Why Won’t the Client Call You Back?

You were thrilled to be invited to submit a proposal for a project that will bring in a good amount of billable hours wrapped in a most respectable fee structure.  In the meeting with your prospective client, you asked all the right questions–

  • Confirmation of the decision-maker, s/he who can green-light the project
  • Details of the project timetable and deadline
  • The approximate start date
  • The value of the project outcomes and deliverables to the organization
  • The project  budget

You have every reason to believe that the project is legitimate and that there is organizational money and motive to get it done.  You may have worked previously with this client and you relish the prospect of working with him/her again.  Or, you’ve not worked with this client before and the project represents a step-up for you.  You can’t wait to add this brand enhancing and validating client to your roster and you plan to do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and become a preferred vendor.

Because you met with the project advocate and decision-maker, your comprehensive and professionally presented proposal is essentially a confirmation of what was discussed and agreed upon.  The deliverables and deadline are confirmed.  Your proposed financials are within budget.  You’ve submitted on time.  You were told when the answer would be given.

But uh, oh, that date passed three weeks ago and you are now tense with worry.  Where are they?  You try sending a diplomatically written email, but receive no reply.  A week later you call the project advocate and s/he has stopped answering the phone, regardless of when you call, early or late.  In resignation you leave a voicemail and of course, there’s no reply to that, either.

Why do clients play these passive-aggressive games? What the hell are they made of? Here are some behind-the-scenes reasons that will let you see the other side and I hope, avoid feeling like a failure and a fool.

  1. There’s no answer yet

Just because your prospect told you that s/he is the decision-maker does not mean that s/he is the sole decision-maker.  Group decisions are the norm.  Your prospect is most likely one of three or four “decision-makers,” the one who is assigned to speak with all vendor candidates, or maybe just one or two.  Alternatively, your prospect may be one of several team leaders who at the end of the month (or whenever) sit down and review all pending projects and discuss proposals received.

Depending on what is going on at the organization, the team leaders will agree to move forward on certain projects, delay one or two and put the remaining on hold.  Your prospect may advocate for funding, but a project that is more urgent, or more favored by other team leaders, could overrule your prospect and kill your project.  Your project advocate will speak with you only when a definitive answer can be given to you.

2.  Waiting for a favored vendor

One of the group of decision-makers may have the power to push in a vendor candidate with whom s/he has worked previously (and who may have the inside track).  That vendor candidate might be a late entry and no decision will be made until his/her bid is received and reviewed.  One of the vendors might have a powerful friend on the decision-making team and that friend plans to push his/her preferred vendor candidate into the project (whether or not that vendor is the best qualified, or offers the most competitive price).  Your prospective client is too busy politicking to speak with you.  S/he would like to say yes, but a battle must first be won, s/he hopes.

3.  Your decision-maker advocate has had an unexpected emergency 

Things happen.  An unexpected problem or opportunity may draw your advocate’s attention away from your project, which is no doubt #1 in your life, but is only one of many possibilities that exist in the constantly shifting landscape that is the new economy.  Short-term priorities and putting out fires are the order of the day.  Your prospective client is too busy to speak with you.

4.  An unexpected loss of support

Second-guessing is practically an Olympic sport in organizations today.  I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t take much to pour cold water on a project and reverse a decision that once earned the favor of the decision-making team.  It could be that the heaviest heavyweight on the team, when all is said and done, does not feel that the project ROI is worth the investment of time, staff attention and money.  Your advocate and perhaps others may believe in the project and they’re scrambling to keep it alive and included on this year’s calendar.  Your project advocate is too embarrassed to talk; s/he feels humiliated and powerless.

5.  Project funding may not yet be officially awarded, or has been lost

Your project advocate and prospective client may have spoken too soon about the availability of an adequate budget for the project.  There could have been a last-minute decision to fund another project that is now perceived as more important by one or more of the decision-making team.  Maybe a project that was previously put on hold will now be given the green light?

Your advocate must now 1.) Confirm if there will be available money in this fiscal year, or the next, and 2.) Confirm the amount of money that will be earmarked for your project.  Your prospect is too frustrated to speak with you now; s/he has lost face.

6. Your proposal was used to get pricing info and to create a budget

Sometimes a Freelancer gets no respect and it’s a terrible thing.  Prospects who are not ready to commit may nevertheless wonder how much it would cost to get a certain job done and so they’ll seek out a Freelancer or two and request a proposal.  They ask Freelancers who they don’t know.  Avoid sending a proposal to an unknown “prospect” who mysteriously sends you a Request For a Proposal The Unexpected RFP .

7.  You were not awarded the project

Your proposal was not selected and the prospect who was not meant to be wants to avoid disappointing you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Consulting: This Is How We Do It

There are millions of Freelance consultants in the U.S. and our numbers continue to climb on a steep upward slope, fueled both by the reluctance of employers to offer stable full-time, benefits-paying jobs and the desire of workers to have more flexible schedules, whether single and childless or married with children.  There are different levels of Freelance consulting, from the one-off hourly paid short-term project to ongoing client relationships that may endure for several years.

Some Freelance consulting projects are very limited in scope: you are hired to design a brochure, build a website, facilitate a meeting, provide special event PR, or redecorate a living room. Other projects might start with a change management process that would benefit from the perspective and expertise of an external  professional and segues into implementation and training for impacted staff.

It is useful to break down the components of the consulting function because it will encourage us, its practitioners, to think about the sum total of what we do— the value that each component brings will remind us that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Further, when we speak with clients or generate our content marketing information or traditional advertising copy, having the components of our work and good sound-bites at the ready will keep marketing messages and elevator pitches fresh and relevant and help us to communicate to clients that we understand their needs and priorities and we would make a good hire for their mission critical project.  Below is a list  of a consultant’s core duties.

  1. Provide information.
  2. Diagnose (and maybe redefine) the client’s problem.
  3. Provide recommendations for the short and long-term based on the diagnosis.
  4. Propose one or more effective solutions that will resolve the client’s problem.
  5. Assist with the implementation of the chosen solution to the problem.
  6. Suggest how the client can encourage and sustain internal support for the solution.
  7. Facilitate training or learning, to allow impacted staff to resolve similar problems in the future.

When we Freelance consultants are called in to discuss a possible assignment with a client, we may want to ask a few questions of the project team or leader, to allow us to gain insight and context; to help reveal one or more potentially useful solutions; and to make it more likely that the client will accept and approve your recommendations:

  1. What solutions have been implemented or proposed in the past and what was the outcome?
  2. Which untried steps toward a solution does the client have in mind?
  3. Which, if any, related aspects of the client’s business operation are not going well?
  4. When a reasonable solution is recommended, how and when will it be implemented?
  5. What steps can be taken to encourage buy-in for the solution, to assist its successful implementation?

Thanks for reading,

Kim

5 Customer Survey Questions That Work

Every once in a while, it makes sense to address your client feedback metric, so that you will receive some lived-experience insight into your operation’s strengths and weaknesses.  You need to learn what can be done better, which service delivery or other operational processes might be simplified and what clients would like to see more of.

The smartest way to begin the client feedback process is to decide what you want to know and what purpose that information will serve.  Are you trying to develop new products or services, so that you’ll be able to give clients what they want before they know they want it? Or is business dwindling and you’re in damage control mode, attempting to win back clients?

Some market research questions are best explored through the eyes of clients and others around the conference table with your leadership team (or maybe your front-line staff, who have loads of on-the-ground experience that they’d love to share). Let’s examine when it makes sense to query your clients and when you’ll learn more from in-house research.  Given below are five standard yet very clever survey questions, some that apply to clients and others that apply to you and your team:

  1. What are the challenges that clients (in a given industry or category) are facing?
  2. Which of these problems is our organization equipped to address?
  3. What solutions are we offering now and what can we/should we add, re-tool, or quit?
  4. How effective are our solutions—what do clients most often hire us to do?
  5. What do we do next?

Note that questions 1 and 4 would best be put to your clients and that questions 2, 3 & 5 involve business strategy and would be addressed in-house, once you’ve spoken with selected clients to figure out questions 1 and 4.

How you conduct the client survey deserves some thought, as well. It might be best for Freelance consultants and small business owners to run a low-key survey by setting up an environment that enables comfortable and candid conversation.  Consider making the process informal and perhaps even seemingly impromptu.  Larger companies may feel comfortable running a formal focus group, perhaps facilitated by an outside market research firm.

Question 1: What are the primary challenges facing your client’s organization?

Whether the client comes to you or you go the client, start by asking a “how are things going in your office” question, or inquire about the next big project or objective (whether or not it would involve your organization). Find out what’s going on and let the client talk.

Questions 2 and 3: Which challenges do you want to solve? How will that be done?

Given the expertise and resources you have, coupled with the client’s inclination to contract for the necessary billable hours, which additional client challenges might you be asked to take on (or what can you cleverly propose to be hired to do)? Can your organization successfully deliver the desired outcomes, or will you need to subcontract some portion? Can you learn how clients are managing these responsibilities now? Is there a competitor who gets hired to do that work , or is nothing being done because the client isn’t sure what to do, or lacks the budget to complete the job?

Question 4: Have our solutions satisfactorily resolved the clients’ challenges?

What project did the client hire you to do? What are the projects that your organization is most often hired to do? How does do clients feel about your performance—is your expertise and ability to deliver the service trusted and respected by clients? Does it seem that you’ll receive more business from several of your clients, on a similar project or another type?

Question 5: What do you do next, based on client responses?

Now here is the judgment call for you and the team. The essence of the process is interpreting the data compiled.  What can you realistically do, based on the responses from clients in questions 1 and 4 and the opportunities and strengths within your organization, as noted in questions 2, 3 and 5?

Remember, it is most likely possible to beta test a new or re-tooled service  with a trusted client who would receive a reduced project fee in exchange for helping your organization to perfect the business model.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

Negotiating 2.0: Taming Hardball Tactics

Freelance consultants are always the little guy.  We possess agile talent and experience that bring value-added to so many mission-critical projects,  but we never control the process.  We value our savvy and survival skills,  but we are alone and vulnerable, truth be told. We navigate and negotiate our way through work assignments and do whatever we can to obtain billable hours.

As we enter into negotiations in pursuit of contract assignments,  prospective clients will sometimes seek to take advantage of us. Passive aggressive withholding is the usual weapon. Prospects are known to play ugly games,  sometimes to bargain down our already quite reasonable fee,  other times to sneak more work into the agreed-upon scope of  project work (mission creep) without paying a supplement for the extra duties.

Negotiation skills are a crucial defensive mechanism that help us to protect our integrity and our income and maintain good client relations as we do. Deepak Malhotra, author of Negotiating the Impossible (2016) and professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, has a few suggestions that will help us to respond when a prospect or client decides to become an adversary.

Tactic:  “We will never…”

This is an ultimatum. Malhotra recommends that one should simply ignore ultimatums because he’s found that they are usually NOT deal breakers. Ultimatums are frequently issued in the heat of emotion, or as a tactic to intimidate or control.

Avoid acknowledging the ultimatum and you allow the person who put it out there to slide away from it down the road,  because you never started a discussion about it. The other party will not lose face should they contemplate surrendering their tough position.

If ignoring the ultimatum is impossible, then try to reframe the statement in less harsh language that gives the other party an out. “It may be difficult,  I understand…” or “It could be costly (or time consuming or put you into unfamiliar territory)…”.

Tactic “Oh, and we also will want…”

The other party may have a laundry list of add-ons and conditions that delay agreement. Malhotra observes that there are a couple of likely motivations for this behavior. One, they sense that doing the deal is important to you and they aim to exploit that.  Alternatively, the conditions might possibly be meaningful to them in terms of obtaining satisfactory ROI.

Malhotra recommends that you put a cap on the demands by stating that if something is truly important,  you would like to understand why and that you will work with them to accommodate any legitimate concerns or objectives. However, you are not willing to negotiate an individual element so late in the negotiation process.

If adjustments are critical, he says, then tactfully make it known that it will be necessary to propose and discuss concessions that they would be willing to make in exchange. The other party must be willing to give some easement and flexibility on issues of value to you as well.

Tactic “Great– I’ll confirm this with my boss.”

Malhotra advises that first of all, make sure you are negotiating with the person who can really approve and set into motion the terms of the negotiated agreement. Sometimes, unfortunately, the other party will not be transparent.  Negotiations can be handed off to a gatekeeper while the real authority remains behind the scenes.

To head off this possibility,  ask clarifying questions of the other party  before you get too far along into the negotiations.  Inquire about who will need to sign off on or otherwise sanction the deal that is struck. Ask what factors might speed up or slow down the process. Learning the process of the one across the table shows you are someone who respects the organization and allows you to set expectations for the outcome you can achieve. Do you want to invest time talking to these people, or should you walk away and find a potentially better prospect?

Thanks for reading

Kim

Transition: Employee to Freelancer

Happy New Year! Is your number one New Year’s resolution to establish your own entity and become a business owner or Freelance consultant? Are you planning to abandon the “safety” of a traditional job to directly market and sell your products or services to customers with money and motive to do business with you?

Going out on one’s own is a thrilling and sometimes frightening prospect. Those who take the plunge eventually discover that many resources that are casually taken for granted while working in an office are not readily available to those who step out on their own.  As you weigh your options and prepare to write your business plan,  be aware of a few changes and expenses to expect should you join the self-employed sector:

No paid days off

It is now Winter and there will be days when extreme snow fall could make it impossible to meet with a client or otherwise work.  Further,  regardless of the season,  there will be no more paid sick days,  vacation days or personal days.  In particular for those who own a small B2B or B2C venture where the business model requires you or your employees to visit a customer location (e.g., cleaning services),  or customers to visit your location (e.g., a laundromat),  snow days = no revenue days.

Establish business credit

For tax purposes,  it will be useful to open a separate business bank account and also apply for a business credit card or two.  There will be business expenses to write off and you want to make it easy to monitor spending.  Do yourself a favor and check your personal credit ASAP and correct any errors.

Financial management

Financial management will assume more than one form.  As noted above,  you’ll need to establish credit for the business,  so that you can order inventory and supplies without immediately impacting business cash flow,  for example.  Those are Accounts Payable items.  You will also need to ensure that clients pay on time,  or at all,  and that is an Accounts Receivable function.

Maintaining sufficient cash flow is crucial to the business’ survival and your own ability to keep a roof over your head,  food on the table and your car on the road. You must develop a business budget and plan for the purchase of equipment,  licensing costs (if applicable),  insurance (if applicable),  professional certifications (if applicable),  or space rental (if needed).

In addition,  you may consult with a business attorney or accountant to discuss the legal structure of your venture: Sole Proprietor,  Corporation (chapter S or C),  or Limited Liability Company.  The type of business that you’re in and your exit strategy will play a role in choosing the legal entity.

Paying for office supplies

Free scanning and photocopying will be over.  When you need to staple a few pieces of paper together,  you must buy the stapler and the staples and you’ll buy paper clips,  photocopy paper and envelopes,  too.

There will likewise be no meeting space or audiovisual equipment for you to reserve.  You’ll have to meet at the (prospective) client’s office,  or at a coffee shop or other restaurant.  Privacy might be an issue and arranging a Power Point or other visual presentation can be awkward as well.  A lap top computer or tablet are must-haves.  It will be imperative to possess the tools of your trade and to always appear as a competent and prepared professional as you develop your reputation and build your brand.

Next week,  we’ll look at more unexpected challenges that await those who choose to launch a business venture.

 Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

Managing the Difficult Client

In your Freelance consulting venture you will work with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients.  Your experiences  with different clients will eventually allow you to recognize certain recurring personality types or working styles.  In your mission to retain clients over the long-term,  you will find it useful to understand the perspectives of the various personality types and learn to create successful,  or at least less fraught,  working relationships with them.

The attention craver

The onslaught of before or after office hours calls and voice mails will be your first clue that you have signed on with a high-maintenance,  controlling,  attention-craving client.  If you’re on a high-priority deadline project,  then the calls and emails may be part of what it takes to get the job done and impress the client with your work ethic,  business acumen and ability to guide the project to a successful completion.  But when the calls do not address an urgent matter…. hhhmmmm.

As noted with several of the difficult clients discussed in this and last week’s posts,  setting boundaries is recommended.  Answer the attention-craver’s calls or emails in a timely fashion.  If by your standards calls have been made during your personal time  (7:00 PM or after,  for example,  or on a weekend)  and the matter is not urgent,  politely state that while you appreciate updates,  you will be happy to address project matters by 8:00 AM on the next business day.  If you reach the client’s voice mail,  send an email to confirm your reply.

The analysis-paralysis specialist

The analysis-paralysis specialist is methodical,  prone to taking his/her time when evaluating matters and will likely respond well to credible data.  Getting a fast answer or decision may be a challenge.   S/he is afraid of doing the wrong thing by failing to consider the inevitable plusses and minuses of the choices presented.  Spreadsheets are favored.

If you have a recommended course of action,  compile statistics and case studies to support your opinion and invite other team members into a meeting with you to lend support.  It will be important to help this individual feel confident and ready to move forward.  Solid evidence and a consensus of opinions will be required.

The busy business owner

This overwhelmed CEO is most likely very happy to have you on board to manage an important project,  but s/he is perhaps unable to take full advantage of your expertise because s/he is too busy to adequately integrate you into the process,  or take the time to sit down and apprise you of the organization’s challenges, needs,  or opportunities and the services you can provide to address what is presented.

You can help the busy business owner and yourself by creating short reports that focus on key performance indicators that allow the busy one to access necessary information.  Concise progress reports,  documentation that milestones have been reached on time and other demonstrations of the results of your work will be appreciated. Try to schedule meetings when progress discussions should take place,  but keep them short and focused.  Send a list of questions when you schedule the meeting,  so that your busy client will be more likely to take the time to share project critical information.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

How To Manage A Difficult Client

Full disclosure: when I went out on my own as a Freelancer, my very first client was a terrible human being and as a result the project was a difficult  experience.  I did the best that I could to satisfy the completely unreasonable expectations,  time frame and amount that this individual was willing to pay.  Most of all, I came to recognize the rookie client management mistakes I had made,  chiefly,  failing to confirm the full project scope,  budget and length.  I also learned how to recognize who had the potential to become a bad client (not a fool-proof science,  but helpful nonetheless).

Furthermore,  I now have the inner strength to fire a bad client,  because they just aren’t worth the money.  If you find yourself in an assignment and client neuroses suddenly emerge,  you’ll need tactics that will help you exercise some control over the situation and preserve your dignity and sanity and perhaps the client relationship as well.

The nitpicker

There are two types of nitpickers: one who is willing to pay for the time it takes to second-guess every aspect of your work and those that want to abuse your time.  The only good thing about a nitpicker is that s/he can make you more precise about your work.

Setting boundaries is the preferred defense,  but be advised that a client has every right and in fact a responsibility to scrutinize your work,  especially if this is your first project with the organization.  If your nitpicker client is OK about paying extra,  then pretend to welcome his/her suggestions and involvement.  Consider it a lesson in meeting or exceeding client expectations and building trust.  Maybe the exacting attitude stems from a previous bad experience.  Reassure the client that getting the job done right is your goal, too.

If your nitpicker does not want to pay extra for the second-guessing,  here is where the boundaries must be applied.  Allow for two revisions of your work and make it clear that beyond that,  there will be a surcharge for your services.  Consider declining future projects offered by this individual.  Going forward,  write into the contract a surcharge for revisions that you would find excessive.

The meeting maven

Meetings are useful in that stakeholders can convene to discuss the progress of the project and make any desired refinements along the way, while verifying that milestones will be met.  Progress meetings can be held periodically,  but too many are a waste of time.

In the project specs meeting,  it is useful to address the subject of progress meetings and suggest tying them to project milestones.  Include meeting time in your project fee.  It’s difficult to address the number of meetings after the fact if you encounter a meeting maven who thinks that you should not be paid extra,  or who likes to stretch meetings out to much longer than  necessary.

That client has you by the short hairs if numerous meetings are demanded,  or prescheduled meetings drag on and on.  You may need to decline future projects and chalk it up to a lesson learned.  Going forward,  anticipate the need to meet and discuss it beforehand.  Some long meetings may be beneficial to you as well as the client,  but make it known that you will be paid.

The penny-pincher

You may have been led to believe that you will work x hours/week on a project and unexpectedly,  your hours are decreased.  Or maybe the scope of your work is scaled back.  The penny-pincher’s motivation may be that s/he has second thoughts about paying an outside consultant,  or maybe there really has been a cash-flow problem.

Regardless of the agreed-upon contract that you have with this client,  s/he has the power to change certain elements and there is nothing a Freelancer can do,  except to opt out of the assignment and you may do exactly that if you have a better opportunity available.

If you do need the assignment,  make sure that the scope of the project decreases in proportion to the hours taken away.  Under no circumstances do you perform as usual,  no matter how much you may like and respect this individual.

If you can offer lower-cost alternatives that will help the client achieve certain important objectives, consider doing so.  You will be perceived as a real professional and positioned to win future assignments when cash-flow improves.  This would be a good time to ask for a referral.

Next week,  we can look at more difficult clients.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

So Why Should They Hire You?

Congratulations! A client with a big budget and a need for your kind of services has called you back for a second talk. You’re excited and a little nervous, too. There’s a lot riding on this interview—maybe this is a prestige client who will help you attract still more prestige clients? Maybe you have bills to pay and this assignment is your ticket to solvency?

Whatever your motive, acing the interview and signing the contract are paramount. Then the client throws this last-ditch, totally common and yet potentially flummoxing question at you–“Why should I hire you for this project?”

Most of us will flap our jaws aimlessly, talking about the value-added we bring, our work ethic, excellent customer service or deep expertise. All of these benefits are positive but in today’s hyper-competitive economy, a Freelancer must make a stronger case. We need to make the client salivate to have us on board.

As luck would have it, there are some good stock answers available and they will make you shine. These templates give the prospect the confidence to open the door and bring you onto the team. You maximize the impact by replying in a relaxed tone, keeping your answer clear and simple and avoiding the use of jargon.

Interview coach and author of Convince Them in 90 Seconds (2010) Nicholas Boothman suggests that you try something like this… “You know how an outside specialist has to be flexible and ready for the unpredictable? Well, I know how to adapt to changes, I have initiative and I can cover a lot of bases, so your team members will be able to concentrate on what they do best and I can take care of the other stuff that needs to get done.”

You might also try something suggested by business journalist Geoffrey James, author of Business Without the Bull (2014)…. ” You know how sometimes you can’t find top talent to bring on when you need them most? Well, I have ( x amount of) years experience in (whatever field) that will let me solve your (problem or need) and get the right solution up and running in a short time frame. When you hire my organization, you won’t have to spin your wheels searching for talent and you’ll avoid the risk of hiring the wrong person.”

Here’s a cool little retort for the Freelancer who has not seen age 35 in a few decades and it works whether one is speaking to a Baby Boomer, Gen X, or Millennial…”You know how sometimes people can get into emotional battles over how to approach a problem? One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is how to bring these kind of conflicts to a quick resolution. If I’m on your team, you’ll not only get an experienced (name the specialty), but also someone with perspective, who can guide a team away from butting heads and toward getting the work done.”

Note that your answer positions you as the solution to the client’s problem or need and that is precisely how you want to be perceived, for that is why you will get hired. You may devise other answers that more closely reflect the circumstances of your field. Anticipate the question in advance of your next client meeting and think of scenarios that will help you answer the “Why should I hire you” question in a way that focuses on the client and how you can make his/her life easier.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Six Steps To A Successful Marketing Campaign

Numerous times I’ve advised Freelance professionals to launch a marketing campaign to promote themselves and their services. How about we touch base regarding the core components of a successful marketing campaign?

I.   Identify your target audience

Step One, you must understand who you want your campaign to reach and influence and that would be those clients and prospects who are most inclined to use your product or service. It is possible that along the way others may become interested in what you have to offer and new or niche markets can be recruited, but target market groups must have the motive and money to use your category of product or service.

Step Two, decide the channels that you will use to reach current and prospective clients. Marketing campaigns are most effective when they broadcast the message through various media: print display ads, videos, testimonials on your website, or a case study. Social media can also be part of a well-designed marketing campaign, if you can engage current and prospective clients through those platforms. The members of your target audience could be reached more than once and that is a good thing.

There is also the indirect and ongoing marketing campaign that Freelancers are advised to conduct. Providers of B2B services especially should periodically attempt to line up an appearance on a webinar, a panel, or at a conference podium as a way to enhance the value of the intangible resources that you sell, that is, your expertise and judgment. Sponsorship of a local charity is also a good choice for some. Remember to send a press release to the local newspaper to try for yet another channel. A newspaper (or online) item is more believable than a print ad, because it is perceived as unbiased.

2.  Know the competition

As you create your marketing campaign message, keep direct competitors in mind. The marketing message should promote the expertise, experience, judgment and attributes that make you superior to others with whom clients and prospects might do business. Your message should be designed to overcome current or potential objections to you and persuade those with motive and money to choose you because hiring you will make them look good.

3.  Identify the key marketing message

What do you need to make known to current and potential clients that will help them to develop the trust and confidence needed to do business with you? Refer to your knowledge of the competition and also refer to client hot buttons and address those issues clearly and convincingly.

4.  Build the brand

In the marketing message and campaign, find ways to enhance your brand, that is, your reputation. Clients do business with those they know and like; they do even more business with those they trust and respect. Building up your image, or (tactfully) bragging about your already noteworthy image is a key element of your marketing message.

5.  Create a budget

Time and money are among our greatest resources. Once you have your version of the ideal marketing plan in draft form, calculate the financial cost and a roll-out timeline. Make sure that the campaign ROI makes sense for your venture. Tie your marketing efforts to expected sales, to the best of your ability and don’t squander your resources on fruitless strategies.

6. Track performance

I’m a little bit backward in that an important step in the campaign will be mentioned last. Establishing goals and objectives for your campaign are a must-do. This process will guide you in making decisions that shape what the campaign will consist of and furthermore, will help you understand what kind of influence you can wield through marketing. Decide what you want your marketing campaign to achieve and confirm the metrics that will measure and acknowledge its success or failure.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Freelancer Fails You Must Avoid

Life is a gamble and there are no guarantees. Making one’s living as a Freelance consultant adds an extra measure of unpredictability. Do whatever you can to control that which you can control and lay the groundwork for success in your consultancy.  As they say, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. You will see that most of what you must do right hinges on communication, in one form or another. Here are a few unfortunate practices that will bring down even the most professionally knowledgeable and well-connected consultant:

The service does not make sense

Or, it is poorly communicated and prospective clients don’t understand the service or how to make use of it. The ability to describe one’s services, help a prospective client picture how and when it might be useful to their organization and in the process persuade the prospect that the service is valuable and the Freelancer has the skill to deliver it is how business is created. Finding your sweet spot, defining your value proposition and communicating it well, are vital.

Sometimes, clients don’t know what they need, but they know that they need help. A serendipitous meeting with such an individual could mean a contract for you and perhaps the start of an ongoing business relationship. It is hugely important to be able to effectively communicate to prospects what you do, the problems you can solve or help them avoid and goals you can help them achieve. Doing this well makes you look like an expert who can be trusted. If the money and motive are there, you will be hired.

Poor follow-up or follow-through

Whether one is a Freelancer or traditionally employed, being reliable is a must. if you promise the client that something will be completed by a given date, then do that. Answer calls and emails ASAP, ideally on the same day and most certainly within 24 hours. Even if the client has not asked a question, anticipate what information will reinforce their confidence in and confirm that you are in control and meeting expectations by checking-in and giving periodic updates. Timely communication is reassuring.

Inadequate business development

Freelance consultants are always looking for the next assignment and that may mean helping a current or past client to create that assignment. During your project work, look for additional services you might provide, while their checkbook is open. Take a past client out for coffee and see if you can get back in there, weaving in your objective as you talk about how they’re doing.

Too shy to ask for referrals

Every business needs referrals and word-of-mouth endorsements from a source perceived as trustworthy are the best. The process of obtaining a referral starts with you providing excellent service that exceeds client expectations. Timing is also a factor. Asking for a referral while on the job and definitely not while you’re presenting the final invoice, is the preferred strategy.

Making a referral for the client, either while you’re on assignment or after the fact, will make you golden and increase the chances that the favor will be repaid, if the client knows a colleague who may need your services. Knowledge of the client’s business relationships can help you to tease out a referral. If you know that the client is active in a particular business or professional association and there is a prospect in the group that you would like to meet and try to work with, tell the client that you would appreciate an introduction.

Poor billing practices

If you want to get paid, you must invoice. On some projects, it’s wise to tell the client when you will invoice. If you do so, follow the agreed-upon schedule. Late invoices annoy clients and adversely impact your cash flow and financial management as well. Always describe or itemize the services delivered in your invoice. Specify how the check should be made out, include the tax identification number,  the invoice due date and the address to which the check should be sent.

Inadequate client relationship management

Freelancers need repeat business and that means nurturing relationships is a priority. Do what can be reasonably done to keep communicating with past clients.  Definitely, send December holiday cards to all those with whom you’ve worked in the past 5 years. If you encounter an article that you suspect will be of interest to a former or current client, send an email with the link, along with a friendly message. If a past client is speaking somewhere and you can afford the time and money to attend, do so. Take notes, so that you can ask a question that will make your client look good. Attention spans are short, so it is necessary to stay on the client’s radar screen if you expect to be hired again.

Thanks for reading,

Kim