How do we attract and retain clients when we are working as a freelancer?
As trainers or consultants we get a meeting booked, we have a successful meeting and we are asked to submit a proposal. Often after submission of a proposal we are disappointed when we are not successful, thinking that it was a ‘done deal’ when we left the initial meeting. But how do we get the initial meetings? the more meetings, the more proposals, the more proposals the greater opportunity of a contract being awarded.
This morning I was reading a blog article about MLM (Multi Level Marketing), now while I am not a fan of this sector, like franchising, MLM does offer some insights into patterns of behaviour which can lead to success. Not to take notice of successful strategies and follow them (as appropriate for our business) is just plain silly.
In franchising the key is consistency – so how can we show our clients that we are consistent at the right things (for them). In the MLM world the lessons are a little different.
Success in MLM – Amway example
“You may have heard of Bill Britt, one of the most successful distributors in Amway. Some years ago, 20/20 (US TV show) did a feature story on Amway. They spent 19 minutes interviewing whiners and complainers – several distributors who had failed and showed the garages full of products they couldn’t sell. During the last minute of the show, Mr. Britt was interviewed in front of his palatial home. He was asked, “Mr. Britt, this business has obviously worked for you. What’s your secret?”
He replied, “There is no secret. I simply showed the plan to 1200 people. 900 said, ‘No’ and only 300 signed up. Out of those 300, only 85 did anything at all. Out of those 85 only 35 were serious, and out of those 35, 11 made me a millionaire.”
Copy from MLM Leadership Course http://bit.ly/wzicH
The article give other examples, but the key learning point for those of us in the freelance world is that it is a numbers game, or in the very least a variant on it. Rejection is a key part of the game and we have to keep going. The term ‘working through the numbers’ is used and in many ways they are correct. You cannot always expect to be successful with each proposal. It is a bit like having a website and expecting every visitor to buy your product or call you. It just does not work that way. Create the contact, build the relationship, make a proposal, get the work.. at each stage there is a loss or attrition of some kind.
In the article they identify four ‘enemies’ that need to be overcome:
- ENEMY #1: Rejection – inviting 200 friends over to his house to watch a marketing video. 80 said “No, not interested”
- ENEMY #2: Deception – He thought, “No problem. My sponsor warned me about that. I’ve got 120 people still coming over.” Guess what?
- ENEMY #3: Apathy – Mark thought, “No problem. My sponsor warned me about that. I’ve got 70 people who watched the tape.” Guess what? 57 said “Not Interested”.
- ENEMY #4: Attrition – Undaunted, Mark thought, “No problem. 13 people signed up.” Guess what? 12 of them dropped out of the business shortly thereafter.
The remaining one provided a substantial turnover for a significant number of years. Do you know what these factors look like in your potential clients? What strategies do you have for dealing with each one? Do you know when to ‘back off’ from a client as you will not get work from them? Remember people change, but of you still have the job title and phone number you can always make contact with the next job holder. In many ways this is a people business, do not expect to get on with everyone. Or of course what you are offering may not be right for them ‘at this time’ and a level of regular contact may not them at the ‘right time’.
Sledge hammer or intelligence and ‘engine power’
Many freelance consultants have one approach (sledge hammer) to ‘rejection’ – lower the day rate… NO!!!!!
Generating new clients is much like professional job search, you need to put your CV out to a number of agencies, each with several clients and one may strike it ‘lucky’. We need to market and promote our business so that we increase our success odds, not lower prices. Once a price is lowered, it is almost impossible to raise those prices with that client. It is not a sustainable approach.
Using a combination of ‘intelligence’ (where and when) combined with horse power (frequency and energy) we can lay the seeds that we are the right provider for the role.
So how do we raise our profile? How do we increase the number of people that know we exist?
The traditional approaches of networking is important, build relationships, get yourself known. Be a regular fixture at a number of key meetings that your potential clients will attend. Get yourself into the fabric of the meeting. Be active in regional groups, join appropriate networking groups. Don’t make the mistake of just ‘attending’, have a plan, participate, add value. use the ‘law’ of abundance – give first and you MAY get back later, but don’t expect a 1:1 return – it does not work like that. If you are me..me..me then you will not get the levels of engagement that you will if you help people find solutions from the best you know in a given area. Give first and you will get back in buckets later.
Publish. get your views and thoughts on key issues out into appropriate publications. And not just the supplier led ones, but the ones your potential clients will read. For example if a trainer, do you spend your time writing for training based journals or journals that your clients will read – i.e. industry specific ones?
Web 2.0is great but do not under estimate the time and effort required. This is not a one off approach it must be an investment. You need to get into peoples faces – be there every time they look for a particular search string relevant to your specialism. Yes you must specialise – there are 1000s of generalists – you will never beat them all, but you can be a big fish in a small pond. Using emails you can build a list of several hundred ‘luke warm’ potentials, you can add to this by purchasing pre-qualified lists.
Use all of the available tools, Blogs, video (YouTube), forums and communities, micro-blogs: twitter, identi.ca, friendfeed etc. These are all great and highly effective vehicles for a long term strategy. Learn how to use them to help deliver and manage your marketing messages. They are less intrusive than email, but are also more likely to be re-sent on to others that recipients know.
Putting a good article on a blog or e-zine site can generate 100s of views per month. Using a tool like one of the micro-blogs can get your message in-front of 1000s. Get in the habit of writing one or two 800-1000 word articles a month. once you have written a couple it gets easier. before putting good content onto third party sites, ensure that you have considered the balance of good content pointing to your site, or using good content to draw in traffic.
Do you digg technorati?
Book marking and index sites like Technorati and Digg are great, ensure that any blog you have (inc micro-blog) is listed and registered with these services. Make it easier for people to add ‘Diggs’ to their account, this adds exposure to your writing and content.
Change is key
For any on-line based presence change is vital. The same words will lose impact over time. It is important to keep things ‘fresh’. That may be daily, weekly or monthly, based on your identified strategy or plan – but do have a plan and deliver to it. Ad Hoc just does not deliver in a sustainable way.
We need to have a pipeline of potential work, knowing that several will not ‘come off’. We also need to be prepared to say ‘no’ to clients if we have a heavy schedule. If they want us they will wait. When people are waiting for you we can look to increasing our rates.
The name of the game is numbers and frequency. How often do you make contact with clients? tell them what you are doing, new ideas, thoughts etc?
What is your plan for raising your profile?