More than 20 years ago I started my freelance career as a copywriter,
and a miserable career it was.
I studied the craft of copywriting from the few books that then were
available; and as an English major who’d been published in some high
profile journalistic venues, I thought I really could help companies sell
But I knew nothing of proper marketing…the need for “niching”…the importance of offers…the techniques for qualifying a prospect so you don’t waste your time.
After five or six hungry years, seeing everyone as a prospect and scraping the bottom of the barrel for clients, I had the good fortune to go to work for Portland, Oregon’s Rosen/Brown Direct (now AlloyRed). Rosen/Brown Direct was a small but high-powered direct response agency that had the respect of direct marketing leaders around the world.
What I learned at Rosen/Brown Direct changed my life, and as you’ll see, it may well change yours too…
Being senior copywriter and “acting” creative director for most of my eight years there — where we churned out award-winning campaign after award-winning campaign — gave me hands-on responsibility for creating results. It was there that I learned exactly what it takes to get a hot lead…and to make a high-ticket sale using just words, pictures, and paper.
When the desire to work for myself became overwhelming again (and office politics unbearable), I left Rosen/Brown. I remember it was on December 2, and my heart was in my throat. I was terrified!
Yes, I knew how marketing works, and yes I had lots of beautiful samples and impressive case studies…but I was still scared. What if my new freelance life resembled my old freelance life? I’d have to go back to work for somebody, and that was as painful as living a “poor” freelance life!
Well, I took a deep breath (I know I did because just writing this sent
me back, and here I am taking deep breaths!)…and I set a goal.
I figured that to be successful, I’d have to earn what I was making at the agency, which at that time was $48,000 gross. To account for health insurance, overhead, etc., I figured I really needed to earn $60,000 per year, which meant that my target needed to be $5,000 per month. And so it was.
I gave myself six months to get up to $5,000 per month, because that’s all I had in savings. If I couldn’t make it in six months, I was dead in the water.
Instantly I turned my attentions to creating a marketing program that offered me the best chance at success. And every day from 8 am to
5 pm I worked my marketing as hard as I worked every day in the
So did I make it…?
The answer is yes, I did…and in half the time I gave myself!
I broke the $5,000 barrier in just three months…thanks to the bulldog marketing I’d learned in my years at Rosen/Brown Direct.
That was nearly 10 years ago but I still use the marketing tactics and principles I learned at one of the world’s smartest direct response agencies, to get the clients I want to work with, to build new businesses, and to sell my information products online.
And these are the same strategies you can use to get the right kind of clients, increase your income, and build a stronger, healthier, more fun business!
So what are these powerful strategies…marketing strategies that are used by all successful businesses?
Here are the three most important things you need to do if you want cream-of-the-crop clients:
1. You MUST find your niche…a good one that can support your need for high pay, respect, and a relatively easy time of marketing.
My first niche as a copywriter was direct response agencies. After I conquered that niche and wanted better pay and more power, I moved on to copywriting for software.
Today my niche is teaching self-marketing techniques and tactics to freelance marketing consultants — copywriters, graphic designers, project managers, virtual agencies, public relations professionals, strategists, one-man marketing shops, etc.
It would be easy to make a mistake and say, “I teach self-marketing techniques to ALL freelance consultants.” The truth is, that net is too wide. By the same token, many of my coaching clients make the same mistake I made in my early career…seeing everyone as a prospect.
The bottom line is, you’ve got to find the niche that’s right for you. Using a system I created that ensures the right niche is uncovered, I help my coaching clients discover their “perfect” niche in as few as three hours.
And many of the niches are non-mainstream. For instance, I have a retired policeman who will be working as a copywriter in homeland security.
I have a 70-year old writing snappy, on-target copy for the seniors market.
And I have copywriter for whom we literally created a niche market. Her outstanding talent for telling stories led us to find vertical markets like insurance, non-profit, and quite a few others, where stories are powerful selling tools.
2. You MUST compile a list of cream-of-the-crop targets and mail to them on a regular basis.
You can bring business in by networking, public speaking, and a number of other marketing methods, but the only way you can create the client list your want is by handpicking your ideal clients one by one.
Not picking my ideal clients in my early career kept me in a beggar’s mode, always accepting whatever came along (and for whatever price they wanted to pay!).
But when you have a niche market, it makes sense to hone in on them… and when you tell them you specialize in their niche, then the fact that you’re contacting them makes sense to them too, and they’re much more receptive.
So where do you go to find the names you want to put on your list?
I’ve spent the last three years creating a 10-page document of the places to look for high-quality clients, and I’ll share one of my biggest secrets here.
I used to encourage my copywriting and design clients to use the Who’s Mailing What! archive (www.whosmailingwhat.com) to find “known mailers.” But I don’t suggest that anymore because there are certain “marketing pockets” — that because they’re obvious — a lot of new marketing consultants flock to…and Who’s Mailing What! is one of them.
Nightingale Conant, Agora, American Writers & Artists Institute…these are magnets for designers and copywriters, and who needs to go where there’s lots of competition?
Much better to look elsewhere. And one of the best places to look is in business-to-business. Recently I helped one of my coaching clients discover a niche that’s almost untouched by copywriters. I can’t divulge exactly what that niche is, but it’s in alternative health, on the business-to-business side.
So if you know your niche, and your niche sells mostly to consumers, see what you can turn up in the same niche in the B2B side. For this research, I found a great resource on Yahoo.
Go to the Home Page, scroll down to Yahoo Web Directory, click on Business, and then click on Business to Business. You’ll find everything from Aerospace to Writing & Editing. (Note the entry for Conventions and Trade Shows. At this writing there were 1,911! This is another great place to look for B2B prospects.)
It’s during this process that you need to start “qualifying” prospects via their web site…deciding who deserves to be on your list, and who doesn’t. I spend a full session with each of my coaching clients, teaching them what to look for. The best I can offer here is to make sure it looks like the company or organization values marketing.
The copy should be good, the design should be professional, the basics of good marketing should be apparent (do they use their site for lead generation? To sell product or services directly?) What tells you that they’re sophisticated?
Too many marketing consultants are willing to accept work from businesses that don’t pay well, that don’t understand marketing, and that won’t provide the good samples and case studies needed to land the quality clients. And here, size does matter. Avoid small businesses (and sole entrepreneurs) like the plague. Always target mid-size and up, even if you’re just starting out.
3. You MUST have an offer…a free report, white paper, CD, Or some information product that solves a pain of your target audience.
When I started my second freelance career I built a “Direct Response Scorecard” where I listed my projects and their response rates. I figured it would give me credibility and was banking that my agency prospects would like to see it in order to satisfy their curiosity (you know, compare my response rates with theirs).
Today my lead-generating “free offers” are much stronger. The longer I’m in the marketing business, the more clear it is to me that — by far — the most powerful lead-generating offer is the one that solves a pain.
This goes back to understanding your target audience. If you’re a software copywriter for lead-generating companies, and you know that the marketing directors you target struggle with getting high quality leads, then you can write a free report on “How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle With 10 Powerful Techniques Proven to Increase the Quality of Your Leads.”
Rather than calling your prospects and asking them to look at your portfolio, which they’ll resist since it’s a risk to their time, you’re getting in the door by offering something that feeds their self-interest… that solves a pain they’re dealing with.
By the time they’re finished with the report, they can see that you understand their business…their niche…and that you understand proper lead-generation (and therefore you’re not a marketing newbie and safe to work with).
They also see you as an expert, and are more willing to check you out, or even go straight into discussions on a potential job.
There’s also a law of human psychology at work, the law of reciprocation. When you offer someone something of value and they accept it, there’s a psychological desire (or obligation) to reciprocate.
In business-to-business lead generation (which is the marketing method you must use), the offer recipient knows that by accepting the offer, he or she should expect a follow up call.
So make sure you make the best of your opportunity to get in front of your prospect, and write a super-powerful “free information” product that solves one of their primary business pains. Your paper should leave them with the thought that you’re the perfect copywriter to help them with their projects.
Chris Marlow, all rights reserved
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