Social Media—Not?

It is by now standard operating procedure for business owners and other self-employed professionals to have a visible presence on one or more social media platforms,  in addition to an online presence provided by a website.  We’ve  internalized the assumption that there is no way to either launch or sustain a viable business without an active online presence spread over an array of platforms.

The majority of my colleagues and competitors spend rather a large amount of time  researching and writing newsletters,  tweeting,  Instagramming, or linking with and friending sometimes 500 + “connections”. But really folks,  what is the demonstrable ROI of most of this effort?  Beyond a certain point,  I respectfully submit,  social media produces very little beyond siphoning off a chunk of scarce time and money.

How does social media provide a demonstrable ROI for Freelance consultants, who typically provide an intangible service? Our ventures run on referrals based on trust and reputation—how can that resource be communicated electronically? Alan Weiss, president of Summit Consulting and author of numerous books that address the consulting trade, including Million Dollar Consulting (2009), has for several years offered to split his (large) consulting fee with anyone who shows him how to acquire a client purely through social media or website channels and he signs a client as a result.  To date, there have been no takers.

The reality is that most of us in business are afraid to dial back the social media and so the practice continues. We fear that if we don’t participate,  our competitors will eat our lunch and customers will abandon us.  I’ve observed that in certain businesses and organizations,  social media and website marketing yield a good ROI.  A large collaborative of Boston artists and galleries has recently hired me to edit a newsletter and perform PR functions for an ongoing monthly event plus an annual special event and that is money well spent for the group.  Performing artists,  clothing designers, restaurateurs and professional organizations come to mind as excellent candidates for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram to provide outreach / engagement with past, present and future patrons.

Nevertheless,  there is a group of social media and website holdouts and at least a handful are making a good living.  Maybe they possess valuable competitive advantages,  such as excellent word-of-mouth,  always the best form of advertising,  and exceptional skills? Among that group are two interior designers who have more clients than can be handled (in three or four cities, mind you) and the owner of a small neighborhood breakfast and lunch restaurant that is always packed.  Three of the six most successful Freelance consultants with whom I’m acquainted do not even show up on Google.  Author Otessa Moshfegh,  a member of the internet-obsessed Millennial Generation,  has eschewed both website and social media and her debut novel is selling nicely.

I’ve learned that Ms. Moshfegh has a professional publicity team and that gives her a significant edge. Her team portrays her as elusive and not given to crass displays of self-promotion and that is good publicity (!). The consultants once worked for larger consulting firms and like any hairdresser, when they went out on their own, they stole clients.  Nevertheless,  they continue to grow their client lists without websites.  The interior designers seem to be known by the right people and receive lots of referrals. On an a laptop or tablet,  they have a few photos to show their work to prospects.  The restaurateur has been in business for 20 years,  a Starbucks opened across the street at least a decade ago, but he continues to prosper.  Patrons started Trip Advisor and Yelp pages for him and patrons control the reviews on those sites.

You may wonder how my website and blog perform for my venture? I did not work for a consulting firm, so the website I feel helps me look legitimate.  However,  no one has ever hired me as a direct and exclusive result of visiting.  This blog has shown prospective clients that I have a solid knowledge of business topics and that I have a certain writing proficiency. The blog has been a factor in my hiring, but the clients were a result of referrals and not this blog alone.

I do not advocate that Freelancers and business owners close down their internet presence.  Rather, I respectfully recommend that you consider the ROI of your investment and take heed of the analysis.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

 

 

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Marketing Commute: Inbound and Outbound Traffic

It is now a given that every Freelance consultant and business owner will develop an inbound marketing strategy that will support sales and diminish the need for cold calling, which is getting increasingly difficult to do successfully in the face of the wall that prospects are able to build around themselves. Inbound marketing consists of quality content that is designed to  “pull in” prospective clients who will be able to understand how your products and services can be of use to them. Outbound marketing often refers to any print or online information and promotion about your business venture (and that includes your social media accounts), advertising, press releases sent, your speaking and teaching assignments, webinars you headline and local charity drives in which your business participates or sponsors.

Inbound marketing makes a more direct appeal to your target markets and has the potential to reduce the amount of cold calling that a Freelance consultant or small business owner must do. However, be aware that inbound marketing aims for the more distant future, whereas outbound marketing aims for a more immediate time frame. Inbound marketing tends to have the longer ROI cycle; most businesses would starve as they waited for sales generated primarily from inbound marketing. Consider it your lead generator. Outbound marketing has the potential to produce a noticeably shorter ROI cycle. Today, both marketing formats are synergistic and necessary.

When creating content for your inbound marketing choices, be mindful that you must periodically speak to potential clients as they travel through the various stages of the buying process—and be aware that it is the buying process and not the sales process that presently rules the day. Some prospects will have a low-level interest, more like window-shopping. Others are more seriously contemplating a transaction, to take place in the more-or-less near future. Still others will need your product or service right now, because proposals are being accepted, or there is an emergency and they need a remedy ASAP.

The types of inbound marketing content and the way you choose to broadcast it depends on what your potential clients respond to. Compelling information is what they value and nothing more. Trial and error may be the way to choose your channels: weekly blog or monthly newsletter emailed to contacts; Twitter, Facebook or Instagram posts; white papers posted to LinkedIn and your website; YouTube videos or SlideShare infograms uploaded to social media accounts.

Reaching out to the various segments of your audience in different ways matters. In a truly comprehensive inbound marketing campaign, text, audio and visual methods of outreach will be represented. Once you’ve figured out your inbound marketing channels, then decide on the content to present and how often you will do so. Relevant content is a must; consistency is required; over-exposure is not recommended.

So many business owners are vying for attention. The noise causes many potential clients to shut down. B2B clients are usually over-worked and have little time for what is not immediately necessary. Unfortunately, many operate on a short-term vision.

One thing marketers must do is master the call to action. Like a sales call, one must know how to ask for the business, or at least how to persuade the prospect to take another step on the path to buying from you or engagement with you. Your call to action may be as simple as providing visible contact info plus an offer to give 30 minutes of free consultation. Your newsletter or blog must allow for easy subscription sign-up or RSS feed.

All marketing campaigns have the same goal: to create awareness of you and your products and services; to provide information about you and your business; to help prospective clients understand how and when your products and services would fulfill their needs; to give demonstrations of the quality of what you sell and your expertise in delivering the goods.  Marketing is how to fill the sales pipeline and helps business owners become less dependent on cold-calling, which is increasingly a road to frustration. It is up to you as a business owner to implement inbound and outbound marketing strategies that will sustain your venture.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Get Your Arms Around Content Marketing

Was it two or three years ago that the term  “Content Marketing ” entered the marketing lexicon?  I first addressed the subject in March 2013  https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/content-marketing-is-the-new-ad-copy .  Back in the day,  advertising strategy focused on which publications would reach the most potential customers at a price the business could afford.  Depending on your business,  traditional advertising can still deliver the desired ROI,  but Content Marketing cannot be ignored.  It is the conduit to engaging with customers on a granular level.  Through it,  we are able to reveal our understanding of customer priorities and challenges,  build trust and credibility as a result of that understanding and demonstrate how and when they might benefit from using our products and services  (and in that order,  BTW).

KISSmetrics CEO Neil Patel defines Content Marketing as  “…the way for a business owner to educate your customers and potential customers about your products and services.  The goal is to offer tips,  help and education about anything that can be helpful to a customer.  This kind of information can be shared in the form of a blog, white paper, webinar, video or social post.  The opportunities are endless.”  Michael Brenner,  a Forbes Magazine Top 40 Social Media Marketer and head of strategy at NewsCred,  points out that  “Small businesses don’t have the luxury of massive ad budgets…they need to drive brand awareness and (sales) leads with limited resources.  Content Marketing is a great way for small businesses to do both.

Great.  Now let’s get you started on creating Content that’ll do some good.  First,  define the Content you should create,  i.e. the Content that your customers value,  presented in a way that will make them tune in to your message.  Think carefully and from the customer’s viewpoint about the reasons that they use your product or service: what are they trying to achieve and what information would they appreciate as they strive to examine and resolve that process?  Chatting with customers about their business goals and challenges and getting a better handle on where your products or services fit in will give you some guidance.

Shelly Kramer,  CEO and founder of V3 Integrated Marketing,  insists that you will benefit from applying what you learn from your research to your strategy and,  just as important,  commit it to writing.  “Write down your strategy.  The key is to tie your overall business goals and objectives into your Content Marketing strategy”,  she says.  Kramer is very astute as she reminds Freelancers and business owners to remember the big-picture marketing strategy for the enterprise and incorporate Content Marketing,  including social media,  in that picture.  “Social and Content have to work together in order for you to be successful….you can’t have success with Content without a robust presence in the social media space and….understanding the role that fresh,  relevant Content and social media channels play.  There is great Content being published on corporate blogs on a daily basis that no one ever sees.”

Next,  choose your delivery system.   Do customers visit your website often?  Then maybe posting a white paper once a month or writing a weekly blog will work for you.   Are customers part of your LinkedIn group,  Facebook fan page,  or do they follow your business on Twitter?  Add those icons to your email signature block and your website to make social media connections that alert customers to your Content an easy process.   A monthly newsletter is another great Content Marketing strategy.  It’s the savviest form of email marketing  (include an opt-out feature).

Fresh and relevant are your operative words,  as Kramer notes.  Volume,  value and variety are your other guideposts.  Brenner says “(Volume)….starts with this notion that you need to be present in our always-on,  always connected world.  The second thing is value.  Your Content has to be good.   I always recommend that brands identify what they want to talk about and then make every effort to produce as much valuable Content around those topics as often as possible.  The final tip is about variety.   People (and search engines)  reward those brands that deliver value in multiple ways,  so think about text-based articles,  videos,  SlideShare presentations,  research reports  (white papers) and all the different things we consume across the digital,  social and mobile web.”

How do you measure ROI and recognize success?  Patel offers 3 specific steps:

  • Track Content views
  • Use Google Analytics (free) to track which types of Content drives visits to your website
  • Measure your search traffic

Patel advises “You have to give it time.  Don’t expect great results in 3 months or 6 months,  but you will see traction.  Within the first 3 months you should see more traffic to your site.   Within a year you should start to see good results and an opportunity to monetize traffic on your site.”  Patel concludes  “Good Content Marketing builds trust.  If someone trusts you,  they are more likely to buy your products and services and more likely to tell their friends and family.”

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving,

Kim

Compelling Content Drives Inbound Marketing

Reach out to potential customers by providing content,   the new tactic for advertising and demonstration of expertise,  and persuade those prospects to reach out to your business.  Traditional advertising,   email campaigns and PR,  better known as Outbound Marketing,  reach out to a broad audience that has been vetted for the presence of target customers,  yet still includes many that fall outside of that profile.

Outbound Marketing  “pushes”  information about your company out to an audience that has not necessarily demonstrated an interest in learning about the company and its products and services.  Moreover,  Outbound Marketing assigns to the intended audience a limited role: buy the product or attend the event.  Outbound Marketing usually costs more money than time to create and ROI can be difficult to measure.

Inbound Marketing is well-suited for the digital age and its use has grown tremendously as a result.  Inbound Marketing is driven by content that functions as a  “pull”,  drawing prospective customers who are interested in posted content to read,  learn and perhaps take action.  Inbound Marketing lives on the internet.  Slide Share,  Google +,  LinkedIn,  Twitter,  YouTube,  company websites and other social media platforms receive content and those in search of information choose to visit those sites.

Content production usually costs more time than money to create and ROI is much easier to measure.  Relevant white papers,  useful videos and podcasts,  research results,  surveys and your blog or newsletter form the basis of high-quality content that delivers your message and your professional acumen wrapped in a package that prospects want to open.  Prospects must take an active role and engage with Inbound Marketing content. They initiate and control the interaction.

When planning your Inbound Marketing campaign,  be advised that it is not necessary to either provide a wide variety of content or post content onto numerous venues.  The type of content provided,  frequency of postings and selected platforms will be guided by target market preferences.  Develop Inbound Marketing goals and devise an appropriate campaign strategy.  Brand awareness, customer acquisition / retention and lead generation will no doubt top your list.

Be mindful that Inbound Marketing content is based on giving and not receiving (despite your goals).  Prospective customers are hungry for knowledge and those who provide high-quality content will obtain trust,  respect and top-of-mind status that is reflected when decisions are made to purchase your category of product or service.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Highlights of The Social Business Benchmark Study of 2013

Last year Leader Networks,  a Boston area consulting firm that specializes in B2B social media and the global not-for-profit think tank Society for New Communications Research,  teamed up to conduct a comprehensive and global study of the usage of social media for B2B interaction.  Fifty-five mostly for-profit organizations of various sizes participated.  The study examined the following topics:

  • How organizations are currently leveraging social business efforts
  • The use of social media tools,  internally and externally
  • The readiness of organizations to utilize social media tools
  • Intentions of social business strategy
  • Social media marketing strategy and the ability to leverage and operate same as social business initiatives

Companies studied were mostly present on LinkedIn,  Twitter,  YouTube,  Facebook,  Google+ and their company-sponsored blog,  in that order.  The study distinguished between social media marketing,  which it defined as the use of social media platforms for marketing and social business,  defined as using customer information gleaned from social media marketing to enable more efficient and effective decisions,  actions and outcomes within the organization.  The study also developed a continuum of social media use:

  • Socially Familiar- organization is present on at least one platform and has policy guidelines;  the organization is experimenting to learn what works
  • Socially Present- organization has minimal or limited social media staffing, strategies,  or policy guidelines;  brand advancement forms the core of information communicated
  • Socially Enabled- social media platforms form the basis of customer outreach;  moderate to significant levels of budget,  staffing,  policy guidelines and strategies are in place and utilized optimally
  • Socially Integrated- organization has significant use of the above indicators;  communication is two-way,  with much customer engagement;  information gleaned is incorporated across the organization

Companies usually approach social media involvement through a few Socially Familiar staff members who experiment with various platforms to figure out what works best for company objectives.  After about 3 – 6 months,  those staff members will present their findings to direct-report management and request approval to advance to the next level.   At the Socially Present stage,  selected social media platforms are used to broadcast brand awareness messages and marketing campaign information.  Communication is primarily one-way.   This period usually lasts 6 – 24 months.

At the Socially Enabled stage,  communication is primarily two-way and information is deemed actionable.  Social media staff gather and disseminate information from social media communications deep within the organization,  where it impacts R & D,  customer service,  technical support,  marketing campaign strategies,  sales distribution choices and other functions.   Social media may play a role in nurturing relationships with organizational partners and suppliers.  Tangible social media ROI is recognized.  The final stage,  Socially Integrated,  is only rarely achieved at this point.  In fact,  this stage may not fit the objectives of most businesses.

Insights brought forth from the study were what one would expect.  C-suites executives are rapidly accepting the inevitability of social media and budgets are being made available to support staffing,  which is based in marketing departments.  Social media strategies are being developed and social media guidelines are being drafted (by legal departments).  Brand reinforcement,  rather than customer engagement,  is the primary goal of B2B social media strategies at this time,  but lead generation (sales departments),  R & D and customer service (operations departments) are emerging as important players.  Linking the social media strategy to business needs and performance metrics to measure ROI is becoming more common.

Nevertheless,   in most cases,  funding for social media initiatives remains low.   More than 50%  of respondents reported that their companies spent 5%  or less of their IT budgets on enabling social media platform tools.  23%  reported that their organizations had no plans to spend on social media.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Social Media Strategy for Solopreneurs

Participation in one or more social media platforms is now a given in both the professional and personal spheres.  Nearly every Freelance solopreneur has a presence on at least one social media platform,  even if participation is not active.  Social media have the potential to provide benefits to business owners,  the self-employed and the traditionally employed,  but in order to reap those benefits,  one needs to understand how social media can best function for you.

The first question to consider is,  who’s listening? Do those you want to reach participate in social media for their organization’s needs or just for their own career? That answer will determine which platform you choose.  The second question is,  what is your business?  The third question is,  will social media function for you as a sales tool,  a marketing tool,  or PR?

If you produce a product that potential customers want to see, e.g.,  landscaping,  photography or fancy cakes,  then Facebook Fan Page,  Google + Business and maybe Pinterest are your social media best bets.  These platforms give you a place to post photos of your lovely creations.  Musicians,  artists and dancers use these platforms to display performance photos and videos.  LinkedIn Professional Portfolio also allows photos,  slide shows  and videos to be posted to the profile.  However,  LinkedIn has a “corporate”  image and prospective customers will not automatically search that platform when checking you out.

Foursquare is ideal for a bricks and mortar business.  First,  the platform specializes in geolocation,  so you’ll ensure that potential customers will find your business and second,  you can initiate dialogue between your business and customers.  Your customers may have already entered your business and created a page for you.  Links to Facebook and Twitter are available.  To track your advertising reach and evaluate the platform’s ROI,  offer exclusive  Foursquare specials and product updates.

Regarding dialogue,  Twitter is the king of all social media when having conversations about your business or industry is the goal.  Tweet the announcement of the class you’ll teach,  the conference you’ll attend and your thoughts on the presentation you just heard at that conference.   Store owners tweet the arrival of new merchandise;  restaurant owners tweet the daily specials;  musicians tweet the dates of upcoming performances.

LinkedIn is the social media platform of choice for the traditionally employed and Freelancers who offer business services.  I think of LinkedIn as my adjunct website,  where I can announce professional victories,  post a Power Point presentation that gives an overview of my services on Slide Share and link this blog and supply updates of new posts to my connections.  LinkedIn Groups lets me interact with peers in my industry by reading and participating in discussion threads.  Recruiters looking to fill jobs troll this platform in search of qualified candidates to interview.

Finally,  define how social media can function for you,  based on the business you’re in and the way your customers use social media.  If prospective customers like the look of the landscapes you design or the sound of your jazz combo and feel comfortable judging the value you provide online,  then social media directly impacts the sales process and is for you a sales tool .

If potential customers use Twitter memes to discuss industry developments,  then marketing is your social media strategy.  Use the platform to establish your bona fides as an up-to-date,  in-the-know thought leader.  Promote your expertise and develop a following by sharing a steady stream of relevant information  (content)  that will benefit prospects.  Tell,  don’t sell.

Google + Business Hang Outs,  which allow you to conduct a video call with up to 10 customers who may be located anywhere in the world,  make it possible to have an online face-to-face meet-up or meeting,  depending on your agenda.  Marketing as expressed through customer engagement,  market research and customer service is the social media function.

Peer-to-peer PR is the function of LinkedIn.  Stay abreast with what colleagues are doing professionally and announce your achievements.  Make recommendations and endorsements for those with whom you’ve worked,  in either a paid or volunteer position and receive commendations in return.  Those looking to hire employees or Freelance consultants always peruse the LinkedIn profiles of candidates,  so keep your profile current and complete.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Where the Freelance Money Is

You’ve written a business plan—now what?  Kim is the midwife who helps you take your business from the drawing board to reality in  “Business Plans:  Next Steps”.  Bring your completed business plan and join Kim and other hopeful entrepreneurs in round robin discussions where you’ll get a critique of your business model;  smart marketing/PR/social media  advice;  insights into sales distribution channels that make sense for you and your customers;  and suggestions on how to finance your business in today’s economy.  Wednesdays March 13,  20  & 27  5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston.  Register at  http://bit.ly/Zd9dqR   or call 617.267.4430 class ID 9074.

Some Freelancers are more likely to earn the coveted but elusive six-figure annual revenue than others.   Maybe you’re there or could be,  with some good luck and timing,  opening doors with the right skills.  Here are six potentially lucrative occupations that attract Freelancers:

Writing

Magazines do not often pay $2.00/word anymore and there are only so many 5000 word articles bring commissioned in this era of short attention spans,   but allegedly there a number of Freelancers still able to pull in big money through writing assignments of various kinds.  This category includes not only magazine and newspaper article generation,  but also technical writing.  I am acquainted with two or three Freelancers who’ve made a nice piece of change in the latter category.  It’s very boom and bust,  but the money is sometimes there.   Also,  Freelancers pay Freelancer colleagues to produce content for websites,  blogs,  newsletters and marketing collateral.   Writers need no special equipment,  other that a computer and writing software like Apache OpenOffice or Scrivener.  

Translating

I have a friend who regularly gets assignments translating Arabic and German to English and vice versa  (hello George!),  although he has other revenue streams in addition.   According to the American Translators Association,  their certified translators average $72,000/year and those without that certification average $53,000.   As you’d expect,  much depends upon the language you translate.   No surprise that there is a big demand for Spanish translation,  with Arabic,  Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin),  French,  German,  Japanese and Korean also showing strong demand.

Photography

Photography has long had the potential to produce a healthy Freelance income.   Wedding photographers have traditionally commanded large sums and they continue to do so,  in spite of robust competition from videographers.   Portrait photographers also command high prices—business owners and corpoate execs need a professional headshot for websites,  annual reports and other promotional uses.   E-commerce fattens the wallets of product photographers,  who make items sold on-line look appealing.  Food photography and fashion photography are lucrative sub-specialties.   Those lucky enough to have an  “in”  with colleges and/or big corporations can make a nice living,   as do those who have relationships with busy special event planners.  The downside is that good cameras and Adobe Photo Shop editing software are expensive.

SEO Search Engine Optimization

Freelancers who hope to drive traffic to their website pay confreres Freelancers for this potentially revenue-generating service.   Those new to the field can expect to bill $50.00/hour and allegedly the best known can command up to $500.00/hour from big corporate clients.  It is furthermore essential to be well-versed in the various metrics that prove your worth to clients,  so that satisfied customers can be recruited to give testimonials that help you obtain more clients.

Mobile App Development

Writing software applications for mobile devices like cell phones and tablets lured one million Freelancers to the field in 2010 and no doubt that number has grown significantly.  App development is like a modern day gold rush.   I recently read an article in the New York Times  (11/17/12)  about those who aren’t making money in the app development business and that is the usual scenario.  As author David Streitfeld details in his comprehensive article,  don”t quit your day job and developing for Apple is akin to sharecropping.   Still,  you may be the one who can retire on the residuals of the next  “Angry Birds”.  Another downside is that you must spend a hefty sum on the technology needed to test your apps in development.

Social Media Strategy

Millions of Freelance consultants and owners of businesses large and small feel that social media cannot be ignored and that in order to maximize its potential and not leave money on the table,  a specialist must be hired.  If you can convince decision-makers that you know how to choose social media that is appropriate for their business,   plan and execute a social media campaign and know how to  demonstrate measurable results,  you can be off to the races.  Newbies to the field can expect to bill $25.00 /hour and top-drawer known experts can allegedly bill $250.00 /hour to big corporate clients.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Guerilla Market Guru

We’ve made it through a very competitive presidential election and we witnessed quite a battle.  The President remains in office because he was the more strategic.  He ran the better campaign,  he had the better ground game,  his get out the vote initiative was superb.  In sum,  President Obama had the better marketing plan.

He didn’t execute as ruthlessly as political strategist Dorie Clark recommends (see the October 30 post),  but he took full advantage of a few key situations,   most notably the well-timed  (for him, anyway)  Hurricane Sandy.  He hopped onto Air Force One,  landed in hard-hit New Jersey (what an entrance!),  reassured numerous devastated and frightened residents and in the process,  managed to have sworn nemesis Governor Chris Christie eating out of his hand,  all with the TV cameras rolling.  New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg,  officially an Independent but really a Republican,  went so far as to endorse the President for re-election.  Talk about fortune smiling.

So the 2012 presidential campaign provides a blueprint for Freelance consultants who are trying to survive and thrive as the economic assault on the middle and working classes continues.  The only possible way to keep your business alive is to survey your unique set of circumstances and leverage all resources to strengthen your position.

One major factor in competing strong in a weak economy is remaining visible.  Longer lapses between assignments,  especially when combined with the insult of smaller projects and fewer billable hours,  are a dynamic that slashes your available money.  Yet one must do all that is possible to preserve the marketing budget,  for that is when we need it more than ever.

When marketing on a limited budget,  be very objective.  Review your marketing strategy and make sure that activities align with current conditions in your business environment.  Contact media outlets that have been just beyond your reach and inquire as to what your budget will support now.  I’m willing to bet that there are deals to be had.  Also,  advertisers can expect to receive some editorial space,  so when you purchase an ad,  expect at some point to be asked to give quotes or even write an article that will showcase your expertise.

Evaluate your core message and verify that it addresses what clients are most interested in when they consider hiring for your service category.  Be aware that client budgets and priorities may have shifted along with the economy.  Examine your website and print collaterals.  Sometimes a client will check you out before calling,  so make sure to communicate a message that will optimize every potential opportunity.

To both improve your reach and save on your marketing budget,   review your social media strategy.  Perhaps this is the time to explore Google + and figure out how it can help you engage clients and prospects,  or at least keep you visible in the best ways.  Google + invites client interaction,  making your marketing a two-way conversation that can enhance your brand by showcasing you as a trusted adviser and authority.

On the traditional media front,  write and distribute press releases to announce your participation in any business-related public event.  Oh yes,  and do make sure that you schedule yourself to speak at conferences whenever possible and conduct workshops and take on teaching opportunities.  Call your local adult learning center,  community college and neighborhood business association to figure out how to get on teaching and speaking calendars.

It is also very important to maintain good relations with current,  or previous clients.  Just last week,  as I finished up with a client meeting,  one of the principals asked if I’d mind if her daughter called me.  The daughter is a dancer with a mid-sized company that needs marketing strategy and PR work.  That meeting itself was the result of up-selling services that expanded billable hours with the client.

Superior service and excellent relationships matter more than ever in a highly competitive business environment.  Christmas and Chanukkah are coming.  Plan to send holiday cards to all clients you’ve worked with in the past five years.

Devise marketing moves to position your consultancy to win as much available business as possible.  Be a fierce competitor not by spending more,  but by being shrewd and recognizing opportunities.   Make every marketing move strategic and create good luck.  Only the strong and the lucky will survive and thrive.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Kim

Boost Social Media ROI

Like nearly all Freelance consultants,   I engage in social media  (LinkedIn)  for professional reasons.   I have yet to obtain a client through social media interactions  (my business is nearly 100% referral,  since basically no one hires business strategists or marketing consultants without a personal endorsement),  but I must keep up appearances and so I keep my profile in good shape and post relevant updates to keep things fresh.

The experts say that like all marketing campaigns,  what and how you communicate through social media must appropriately reflect your brand and appeal to current and prospective clients.   To achieve the desired return on investment from social media,   it is imperative to deliver the right message to the right sites.  To accomplish that,  you must know the customer.   Who hires you and what type of social media might they trust and follow?

To help define which social media platforms to focus on,   begin with the age group of your prospects.   Are they under 35 years old? If so,  they are more likely to be very comfortable with a variety of social media.  They’re likely to  own a smart phone,  tablet and laptop.   They may very well create and copiously share online social media content in their personal and professional lives. 

Conversely,   if your typical clients are 40+ years old  (like mine),  they are less likely to be heavily involved in social media and much less likely to create  content.   They may own a smart phone,   are guaranteed to use a computer and may even own a tablet,   but should they decide to share content,   it was most likely created by someone else.  

Social media expert Judith Lewis  says that about 20%  of social media users are High Sharers and about 80%  Low Sharers.  High Sharers are almost three times as likely as Low Sharers to recommend  products or services to those in their network.   Therefore,   it is wise to create content that will appeal to the High Sharers,  who will do some  “e-legwork”  on your behalf and boost your social media ROI. 

Lewis has identified seven types of social media High Sharers and explains how their sharing style can be leveraged to target and engage clients and prospects.   Give the list a read and see how you might tweak your message and perhaps vary the sites you use:

Altruists

Altruists share content out of a desire to help those in their network.  They respond well to appeals made through email and Facebook.  Altruists make up the largest percentage of social media users.

Selectives

This group shares information if they feel it will be useful for a specific individual.  They usually use email to share information.   Selectives comprise the second largest percentage of social media users.

Passionates

Passionates share information with those who share their intense interest in a given topic,  cause,  band,  fashion designer or whatever.  This group uses Facebook most frequently.   Also,  they are big contributors to customer review sites.

Connectors

As their name describes,  this group likes bringing people together to socialize or perhaps do business.   Connectors tend to use several social media sites,  most notably LinkedIn,  Flickr,  Twitter and Facebook.

Trendspotters

This type uses social media sites to show the world that they are on the bleeding edge of the hottest trends.   Trendspotters are compelled to build their credibility and they are busy working many social media platforms.  YouTube,   Foursquare,  Delicious,  Twitter and Facebook are favorites.   Trendspotters can be very useful for B2C  ventures seeking to increase visibility and sales,   especially in fashion,  electronics and baby products.

Provocateurs

Bloggers often fall into this category  (but not your humble diarist).   Provocateurs like to do just that—be controversial,  cheeky and outrageous and get a rise out their readers.  In addition to their blog,  these folks tend to favor YouTube,  Delicious,  Flickr and Twitter.

Careerists

This group will use social media networking almost exclusively for business purposes.   They favor LinkedIn,  but will use Facebook,  Twitter,  YouTube and Facebook as needed,  to effectively share information about their business enterprise or career.

As a postscript,   I will say that I don’t know any Freelancers who have successfully monetized their social media relationships.   From time to time I read and participate in LinkedIn Answers and there are those who swear that they get clients  (whom they have never met)  through LinkedIn.   I have my doubts.   Still,   creating some buzz will never hurt your business.  If you’re able to get on the radar screen of a High Sharer who will post a good recommendation for your services,   at the very least this may help convince someone who is on the fence to go ahead and offer you the contract.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Tame the Technology

Nonstop information crashing into our consciousness via the 24 hour news cycle,  added to the waves of pings from our social media entourage, has caused a whole bunch of us who live in the internet-connected world to feel pummeled.  Stir in the no-end-in-sight economic bad news to the mix and you’ll understand why Freelancers are feeling unacceptably anxious and overwhelmed.  Our colleagues and clients in the corporate and not-for-profit worlds are feeling that way,  too  (maybe that’s why our emails sometimes go unanswered?).

Freelance consultants are nervous about staying current with market trends and selling cycles as we strive to anticipate fluctuating client priorities and keep contracts in-house.  We fear missing out on something important and that causes us to fear not being on-call nearly 24/7.   The mental fatigue and resulting stress take a toll on peace of mind.

Sherry Turkle,  professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA and founder of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self,  says  “We are struggling with the always-on feeling of connection that the internet can provide,  but we still need to figure out how to limit its influence on our lives.  We sometimes need to get a grip and separate ourselves from the iPhone”.  (New York Times April 17, 2011)

William Powers,  author of  “Hamlet’s Blackberry” (2010),  a book about taking control of your digital life,  appeared on a panel at the 2011 South x Southwest conference in Austin, TX and noted that he witnessed  “…a gigantic competition to see who could be more absent from the people and conversations happening right around them.   Everyone…was gazing into their little devices—a bit desperately,  too,  as if their lives depended on not missing the next tweet”.  (New York Times April 17, 2011)

I hereby suggest that you turn off your toys for a few minutes and let me help you learn how to manage your connections,  rather than be managed by them.  There is a time to  “just say no”  and we can figure that out here and regain control of our schedules,  handle our responsibilities with fewer distractions and increase opportunities for rest and regeneration.

Freelancers fear that if we are not constantly available,  our clients will become upset and lose confidence in us.  We’re afraid that competitors will obtain information that we don’t possess and use it to gain an advantage.  We’re terrified of being perceived as not being on top of things.  Maybe we’ll miss out on a good assignment,  an opportunity to shine and bring in some good billables?  Yet those who study the effects of stress and fatigue on productivity and creativity recommend that we find some downtime,  to recharge the batteries and calm the mind.  It is wise to set boundaries and unplug.

Try this strategy on for size: unless you’re on a big project,  Monday – Friday,  turn your phone off at 6:00 PM and check email and phone messages just once during the evening.   Start your day with a check-in by 7:00 AM.  On weekends,  check for business-related messages just twice a day,  in mid-morning and late afternoon.   Draw a definitive boundary between your working hours and personal time.

Revisit the practice of off-line communication.   Because there is such an intense focus on online social media as a basis for networking,  the value of face-to-face interaction,  or even live telephone conversation,  becomes increasingly valuable in cementing our relationships.   When working with a client,  pick up the phone every once in a while to discuss an issue that you’d like to clarify.  If you’ll be near a client’s office,  extend an invitation to come out and meet for coffee.  It will go a long way in building the relationship and will make working together more effective and pleasant.

Thanks for reading,

Kim