Category: Marketing

Make your own marketing materials

Having a successful business means successful marketing, as we all know. Along with cold calling, cold emailing, and word-of-mouth marketing, it’s just as important to have professional materials that you can physically hand someone. Lately, while out and about doing day-to-day errands, I make it a point to talk about what I do. What always follows is a request for my business card. I love my business cards, but I know I also need something more.

When I contact new prospects, I need to be ready to send them a brochure as well. Sure, my website is a brochure of sorts, but everyone has a website these days. Anyone can make a cold call or send an email. But a freelancer who uses a variety of marketing materials, both online and on paper, will stand out in the crowd.

Luckily, there are lots of options for getting printed materials for your business. You can hire a graphic designer and then hire a printer, you can try printing things from your own home, or you can use an online document producing and printing company.

You can create your own documents right on their site. Making your product is simple, and you can type text, add pictures, and move things around quite easily. You can also upload a finished project or use one of their templates. When you’re planning a major marketing campaign, details are important. You can get an idea of the paper types by ordering the samples ahead of time. I like to know the weight, the texture, and how light affects the paper when I have a serious project.

As a freelance writer, I sometimes run across clients who need printed materials as well. A reasonably-priced printing service is a great complement to my business. Besides brochures, you can try magnets, calendars, catalogs, window clings, envelopes, and a whole host of other marketing materials. And yes…even business cards.

Have you ever used an online printing company?

Don’t be shy!

Silhouette of birds

Okay, you’re self-employed. You have a wonderful freelance business. Maybe you’re a photographer, a graphic designer, a website designer, or a copywriter. Maybe you bake cakes, make jewelry, or fix cars. Whatever your business, there’s almost no way you can get customers if you don’t tell people you’re open for business. In other words, you have to market yourself.

But it’s more than just marketing. Sure, you can put an ad on LinkedIn, make prospecting calls, or send out postcards. But you also need to really tell people about your business.

Be a squeaky wheel. Talk to random strangers, tell your friends (and maybe your enemies), boast to your doctor/dentist/priest. If you have children or you’ve been around someone who does, you know how he always bring the conversation around to how great his kid is. Well this is what you need to do with your business. Everyone should know about it, just like everyone knows that Ms. Jones’ three-year-old can tie her own shoes.

I haven’t been great about shouting from the mountaintops about Theda K. Communications. But like the start of the fall season, I am turning over a new leaf. Fair warning to the next person who finds himself in line behind me at the grocery store.

Have you told everyone that you own a business? What are you waiting for?

Crayon Writer Facebook fan page

According to Facebook’s press room, Facebook is a superpower. Well, I’m paraphrasing, but that just about sums it up. Active users number over 500 million, the average user has 130 “friends,” more than 700 billion minutes are spent on Facebook (each month!), and users share more than 30 billion pieces of content with their friends. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So it makes perfect sense for businesses, especially small businesses who have a tougher time reaching their markets, to get very involved with this online powerhouse. I started out with just a personal page. At first, I used it for keeping in touch with friends and family across the country (and the world). Later I expanded into connecting my blogs to my page, so my friends get instant updates whenever I post content on them.

Recently I took the plunge and started fan pages for this blog and my other blog, Marana Unwrapped.

What is the benefit of a fan page? There can be several, actually.

For one, you have a quicker way to interact with your fans. A blog post is usually a few paragraphs, and for me, it takes a bit of thought. Twitter is a useful mini-blogging platform, but there are so many tweets from others that your users have to read. I have a Twitter account, and I follow around 500 people, so I get multiple tweets in just a few minutes. There’s no way I can keep up unless I’m constantly looking at my Twitter stream.

But with a fan page, I can write shorter posts than on my blog, but longer than via Twitter. And unless your fan’s friends post constantly, your post will actually be noticed and read.

Exposure to new people is another benefit. When your fan first “like”s your page, it is announced to all of their friends on that user’s feed. You now have instant exposure to lots of new potential fans. And if your fan comments on your page or, even better, decides to share a post, you’ll get added exposure.

Facebook also has a built-in analytics feature, so you can find out how many impressions each post has received.

And your page doesn’t have to look just like everyone else’s. With Facebook Markup Language (fbml), you can personalize your page and make it stand out. If you’re so inclined. You can add applications and tabs, and even have new users land on the tab you want them to. Building lists can be done also, because you can request that users fill out contact forms when, say, joining a contest you’re running on your page.

The possibilities are almost endless. Harnessing the power of this social media giant is still in its infancy – Facebook has only been around since 2004.

Look to the sidebar on your right. You may have to scroll a bit. You’ll notice a nifty little rectangle right under the Donate box that mentions my Facebook fan page. Just click “like.” Or, if you’d prefer, head over to the Crayon Writer Facebook fan page directly. I haven’t done much with it yet, but like I said, the possibilities are endless (almost).

Do you have a Facebook fan page? How has it worked for your business or blog?

Cold Calling procrastination

Bus Stop

I’ve been learning a lot of cool things from watching the replays from International Freelancers Day (replays are only available until October 31, 2010). One of the messages I took to heart is that it’s crucial to prospect in order to get business. While that’s obvious, it still bears repeating. In order to make money doing any kind of freelancing, you need to let potential clients know you exist.

One of the best ways (in my opinion) to prospect is to make cold calls. Whenever I do a cold-calling campaign, I get new qualified leads (which, when handled correctly, may turn into paying clients). Whenever I stop making cold calls, my business grinds to a halt. According to Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-fed Writer (and also a presenter on International Freelancers Day), this mostly has to do with the low volume of calls I’m making. He suggests doing a full-force cold-calling campaign with hundreds of calls (and follow-ups once you get leads). Then you’ll never have to do such a huge number of cold calls in the future after that initial push.

Knowing what I know, and having heard the message repeatedly, why is it still so tough to pick up the phone? I actually like cold calling. I’m very much a phone person, and I love to talk to people. I don’t get discouraged when I get a ‘no,’ and I don’t even mind the occasional abrupt secretary. I’m good at cold calling.

But for some reason, the hurdle of that initial call is huge for me. So I start avoiding it. I make long Excel spreadsheets with prospects to call, I color-code the columns, I research more prospects to add to my list (which is easily over 100 already), and I start to negotiate with myself the best day and time to start calling. I write out my script by hand, then I re-write it on the computer and print it out for a neat copy, and I practice saying it (over and over).

My next procrastination step is thinking about the ideal location to make the calls. I check the batteries on my phone, think about whether or not to use Skype so I can use a headset, I research how to cold call, and then I’m finally ready.

Or not.

Now comes the hard part. I start deciding which company to call first. Surely I can’t call the first one, because they probably won’t need a freelance writer. So I look at their website. Yeah, I’m probably right. So on to the next one.

You get the idea. By the time I am really and truly ready to call, days or weeks have passed with absolutely no action being taken.

My advice to you (and me)? Skip most of the steps. The most important one, which I didn’t mention above, is to pick up the phone, dial the number, and ask for the name of the person in charge of hiring freelancers. Then ask for his/her email address so you can email your portfolio. Easy, right?

How you do handle your prospecting? Do you make cold calls easily, or do you procrastinate too? Any advice for the rest of us?

It’s all in the follow-up

Remember 1

Follow up. We hear it a thousand times. If you go for a job interview, make cold calls, or deal with a business for just about anything, it’s apparently crucial that you follow up.

Why?

Well after that initial contact — that initial great impression — the person you met with gets busy doing their everyday thing. And unfortunately, they start to forget things. Even that amazing conversation they had with you. Or even if they don’t forget, they get a follow-up call/email/letter from another candidate, and your brilliance suddenly becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

Here’s a quick and easy follow up method. Hopefully it will work, even for the laziest among us:

  • Before you head to the interview or appointment, address and put postage on your thank-you note’s envelope.
  • During your appointment, start thinking about what you’ll say in your personalized follow-up note. For more ideas on how to accomplish this, take a peek at this Freelance Switch article on following up.
  • As soon as you get home, write a personalized handwritten or typed note. If your initial communication was via phone, write a follow-up note before the end of the day.
  • Using some type of reminder system (Outlook, tickler files, cellphone, calendar), set a date no more than a month in advance to send another follow-up note. This one will be similar to the first “thank you” note, but it should mention how excited you are to eventually work with them.
  • If you’ve gotten no negative remarks, go ahead and schedule another note that goes out during a holiday or something similar. The point is to stay on your prospect’s mind in case a gig becomes available.

In my experience, the most difficult thing about following up is committing to doing it. If you’re pretty good at following up with potential clients, what’s your secret? Do you have a different method to share?


My Well-Fed Challenge Continues…

stairwell

A couple of weeks ago I started my Well-Fed Challenge. My goal is to make 400 cold calls to local businesses in 20 work days, letting them know I’m a freelance writer and finding out what their needs are. August 20 is my deadline.

So how am I doing?

So far I’ve made 103 calls! Yay!

Of those 103 calls, about 58 agreed I could send them my online commercial writing portfolio. Mind you, many of them were secretaries who were probably trying to get me off the phone, but it counts. I can now add them to my snail-mailing list of potential clients.

Of the 58 who gave me their email addresses, 18 were “hot” prospects. Either they use freelancer writers or they were very interested in seeing my portfolio. One of them even wants to interview me for a part-time position teaching copywriting at their college. I have the interview next week!

The companies I targeted for this first round all have a website, and were listed as having 25-250 employees in my library’s database. They are also all local. I made sure to have a few website designers, graphic designers, and advertising agencies in there too (so I wouldn’t get a million no’s).

One of my tactics is to be sure to ask for an email address every time, even if the secretary agreed to send me to voicemail. This is something Peter Bowerman suggests in The Well-Fed Writer. I figure that once I have an email address I can send future correspondence by snail mail (postcards, letters, etc.). I’ll start my snail mail follow-up campaign in a week or two.

Now for the downside.

I had to alter my plans a bit. I wanted to make 20-25 calls every day, but child care wasn’t available every day. So several days had to be skipped. On days when I did have child care, I sometimes would only have 2 hours to make my calls (and research each company a little bit before each call).

Also, when I did make my calls for the day, I still had to find time to go back and send emails with a link to my portfolio. With limited child care, and with a limited amount of steam (I fall asleep at about 10pm, shortly after my daughter goes to bed), I found that I needed to create time to send those emails. Sometimes I had to take time away from calling to do that.

After all, making the calls doesn’t get my information in front of people. Most of my calls are for information gathering only.

Next week will be a challenge. I have that interview, a doctor’s appointment, and I’m going to investigate another childcare provider. I will probably only be able to make calls and send emails on just 2 or 3 days (I hope).

Even if I don’t make my goal, I’ll keep reaching for it. Stay tuned!

Do you give up when you realize you can’t make your goal, do you keep trying, or do you alter your goal?

Getting referrals for your freelance business

Present 2

Working full-time for an employer may seem to put a damper on your freelancing business, but maybe it’s a secret weapon in disguise. Your employer may be a valuable source of referrals, little gifts that can go a long way toward enhancing your freelancing career.

Here are some tips for making your job work for you (as long as your employer doesn’t mind that you moonlight).

  • Your current employer may have hundreds of contacts, so be sure to ask for referrals. Even if you aren’t writing at your job, let your boss know that you are looking for new business. Give them your brochure, along with links to your online portfolio, website, and blog.
  • If your job doesn’t entail writing or editing, try to find opportunities to showcase your skills anyway. As a secretary, I’m often making copies, so I find time to scan outgoing documents for errors…a win-win situation for everyone.
  • Above all, do your best work, whatever it may be, at your current job. Even though you’re looking for writing referrals, your boss will be more inclined to help you if you went above and beyond to help them.

I also came across a great article over at Freelance Switch that discusses more ways to increase referrals.

How have you gotten referrals for your business? Has a current or former employer helped you?

From the mountain top (shouting it)

Achieve 1

A couple of days ago I announced that I was setting a course for my freelance copywriting business’ success.

Rather than reveal my plan all at once (besides, it’s still a work in progress), I figured I’d just start with each baby step that I’m taking.

One thing I figured out is that it’s not feasible for me to jump in, head first, with all the other daily responsibilities I have. That’s a pretty important point for everyone. A plan, to be achievable, has to be realistic for your particular situation. It can’t be too pitiful, like paying just the minimum due on your credit card with the goal of paying it off anytime soon.

But goals also can’t be too farfetched, or you’ll never even try to reach them. Like, say, planning to make a million dollars on the first day.

Here’s my goal: Initially I will make at least $2000 per month from my writing activities, not counting expenses and such. My timeline for this is within 3 months from today.

There! I said it out loud. Whew! That was hard!

How do I plan to make this income? I am primarily a business copywriter, focusing on tasks like press releases, web/blog copy, ads, annual reports, sales letters, newsletters, and brochures. I also do proofreading and editing.

I know I mentioned magazine writing in a previous post, but after some research I realized magazine writing isn’t best the way (for me) to achieve my goal.

Now that I’ve revealed my goal, let me tell you my first couple of steps.

In order to write for companies, I have to contact them, right? And in order to contact them, I need to have their phone numbers and/or email addresses. So my starting point is to compile a list of prospective companies. I’m using a free database that lists pertinent information, oftentimes including key players in the company. It’s a bit time-consuming, but I’d like a hefty list so I have no excuses.

My next step is to start making cold calls to my prospects. Basically, I ask for the person or department that probably hires freelancers, and then I ask that person if they do, indeed, ever outsource. Sometimes I get to the key person, and sometimes I have to settle for voicemail. Invariably, I get an email address and send them my intro letter and a link to my online portfolio. A lot of my procedure was gleaned from Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Writer. I highly recommend it.

When I can’t make cold calls (like when it’s too late at night, for instance), I’ll still make good use of my time by cold emailing prospects. I may still call them at some point, but with working during the day I won’t always be able to make cold calls.

Because my days aren’t structured yet, it’s hard for me to give myself a set number of calls/emails to make each day. I’ll have to play this by ear, but I will commit to spending 2 hours each day making contacts. I might be able to set different goals for the different types of days I have (days where I work vs. days that I don’t), but I’ll get back to you on that. If 2 hours is too easy, I’ll increase it, of course.

So that’s it for now. I’ll be making a lot of calls this month. So far my list is over 2000 companies long, which will definitely keep me busy.

Now…how am I going to organize all of the information I get? Outlook’s contact management program? Excel? Index cards? Stay tuned, and feel free to offer your prospecting hints.

Advertising with Crayon Writer

Crayon Writer has been around for more than a year, and it’s attracting a variety of visitors. I use Entrecard.com to boost my daily readership, and I have loyal subscribers as well. I’ve also been receiving inquiries about advertising with Crayon Writer, so it makes sense to make it easier for you.

You’ll notice the new advertising spots in the side columns. The smaller spaces are for 125×125 pixel ads, while the large one on top is negotiable (currently it’s 300×300).

The rates on the Advertise page are also negotiable. If you want to purchase several months in advance, I know we can work out a deal.

Why advertise on a blog? Readers are more likely to go directly to an advertised spot. Paper ads mean the reader has to put down the paper, pick up their phone or go to their computer, and then dial or type in the information. Advertising online just makes sense.

Have you ever advertised on a blog? How did it work for you?

Marketing with regular mail

I talk a lot about emailing for my marketing campaigns, but don’t forget about using good old-fashioned “snail” mail. Many prospects and clients don’t use email all the time, while some use it so much that your marketing message gets lost in the crowd.

Even if your prospect or client does read your message, it’s always a good idea to approach them several ways. For instance, say you have a regular client. You email them to let them know you’re still available. You could also call them to say hello.

And you can send a quarterly letter or postcard. The great thing about regular mail is that your client might keep it, especially if it’s catchy enough to get posted on a bulletin board.

Regular mail always looks better when you add a professional touch. Letterhead or a well-designed newsletter never hurts. Also, when sending communications in an envelope, make sure your return address label includes your business’ name. To make it quicker, consider investing in address stickers.

All of these products can be purchased at reasonable prices from companies like VistaPrint, where you can get more than just the free business cards we’ve all heard about. Good luck on your next marketing campaign, however you decide to implement it!

Have you used a combination of methods as your marketing technique, or do you stick to just one?