Business: Three-Steps to get Clients to Come to You
Regardless of how good you are at your work, if you can’t get clients to hire you, all your talent, hard work and experience are wasted.
By Jay Huling
New business is the life blood for everyone from the full-service production facility to the solo professional with a camera, grip gear, or makeup kit. The good news? Your lack of success chasing clients is probably not your fault. You’ve simply been taught the wrong way to market your business; the way you’ve seen everybody else do it; the way that doesn’t work.
Hoping word-of-mouth gets you more work is a prayer, not a plan. If you are sick and tired of the frustrating parade of pitches, networking, cold calls, and all-nighters preparing RFP responses that never lead anywhere, I’ve got three steps you can take to stop chasing clients and to start attracting them to you. It’s as easy as Who, What, and Where.
Decide Who You Want to Hire You
Who wants you, and why should they hire you? If you’re doing things the wrong way, you’re trying to answer that question through a proposal, a reel, or a resumé. That puts the focus on you. Forget about you. Yes, eventually you’ll need to show your stuff, if asked, but save it for later. This isn’t a beauty pageant or a chest-thumping contest. Your potential client honestly doesn’t care about you right now.
“I’ve never gone into the office anticipating the next great resumé to arrive in my inbox, and yet I hire crews all the time for our projects,” says Steve McMillan, owner and director of photography at Advantage Video Production. “I expect your reel to be good. I expect your references to rave about you. Those things are prerequisites. The real trick is getting my attention in the first place.”
You need to show up differently. That doesn’t mean you have to do anything crazy, but thinking that your reel, resumé, or proposal is “so good it sells itself” is fool’s folly. That’s what all the out-of-work people do. Instead of trying to sell yourself to everybody, what you need is specific “bait” to a specific somebody.
For years, I’ve sold my marketing services with a piece entitled 5 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Freelance Copywriter. It’s now a full-color brochure, but it started out as a simple black and white report printed and bound on plain paper. Yours doesn’t have to be expensive. What it does have to be is relevant to your prospect’s interests, wants, and needs.
I suggest you use mine as your template and fill in the blanks appropriate for your business. For example: 3 Questions Every Producer Should Answer . . . 7 Mistakes Clients Make When Hiring a Film Crew . . . or 9 Secrets Your Video Editor Doesn’t Want You to Know.
Next time, instead of listing all of your awards, clients, and experience in an industry directory, offer your free report. If yours has a compelling title that appeals to your prospects’ self-interest, they will ask for it.
If you’re expecting your prospect to hire you on first contact, you’re asking them to take too big of a leap. But when you offer some kind of valuable information the prospect already wants, you set the stage for developing a relationship that will pay off with just a little follow up.
Decide What Will Make Your Prospect Take Notice
OK, you know whom you’re targeting—but what are you going to say? Are you just like everyone else? If so, your message will be easily ignored and soon forgotten. You need to be compelling, intriguing, and magnetic.
“Realize that people judge you long before they meet you, so first impressions can make or break you,” says Genna Goodwin, production manager at Goodwin Production Services. “Production professionals want to work with people they know, like, and trust. So your first job—before you can think about even getting a job—is to earn that relationship so you’re taking away the natural risk people feel.”
One of the unique messages that has served me well is my money-back guarantee—something unheard of from marketing professionals like me. Not only does no one else offer it, but most writers go out of their way to make excuses for why they can’t offer it. Yet, in my business, new clients often have this unspoken question in the back of their head: “What if we spend all this money and we don’t get any business?” My money-back guarantee assuages their fears.
What’s your unique message? Regardless of whether or not others offer your exact same service, you can position yourself differently from your competition. Many writers could offer a money-back guarantee, but they don’t. That makes me unique. You can find that special something extra about you, too.
What’s different about how you work, do business, create, or how you deliver your product or service? What industry norms do you break?
Being good—or even great—simply isn’t good enough. There are too many other greats out there competing against you. You’ve got to set yourself apart.
One way to create a more unique message is to narrow your market. Pick an exclusive niche and focus your marketing on it. Think about it; for example, if you specialize in shooting sales videos for banks, who do you suspect a bank is going to view more favorably—you or the guy who claims to shoot all things for everyone?
If you’re trying to get noticed by anyone with a budget and a heartbeat, you’re watering down your appeal and making yourself just another vendor.
Decide Where to Deliver Your Message
When I was in kindergarten, my mother would pack my lunch and attach a little note on the dessert that read, “Eat me last.” Yes, she knew I’d want to dive into it first. Well, most professionals in the production industry have the same want. They first dive into the media they intend to use to deliver their marketing messages. They first create their reel, their website, or their presentation kit. Or, worse, they say, “We need more work. Let’s put an ad in the business journal.”
That’s a big cart-before-the-horse mistake. There’s a reason this is step number three. After you’ve figured out who and what, you’re better equipped to make smart decisions about where.
Let’s say you’ve chosen to offer a free report, and you know your message is something like this: “My free video production planning guide takes all the guesswork out of finding and hiring the right people to produce, shoot, and edit your next project. How to Make the Perfect Video Without Spending a Fortune and Without Getting Ripped Off gives you a step-by-step blueprint to make everything easy for you. To get your free production planning guide, simply call or email . . .”
Now you can see how a simple postcard or display ad will work for you.
Go ahead; use that copy as a template for your own messaging. Fill in the specifics of your offer and you’ll be off and running.
Whether your message is more appropriate for print, broadcast, direct mail, or internet, your key to success is a well-thought-out follow up. “The last time we were looking to hire someone we received over 100 reels. Only two of those people ever followed up. We hired both of them,” says Brenda Kolb, president of TigerLily Media. “Sometimes taking extra steps to keep in touch in a non-pushy way makes all the difference.”
If you’re not following up regularly and consistently, you’re losing projects to those who do. Those extra steps could be as simple as a friendly email every four to six weeks. Keep in mind, however, that everyone is getting increasingly more territorial about his or her email inbox and often resent it invaded with any kind of marketing message—even a friendly one.
A good old fashioned letter in an envelope sent via the post office will work much better. Clip out an article in an industry magazine and send it along with a note that says something like, “Hey, John, I saw this article and thought of you. I think it’s something you’d like.” You can find non-irritating ways to keep in touch and keep your name top of mind when your prospect is looking to hire.
Here’s the bottom line to all of this: Your prospects don’t owe you anything. They’re not required to pay any attention to you just because you want them to hire you. And they’re going to simply ignore the same old tired, empty, and ill-conceived attempts at marketing your services that they’ve seen a million times before.
You need to walk in their shoes and present yourself to them using their wants, needs, and desires as your calling card.
When you give your prospect the most relevant information he or she finds useful and memorable, you will convert more prospects into clients and get all the business you need.
Jay Huling is a direct response marketing specialist known as “The Consulting Copywriter” and has served as producer and scriptwriter for various corporate clients such as E! Entertainment Television, EverBank, MLB Network, and PitneyBowes. His popular marketing results newsletter The Huling Letter is published monthly. Click here to get a free copy of his audio CD How to Write Simple Sales Letters That Get Results Every Time.