Many of us spend a lot of time working on marketing strategies to reach prospective clients. In fact, that’s the bottom line of most marketing efforts. But there’s a smarter way to develop business. It’s in getting those sought after clients to come to you.
That sounds easy, but of course it’s not. It takes a concerted effort. It takes some thought about who your ideal clients are—and where they are. And it takes commitment to action. Here are some actions you can take to get paying clients to come to you:
Social networking is terrific. It has a proven ability to help smart businesses connect loyal customers to brands. But social networking is not the only way to develop your network. It may not even be the best way for freelancers. Don’t get me wrong. A social network is important and you should be creative and consistent in leveraging yours. But ask yourself: What potential business partners are in my community?
Freelancers such as copywriters, designers and web developers should be actively building relationships with centers of influence, such as agencies. As a copywriter and marketing strategist, I work with a number of agencies and communications-related business partners. Some of these relationships developed quickly. In some cases I responded to what appeared like a legitimate ad on Craig’s List (you have to be selective) and work started to flow.
But others have taken much longer. I was first introduced to one of my biggest partners several years before much substantial work came my way. But I was persistent, stayed in front of them, and continued to make sure they know the value I brought. Now that they are getting more projects for which I am a fit, the relationship is paying off. Literally.
My partners know they can trust me to deliver on my promises and develop exceptional work. They trust me to protect their reputation with their clients. This is a lot of responsibility, but if you’re up to the challenge, it’s well worth it.
My advice is to connect with local partners that are reputable, who do business the right way, and who have a healthy stable of clients. Meet with them in person. Don’t just shoot them emails or follow them on Twitter. Get out from behind your desk!
If you build the right relationships, think of wooing these centers of influence as a long-term strategy, and demonstrate excellent work, they will eventually come to you.
Now that I have highlighted face-to-face relationships, let me circle back and discuss online resources. There are a variety of communities for freelancers. They offer networking opportunities, peers with whom to share work samples, and tips and insight into the world of creative consultants. The best of these also offer a healthy variety of good-paying project opportunities.
One of my favorites and the best known is Elance. This is a huge and growing community of programming, marketing, creative and administrative contractors. Not only can you actively bid on a great many projects, but you can post a profile to attract businesses to you. Don’t expect a multitude of inquiries right away, but if you have an excellent profile and portfolio, businesses who uses resources like this one will find you.
This is another way to get connected with potential business partners, agencies, PR firms and the like. Remember to tell the world what makes you distinct.
One more note on this networking approach: organizations that seek you out do so because they believe you are good. Professional businesses will recognize your value and pay you what you’re worth.
Another excellent way to attract attention and to present yourself as credible is to do some speaking. If you have a compelling message and you get in front of the right audience, you can be the person everyone wants to talk to. The trick is to convert this into real sales leads.
It’s equally important to pick the right venue. There are lots of business and community groups looking for speakers. Be clear on the types of groups you want to reach—and the action you intend for them to take when they hear from you.
And of course, promote any such speaking engagements via your blog and social media tools.
Write a book
Publishing is a grueling industry, and only a fraction of would-be authors are able to get a book published. That said, if you have a good concept and can find the right literary agent, and/or publishing house, you will be well on the way to establishing credibility and enticing clients to come to you. The public views authors as being in a different category. This is true in my experience, and my book, Sun Tzu for Women: The Art of War for Winning in Business has opened lots of doors for me.
If you can’t get a publisher to bite and you have a great concept for a book that will raise your profile and help establish you as an expert, you can always turn to self publishing. More and more people are going that route every day.
Regardless of how you get a book published, the burden is on the author to promote it. And it’s in this promotion that you’ll build your reputation and get clients to come to you.
…and when they contact you…
When you begin receiving these inbound leads from business partners, potential clients, and audiences who’ve heard you speak, be ready for them. You must be professional, responsive and reliable in all of your communications. They’re reached out to you because they believe that there’s a chance you can help them. Be sure to convince them that they made the correct choice. This is an art into itself.