Whether you call it marketing or not, every single contact you have with a client or prospect is a marketing opportunity, as is every email message you send. So whether you’re researching a prospect, following up after a meeting or delivering a proposal via email, treat this correspondence as a marketing tool and it’ll have a stronger impact.
Here are three simple strategies for using email to reach out to prospects and clients without resorting to (or being accused of) spam.
Strategy #1: Hang up, then follow up.
After an initial conversation with a prospect, whether you called her or she called you, start your follow-up right away, building on the momentum by sending an email in which you:
1. Thank her for her interest, for taking the time to speak with you, for visiting your Web site or anything else she went out of her way to do.
2. Express that you understand the challenge she’s facing. Echo words she used in your conversation.
3. Refer to an experience or project in your background that supports your claim that you’re the right resource to help her.
4. Provide a link to your Web site and, in particular, a portfolio piece or case study that’s relevant to her business challenge. Here’s sample text that you can tailor to a variety of situations:
Thanks so much for your time on the phone earlier. I understand your need to unify your brand, and this is an area in which we have a lot of experience, which is why I think working together would be a good fit. In fact, you can see some work we’ve done for (Client) in that area here: (link). I’ll also send you some samples in the mail and will call you to continue the conversation.
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Do this literally as soon as you hang up. If too much time passes before you follow up, even a day or two, the conversation may slip into the recesses of the prospect’s mind or blur with others, and your follow-up loses all its impact.
Strategy #2: Introduce yourself via email.
There’s nothing wrong with using email to introduce yourself and your services to someone who’s never heard of you, as long as you have something of value to offer. A personal, targeted email can be extremely effective in initiating a relationship with a company you aspire to work with. Here’s how:
1. Call first. Start with an introductory phone call. If you don’t get through, leave a message with your name, the reason for your call (“I’d like to introduce our firm.” Or “I’m calling to find out whether you work with design firms.”) and direct the prospect to your Web site where he can view your work. Then tell him you’ll follow up by email. (You can usually get the email address by telling the receptionist that you’ve been playing phone tag and would like to send an email message, in case he prefers to respond that way.)
2. Send email next. Refer to your voice mail message and repeat your request. Offer something you know will be of value, such as a sample you did for a similar company. Here’s a sample email message you can adapt for your needs:
Bob, on the heels of my voice mail message, I’m wondering if you would like to see samples of collateral materials for software companies? If so, just reply to this message with your mailing address and I’ll send them along. Some of our clients are [drop names here] and you can see the samples here as well: [link to the page on your Web site].
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Some people are more comfortable responding to an email message than returning a phone call, in part because they can do it at their convenience, outside of business hours if necessary. Using email rather than (or in addition to) the phone increases the odds that you’ll get a response.
Strategy #3: Keep in touch via email.
An email marketing campaign—sending regular email messages to everyone you know and everyone who knows youis the ideal way to market your services because it can consistently accomplish many things at once. It can showcase your creativity, increase your visibility and build credibility, while also distinguishing you from the competition. Plus, it’s the best way to drive traffic to your Web site; it’s much more reliable and targeted than search engines.
Most designers fear creating an email marketing campaign because of the effort they think it takes to compose original content for each mailing. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Once you find a template and a formula that works, treat your campaign like a client project and devote the necessary time. Here are five content ideas:
1. Case studies and real-life examples. People love to see what others like them have done, which means they’ll take time to read a simple case study that describes a problem you solved for a client. This is a good springboard to offer more general advice. Showing how you’ve helped clients address specific challenges is good from a promotional perspective, too, because it gives concrete examples of your work, which may otherwise seem abstract to those who hire you.
2. Offer a list of your top three to five tips on a subject. There must be hints you can give your clients and prospects about how to make the process of working with you go smoothly. Turn these hints into tips, like “How to Hire a Designer” or “How to Get Great Work from a Designer.”
3. Answer your clients’ frequently asked questions. Keep track of their queries, whether via email and/or in person. Then answer each in a short article. If you can’t think of any questions, send your current clients/customers a quick message asking for their questions.
4. Offer your opinion on a hot topic. Don’t be afraid to tackle the key issues in your field. Offer your own expert opinion—your readers want to know.
5. You don’t have to create all the content from scratch. You can simply pass along links to articles that would be of interest to your market or Web sites they might find useful.
Relationships are built upon the back-and-forth of communication, including email. It makes you visible, keeps you connected to your market and literally motivates people to respond. If you do your email marketing right, your recipients will actually look forward to receiving your messages. They may even thank you.