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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Anticipating Need

What's on the iPod: Super Bass by Nicki Minaj


client writing
It's been a busy week. I've completed two projects and started a third, plus talked with prospective clients on how I might be able to help them. I've even had some time for personal projects, though I had to schedule time to get to them. And I marketed for more work. But that's every day, right?

In that marketing time, I was cruising websites and getting to know the people I was reaching out to. I was looking for what was there in terms of writing projects, but more importantly what wasn't there. Seems people leave some pretty basic stuff off their websites. Like corporate location, About Us, even their awards and specialized products. One site had a game-changer product hidden in text. Had I not bothered to read the copy (and I nearly didn't -- it was kind of bland), I'd not have seen it.

So when I wrote to the client prospects, I told them (nicely, of course) what I felt was missing and how I could help them get those things onto their site.

It can be risky to get in touch on first try with suggestions for improvement, but if you handle it right, it could be the thing that gets you the gig. But if you show you're anticipating a need they have and they agree, it could position you for a long-term working relationship. Here are some suggestions for selling it upstream:

Start with the positives. We love hearing how we're doing it right. Tell your client prospect what you like about their efforts so far. If you can't find anything to like, tell them you're excited to see them in the industry and you're eager to hear their story. It's positive without stretching the truth.

Mind your manners. Before you go ripping apart what you hate about their efforts, remember that the people you're contacting may well be the proud authors of that work. Suggest that you can help them with better, more impactful wording. Don't say something like "Your page really sucks" even if it does. That won't win you any friends.

Suggest changes in general terms. One thing you don't want to do is give away your ideas, which too many prospects are happy to swipe and implement themselves. When I'm giving suggestions, I keep it general. "Your wording is good, but I think it can be more impactful."

Create a partnership on first contact. "I'd love to talk more about how we can team up and create a more dynamic presence for you." Bring them to your side. Show them you're a trusted source of help and information, not just a contractor looking for work.

Show them what they hadn't considered. "Your news releases work well, but have you considered expanding them into client-facing newsletters or fact sheets?" Help them create more impact with what they're already doing. Then you'll have an easier time convincing them to add new writing projects.

How do you show clients you've anticipated their needs?

5 comments:

wrightwriter said...

These are fantastic tips for approaching prospective clients. I've been trying this, but I am stumped when I try to come up with a subject line that will encourage complete strangers to open my email. Do you have any suggestions to help me avoid the "deleted items" box. Thanks!

Anne Wayman said...

Lori, I made a suggestion to a client yesterday - he didn't take it, but...

Lori said...

Sure, Heather. Try putting in "Upcoming (name of conference) conference" or "Letter of introduction" in the subject line. I like the latter, and I do get responses from that. I've also had responses when I've typed in "Letter of introduction/upcoming XXX conference."

It will get past the spam filters and get opened a little more often.

But you suggested, Anne! And now you've planted a seed. He may come back later -- you never know.

wrightwriter said...

Thanks, Lori. I was making it waaaay too hard. I've used 'letter of introduction' with editors and agencies (& with some success, too) but not with client prospects such as the ones I've been thinking about approaching. Makes perfect sense! Light bulb is now on. :)

Lori said...

A new, energy-efficient bulb, I'm sure. :)

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