by Jim Weber, Featured Contributor
Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of this Series HERE
LAST WEEK I participated in a webinar on social media marketing. The presenter, a digital media guru, made a very interesting point. Recognizing the difficulty of selling, and the aversion to selling for many, she said, “make it easy for people to buy from you.” A very subtle but interesting twist of thinking. Military tacticians might call this a flanking maneuver. In other words, don’t approach your prospects where their defenses are the strongest approach them through their trusted friends and associates whose needs have been satisfied by your services. Use the power of your network and networking.
Sounds easy enough, right? The idea of networking and making new friends without cold calling, but how do I do that? Most freelancers I know are using LinkedIn, which is an excellent place to start. Make sure your profile is complete and fully describes your services. This simple point is so often neglected. Many LinkedIn users have incomplete profiles which tends to work against their goals. Spend the extra money to have a paid subscription. The added benefits will be very useful, especially the ease of direct contact to prospects, and the search engine optimization feature. When I perform a Google search of my name or brand name, my LinkedIn page shows up before my website. This LinkedIn benefit makes it easier for people to find you. Generate more exposure and contacts by participating in LinkedIn groups that parallel your interests. Another small but often over-looked technique is to place a link to your LinkedIn page in all of your correspondence, usually in the signature section. Simple, right?
Speaking of websites, you need one of those too! But, don’t go out and pay big-bucks to a web designer. There are many hosting services like Go-Daddy or Web.com that offer affordable rates for template-driven, do-it-yourself websites. The important point about LikedIn and your website is to use both as communication vehicles to your network, a/k/a your Business Development Team. Let people know what you are working on; new assignments you have landed; and assignments you have completed. I learned the last technique from Wall-Street Merchant Bankers. I cannot begin to tell you how many new searches I have signed from this simple tactic.
When I began my business, internet marketing was in its infancy. I began using email blasts to keep my network and prospects up to date on my work. I would even profile interesting candidates. It was an excellent way to generate interest and new business. To become more efficient and effective, I have migrated over to Constant Contact to help manage my email marking efforts. I use Mail Chimp to support similar efforts in my role as Vice President for my Alumni Chapter. Today there is a vast array of tools to use, including Face Book, Twitter, and Blogs to help promote your brand. These are low cost ways to grow your network by communicating the benefits of your brand. They allow you to remind people that you are still in business, that you are landing new contracts and that you are successfully completing your work. These tools help keep your brand top-of-mind so that when the need arises your clients and prospects know to call you. You must use them however, by budgeting time to talk to your network.
If your clients are agreeable, identify them alongside your completed contracts. Ask then for references and referrals. This is the time-tested “Band Wagon Strategy.” When you complete an assignment, assuming it was successful, remember to ask the client for a reference and for referrals. Put clients on your team and encourage him to support your business development efforts. This is one way to leverage your relationship. I have a friend who refuses to even consider this technique. He views it as an ethical violation. Unfortunately, his business suffers frequent famines from his failure to put his clients on his team. LinkedIn provides your clients the ability to give you recommendations. I like to place their quotes on my brand’s website as well. Make it easy for them by writing your own reference. They can edit to their liking and then cut and paste the reference into your LinkedIn page.
So far, what has been discussed here has been low-cost, low-time commitment activities that will yield big results. I am amazed that these simple techniques are not more widely used. The number of new contacts I have made from people who have been forwarded my announcements from my primary network contacts is equally impressive. Sometimes the responses I receive are the result of my emails that have been forwarded three or more times. Talk about the power of networking! Updating your network via LinkedIn/Face Book/Twitter, etc., is something that can be done before breakfast requiring minimal time. It is a great place to start!
If you want to step it up a notch, start a blog and promote it to your network. My blog is based on my actual experience. I like to reach out to contacts and prospects to get their thoughts on the projects I am working and quote them in my blog. This is a powerful twist on the Cold Call. In fact, it is a non-threatening sales call where the prospect is more than happy to spend time offering their opinions. Admittedly, this takes a little more time, but can be manageable if spread over a few days. Most of my blog posts become reference material for my candidates, preparing them for the interview process.
The tools are there to use, but you must make the time to put them into effect.
In part three, we will discuss face-to-face networking strategies to help spread the word about your business.
Editor’s Note: This Article was originally featured on Innovative Employment Strategies and has been republished with permission.