Marketing a multi-pronged business

Prongs and how to use them

As entrepreneurs, many of us have multi-pronged businesses. Some of us work both as agencies and as freelancers. Some of us have lots of slashes in our job titles (“translator-slash-copywriter-slash-editor-slash-language teacher”). I know a freelancer who does dog massage and translation (no kidding). Many of us work in disparate specializations.

The hitch is whether we need a multi-pronged marketing approach as well, or whether just one will work. In an age when many of us already have a multi-channel marketing approach–including a website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail list–duplicating that for multiple businesses is a serious undertaking. Yet, the “slash” approach runs the risk of creating the impression that we do anything and everything that generates income. Not the image we want to convey to clients who want a specialist. What to do?

The key question: how many client bases?

Before you run out and create six websites and a million Twitter accounts, ask yourself this: across all of these prongs, do I have one client base, or two (or more)? If you have one client base, you only need one marketing presence. If you have multiple client bases with no crossover between them, then you need some sort of distinct marketing presence for each one.

-If you run an agency, but you do some of the translation or interpreting work yourself, I don’t think you need a separate marketing presence. That’s one client base.
-If you work as a translator and as an interpreter, ask yourself whether the same clients need both services. In my experience, many clients are mono-pronged; they need a translator *or* an interpreter, but not both. You may need two marketing presences.
-If you work as a translator and do training for translators, you definitely need two marketing presences. Translation clients don’t want to learn about translation. They want to hire you so that they don’t have to learn about translation.
-If you translate, edit, and copywrite, that could be one marketing presence. Lots of clients need all of those.

You get the picture. Ask yourself: would the same client need all of these services that I provide? If not, you need to address your client bases separately.

Separate but not overwhelming

Next question: do you need a full-fledged suite of marketing channels for each client base, or can something pared-down do the trick? For translation specializations, no matter how disparate, I think separate pages on your website will work. Unscientifically–because Google will never tell you how their algorithm ranks sites–I think that separate pages with distinct keywords have better SEO performance. So if you translate for law firms and museums, just do separate sub-pages for each one, on the same website. Your website can still fall under the umbrella of “freelance translator,” but with different specializations.

When you get further down the multiple client base pipeline, it’s time to think about separate channels. Example: when I redid my websites about three years ago, I decided it was time to completely separate my website for translation clients from my website for other translators (that’s this one!). There really is no overlap between those two client bases, and I felt that it looked a bit diluted to always be saying, “…and I also do this other thing.” I’ve been very happy with the results, and I’m now planning to differentiate my services for other translators even more, with a new domain name and associated social media presence.

What’s the downside of multiple prongs?

Many people rush to create multi-pronged marketing because they want a separate web presence for every type of client. And it’s true that specialization is appealing to most clients. But it’s important to be realistic about the time, energy, and perhaps money that it takes to create and maintain these distinct online presences. Most of us struggle to maintain just one website, LinkedIn profile, association directory profile, and one set of social media profiles. If you need to talk yourself out of multiple prongs, just take a look at all the Twitter accounts and blogs that haven’t seen a post in five or seven years, and you’ll see what I mean.

My advice: create a completely separate marketing presence only when/if necessary, and only if there is no overlap between the clients who need your various services.

Readers, especially those who run multi-pronged businesses, what’s your experience with this? If you have a separate marketing presence, at what point did you create it, and how is it going?

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3 Responses to “Marketing a multi-pronged business”
  1. Paul Froese May 29, 2019
    • Corinne McKay May 29, 2019
  2. Sonia February 4, 2020

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