wisdom.

Cut to a couple years later. I had waited tables, moonlighted as a &#;legal assistant,&#; managed a skincare spa&#; and was finally freelancing full-time. At that point, I was doing mostly editing work. Publications editing, to be specific. My client list included four magazines, a nonprofit art blog, and my friend&#;s online New Orleans culture zine.

After a while, I noticed that whenever I was editing, I stopped breathing. Literally held my breath. And every time I saw a typo, I got annoyed.

I also noticed that I dreaded the last-minute proof emails and back-and-forths with the designers, publishers and contributors.

Ding ding ding! Time to leave the publications world.

Right around when I started cutting out publications from my service offerings, I also cut out social media. It was copywriting and content creation from there on out. At the same time, I started considering what it was about my writing that made me stand out. I couldn&#;t help but remember how much fun I&#;d had writing Fashion Friday &#; even when nobody read it.

The next phase of my career saw me tackle the difference between copy and content. I&#;ve recently figured out (like, this year) that I prefer to write copy. I&#;d rather drive action through copy than build relationships through content.

With that in mind, and with a newfound focus on writing fun, weird stuff, I rebranded as Punchline Conversion Copywriting in early , while a student of The Copywriter Mastermind. Which brings us up to now. (I&#;m right smack in the middle of my next &#;next steps&#; &#; including letting go of *all* retainer clients and building SNAP Copy into my main revenue generator.)

Want to turn into the ultimate &#;T-shaped marketer&#;? Here&#;s the tried-and-true approach to finding your niche

Someone in the Inbound.org community [inoperative] started a great debate about generalizing vs. specializing.

The Inbound poll was surprisingly, um, poll-arizing, with 53% advising the question-asker to generalize and 47% recommending specialization.

It&#;s worth noting that the original poster is just starting out in online marketing, which probably accounts for more than half of the poll&#;s respondents advising him to generalize.

Why? Because generalizing, AKA sticking your fingers into lots of fields &#; like social media, PPC ads, landing page copy and optimization, SEO, SEM, graphic design, and more &#; helps you understand how all the pieces of your marketing funnel fit together.

Starting out as a generalist also gives you a chance to try out different disciplines and see which ones feel right to you&#;

&#;so then&#;

&#;you can specialize!

Going through this process helps turn you into the archetypal, highly competent businessperson known as the &#;T-shaped marketer.&#;

The T-shaped marketer is someone who has broad knowledge of marketing as a whole, and deep, specialized knowledge in one area.

Rand Fishkin published a great and succinct explanation of the T-shaped marketer concept on Moz.

Image lovingly borrowed from Moz. We&#;ll give it back in good shape, Rand.

Rand points out that gaining deep knowledge fills our even deeper need to be really, really good at a thing, while being equipped with a breadth of knowledge helps us understand and appreciate the specialties of other team members or marketers.

BONUS: Understanding the strengths of your professional contacts and colleagues makes it super-easy to send qualified referrals their way.

Those colleagues will love you for the referrals. The clients you refer will love (and respect) you for knowing exactly what you do and don&#;t do.

And you&#;ll love you for turning down clients who don&#;t fit your niche, because you won&#;t be spending 2+ hours of your weekly biz-dev time researching the latest copywriting rules for Facebook ads if your *~*~ true passion ~*~* lies in landing page copy.

How to find your niche as a copywriting
(AKA, &#;Okay, I&#;ll specialize! Tell me how!&#;)

Let&#;s get into the nitty-gritty: how to figure out your niche, maintain your referral network, and position yourself in your newly chosen specialty.

Check out a few effective ways to find and define your profitable, enjoyable copywriting niche.

None of them involve &#;energy healing,&#; journaling, or spending time in nature. You&#;re welcome.

Tip #1 to Find Your Niche: Take a strengths test

A strengths test can help illuminate your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses.

Through a series of increasingly abstract questions, an algorithm will give you insights like, &#;You&#;re a learning-oriented people person who enjoys learning, people, and learning about people.&#;

Okay, so maybe some of these questions are straight out of a sixth-grade relationship.

Strength-finding tests can be useful ways to bolster what you already know about yourself, and they might reveal traits or tendencies you hadn&#;t considered.

Gallup&#;s Clifton Strengthsfinder is a popular strength-finding test. When I took it, the test confirmed what I suspected: strategy is my strong suit. That strength is followed closely by a love of learning (there&#;s no less-gross way to phrase that, sorry) and the ability to observe what makes a person unique and draw out those qualities.

The test said nothing about my ability to eat multiple bagels in one sitting, so take it with a grain of salt.

Tip #2 to Find Your Niche: Work with a business coach

A little extra advice here: When choosing a coach, look for one who&#;s able to prove ROI for his or her clients.

For example, you might look for a coach whose client testimonials cite real numbers, like if I were a coach and my client said&#;

&#;Lianna&#;s guidance helped me narrow down my service offerings and focus on the clients who I most enjoy working with. Since reading her post about choosing a copywriting niche on Copyhackers, I&#;ve increased my monthly revenue by $ and love the way I look in the mirror.&#;

Personally, I haven&#;t yet invested in a coaching relationship. But I did recently get some great advice from Melani Dizon, a writer, coach and teacher who I&#;m grateful to have met in my old mastermind group.

Melani heard me and my business partner, James, talking about how and when we would be able to dedicate time to growing our joint venture, SNAP Copy. She said,

&#;Ask yourself what you have to stop doing in order to do what you want to do.&#;

Maybe you&#;re thinking that&#;s a pretty obvious take on the &#;one in, one out&#; principle. But it was a succinct reality check, and one we badly needed. Both James and I looked at our solo businesses and found areas where we could scale back in order to create time and energy for SNAP.

So thanks, Melani, for putting that so well! Your check is in the mail.*

* This is not true.

Whether you&#;re looking for a coach who will jump into nitty-gritty business development with you, or you need more of a cow-prodding accountability partner, one thing is for sure: ALWAYS stay far away from coaches who never delve deeper than vague promises, like, &#;We&#;ll find out what makes you you, and then use it to make you better!&#;

There are some seriously scary horror stories out there from entrepreneurs and owners who put in a ton of time and effort to boost their businesses&#; and ended up working with a &#;coach&#; who charged big $$$ in exchange for a few automated sequences about going from rags to riches (without ever explaining exactly how to do it yourself).

You can also vet potential coaches by asking for referrals to past clients. Once you get those clients&#; contact details, actually reach out and ask how they benefited from working with that coach.

Another tip: Work with a coach who&#;s certified or accredited by a professional coaching association. There are piles upon piles of these associations, so it may be hard to separate the nutritious wheat from the full-of-shit chaff, but it&#;s a start.

  • If you&#;re considering a &#;certified&#; coach, look into what certification actually entails.
  • This blog post has a great list of ways to do more background research on any coach you&#;re considering working with &#; so you can enter a coaching contract with confidence.
  • The Harvard Business Review also conducted a survey of 140 leading coaches, which is must-read material before you send that first deposit.

Tip #3 to Find Your Niche: Ask yourself these questions

I said my suggestions wouldn&#;t include journaling or self-reflection. Well&#;

You don&#;t HAVE to journal. But you CAN. If cracking open that marble composition notebook motivates you, well, you just go on ahead.

How you go about digging into better understanding who you are (and what types of clients will make you happiest) is up to you. If journaling can help you, journal away!

The point is to take a hard look in the mirror (and at your portfolio) and ask yourself:

  • What projects did I love working on?
  • What made the hours fly by?
  • What did I feel the best about when I was done?
  • What did I get paid well for?
  • Who are my favorite clients?
  • Where&#;s my proof that I&#;m a pro?
  • What do I love doing that everyone else hates? (E.g. if you love writing Facebook ads, and everyone you share that fact with hates writing them, that could be your niche. Just make sure you really love it before you change all your website copy&#;)

Chiming into the aforementioned Inbound.org discussion, Wiehan Britz offered a few concrete examples of niches for those considering specializing in marketing performance and analysis.

If you&#;ve been in business for a little while, but you&#;re still thrashing around trying to find your people, Productive Flourishing also offers a great Guided Business Review that helps you take a systematic look at your accomplishments.

(Full disclosure: I helped optimize the linked landing page through SNAP Copy.)

Speaking of looking at your accomplishments: comedian and theater co-owner Chris Trew shared a funusual piece of advice with me a couple of months ago.

He keeps the physical items he&#;s created or been a part of creating &#; a book, a mockumentary, a TV show &#; in plain sight on his desk so he remembers what he&#;s accomplished and he&#;s motivated to do more.

What can you keep on your desk or in your workspace to motivate you?

(Most of my work mementos were magazine issues with my name on the masthead, and I recycled them before my last move. But that was because they didn&#;t motivate me anymore. Also, they were very heavy and I have the upper-body strength of a hamster.)

[Tweet &#;Freelance copywriters, what do you keep on your desk to motivate you? via @punchlinecopy on @copyhackers&#;]

If I&#;m doing my job right, you&#;re probably pretty convinced that you should find a niche by now&#;

[Tweet &#;Freelance copywriters, what do you keep on your desk to motivate you? via @punchlinecopy on @copyhackers&#;]

And if you&#;re not convinced, you&#;re probably thinking,

&#;Well, finding a niche sounds like doing the same thing every day, which sounds boring. I don&#;t want to get bored.&#;

This is the most common argument against niching.

I hear you, boo.

It seems scary to get &#;trapped,&#; whether in your choice of copywriting specialty, your long-term relationship or your local abandoned well.

But, yes, it&#;s possible to be a successful, well-known generalist copywriter. Earlier, I mentioned Kristi Hines, who also weighed into the Inbound.org discussion.

Kristi markets herself as a specialist, but operates as a generalist.

And it works for her.

It&#;s just a lot HARDER to establish yourself with clear positioning that way.

Here&#;s Kristi&#;s About page:

You might notice that Kristi doesn&#;t go into detail about the specific foci of her work, other than to say she writes about &#;business and online marketing topics&#;.

The page mainly relies on testimonials, certifications and other social proof (like a big paragraph full of publication names). This subtly underscores the idea that, as a generalist, she&#;s been published in lots of different places &#; AND the idea that, hey, if you hire her, your name could be up there with HuffPo and Forbes and Salesforce.

One look at Kristi&#;s lengthy list of guest posts shows that she&#;s written her ass off over 5+ years to become a well-known authority in the inbound marketing industry&#;without pigeonholing herself into a targeted specialty.

Different ways to think about niching (one of which will work for you)

First, a nota bene:If you&#;ve got a huge-ass audience hanging on your every offer, you probably don&#;t need to position yourself in a unique, special-snowflake niche.

Copyhackers&#; very own Joanna Wiebe once said:

&#;If you have a platform, you don&#;t necessarily have to &#;niche out&#; because you&#;ll already have access to a user base. But if you don&#;t have a platform / audience / fanbase, then you&#;re really marketing from the ground up&#;[which] gets expensive.&#;

But if you&#;ve got a huge-ass audience hanging on your every offer, you probably also don&#;t need to finish reading this post about niching. Here are some pictures of kittens you can look at instead.

Everyone else still here? Cool, let&#;s continue.

You can think about your niche as the intersection of WHAT you write (ex. landing pages, blogs, emails, etc) with WHOM you write for (ex. tech, retail, medical, SaaS).

New niche, who dis?

You can also think about positioning your niche horizontally or vertically.

Let&#;s unpack this idea a little more, shall we?

Horizontal niching: Do one thing, and do it for all sorts of clients

Copywriters with a horizontal niche know exactly what type or types of writing they prefer to offer. Of all the types of copy they could write and all the channels they could write for, they choose to specialize in writing one thing for a range of clients and industries. So they might write, say, sales emails for:

  • Immigration lawyers
  • SaaS companies
  • Accountants
  • Social media tools
  • CRO specialists
  • Manufacturers based in China
  • Manufacturers based in America
  • The Steel Workers Union (I think that&#;s a thing)
  • Comic-Con
  • Skin care lines
  • Plastic surgeons

Huge diversity of clients and products! Same channel.

That&#;s how a horizontal specialist is different from a generalist. Horizontal specialists offer just ONE thing &#; like nurturing sequences, but never squeeze pages &#; to potential clients who need that one thing.

Copywriter Rob Marsh writes landing pages for any business. Need a landing page written? Hire Rob for the job. Need an sequence? Don&#;t hire Rob. He writes landing pages.

The benefits of specializing horizontally include getting reeeaaaal good at something you truly love doing. (Obviously, you&#;re keeping up with the latest techniques and tools in whatever type of copywriting you choose.) You may also become known as an authority on that subject, which can make it super easy for you to start running workshops and speaking at industry events, if that&#;s on your bucket list.

But what if you want to write a bunch of different things?

You might prefer to niche vertically.

Vertical niching: Write all the things, but do so for one specific type of client

Copywriters in a vertical niche specialize in one industry. For example, SaaS, healthcare or IT. These vertical specialists write multiple types of copy within a single industry.

For example, if pouring your soul out into your niche-journal helps you discover that you want to write for the independent film industry, you might write some or all of these types of copy for indie movies:

  • Squeeze pages
  • Facebook ads
  • Top-of-funnel (TOFU) landing pages
  • Long-form sales pages
  • Nurturing emails
  • Event invitations
  • Sales emails
  • Landing pages
  • Google ads
  • Home pages
  • Product detail pages
  • Brochures
  • Billboards
  • Campaigns

The benefits of specializing vertically include being able to show your target clients that you really, truly understand their pain points and know how to speak to their customers.

[Tweet &#;Do you wanna write one thing for a bunch of industries&#; or a bunch of things for 1 industry? via @copyhackers&#;]

[Tweet &#;Do you wanna write one thing for a bunch of industries&#; or a bunch of things for 1 industry? via @copyhackers&#;]

Don&#;t underestimate the importance of being able to give applicable direction, since your target client might already have followed some less-than-applicable advice from someone in another vertical!

Of course, the clear downside of being a vertical specialist is that you have to know how to write a bunch of stuff really well. And that&#;s hard, because best practices shift and change all the time. So what worked for billboards 10 years ago just doesn&#;t work the same today. And you&#;re expected to know that.

This is a very bad billboard that does not work now and would not have worked 10 years ago. Image via Heavy.com.

Not turned on by horizontal or vertical niching?
Create your own magical combination

Copywriter Jessica Mehring has niched down into content writing (horizontal) for the tech and IT industry (vertical).

Copywriter Ry Schwartz has niched down into only writing emails that sell (horizontal) for people selling digital products (vertical).

You could specialize in onboarding emails for fintech startups. Or writing Facebook lead-gen campaigns for women&#;s clothing companies. Or writing in-app copy for B2B software.

Before settling on a niche combination&#;

Do your research. Make sure it&#;s viable. You&#;ll want to check that:

  • 30 others aren&#;t already fighting for clients in your space
  • Your prospective clients are showing a need for the work you can do
  • There are relatively easy ways to make inroads in that niche
  • Your niche isn&#;t too specific&#; or too vague

Yes, dear heart, I will spell out how to do this. Read on.

How to check and confirm that you&#;ve picked the right niche

Here are two straightforward ways to test your market &#; so you don&#;t pick a niche, redo your website and then slowly decompose in your desk chair while you wait for your inbox to fill up.

#1: Talk to humans who would, conceivably, pay you to write things for them

Ask your target market! Talk to some of the people you wish would hire you.

Yes, you have to talk to people. I&#;m so sorry. Sending you flowers now.

When you&#;re asking someone to give you their time for free, make it as easy as possible for them. Keep your ask short and sweet, and say something like,

&#;Hi Farmer Jeremy, my name is Florence Flumpkins and I&#;m a copywriter focusing on the pig farming industry. I&#;m considering offering X service or product, and was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions to make sure whatever I offer truly fills your needs.

Are you free this Thursday at 9AM or 1PM CST to talk for 15 minutes?&#;

Then, once you get your white whales on the , ask them questions like:

  • What types of copy have given them the most trouble in the past?
  • What&#;s the last job they hired a copywriter for? How big was the job? How critical was it to their business goals? How much did they pay that copywriter? Do they believe they got their money&#;s worth?
  • What was their most recent experience working with a copywriter like?
  • What was the most memorable part of ever working with a copywriter?
  • What would their ideal copywriter do for them?

Most importantly, ask these potential target clients about their business goals.Then consider how the type(s) of copywriting in your new niche can help them reach their goals.

When selling prospective clients on a website review, copywriter and multi-stack marketer Mary Iannotti asks,

  • If your budget wasn&#;t limited, how much would you pay for a website review?
  • What was going on in your world that caused you to want a website review?

As she started gathering feedback from her prospects, Mary changed her sales page messaging to address their fears, pains and problems. She says,

&#;I learned that I had to sell the value of a website review based on the feedback on price. That&#;s why my sales copy included a list of every component of the review and how much that would sell for on the market. People weren&#;t understanding the depth of the review and how much time I was putting into it.&#;

Remember that you&#;re not being hired because &#;words are super cool and I guess we&#;re supposed to have some, LOL.&#; Ultimately, you&#;re being hired to help your clients make more money.

So you better know exactly how your service offerings connect with your client&#;s end financial goals&#; and be ready to adjust or restructure those offerings if it turns out they don&#;t hit home.

The silver lining of doing this legwork? You&#;ll be able to negotiate higher rates when you can prove your ability to help your clients reach their business goals.

#squadgoals

#2: Hide behind your computer &#; do some keyword research

Another less social (yay!) way to research demand in a niche is by doing keyword research.

Copyblogger has a post with great examples of how to investigate potential target market keywords and focus in the right spots. They recommend:

  • Understanding the total number of searches per day and per month for potential keywords
  • Researching related keywords (that maybe you haven&#;t thought of)
  • Researching related markets &#; which could be a better fit
You can do a reality check on the viability of your niche with a few keyword searches. Image via Copyblogger.

For those brand-new to keyword research: You&#;ll have better luck focusing on longer-tail / less-competitive keywords if you&#;re in a very competitive niche (like, say, &#;copywriting&#;).

Afraid to niche too narrowly? You&#;d be surprised how specific you can get.

Remember Jessica, whom I mentioned about 30 seconds ago? She&#;s killing it by specializing ONLY in writing content for the tech & IT industries.

&#;My prices have doubled &#; but so has my ability to get results for my clients. Choosing a niche made it easier for clients to pick me out of the crowd, which makes the sales job so much easier for me &#; but it also allowed me to really focus in on one specific field and know it intimately. I&#;m no longer a jack of all trades &#; I&#;m becoming a master of one.&#;

Jessica Mehring, Horizon Peak Consulting

Next steps for establishing yourself as a specialist

Position yourself like crazy.

Oh, positioning. I could write 1,000 words about positioning right now, and that would be a huge waste of both of our time because there&#;s so much already out there. Do a G-D Google search, why don&#;t you?

You need to figure out your value proposition. When in doubt, position yourself using this formula:

&#;I do [specific thing] for [specific people] so [those people] can accomplish [specific goal]&#;

That&#;s good positioning in a nutshell: blowing the dog whistle that only the perfect client (who reeeeaaallly needs your help and has cash in hand) can hear.

Next, start phasing out clients who don&#;t match what you want to do.

You don&#;t need to fire all your current clients. Because you do need to pay your bills. Unless you&#;re a railroad heiress, in which case, more power to you for even working at all!

Me IRL

Warning: This step means starting to turn down work outside of your niche.

Try using that free time to pitch guest posts on topics inside your niche to relevant blogs.

It&#;s worth noting that you&#;re also not going to stop growing your network just because you chose a niche. When you stop taking on certain clients, you&#;ll probably want to refer that work to other copywriters. And they&#;ll love you for it. Like I mentioned earlier, referring out clients who aren&#;t a good fit helps grow your relationships and gains you respect all around &#; both from clients who appreciate that you&#;re not just trying to give them the hard sell, and from your referral network.

Seek out avatar clients and pitch them on your expertise.

This is very different from posting yourself on a freelance job site.

This is you reaching out to someone you truly think would be a good fit as a client &#; if you truly think you can provide value &#; and telling them &#;Here&#;s how I think I could help you.&#;

OR, better yet, ASK what they need help with and get some of that sweet, sweet psychological buy-in.

If you don&#;t magically have a list of niche prospects just ready and waiting to get an from you, no problem. Here&#;s an excellent, systematic article on how freelancers can cold-pitch prospects using LinkedIn.

[Tweet &#;Do you have &#;avatar clients&#;? @punchlinecopy talks niching on @copyhackers&#;]

Picked a niche, and it&#;s not working out?

[Tweet &#;Do you have &#;avatar clients&#;? @punchlinecopy talks niching on @copyhackers&#;]

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Here&#;s that famous word:

Pivot!

If you&#;ve gone through every step above, and given your best to your new niche&#;

and you&#;re finding a dearth of clients, or a surplus of terrible clients, or you suddenly hate the work, or you&#;re bored to tears&#;

It&#;s time to refocus and reposition yourself.

Keep refining, using the above steps, until you&#;re sure you&#;re going in the right direction. I&#;ll do the same. Let me know how it goes on Twitter.

~lianna

If you want to learn more, please visit our website tft motorcycle display.

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