Friday, January 29, 2010

When Your Pitch Doesn't Line Up

I was at a networking event last week, and I met a guy there who ran an outsourcing firm with connections in India. We struck up a conversation, and he asked me what I do. I told him I was a copywriter who sometimes partners with web and graphic design firms. And for some reason--I'm not sure how--he got the idea that I was his ideal client.

He immediately launched into his pitch--really more of a speech--describing to me in impassioned terms why I should be outsourcing my writing work to India. "You don't want to be running a small business writing all your life? Right? You want to grow." He proceeded to describe to me how I could outsource my client work immediately, pay the writers a pittance while pocketing the difference, and just perform a "quality check" (he must have used the phrase "quality check" about sixteen times) before sending it back to the client.

Not once did he consider that marketing writing is a specialized skill--you can't outsource it to others who don't have that skill. It's really inadvisable in my experience to write marketing copy without having a direct conversation with the client. And not speaking fluent English is also a pretty big hurdle to leap. While his business model might work for some companies, writing is just not something you can outsource to low-paid workers in India if you want a quality product.

The thing is, he wasn't just wasting my time--he was wasting his own, when he could have been talking to someone who needed what he had to sell. So how do you tell if you're the Indian outsourcing guy trying to pitch to the copywriter? Here are a few things I can think of.

You aren't asking questions. Lots of questions. This guy heard that I "partner" with web design firms sometimes, and he was off and running. He didn't ask deeper questions about the nature of the partnership or the work involved. Before you give someone a pitch, prequalify them--for gawd's sake.

You aren't picking up the subtle hints. Is the person you're talking to looking at you with a glazed expression? Are they looking around the room for someone to rescue them or glancing surreptitiously at the wall clock? Are they not asking any questions themselves? Then they're probably not interested.

Do some research beforehand. Not everybody is your prospect. Think about how different kinds of businesses really work. Talk to people in those businesses to get honest feedback about whether they could use your services. Know who your ideal prospect is before you walk into a networking event.

A pitch should be short, and you shouldn't bring the hard sell into a networking event. You're not there to close deals--you're there to make contacts. This guy wasn't a match for me--but hopefully the next person he talked to was. If he'd been paying attention, he might have been able to get to that person just a little sooner.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Staying in Front of Clients

I read somewhere that it takes about seven impressions for someone to make a decision to hire you. That's seven times you have to show up in front of them, whether it's in person, online or through the mail. Of course, it's easier to get business from people who have worked with you before than with new clients--but even then, if you don't stay in front of people who hired you once or twice, they could forget you exist.

Staying in front of clients doesn't take a huge time commitment. Here are a few things I do.

Start an E-zine. I have an e-zine on my freelance writing website that offers web copywriting and business writing tips. I usually send informational articles rather than offers, and my hope is it will do two things: Showcase my skills and keep me in front of clients. Regularly showing your expertise in this way will help prospective clients get to know your approach and trust your skills--before they hire you.

Send out cards. I'm planning to get more regular about sending cards to prospects and clients. I'd like to have the discipline to send out a card mailing every three months or so--or at least on Christmas. It takes a long time for me to order postcards, print out addresses and send out a postcard campaign, however, and often I forget about it. But lately I've been looking into a company called Send Out Cards, which prints the postcard you choose and mails it for you--all you have to do is set up some campaigns with addresses and send dates. Theoretically, you could set your entire card campaign for the year on autopilot. I haven't signed up yet, but I love the idea.

Send the occasional email. Every so often I send a random email to people I've worked with in the past, just checking in to see how things are doing. Often I get a note back something along the lines of, "was just thinking about getting in touch--I have a new project in the works." It's always great to hear that, and I've landed thousands in extra work just from this simple step.

Send an offer. Every so often I'll also send previous clients an email offer--something like 10% off their first order for the month--to drum up business. It works more often than not, even if it's just a couple of small projects.

What do you do to stay in front of your clients?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back to Blogging

So I've been missing in action for a bit. There's a good reason: in the past month I've moved to Brooklyn and set up a brand new office--there's a picture of it here. In addition to managing a regular work day and a few side projects, it's been a lot to deal with. But I"m looking forward to being back on a regular (or semi-regular, as my life is shaping up lately) posting schedule again.

A new office is like a new start in your work life. My office space isn't large, but it's enough space for me to organize my desk area, put together some storage units I'll actually use, and develop a system (I've already put together some postcard mailing campaigns I hope to make use of this year). I didn't realize how cluttered my old office space was--and how scattered I felt in it. In this space it's warm, inviting and well organized--which makes a huge difference.

I'll be back here three times a week for the foreseeable future, and I'm looking forward to 2010!