A Step-by-Step Guide for Going After Clients You Really Want

by | Mar 25, 2014

To find clients, most freelance writers — especially new ones — need to get out there and approach them.

But this strategy, known as direct marketing, can be intimidating if you haven’t tried it before. Most of us don’t like marketing ourselves because we’re afraid to appear sleazy. Who wants to come across like one of those pushy door-to-door salespeople?

Here’s the truth: direct marketing is awesome.

While you may already use blogging, referral programs and social media to strategically position yourself in the market and allow customers to come to you, you can’t rely solely on this inbound marketing to get new business. If you want more clients, you need to use direct marketing: reach out to them instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Make sure that your direct marketing efforts make an impact by using the following strategies.

Do your research

Don’t just blindly send out emails or marketing messages. Look up every business or individual that you want approach. What’s their background? What are their goals? And more importantly, why would they need your services? Find out everything you can about your prospects.

For instance, whenever I reach out to a business to offer my writing services, I make sure to check their website, read their blog, view their latest tweets, etc. This research ensures that I’m totally clear on how I can help them and whether they’re a good fit for my business, and leads into my next step.

Direct your messages to a specific person instead of a general mailbox

Make sure the right people — the decision-makers — see your message. When pitching your services to a larger company, it’s best to approach the marketing department instead of customer service or the general mailbox. If you’re dealing with a small business or startup, the company’s founder is usually a good bet.

Go back to your research and figure out your ideal point-of-contact. Look them up on LinkedIn and Twitter, then figure out the best way to approach them.

Personalize your approach

Use the intel you uncover to customize your message. Show the prospect that you did your research by mentioning company-specific information or referencing recent blog posts or tweets. For example, if you read that the business recently won an award, include a note of congratulations in your message. Your thoughtfulness will impress the client and they’ll be more inclined to respond.

Quick tip: To easily find information about your potential clients, check out Rapportive, a nifty browser plugin for Gmail that shows handy social information about your contacts right from your email interface. While you’re composing an email to Jane Doe, the plugin will display her social media accounts, blog, and recent tweets, so you can quickly find info that you can use to personalize your message.

Be specific and sincere with your compliments

Flattery will get you nowhere — true or false?

Compliments can further personalize your pitch and help you get off on the right foot with your client — as long as you’re being genuine.

A good way to demonstrate your sincerity is issuing specific compliments. Don’t just say “cool website!” or “I love your company.” Be more detailed. What exactly do you like about their company? Which particular website features do you love?

Giving genuine and specific words of praise will help you make a stronger impression and increase the chances of hearing back from the potential client.

Offer tailored recommendations

Go beyond the compliments and tailored messages to show exactly what you can do for the client. Give them useful information that will help them improve their content — no strings attached. (Click to tweet this idea.)

It’s a powerful client outreach technique because it’s incredibly effective. Personal finance and behavioral psychology author Ramit Sethi calls it the “Briefcase Technique,” because you’re pulling an incredible menu of ways you will help the client right out of your briefcase.

Before pitching one prospective client, I studied their archived blog posts, then suggested headlines, topics and even some formatting tips.

The result? The prospect got back to me after a few weeks and hired me to write eight blog posts per month.

What are your best tips when it comes to approaching potential clients?