Client Acquisition Tips

According to client acquisition coach and best-selling author Brian Hilliard (Networking Like A Pro [2017] with David Alexander and Ivan Misner), the most vital task for B2B service providers is to organize and articulate your company’s services in a way that makes it easy for prospective clients to understand what you do.  As the in-house marketing and sales expert, the Freelancer must create marketing messages and sales pitches that enable prospects to figure out how and when to work with you.

Yet the unfortunate tendency is for Freelancers to present their services as all things to all people, preventing prospects from getting a handle on what you can do for them (and I’ve done this, BTW).  Casting a wide net may seem like a winning strategy, but in reality it often results in a bewildered and frustrated prospect who doesn’t know how to use your expertise—so they don’t. It’s essential to help prospects see solutions in your services if you expect to make sales and build a client list.  Getting specific is the way to do it, Hilliard says:

  • Promote your services to prospects with the motive and money to do business
  • Define your services using terminology and selling points that the prospect will understand
  • Demonstrate that you can deliver requested services and ensure desired outcomes
  • Price at a level that clients accept and also generates a good profit for you

In your next prospect meeting, when you’re asked “Tell me more about what you do?” give an example of how you’d implement the basic option and the premium option of a service that fits with what s/he might need.  Since you will have become specific, you can expect that your prospect will then become comfortable enough to reveal specifics about his/her reason for speaking with you.  When you hear the details, you can then provide  more precisely tailored versions of your basic and premium options.

Next, although it will take both courage and discipline, stop talking and let the prospect ask questions or provide feedback on your proposed solutions. Expect to be asked if you’re able to further customize a solution and of course you’ll gladly do so.  Whatever you can do to add value will increase your chance of getting the sale.

Finally, there will be the price negotiation.  Ask for the amount of the project budget, to increase the chance that you’ll present an acceptable (verbal) estimate for your services.  If it seems to you that in order to provide the requested services your estimate might somewhat exceed the client’s budget, be willing to negotiate.  When you’ve shown the prospect that you can speak to and address what s/he needs, you’ll probably sign a contract and a new client will join your roster.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921, Austro-Hungarian) A Business Secret, 1917      private collection

Advertisements

Want More PR? Show Them You’re an Expert!

Recently, I gave myself another try with what is probably the most effective PR service for business owners and Freelancers,  Help A Reporter Out . I originally signed up with HARO about five years ago, but quickly discontinued when I felt overwhelmed by the thrice-daily emails that arrived Monday – Friday to inform subscribers of 20 or so potential opportunities to be interviewed. The drill is, as soon as a topic that you can speak to with authority appears, you click the link to the reporter’s HARO request for an expert and attempt to sell him/her on your ability to provide quotable information.

You will compete with numerous contenders.  But if you keep at it, the odds are that you’ll eventually speak with a reporter and get your quote.  Mentions and appearances in newspapers, magazines, widely read blogs, podcasts, or television shows is effective marketing and branding.  Include the link to your quote or interview on all of your social media platforms and download the full text (not just the link, which can be taken down) in your press kit. 

A press kit is your brand’s portfolio of verbal, audio and visual demonstrations of your credibility.  A well-stocked press kit provides third-party verification of your stature and expertise.  Whenever you reach out to the press, send a link to your press kit (remember to include your bio and photo).  If you take a booth at a trade show, bring along hard copies of your press kit.  When courting an especially desirable client, send a link to your press kit for his/her review, as a confidence builder.

When approaching journalists at HARO as they seek insights from trustworthy experts to add credibility to an article they have in development, or if you send out press releases to inform your local media of some newsworthy achievement in your business or professional life (perhaps you’ve just signed an especially prestigious client?), it’s essential that you present yourself as an authority in your industry whose story will interest the readers of the publications that you pursue.  Review your PR-worthy attributes and make sure that they’re up to snuff:

Experience and track record

Longevity in business is considered a sign of success, experience and credibility.  If your client list includes one or more high-profile clients, that enhances your presumed expertise.  If you author a blog or newsletter that has 5000 or more subscribers, that is another strong selling point that often persuades reporters to interview or quote you.

In fact, reporters will hope to attract many of those followers to his/her article when you provide the link to the item in which you are quoted.  Freelancers who’ve built up big online followings are always attractive media sources.

If you can produce links to articles in which you’ve previously been quoted or interviewed, that evidences the approval of fellow journalists and you will be well-positioned to receive more media mentions.

Enviable sales revenues

Are you a million dollar consultant (or close to it)? That’s an attention-getting descriptive  and it ensures journalists of your business acumen and therefore, credibility.  Journalists will be delighted to interview you.

Impressive credentials

If you’ve earned the scholarly degree of Ph.D, M.D., Pharm.D or Esq. in your chosen field, you will quite readily be able to present yourself as an expert.  Alternatively,  if you’ve earned one or more respected certifications in your field, you may advertise yourself as an expert in that field.

If you own (or share) a patent for a product or process that you’ve invented or co-invented, you may as well claim that you are an expert in your industry and you can do the same if you teach a subject related to your industry at the university level, especially if you teach at an Ivy League or other large institution.

Your book

If you’ve authored a book, whether an industry “how-to” or the story of how you overcame business or personal struggles to launch and sustain a successful enterprise, that will be a brilliant marketing tactic that will convince reporters of your authority.  Additionally, you can use your book to obtain speaking engagements and even teaching appointments.  Plan to self-publish and expect to pay about $5000 for editing, proofing, book text lay-out, cover design, printing and professional photography.

Awards received

If you’ve received a business award from a chamber of commerce, that is a noteworthy honor.  A service award from a Rotary Club, while it is an organization composed of business executives who perform volunteer service, is nevertheless highly regarded in the business world.  Awards and prizes that you’ve earned from national or local organizations will stand you in good stead as well.  Note all official recognition that you’ve received in your bio and curriculum vitae.

Judge awards

Five or six years ago, I was invited to become a judge in the Women in Business category for the Stevie Awards, an organization that recognizes achievement in the entrepreneurial, corporate and not-for-profit sectors in organizations around the world.  I hope to be invited to judge this year’s competition as well.  If you are a member of a business or professional group that presents awards, ask to join the awards committee.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Powerful gossip columnist Louella Parsons (l) with bandleader – actor – producer Desi Arnaz and his wife, actress Lucille Ball at the 1956 Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles

Corporate Social Responsibility and Freelance Consultants

“We live in the era of the conscious consumer,” says Marco Scognamilio, global CEO of RAPP, the advertising agency based in New York City. “No longer content to separate their politics from their wallets, buyers want to know that the brands they’re supporting also stand for something.”

Freelance consultants and business leaders for the past decade or so have been encouraged by our customers and communities to disclose our organizations’ guiding principles and adherence to best practices and demonstrate our philanthropic priorities.  By the early 2000s, the term corporate social responsibility came to encompass not only standard business ethics, but also actions that promote some form of social good, as interpreted by the organization leaders.  It’s now common for businesses, in particular national and global enterprises, to take a public stand on social justice issues such as environmentalism and sustainability, public health promotion, civil rights and individual liberties.

Organizations large and small that operate in certain industries, most notably entertainment and fashion, are now well aware that publicly supporting individual liberties (that in some demographic segments are promoted as civil rights) is a must-do.  Activists are ready to quickly call out all who do not fall in line.

So it may be useful to evaluate how your organization can demonstrate some measure of your personal values as a way to show current and prospective customers that your purpose is not solely to make a profit, or even to do work at which you excel and enjoy, but also show your concern for the well-being of fellow citizens, wildlife, or the environment.

Kara Alaimo, Assistant Professor of Public Relations at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY points out, “There’s huge demand right now for professionals who can teach businesses how to navigate these new consumer expectations and how corporations can  take stances on political issues and practice good corporate social responsibility.”

Hildy Kuryk, founder of Artemis Strategies, a New York City consulting firm that creates marketing messages for socially aware customers, so that consumer-facing companies can deepen their civic engagement and communicate their value story more persuasively, cautions, “What’s astonishing is that we’re consistently seeing major brands that can’t seem to apply basic principles to how to make decisions when they’re taking stances on political issues.”

I concur that wise organization leaders are advised to be circumspect when evaluating which social or political causes to publicly support.  Ms. Kuryk goes on to say, “In an unpredictable political landscape, brands need to be acutely aware and cautious (about) whom they align with.” No kidding.

But I trust her instincts.  If your company can afford the Artemis Strategies consulting fee, I recommend that you call her and commence the building of your organization’s social responsibility based marketing campaign strategy and messages.  Those who are not so flush are invited to spend another 5 minutes reading this post, at no charge, and make note of my respectfully offered observations and suggestions.

Declaring the values that guide your business practices will humanize you, differentiate you from competitors and make you less likely to be perceived as a commodity.  It’s smart marketing and effective branding.  So choose the causes that you’ll publicly associate with your organization very carefully and avoid the possible disapproval of current and prospective customers.  Keep what might be considered controversial in your private life.

Widely approved causes include libraries, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, working against hunger or homelessness, remedial education and raising money for research used to discover therapies that would eradicate or more effectively treat serious diseases.  I’m a board member at my local branch library and serve on the committee that selects local authors for our guest author series.  Previously, I’ve conducted “Dress for Success” and networking workshops for low-income women who were in a 20 week job training program and for several years I was a board member at an organization that transfers donated original art to sparsely funded social service agencies.

Find a cause that resonates with you and your leadership team and decide what your organization’s budget will allow you to donate.  Alternatively, it’s sometimes also possible to provide volunteer labor, where your employees spend a day assisting a not-for-profit agency to deliver certain services.

Publicize your organization’s involvement in social and philanthropic causes on your website, on social media, in the local business press and in your bio.  BTW, philanthropy can bring networking opportunities and it’s possible that you might meet your next client through volunteering.  You could do well by doing good.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Photograph: Mohandas K. Gandhi (the Mahatma), leader of the campaign for independence in India, meets with Jawaharlal Nehru (l), who would become the first Prime Minister of India after independence from Great Britain, at the All-India Conference in Bombay (Mumbai), July 6, 1946.  © Associated Press

Competitive Intelligence: The Role of Social Media

To those who think you know all the ins and outs of using social media, fasten your seat belts.  If you created a LinkedIn profile at the turn of the century, started out with MySpace and later jumped to Facebook, became an early adopter of Vine and now work Snapchat, I have news for you.  Social media platforms are not just one-way PR broadcast channels that let you tell the world how brilliant and popular you are.  You can (and should) do some of that, but there is more.

Maybe you already do more?  You regularly use social media to encourage comments from customers about their experiences when doing business with your company.  You understand that social media is a two-way street.  But, still, there is so much more.

Social media can be effectively used not only for inbound and outbound marketing, but also for keeping tabs on competitors.  Social media is ideal for gathering competitive intelligence that can make you a smarter marketer, salesperson and business owner.  Here’s how.

First, determine who your competitors are, something that’s not always easy and obvious for B2B service providers.  Discover who your competitors are by meeting them.  The most efficient method to meet your competition is to join a professional society, where you’ll meet fellow accountants, life science marketers, event planners, etc., or join one or more chambers of commerce.  In four or five visits, you’ll meet a good cross-section of peers who do what you do, or something very similar.

Make it a point to talk to these people. Get to know them somewhat and exchange business cards, for they are not your enemy.  In fact, they can probably give you some valuable advice.  You should be willing to share a pearl or two of wisdom with them in return, as long as you don’t give away any proprietary information.

Once their business cards are in your possession, the second thing you’ll do is set up Google Alerts, so you’ll receive notice of their company’s print or online mentions, at no charge.  Whatever your competitors choose to publicly announce, you’ll quickly know.  It will be so enlightening to have the PR of competitors delivered directly to your inbox.

You’ll learn who will keynote at a conference, who will moderate or serve on a panel, who’s released a new product or service, who gets quoted in local or national press, or who will teach as an adjunct professor this semester.  Discover who’s quoted you, or if there are sites linking to your website or blog.  Monitor the content marketing of competitors (e.g., blogs and newsletters) and assess the perspectives and even the expertise of those whom you’re working against.

You can also receive alerts for your own company, to reveal what others are saying about your enterprise.  You’ll learn whether you have supporters who give you compliments in newsletters or blogs, or if someone is undermining you on social media.  Use competitive intelligence to shape your response and support your reputation management.

Regarding the successes of competitors, there’s no mandate to imitate what they do and that’s all to the good.  Be yourself.  But what you learn may inspire you to take, or not take, certain actions based on information you’ve gleaned from the three or four competitors you select to follow.  Set up a Google Alerts account to track key words and phrases and you’ll be happy that you did.

You might also try Hootsuite, a paid service, and use it to search podcasts and webinars by topic and engage in social media listening, for less than $20/month.  The primary role of Hootsuite is to allow users to write posts and manage all of their social media accounts from one site.  Those who are active on multiple platforms find Hootsuite very convenient.  Plus, the analytics reports included with the service reveal which of your social media tactics and strategies are worthwhile and which need rethinking.

Finally, if you can budget $80/month, then take a deep dive into your competitors’ content marketing activities with BuzzSumo.  Examine which content is getting traction for competitors, the shares competitors’ content receives and how your company’s content stacks up in comparison.  It’s possible to receive an update each time selected competitors publish content and you’ll also be able to compare the overall performance of your company’s content with that of competitors.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: His Master’s Voice (1898), starring Nipper the dog, by British painter Francis Barraud. In 1901, the painting became the logo of what would eventually become RCA Victor.  EMI, JVC and HMV (His Master’s Voice) have also owned the logo rights.