Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 9:46 AM
My youngest showed me a bookmark that listed the 20 Texas Bluebonnet nominated books. “Mom, I’m going to read all 20 of these books,” he said.
Needless to say, I did cartwheels and back flips in my mind. (The only place it can happen as I haven’t done a decent cartwheel since the ’80s.) A child who wants to read? My oldest was average about reading. The middle one despises it.
A little background. The Texas Library Association runs the Texas Bluebonnet Award program, a reading program that encourages children in third through sixth grades to read more books. They must read at least five nominated books to be able to vote.
We reviewed the list to find his next read. Then I did what I should know better to do. I started judging books by the title. An interesting thing happened. The synopsis of the titles that interested me sounded like books worth reading. And those with blah titles didn’t.
After my son finished “Benjamin Franklinstein Lives!” I picked it up. Good title, right? I don’t like monsters or anything, but I knew it wouldn’t be scary since this is for kids. Here’s the synopsis:
Victor Godwin’s orderly life is upended when he discovers that Benjamin Franklin never actually died. In truth, he was put in suspended animation and hidden away for more than 200 years in Victor’s basement.
I didn’t like it.
Bad Headlines Live!
That’s what happens when I come across a headline that interests me. I click through only to find a disappointing article that doesn’t deliver.
There are jillions of articles about writing headlines for blog posts and online articles. They give advice, tricks and formulas for crafting a super duper catchy one that hypnotizes people into reading.
Please stop. Just stop.
It happens often enough that I quit visiting a few websites that let me down again and again and again. Everyone has an off day. Of course, I didn’t stop visiting after one over-hyped or perfectly crafted headline. These sites were notorious enough that I started remembering how they wasted my time too often.
Sometimes it’s not so obvious. Some headlines say they’ll show you how to create a plan or strategy only to be vague without helping you.
Back to Basics
A simple headline that describes the article beats out another using a formula that over promises and under delivers. The same goes for email subject lines. I open plenty of email newsletters with basic subject lines that tell me what the issue is about. They don’t always have a benefit or add a sense of urgency. Some even use the same headline such as: “Newsletter name: Title of key topic or article.”
Just say what’s in the email and make sure the content in the email matches the landing page. Bryan Eisenberg shares great examples of how an email promises one thing and delivers something else. (Check it out. It’s unbelievable how companies overlook something so basic.)
Now when I review the Bluebonnet list, I look up the book’s summary and read well-written reviews. I also ask around for recommendations. 2013-2014 nominee “Walls Within Walls” caught my eye. And guess what? The school librarian loved it. And my son is already hooked. (Bonus points: the book takes place in New York, my dad’s hometown.)
For 2012-2013, my son voted for “Aliens on Vacation.” If I could vote, it’d be “Wonderstruck,” which left me — like its title — wonderstruck after reading it. (Its author, Brian Selznick, wrote “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”) At my son’s school, “Wonderstruck” received the most votes. “Postcards from Camp” won the 2012-2013 Texas Bluebonnet Award.
Are headlines becoming a problem for you in your Internet travels? Do they live up to your expectations? What can we do to write better headlines?
Thursday, December 13th, 2012 at 12:18 PM
My daughter and I went to her elementary school — where her little brother was a third grader — for the senior reception. Every year, the elementary schools hold senior receptions inviting all the graduating seniors to visit old friends and connect with their former teachers. Even the parents reconnected. I hadn’t seen some since middle school or longer. Elementary school requires more in-school volunteers than any other school. It gave parents a place to meet and socialize.
Digging deep for memories
One teacher admitted who saw her students using rulers as swords on the first day of second grade admitted she thought they would be a difficult class. It turned out to be a great class. A little lesson in first impressions and how they can be wrong, but also how they can destroy any chances of making a second impression. (The teacher was stuck with those kids. A hiring manager can pass up on a candidate who wasn’t energetic in the interview.)
It was lovely reconnecting with some of the parents that I wished we had stayed in touch. These parents had one thing in common — they weren’t big email or Facebook users. To be fair, I’m not big on making phone calls.
And other parents, I just couldn’t remember their names. Alas, no name tags for the parents. Only the students had name tags, or else we’d all be saying, “Who’s that?” I should’ve showed up with a name tag that said, “Shelby’s Mom. St. Edwards.” (Can you guess the question most often asked at the reunion?)
Connections and business
This shows the value of email marketing and social media for business. It keeps your name out there. It keeps you networking. It keeps your company in everyone’s mind. You may not see financial or traffic ROI. But isn’t it worth helping people remember your name? Eventually, someone will need you or take the next step in the sales process by subscribing to your email newsletter, downloading a white paper or signing up for a free webinar.
It’s also good for your personal brand. One of my clients first hired me to do copy for his product. We stayed in touch and he hired me again when he went to work for a different company. Another client brought me in to do content for his startup. A few years later, he joined another startup and again, brought me on board. It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t stayed in touch.
My daughter may have graduated from high school, but that’s not the end of her connections with her classmates. Some she may never see again. Some she may see at the high school reunions. And some she may find resources through them and them through her.
Leaving a company is like graduation. You may leave the institute, but your connections stay with you.
How do you stay connected with past and current clients? Prospects?
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 9:32 AM
Once upon a time, geography and the surrounding community limited the customer base for small businesses. Today, our connected world offers an unprecedented opportunity for small businesses everywhere because we can live anywhere and work with clients on a global scale.
But what have we sacrificed? Sometimes we long for the days when an owner knew the name of every customer who entered the store. Communities foster customer loyalty and help keep a small business afloat during tough times.
Building meaningful relationships lies at the heart of social media marketing. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not solely another avenue for advertising your products and services. They exist to form a community for your business.
To build a small town atmosphere of support online for your company, remember these four key points.
1. Be a Resource
Customers look for people and businesses that they can trust. Using your social media accounts, you can be a source of knowledge about your company’s area of expertise. Instead of just posting about sales and promotions, use these outlets to share information that you’ve been learning or reading about.
If you’re an accounting firm, this could mean posting easy-to-understand updates about changes in the tax code. Likewise, a natural foods store might post about a new study questioning the health benefits of a product like soy — even if it’s among the products that they sell. By being honest and providing real, objective content, customers realize they can trust you with their purchases.
2. Be in Touch
The ability to directly contact your customers is a valuable asset. First, you have to establish trust – people don’t want to give out their email or phone number in fear of receiving spam. If you can collect this information, however, you now have a direct line to your base. Offer a discount to compel people to sign up for a newsletter or coupons sent through text messages.
Once you collect the contact information, don’t abuse the trust. A monthly e-newsletter can go a long way in helping build on that trust. Shape the newsletter the same way that you do in social media. Balance objective content with information about your products and services. 80/20 works well here where 80 percent of the content is valuable information and 20 percent is self-serving. Likewise, a weekly text message about a great deal helps remind customers to visit your site or connect with you.
3. Say thank you … always.
Regardless the type of business you run, saying thanks never goes out of style. If all of your transactions go through an automated online system, you can send a follow-up email that says thank you and includes a link to a survey or a comment box where people can offer feedback. (Yes, you can automate this.)
If you’re a company that deals with fewer clients than a retail store, it may be feasible to send handwritten cards. Once you order the cards, it only takes one minute to write a line or two of thanks and drop it in the mail. The effect can be a long-term and fruitful business relationship.
4. Remember Special Occasions
Customers need reminded that they’re doing business with fellow human beings, especially in a time when much of our business and interaction occurs through the portal of a connected device. Holidays aren’t an excuse to have a sale. Depending on the size of your company, sending holiday cards or gifts to your most valued customers works wonders in building loyalty and strengthening relationships. If a competitor ever comes along, clients will remember that you sent them holiday wishes. It’s also okay to celebrate your company’s birthday. Remind your customers that you’re growing, and it’s thanks to their support.
In a business world where we’re increasingly separated from clients, it’s important to find ways to establish real connections through relevant content and direct outreach.
What other ways have you found to get to know your customers?
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a provider of personalized pens, imprinted apparel, mugs, customized calendars and other promotional products. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Even with all the gadgets I have and time I spend on the computer, I still look forward to reading the print edition of my local newspaper every morning. Recently, I saw an ad in the paper from a hypermarket (combination of grocery and department stores) that I’ll call CubeMart.
Normally, I don’t pay attention to ads, but this full-paged ad caught my eye because it’s misleading. The ad shows a customer’s shopping list and compares her receipt from two stores. What store first comes to mind that would be CubeMart’s competitor? Bull’s eye. It’d be another hypermarket.
Not in this ad. CubeMart decided to compare itself with a drug retailer that I’ll call CubeGreens. If there was ever a time to use the apple and oranges cliché, this is it. Both serve different purposes. I shop at those two stores in very different ways. When I go to the drug retailer, it’s usually to pick up a couple of items or grab things on sale. It’s walking distance from my house, so it comes in handy during an illness.
I certainly wouldn’t buy pull ups at the drugstore — not because I don’t have kids that need them — but because they’re almost always overpriced. Pull ups, laundry detergent, snacks, toiletries, medicine, plastic bags and nine other items appear in the two store receipts CubeMart used to show the customer would’ve saved 15 percent had she chosen CubeMart.
Even if CubeMart had used a direct competitor in the ad, I notice the fine print says prices may include special prices good through a certain date and they may not be representative of prices in other stores of the two chains. And, of course, it covers itself by saying that prices at CubeGreens may have changed.
This is a simple example of how companies can skew data to tell a story that reflects positively on their brand. Here’s another example. Every year, a popular news magazine publishes a list of the best schools in the U.S. Dig deeper and you’ll find plenty of stories reporting problems with the data used to create the list.
Many accept information without questioning them. This also happens with expert commentary, encyclopedias (both famous encyclopedias have published errors) and wordgraphics. (I call them that because they’re too wordy to be true infographics).
We’re overloaded with information, but we don’t have time to question it all. It requires we change how we absorb information and what we do with it.
Most of the time believing reported information is harmless. If a customer believed CubeMart’s ad and switched (still apples and oranges), the worst that can happen is the customer doesn’t save as much as money as she could have at the real competitor’s store.
When should we believe or verify the information we receive? How do we know what sources to trust?
Thursday, May 17th, 2012 at 7:54 AM
Image from sxc.hu user awottawa
“It bothers me to watch the hordes at the farmer’s market, swooping in to each booth, grabbing a sample and walking away,” writes Seth Godin. In his post, he explains that it bugs him to see farmers giving away free samples at a farmer’s market. Instead of offering samples, they need to focus on building connections. Of course, building relationships leads to trust and eventually the buy. No argument there.
I’ve been guilty of picking up a sample and avoiding eye contact with the person at the booth. But I do the same thing in clothing stores. Two reasons for this. One: I want to make my own decisions without interaction. If I need help, I’ll seek it. Two: I don’t want to risk having an awkward conversation or embarrassing situation if I can’t read the person’s lips.
Example. Years ago, I was trying on clothes in a store with my mom nearby. Apparently, the sales person had been trying to talk to me while I was in the changing stall. She admitted to my mom that she thought I was a snob. We had a nice conversation, I bought a few things and I walked away with a good story.
If I I decide to buy the sampled item, then I’ll go back and grab it.
Granted, Godin could be speaking of farmer’s markets and not other situations. After all, he has given away many books. It’s true that free samples don’t work for everything. Writing and designing on spec has had plenty of controversy. Yet, sites like 99designs thrive. These sites allow clients to post a project posting a fee for the winning design. Designers submit their entries based on the client’s requirements and cross their fingers. Imagine the time the designer invests in creating the work. If the designer’s work isn’t selected, that’s time wasted. And many do it again and again.
I’ve bought many things as a result of free samples. Some of these, I continue to buy. While 10 people may have sampled items with no plans to buy, the company turned me into a loyal customer. My regular purchases paid for the 10 little samples and then some.
Heck, I’ve even bought from companies after receiving their swag that had nothing to do with their product or service. The swag helped me remember them when I needed their services. Yes, I researched the company before hiring them. No one expects you to buy on swag alone.
Building relationships is important. No question. Still, free samples. They can be a good thing. Maybe not for farmer’s markets, but certainly for others.
What are your thoughts on samples? Spec work?
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 7:40 AM
Ask anyone between the ages of 13 and 30 who knew my dad to share something they remember about him. Most will reply with “talking like Donald Duck.” Walk in to the office in my mother’s house and Donald Duck greets you from every direction beginning with the large bright yellow latch-hook picture of Donald Duck on the wall.
I don’t know how Dad started this Donald Duck talk business, but it’s one of those things many people remember about him. His wife, three kids, and friends showered him with Donald Duck gifts for years.
I also have one thing that makes me memorable. No, I don’t imitate any famous characters. No, I don’t perform magic tricks. This one came with the package that the doctor delivered to my mother when I arrived. I was born deaf only no one knew the little secret until around my first birthday.
Despite years of speech therapy and repeating nonsensical sounds, I have a deaf accent [video]. Whenever I met a new teacher or professor, I often introduced myself in the first class explaining that I read lips and will sit in the best place where I can see the teacher. I joked that I could never skip class because the professors would notice the deaf one didn’t show up.
In eighth grade, my drama teacher asked me if I was Michael’s little sister. This may not sound shocking … until you hear that we’re 10 years apart. Imagine all the students in 10 years who came through her door before I did. When she taught my brother, I was just three years old — not exactly recognizable from a photo. Michael showed her a photo of three-year-old me when I wore the clunky hearing aid in a box on my chest. Would she have remembered me without it?
What makes you or your company memorable?
You don’t need to run off and take lessons on how to imitate a famous character. As outgoing as my dad was, I can’t imagine him pulling out the Donald Duck trick in a business meeting. It could be a a clothing accessory that stands out, a company mascot, smashing customer service or a well-written email newsletter.
What helps you remember a company? How does your stand out?
Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 at 3:38 PM
Image from sxc.hu user mmagallan
A 2011 MerchantCircle.com survey of over 8,000 US local business owners found email marketing cited by 35.8% as a “Top three most effective marketing or advertising method.” Likewise, the 9th Annual Merchant Survey (2010) conducted by The E-tailing Group asked merchants to list which initiatives they would be using to improve website performance. 79% chose “send more targeted email” as the top answer. No other marketing tool gives you direct interaction with clients in a platform that incorporates graphic design, valuable content, web links, and incentives like an email newsletter does.
Done right, email marketing can have a strong, positive impact on your business. Here are the strategies to ensure your email newsletter is as effective as possible.
Share great content. This is the bread and butter of effective email marketing because interesting, appealing, and humorous content compels your clients and prospects to read your e-newsletter and visit links. It takes time to produce good content, so don’t wait to pull it together at the last minute. Create a project folder for your newsletter so that you can add a new picture, feature story, or content idea whenever ideas come to you you.
Headlines and top stories don’t have to be related to your business. In fact, fun anecdotes, inspirational quotes, product reviews, pro-tips, and even editorial copy is more likely to engage your readers initially and keep them on the page. You can sell your product or service later, but try to make the first impression and subject line as intriguing as possible. Consider capitalizing key words, mentioning deals, or using friendly copy in the subject line to lure readers to open your email.
Many businesses will recycle content week after week for e-newsletters. Be wary of this, as sending emails too frequently with stale information or too many graphics will quickly lead to a rush of unsubscribes. If you must re-use content, take the time to paraphrase or rewrite your content so that it stays fresh.
Engage readers by asking for their help. This can be as simple as voting in an online poll, filling out a survey, or asking for product reviews or testimonials. You’ll e amazed how quickly your readers will offer up their time when prompted. Reader reviews and testimonials are invaluable for new businesses, and also make for great copy in subsequent newsletters. Getting readers to interact with your newsletter is the best way to make sure they open it every time.
Remember to provide links. One of the biggest assets of email marketing is the ability to dispatch web traffic. Offer links back to your website, specifically to new products or services, or to valuable areas of your site. This is your opportunity to directly stimulate web traffic. Include links to events, social media pages, and other sites if they will return the favor for you.
Sign up for other email newsletters. Any newsletter designer or graphic artist will tell you to always do your homework before designing. Sign up for competitors’ newsletters. Read them every week. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Check out graphic design styles, determine what you like, and then integrate that into your design. Pay attention to email marketing trends and consider how you can use them to your advantage.
Check your statistics from previous newsletters. Most email newsletter providers have reports and stats to allow you to see how many impressions and clicks your email received. This is important information. You can find out which headlines and links got more clicks, and apply that intelligence to upcoming emails. You may be surprised to see that a fun fact or product review got more attention than a coupon or featured deal.
Make sure you seek lots of feedback before pressing “send.” The preview button is there for a reason! Send a test email to associates, friends, and business partners to get their feedback on your design — then apply them. Your email is a reflection of your business, so make sure it’s just right. Avoid typos and grammatical errors costs and verify all data is correct to avoid ever sending a “corrections” blast.
If you take the time to create powerful and valuable newsletters, email marketing can be a winning tool for your business. When your clients and prospects look forward to your emails, your newsletter is a lot more likely to get the impressions you want, and stay out of the trash folder.
About the author: Industry veteran Anita Brady is the President of 123Print.com, a provider of high quality customizable items like business cards, letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.
Thursday, December 29th, 2011 at 9:27 AM
After a successful four-city tour, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs returned for three-city encore tour. The Dallas Museum of Art was one of those stops. I received an email from my cousins in Austins who planned to come to town for the exhibition. We set it up, reserved the tickets and had a memorable experience. (Yes, I remember my sons complaining. This cropped photo had my family, but only my daughter and husband cooperated.)
It had been over eight years since I last visited the museum for the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. When I finally visited Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for the first time, it took a traveling exhibit to get me there.
Notice a pattern here? I visited the museums when there was fresh, temporary and interesting content.
Like my never visiting a museum for its static exhibits, how often do you visit a company’s static website? What connects you with a company? Fresh, informative content.
I found this old post on undervaluing content. In reading it, I think attitudes toward content have finally changed and it has a name: content marketing. Truth is, content marketing has been around for a long time, it just didn’t have a fancy name.
Content marketing involves creating content to engage customers and prospects, to earn their trust you and to get them to take action. You have to keep it coming or else customers forget about your company.
Blogging. That’s content marketing. Emails. Yep. Webinars. That, too. Tweets, Facebook updates and LinkedIn statuses. Yep, yep, yep. It includes newsletters, white papers, special reports, articles, podcasts and videos.
And the cool thing is that any of the content available online attracts search engines. Customers seek information. They need answers. Those answers can be found in content.
Marketing in Disguise
You may be thrown by the use of “marketing.” Content marketing isn’t focused on promoting a company’s products and services. If you constantly sell to them, they won’t come back for more. Content needs to offer value, otherwise how can you earn prospects’ trust? We also buy from people we like. Content helps customers get to know you. As you keep delivering useful content, customers drop another objection that blocks the sale.
Someone asked me if I knew of any way to automate original content. That’s one thing technology can’t do. Even if it could, would it share stories? Make it interesting? Add humor? Content automation sounds like dry content that will tell you everything about a topic without personality.
You don’t need to create content from scratch every time. Turn the contents of your white paper into a video, a blog post, a LinkedIn status update. I bet you can find a great sentence in there that would make a nice tweet.
Companies have it easier today. Instead of trying to reel people in to their websites, they go where they are in social media.
What do you rely on for content marketing? How do you connect with customers and prospects?
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Image from sxc.hu user buzzybee
Guest post by Lior Levin. Reference this post for the what and why have a platform.
In business and in life, what you say only means something to those who hear it. You can shout all you want, but if no one is listening, then what you say doesn’t matter much. A platform is the audience you create for yourself — the “who” that you develop around you. They not only hear what you have to say, but also they care deeply about it.
Just like many other processes, the building of a platform involves steps. Following the steps ensures that you don’t skip anything, and prepares you for bigger and more important steps that require the ones that come before.
Step 1: Have Something to Say
Too often, people jump online, start blogging or try to develop a following before they’ve stopped to consider why they are there and what they have to say. People shy away from the difficult yet crucial questions:
- “What am I trying to say?”
- “Why should anyone bother listening to me?”
Until you can answer both questions with confidence and clarity, you shouldn’t aggressively attempt to build your platform. In all likelihood, you wouldn’t go to a conference without knowing the topics, would you? Why, then, should you invite people to “follow you on Twitter” without knowing the reason? Give people a reason to be part of your crowd.
Step 2: Know Who Should Listen to You
The second biggest thing people forget to do before growing a following is figuring out their ideal audience. It used to be that everyone needed to have a “target” audience in mind, but that’s no longer good enough. You need to really know your audience — not just target a specific group of people based on a couple of characteristics. The whole benefit of sitting down and determining an audience profile is to find out who is ideal for you.
Here are great questions to get you started:
- Who would care about what you have to say?
- How do you know that?
Answer those questions, and you will hold the key to reaching your audience with little effort and incredible results.
Step 3: Figure Out Where to Find Them
Where is your ideal audience? Are they hanging out on Twitter, joining a Twitter chat? Are they on LinkedIn, participating in group discussions? Are they on Facebook, posting comments on images and videos?
Finding out where your platform lives, breathes and desires to be is the next big step in developing it. Think of it like pulling out a map before going on a road trip. Sure, you could do without the map, and maybe you would eventually get to where you are going. However, with a map in hand, you can take the shortest route, or perhaps the most scenic, or the one with the most rest stops along the way. Whatever route you take to reach your ideal audience to grow them into a following, you need to know where to find them.
Once you figure that out, go find them! Consider everything: blogs, social media profiles, forums and even Meetup and Yahoo groups. You don’t need to be in all places at all times. What’s most important is what you do when you get there. (See Step 4.)
Step 4: Start Communicating
If only there were a secret recipe for the best way to interact with your platform. Wouldn’t it be great if you could rely on daily blogging, ten to twenty tweets per day, a Youtube video and three Facebook status updates every morning knowing that that would make your audience go crazy for you?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. But there is a golden rule: whatever communication works for your audience, you need to maintain it. Once you have established a way of engaging your audience — speaking, responding, reaching out, involving, polling, etc. — keep at it! Remember that for whatever reason, online activity has a short memory life span. People don’t remember things for very long, and there are a lot of messages going out every day. To remain top of mind, you need to be around a lot. Commit to having an active relationship with the platform that you build.
When broken down into steps, building a platform sounds simple, and it really is. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. It takes work to follow the steps and ensure that the platform you build is relevant, worthwhile and highly effective for you. It’s worth it.
Have you built a platform? How did you go about it? Or why haven’t you built one? Should everyone have a platform? Why or why not?
About Lior Levin. This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for the University of Tel Aviv in the political communication masters programs. Lior also consults for a company that provides business and individuals with a to-do list tool.
Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 9:31 AM
Image from sxc.hu user krissyOoO
How do you get most of your business? For me, it’s referrals. For fellow freelance writer Thursday Bram, it’s her address book. This guest post from Thursday shows how to make connections and make them work for your freelancing business.
As a freelancer, my business wouldn’t bring me a lot of money if I had to sell it — except for my address book. It’s the main asset I have to work with. I have a computer, some on-going client accounts and not much else that an appraiser would even bother to put a price tag on.
That’s perfectly fine with me. Business is booming, because of that address book. I do minimal marketing and yet I’m turning away work almost constantly. That’s because the right connections really are incredibly valuable.
Connections Are the Most Important Asset You Can Build
As a freelancer, word of mouth has to be one of the best marketing methods available to you. There’s no direct cost that you have to budget for, like advertising and the like. Clients prefer to work with freelancers and contractors that come with a referral, rather than someone they find through an online search or the like. All of that adds up to create a situation in which it simply pays off for you to invest time and effort into building up the right connections to bring you word of mouth business.
Think about how many novice freelancers are encouraged to start out by asking their friends and family for connections to people who might need work. Relying on your connections is not something you only do in the first days that you are looking for freelance work, however. It’s easy to let meeting new people and maintaining your relationships by the wayside when you have a full slate of work. It’s the same issue that goes along with marketing for any freelancer — unless you put out special effort, you only go looking for work when you don’t actually have any.
But if you’re willing to invest time in building up your address book, you can smooth out some of those hills and valleys.
Going Out of Your Way to Build More Connections
For some freelancers, networking is the hardest task we can set ourselves. It’s not uncommon for a freelancer to choose to work for herself so that she wouldn’t have to deal so much with the in-office networking necessary to get ahead as an employee. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of us freelancers wind up talking to people more when we’re running our own businesses than we ever did before.
You have to put yourself in the position to make more connections — and they need to be the right connections. Of course, you can make friends with anyone and there will be a chance that they’ll pass your name along to someone who needs a freelancer. But if you have a good idea of who your perfect client is, you can figure out where you can connect with the people who match that profile. That way, you can focus your energy on connecting with people who are actually likely to hire you.
Pick the conferences and events your prospective clients are going to be at, and make sure that you can attend. Even if it isn’t an event that you’d normally be interested in, the people who will be there are more important than the event itself.
New Connections and Old: You Need Both
While you’re going to have to go out and actually meet some people in order to have any business relationships you can build on, a truly valuable address book is a lot more than just some place to put the business cards you collect at networking events.
I make a point of following up with new connections within a month of meeting them. It helps if you make sure that during your conversation you discuss something that makes the follow up easy — like promising to forward an article you read — but even if you’re only sending out an email to touch base, you’re still doing more than most of the people that were at any given event. It’s my experience that even at an event that was specifically intended to help people network and build their businesses, well under 10 percent of people ever follow up after the event.
Every day, I send out at least three emails to people I already know. I make an effort to meet up with people for coffee or lunch as often as possible, even if the person I’m meeting isn’t going to hire me. I put as much effort into maintaining my relationships (or even making them more valuable) as I do into meeting new people.
That’s what makes my address book more than a list of names: it’s a list of people who like and know me, and know that I’m a good choice for their freelance projects.
Thursday Bram has been freelancing for more than eight years — the last four full-time. She’s the co-founder of EnhancedFreelance.com, a membership site for freelancers ready to up their game.
How do you find most of your clients? What other ways do you find clients?
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