Note: If this post has a familiar ring, there’s a reason for that: I ran it as an “Appetizer” course in The Well-Fed E-PUB this past September. It’s one of those topics that begs for other voices weighing in with their great follow-up stories. Look for similar re-purposed stories in the coming months.
How important is following up with prospective commercial freelancing clients? AND being willing to push things a little? Well, you tell me…
Last fall, I was at the front-end of a vacation, and got a call from a prospect back home, looking for copywriting services, and who’d found me through a Google search. I told her I’d be back in action in a week or so. Fine, she said. Call me then.
Which I did, early in the week I got back. Left a voice mail, and after a few days, still no return call. Then, one morning late that week, my phone rang. It was her. Sort of. I answered, but all I heard was rustling and background noises. Great. Butt-dial.
A More Proactive Me Now what? Well, a less experienced, more cowardly commercial-writing version of me would’ve justified not calling: “If she was ready to call me, she’d have really called me, so I’ll just let it alone and follow up later.” But, today’s version of yours truly said, “No guts, no glory. Strike while the iron is hot,” and probably a few other trite platitudes.
More importantly, I decided to capitalize on her contact, no matter how unintentional it was. I redialed her. She answered warily; clearly, she didn’t know who was calling. I told her who it was, and that I’d just gotten a call from her, and asking, with a merry tone in my voice, if she’d butt-dialed me. Yes, she admitted, in fact she had.
Could have been a very awkward moment—heck, it was an awkward moment—but I just jumped in, and asked if she had a moment to chat. She was caught off guard, and I could tell she hadn’t planned on this, but said okay. I then asked her, just to make sure, if she was still looking for someone like me, and she said yes.
Hitting Hot Buttons
Long story short, I kept up the patter (why not? what’s the worst that could’ve happened?), reiterating my sales and marketing background, which I know caught her attention originally, and she quickly warmed to the conversation.
She started talking about the project, and what she was looking for. It was exactly what I’d had a ton of experience doing as a commercial freelancer, and I told her so.
Next thing I know, she’s suggesting a meeting, which happened the following week, followed by an estimate for a meaty project, an acceptance, and a deposit check in hand a few days later. Might have happened anyway, but always better to take control.
Calculated Risk Pays Off
Because she had originally reached out to me, after doing her research to find the right commercial copywriter, I knew she was motivated to get the project done. Copywriting prospects don’t proactively take steps like that unless they’re ready to go. Hence, I fell pretty comfortable nudging a bit.
Good clients like copywriters who take control of projects and keep things moving, and I decided to start that process before landing the deal.
Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, especially if a client has reached out to you—or been exceptionally receptive to your initial contact. It might be exactly what’s needed.
Got any good stories of successful follow-up?
Have you ever forgotten to follow up and it cost you? (Who hasn’t, right?)
Anything you’ve learned about follow-up from your copywriting experience?
Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.
In the June 2009 issue of The Well-Fed E-PUB, I ran a piece summarizing copywriting guru Marcia Yudkin’s take on direct mail marketing vs. email marketing. Marcia came down on the side of using direct mail marketing to promote a commercial freelancing business, and for these reasons:
1) If you irritate a client with your email, or they change providers without notifying you, or just try to reduce their volume, you’ve lost them forever. Mail? As she points out: “Way fewer people request no postal mailings.”?
2) Many folks filter and file incoming email without looking at it. Mail? “Hardly anyone discards a postcard, though, without at least glancing at both sides.”?
3) Finally, and perhaps most compelling, she observes: Email volume is rising while postal volume is dropping. Guess which medium it’s easier to stand out in”?
Right after the issue ran, I heard a counterpoint from LA FLCW Andrew Hindes, “The In-House Writer,” who’s had some good success with email marketing for promoting his commercial writing business. They are both right, which just underscores that there’s no ONE right way to do things. Andrew wrote:
1) People tend to respond to email immediately. Sure, they may delete it, but they might also reply with, “We’ll keep you in mind,” “Can you send me some samples?” “What are your rates?” or “We never us outside writers.”? This is useful in determining whether a prospect is worth pursuing in the future. With a post card, unless the recipient needs help right away—or knows they will in the near future—they’re not likely to respond.
2) An email can link to your website. True, a postcard can include your site’s URL, but clicking on a link is a lot easier – and hence more likely – than typing the URL into a browser. Once a prospect visits your site, there are numerous ways you can further engage them, including newsletters, special offers, etc.
3) Emails can easily be forwarded. If your message doesn’t reach the correct contact at the company, the recipient can pass it on to the right person with a few keystrokes. Or they may forward it later to someone they know is looking for a writer. This has happened to me on numerous occasions.
4) It’s easier for the client to cut and paste your contact info from an email into Outlook or another address book program than to type it from a post card.
5) Unless your postcard is incredibly beautiful or compelling, an executive is not likely to keep it around for long. Most people go through their mail within tossing distance of the recycling bin (I know I do). And even if they do keep you card, it’s likely to be buried under a pile the next time they’re looking for a writer. On the other hand, most people are bad at deleting old emails unless they do it right away. So if your email is still in their inbox, they can pull it up using sort or search functions.
6) Email is cheaper. I usually hire a graphic designer and use custom printing in an effort to create cards I hope will really stand out. But even using the online service you mention at $300 for 1,000 post cards, once you add the 28 cents for postage you’re up to $580 total for the mailing (or 44 cents for an oversized card, for a $740 total mailing cost). 1,000 emails? Priceless (and costless!).
7) Because email messages are cheaper and you can easily create them yourself, it’s very convenient and cost-effective to test different copy and headlines. I typically create three or four different emails and try each one on 25 prospects. If one gets a significantly higher response rate, I use that one on the rest of my list – including those who didn’t respond to the previous message. After all, I’ve got nothing to lose – and it’s free.
What’s been your experience with both?
Has one worked better than the other, and if so, why do you think that’s so?
Have you used any other related strategy to good effect?