After a frustrating dry spell in terms of getting new corporate clients I changed my marketing strategy. Actually, this new strategy is the old strategy I used when I first became a full-time freelancer. Specifically, I returned to a focus on medium and large-size companies ($500 million to more than $1 billion in annual sales) located in my city (Houston). I had drifted into doing long-distance marketing by e-mail with interviews by telephone. I got some very good short-term gigs over the years. However, overall I had a low response rate to the letters of introduction I e-mailed to corporate contacts. In addition, in most cases these clients had no loyalty when their work assignments were intermittent (1 to 4 assignments per year).
Interviewing locally means I can do face-to-face interviews and make a stronger impression than I can by e-mail or over the telephone. I can respond in real time to questions about my qualifications. During face-to-face interviews I have found that I am more likely to talk to more than one person, which can help in garnering additional assignments later.
Face-to-face meetings also seem to be more flexible than communicating by e-mail or telephone. Remarks potential clients made during in-person discussions have led me to follow up with other proposals that result in additional business. For example, I recently met with a company department manager who complained about the poor writing skills of many of his recently hired employees. English was often their second language. I had already taught writing and oral presentation workshops for other firms and, having brought my laptop computer with me, showed him some of my slides for these workshops. This strategy has resulted in four lucrative assignments to present workshops on these subjects in addition to the writing assignments I interviewed for.
In-person meetings also help when giving contacts hardcopies of long samples of my writing like 25-page whitepapers during face-to-face interviews. I have found that some clients are more likely to read these hardcopies than read much of an electronic copy beyond the first page.
Other Ways To Meet Clients And Potential Clients
In addition to formal face-to-face interviews with clients, I also run into current and potential clients at local meetings of professional organizations. My current clients often attend these meetings with one or more colleagues from their firm. We’ll introduce ourselves and exchange business cards. Occasionally these impromptu meetings result in one of these coworkers contacting me regarding some writing work.
I occasionally run into some of my local clients at coffee shops and restaurants near their offices. I also schedule occasional 20 to 30 minute meetings with them over coffee, often at breakfast time in a coffee shop. We discuss trends and events in their industry. These conversations serve to remind them that I am available to do writing for them. These meetings have the advantage of being a minimal disruption of my clients’ work day. Whenever I am downtown on other business I try to schedule at least one of these short client meetings.
Participating in face-to-face meetings has helped me develop multiple contacts at a single company. This is helpful when so many companies continue to downsize and some people who used to give me multiple assignments have changed employers. Being on site and visible helps me develop contacts likely to give me work in more than one department in the company.
Nature Of My Work
Much of my corporate writing involves interviewing company experts face-to-face and then writing a whitepaper based largely on the interview. The interviews, usually 1 to 2 hours long, provide me an opportunity to make a favorable impression on my interview subject who sometimes brings up my name when their company is considering writing another whitepaper.
In these days of social media, we sometimes forget the power of face-to-face meetings. Last week I began my first assignment for a new corporate client with the strong likelihood of more assignments in the future. Sometimes old-fashioned methods work!
John Borchardt has written more than 1,400 articles published in magazines, newspapers and online. He is currently working on a new book, “Accelerating Innovation through Effect Laboratory Management.” He writes a weekly blog running for “Laboratory Management Magazine” and frequently blogs for the American Chemical Society.