In addition to the usual workload, I’ve wiled away my “spare” time developing and teaching classes in online marketing for entrepreneurs.

And yes, answering emails from copywriters wondering what to do about our cratering economy.

A couple of things have become very clear.

First, even non-techie micro-entrepreneurs quickly grasp the competitive power of the Internet. They’re excited by the possibilities. Thrilled by the idea that authenticity might actually become a competitive advantage. And often stymied by the technology.

After all, they’re running businesses, not marketing departments.

What’s also clear is that “piecemeal” doesn’t work. At least not for today’s small businesses, who are facing more choices than ever.

After my recent email marketing class – where I offered an overview of the benefits of blog/eNewsletter integration – every participant asked us to schedule yet another blogging class.

They wanted more.

In simple terms, they wanted the whole enchilada, and they wanted it to work without creating a second career for them.

It’s why the non-profit is making noises about funding an Online Marketing Bootcamp – a multi-class effort that covers the basics and the technology, step-by-step.

By the end of the class, a small business would have a working, functioning online marketing infrastructure – one built atop technologies that empower a small business instead of trapping it.

That involves creating a Web site (preferably via some kind of CMS), email list building, content generation, online PR, blog/eNewsletter integration, social media… you get the picture. It wouldn’t just list technologies, but also delve into specific vendor choices.

As the instructor, I’d be responsible for building that infrastructure, and while it’s clearly less profitable than churning out words for bigger clients, it’s also satisfying stuff.

It’s also a good reminder about the changing role of today’s marketer.

More Choices = More Confusion = More Opportunities

Used to be I wrote for people who were playing in a handful of media channels. It wasn’t complicated, largely because there were so few choices.

Today, even professionals are overwhelmed, and the businesses we serve are even more so. In light of that reality, the young copywriters who email me almost daily about “making it” in a falling economy receive advice which is far from new.

Move beyond the words to offer customers capabilities and (yes, I hate the word, but you know it’s coming) complete solutions to their marketing problems (some of which they didn’t know they had).

There are a lot of writers out there. How many offer potential clients a blog installation and content – all of which is integrated with an eNewsletter, list-building program (including generating the white papers used to draw leads), and “traditional media” repurposing of content?

Not only is that a powerful offering, it’s also one that sets one copywriter/marketer apart from most all the others.

Take it from someone who’s survived more than a few economic craters; in the long run, succeeding in a down economy has never been about cutting prices or seeking work farther down the food chain.

It’s about solving problems, and doing so in a way that offers real value to customers, who are never so interested in “value” as they are now.

Keep writing, Tom Chandler.