My friend Justin sent me this text the other day: “Is there a site you suggest for me to find writing jobs?” Sure, I know of some. But why didn’t my friend ask me if I needed help with anything? I’ve hired him in the past. Follow up with past clients is the single best way to quickly drum up more business.
When past clients or prospects go quiet, we typically assume that they must not want our help. We don’t want to annoy them, so we match their silence with our own.
This is a costly mistake.
Never assume that people will get in touch with you when they need something. Even people who are 100% convinced that you’re the perfect fit for a writing project will forget to contact you. Other priorities and emergencies will chew into their brainspace. They will keep pushing the next conversation back and back and back until they forget about it entirely.
In fact, they may forget about you entirely. They may meet other content marketers. They may want to help so-and-so’s nephew at church who just finished his degree in English and could use a writing project or two.
You hear about this, and think, “What the bacon?! I could have done that for them!”
Sure, you could have. And you would have if you had followed up every six weeks. You would have stayed at the top of the list.
I sent Justin a project because he got in touch. But if he hadn’t texted me, I probably would have done the writing myself when I found the time. Or I would have hired whichever junior copywriter who came to mind.
Be the boomerang.
Be the creative who comes to mind.
Show your past clients that you care with your follow-up. You don’t need a lot of clients. You just need happy clients.
It’s easier to sell something to someone who has already cut you an invoice, someone who is already in the habit of paying you. Most of the steady growth that Wunderbar has seen over the last seven years has come from selling to past clients. You don’t have to go from cold to sold because you’ve already established trust. You know their brands. You know their cultures. You know their communication style. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
Sidenote: Remember earlier when I said that not following up is a costly mistake? That is doubly true when past clients forget about you and don’t send you referrals.
So how do you get more business from past clients?
Be bigger than your skills.
One of the most important things that I did for my creative consultancy was transition away from being a writer (that is, a specialist) to being a problem-solver (that is, an expert-generalist). Now, when someone asks what I do, I don’t say, “I’m a writer.” I say, “I help businesses grow.”
Because I’m a business growth consultant, I have more things to sell than web pages and blog posts. I’m bigger than content.
What about you? Do you normally identify yourself as a copywriter? A blogger? Try this tack instead: “We help companies look good, get found online, and use the internet to generate new leads.”
You may be tempted to turn what you do into a nice, neat little package to make it easier for other people to understand and digest. Resist that temptation. Stay vague, and pique curiosity. Let them ask more questions.
- Sell the benefits of your work, not your skills.
- Sell the disappearance of problems.
- Sell the arrival of desirable outcomes.
- Sell the value of goals achieved.
- Sell smiles and rainbows.
Stay in touch.
Let’s say you do land a big project. The client is pleased with the outcome. She now has a fabulous website with a high conversion rate. As far as she is concerned, you’re the Willy Wonka of the World Wide Web.
Several months pass. You do more work. You learn. You grow. You add some new offerings to your menu.
Stay in touch. That way, when she starts asking questions, you can help her steward her newfound passion for all things content marketing and, by the power of Grayskull and Google Juice, you can make the money flow like money.
I can already hear some of you saying to yourselves, “Self, I would stay in touch, but I don’t want to spam her inbox. She’s super busy, and I didn’t want to be annoying and turn her off.”
Fact: You can stay in touch without being annoying. Try these techniques.
7 Ways to Follow Up with Past clients and Silent Prospects Without Annoying Them
1) Ask for work.
Here’s an email template you can use:
Hi First Name,
I was thinking about you the other day. How’s it going? I saw on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram that you [recent life event goes here].
Anyway, I just wanted to check in with you and see if you needed help with anything. I’ve got some availability in July, and would enjoy another opportunity to work with you.
If you’d like to discuss, I’ve got some availability tomorrow. Does 1:30pm work for you?
2) Find gaps.
Review your clients’ website. Scan their socials. Audit their marketing mix. Ponder their design, photography, copywriting, and strategy. Do you see any weaknesses? What do they really need?
Write out and send some recommendations. Customize this email template:
Hi First Name,
It had been awhile since I checked out your website, so I paid a visit on Monday. I’ve outlined some recommendations at the bottom of this email.
If you implement them in the next month or so, I think you’ll see [insert desired outcome here].
I’m happy to take the lead on that project—that is, unless you’ve got higher priorities that you want me to take care of.
Check out my recommendations, and let’s hop on a Skype chat tomorrow. Does 2:30pm work for you?
3) Fill gaps.
If you’ve got some time on your hands, why not surprise and delight a past client by solving a problem?
Images – Do the hero images on a client’s Home page suck? Go to your free, license-free, royalty-free, commercial usage stock photography site of your choice, and pick out some new ones. I use Unsplash quite a bit. Search.creativecommons.org is another good place to start.
Web Pages – Maybe you were responsible for writing ten pages of new web content, but your client later added more content that isn’t very good. Edit a few pages.
Design – Did you find a solid case study on the client’s blog? Hire a designer to create a beautiful infographic for her.
Give the gift of a problem solved. Then, ask your client if she wants more help.
4) Make introductions.
Whom might your client benefit from knowing? Send an email requesting permission to make the introduction:
Hi First Name,
I was thinking about you the other day. I think you’d benefit from knowing [Somebody Else]. He is a [profession/business focus/specialization here], and he really cares about [result/outcome/passion/hobby here].
I’d like to introduce the two of you over email. Is that okay with you?
Your Uber-Thoughtful Writer
5) Send resources.
Is your client a third-party logistics company interested in content marketing? Do various Google searches until you find an industry-specific blog post, video, or app that can help them.
Share it in an email:
Hi First Name,
I found this the other day and thought of you. I know you all are interested in [insert interest here], so this post might help you [insert desired outcome here].
How are things going? I’d love to catch up.
How about 15 minutes tomorrow? I’m free at 1:30pm and 4:45pm. Let me know if either time words for you.
Generosity is the single most attractive thing in business.
If you want to close more sales quickly, give more.
6) Buy lunches.
Treat your clients to lunch. Read more here: http://austinlchurch.com/free-lunch/.
7) Ask open-ended questions.
After you finish projects, offer to check in a couple of months to see how everything is going. Here’s the important part: put a reminder in your calendar.
Feel free to steal these Million Dollar Beauties:
- How’s business?
- Do you need anything?
- Do you have any bottlenecks?
- What are your goals for this year?
- What are you excited about?
- What would you like to see happen?
Bingo. When your clients begin to associate you with their goals and you begin serving as trusted advisor, rather than a vendor with a certain skillset, you’ll find that it’s really easy to sell them more work.
You want more clients? Be the boomerang.
Use the seven follow-up techniques we just explored and find some small way to be thoughtful or generous.
P.S. The next post will walk you through my favorite *new* client acquisition process, step by step. Be sure to subscribe below so that you’ll get that new post automatically in your inbox.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.
Also published on Medium.