How Freelancers Can Use Cold Calling

I spent three years working in my school’s call center while I was in college. It was a student call center, where we would call alumni to raise support for student scholarships and other projects around the University.

 

It wasn’t exactly cold calling, but it was pretty close. On some nights I would make as many as two hundred calls. (Of course, the nights when I managed to get through two hundred calls were the nights when virtually no one answered the phone, but that’s as may be.)

 

Here’s the thing: when I first started, I was terrified of phones. As a child (and as an adult) I would shy away from answering the phone at the slightest excuse. I’d pretend not to hear it ringing. I’d run around the house shouting, “Phone’s ringing!” Heck, I’d even pick up the phone and hang it up again. (This was back in the old days, when you would actually “hang up” phones.)

 

So it took some doing for me to warm up to making phone calls. But over time, I became better and better at it. I ended up having some pleasant conversations during those evenings at the call center.

 

When I became a freelance writer, I decided I wanted to master cold calling. I still don’t love the process, but now I can safely say I can use the cold call to rustle up business whenever I’ve got a slow week.

 

If you’ve never done cold calls before, it can seem pretty daunting. And there is a learning curve when it comes to cold calling well. But I want to share with you how I got over my fear of cold calling, and how you can do the same in your freelance business.

 

How I Got Over My Fear

I made phone calls every day for three years, but I still have butterflies in my stomach when I pick up the phone for cold calling.

 

When I first decided to make cold calls, I hadn’t called regularly for years. My old fear of phone calls was at it again, holding me back. I knew I had to start making cold calls if I was going to get the business I needed, but at the same time I wanted to shrink back and avoid it.

 

So how did I get over my fear?

 

I didn’t just jump in and start making calls from the get-go. “Taking the plunge” might work for a one-time thing, but I meant to make a habit out of cold calling for as long as I needed to do it. I had to get my mind in the right place first.

 

Instead, I did all I could to prepare for cold calling as well as possible. I took time to put together a list of contacts. I took time to write out a script—which helped me map out what to expect from the process. Most importantly, I listed everything about cold calling that scared me.

 

Because when you’re afraid of something, the worst of it is that your fear strikes you as a vague, undifferentiated mass of awfulness. The simple act of naming all the aspects of cold calling that scared me broke up that undifferentiated mass into specific, small fears. Instead of saying I’m afraid of cold calling, I could say I’m afraid of rejection, or getting yelled at, or awkward moments with strangers. And now that I had a group of specific fears instead of one big vague fear, I could come up with ways of dealing with those fears.

 

Being afraid of rejection turned into, “What do I do if a prospect says no?”

 

Being afraid of getting yelled at turned into, “What do I do if a prospect yells at me?”

 

Being afraid of awkward silences turned into, “What do I do when there’s an awkward silence?”

 

By analyzing my fear into its component parts, I gradually turned it into a plan for making my calls as good as possible. And when I no longer had any excuse left for not calling, I started.

 

So let’s address some of the major fears that might be holding you back from making cold calls.

 

What’s Holding You Back?

If you’re anything like me, the idea of cold calling gives you a cold feeling of dread in your stomach. What if you get rejected? What if you get yelled at? What if there’s an awkward moment? And worst of all: what if things get so bad and you get so embarrassed that you die?

 

Let’s address the first of these fears: the fear of rejection.

 

Let’s face it: if you’re trying to sell your services, you’re going to be rejected more often than you get accepted. Particularly when you’re starting out, many more people will tell you no than yes. The fear of rejection is only going to hold you back. Which means you have to think of a way to reframe the situation.

 

One way you can do this is by realizing that it’s actually a good thing when people tell you “No, thank you.” When people tell you they’re not interested in your services, it means you no longer have to waste time on a prospect who isn’t interested in what you have. Rejection always stings a little bit, but it’s not a disaster. So you don’t have to worry about it.

 

What if you get yelled at? First off: while it does happen, it happens so rarely that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Remember, you’re a skilled professional calling during business hours to offer a valuable service. It’s not like you’re calling people in their homes to ask them for donations.

 

And second: even if someone yells at you, you’re not obligated to stay on the phone with them. Once a prospect raises his voice, you’re more than welcome to hang up. Think of it this way: as soon as a prospect starts yelling, you can feel pretty safe putting that company in the “no” column.

 

What if there’s an awkward silence? Honestly, this is a problem I’m working on right now. I’m not exactly the smoothest or most natural conversationalist in the world, although I’m working on it. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can’t go too far wrong by asking a question. You should be able to avoid awkward silences by preparing a list of questions to ask in the event of an awkward moment.

 

Lastly: what do you do if you have an experience so bad that the person on the other end laughs at you, the earth breaks open beneath your feet, and the bowels of the earth swallow you up?

 

My advice: don’t worry about it. Remember: cold calling can’t kill you. The worst thing that can happen is that you might feel embarrassed for a few moments. Maybe, once in a million years, somebody will yell at you and hurt your feelings. It’s not that bad.

 

Seriously. Cold calling is no big deal. The only reason you’re worried about it is because you’re not familiar with it. But if you commit yourself to making a few cold calls every day, you’ll very quickly reach the point where you don’t even worry about it.

 

So let’s get you started.

 

How to Get Started

 

Let’s say you want to get started cold calling today. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to cold calling success.

 

  1. Put a list of prospects together.

Find a few companies that fit your ideal client profile. You can look for them on social media sites like LinkedIn, or some more niche sites like CrunchBase or AngelList (if you want to work with startups). Most companies will have a phone number publicly available, and it won’t be too hard to identify the person you’ll want to talk to. Most likely, you’ll want to talk to the head of marketing, the creative director, the editor, or someone with a title along those lines.

 

  1. Write your calling script.

This doesn’t have to be fancy. Remember, you’re mostly doing this so you can get used to being on the phone. It’s okay if you only say something like, “I’m Geofrey Crow and I’m a freelance copywriter. I’m calling to see if you need any writing work done.”

 

It’s not a fancy pitch, but it gets the message across. You can always come up with something more sophisticated later on.

 

  1. Make five calls today.

Now that you’ve got your script and your list, it’s time for you to get on the phone and start dialing.

 

Full disclosure: if you’re making five phone calls, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll actually make it to talk to more than one decision-maker. That’s just fine. The point of this exercise is to get you comfortable with dialing the phone. If you actually get to talk to some prospects, that’s icing on the cake.

 

  1. Take notes when you’re finished calling.

Take notes after every phone calling session. Figure out what you did wrong—and when you’re first starting out, there’s plenty you’ll be doing wrong!

 

This is crucial. If you want to be an effective cold caller, you need to be able to identify what you’re doing wrong. This can be as simple as saying “uh” too much, and it can be as complex as, “I think I’m emphasizing the wrong benefits in my pitch.”

 

Cold calling is always a work in progress. There’s always something you could be doing better. Make a habit of identifying problems and you’ll be in great shape.

 

  1. Make ten calls tomorrow.

You made five calls today. Make ten tomorrow. Keep building up that number until you can’t build it any more. If you really need business, you can keep building till you’re making calls all day long.

 

The point is that you should keep making calls until you don’t mind making calls anymore. Then you’ll still make calls, you just won’t think about it.

 

If all this sounds unpleasant and overwhelming to you, I can sympathize. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. But it’s also not impossible. Get in touch if you need help.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

 

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How to Plan Your Freelance Writing Business

 

It’s easy to dream about how great it will be to be a freelance writer someday.

 

Imagine it: you’ll be your own boss. You’ll choose the very best clients. You’ll set your own hours and work with people who know the value of what you do.

 

You can work in your pajamas. You can sit at your desk with a steaming coffee in one hand, and with the other hand you can apply your keyboard with surgical skill.

 

Or if you’re the type to get up at 4:00 AM and have the day’s work over with by noon, you can do that too.

 

With freelance writing, you’ve got the freedom to live life on your own terms. The only structure in your life is the structure you create.

 

And as long as you think about the freelance life that way, it sounds amazing.

 

You’ll never have to report to another boss. You’ll never have to go to a pointless meeting ever again. You’ll never even have to go to some boring office party where you have to pretend to enjoy yourself.

 

That’s freedom. But this freedom comes with a price.

 

Because as soon as you make the plunge and become a full-time freelancer, you’ve got a problem. It’s wonderful to daydream about how great it would be to live without a boss, but there’s a reason so many of us don’t make that choice.

 

The reason? Simple.

 

The flipside of being your own boss is that you have to be your own boss. The flipside of having no structure confining you is that you have to create your own structure. The flipside of having nobody there to supervise you is that you have to supervise yourself.

 

Let me say something personal: I have a friend who is clinging to a job she hates, because deep down she’s afraid of this very thing.

 

She’s afraid if she goes out on her own she won’t be strong enough, smart enough, or creative enough to make things work. She’s afraid if she leaves behind the structure her job gives her, she won’t be able to push herself to succeed.

 

I try to tell her it’s not as bad as she thinks it is. Heck, I try to tell her that once she gets used to it she’ll wonder how she ever lived any other way. But she’s still clinging to that job she hates. I think it’s because she doesn’t trust herself. I think it’s because her job is safe and familiar.

 

I hope she takes the plunge before it’s too late.

 

With this article, I want to talk about planning and goal-setting.

 

And I’m not here to tell you I’ve got all the answers. I’m still learning. If I had all the answers, I’d be a politician.

 

All I want to do is tell you a little of what I’ve found in my time as a freelancer and as a human being. I’m a young guy, but I think I’ve figured out a few things worth knowing. I hope they help you in your journey.

 

Let’s start with goal-setting.

 

Goal Setting

If you’re serious about freelancing, you have to set goals. Some people will tell you this is a stupid place to start. They’ll tell you goal-setting doesn’t matter. They’ll tell you things like “follow your heart and it’ll lead you right.”

 

(Disclaimer: there’s nothing wrong with following your heart. If I hadn’t followed my heart I’d never have made it as a freelancer. But if I’d only followed my heart I’d still never have made it as a freelancer.)

 

You have to set goals if you want to succeed as a freelancer. Those goals must be concrete. They must be measurable. They must be precise.

 

Before I go any further, I want to say something: some of this stuff will sound obvious. And it is obvious. This is stuff we all already know. So don’t be surprised if none of this stuff sounds exactly ground-breaking. We already know this stuff. But we don’t always act on it.

 

And unless we act on it, knowing it doesn’t do us any good.

 

So what’s so great about goals?

 

Better yet: what’s so great about measurable goals?

 

As human beings, we need to have something we’re working toward in order to feel like we’re making progress. This isn’t a business thing. This isn’t a cultural thing. It’s an existential fact of being human.

 

If we’re not aiming for something beyond ourselves, we fall apart. We slip into hopelessness. We slip into despair. We slip into saying things like, “What difference does it make? Life is meaningless anyways.”

 

Goals change that. Goals give life meaning. Goals give us a framework to understand ourselves and the world.

 

They allow us to feel good when we’re making progress, and they allow us to feel bad when we’re not making progress. As human beings, we’re either striving toward a goal or else we’re stagnating hopelessly.

 

That’s why we need goals.

 

Now, why do they need to be measurable?

 

We need measurable goals because if a goal isn’t measurable, A) we can’t tell if what we’re doing is working or not, and B) we can’t tell if we’ve reached the goal.

 

Let’s go into a little more depth about both of those:

 

  • We can’t tell if what we’re doing is working.

Let’s put this in broad terms. Say you’ve got two possible goals: you could have a vague goal like, “I want to be free and independent,” or you could have a concrete goal like, “I want to make $1,000 every week from freelancing.”

 

It’s good to want to be free and independent. That’s a major reason many people choose to be freelancers. But we have to work out specific, measurable, practical goals if we’re going to make it a reality.

 

Aiming for a specific weekly dollar figure is a good high-level goal. In order to reach a goal like that, you’ll have to develop a series of subordinate goals to take care of on a daily (or weekly) basis.

 

Most importantly: setting measurable goals forces you to change your actions when they don’t work.

 

It’s so easy for us to slip into routines. The good thing about a measurable goal is that it forces us to recognize when our routines are letting us down. A measurable goal keeps us accountable and forces us to change.

 

  • We can’t tell if we’ve reached our goal.

Why is it important to know you’ve reached your goal?

 

By the time you reach your goal, you’ll have come up with a sequence of actions that allow you to reliably meet that goal. Once you’ve got a system that works, you won’t want to change it all that much.

 

(This is known as the Principle of if it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it.)

 

That means it’s extremely important to know when what you’re doing is working. And if you want to know that, you’d better be able to measure it.

 

When I first started freelance writing, my goal was to reliably reach an income of $1,000 every week.

 

I knew that if I could reach that goal, I’d have a system in place that allowed me to achieve that.

 

I also knew if I built a system that could make $1,000 a week, I’d be able to develop a system that made $2,000 a week.

 

The point is to set a goal and find the right sequence of actions that allow you to reach it. That’s what they call planning.

 

Planning

Every plan has three elements: a goal, a deadline, and a set of repeatable actions to be taken.

 

We’ve already talked about why you need a goal. Why do you need a deadline?

 

Well, I’m only going to speak for myself here, but if you’re like me you’ll be able to relate: I’m lazy. There’s nothing I hate worse than pushing myself any harder than I need to be pushed. I hate feeling rushed. I hate feeling like I have to be in a hurry to do anything.

 

If I’ve got a goal without a deadline, I’ll look at it and think, “That’s great. I feel so good about myself for setting that goal. I think I’ll go take a nap.”

 

But if I’ve got a deadline, I have to do something about it. I have to change what I’m doing when it’s not working. I have to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and I have to figure out how to fix it.

 

All that stuff takes a lot of effort and is massively inconvenient. The lazy part of me hates even thinking about all the work involved.

 

That’s why I need a deadline. It’s a club I hold over my own head to get myself to do the damn thing.

 

That’s why deadlines are important.

 

Now that we’ve got our goal and our deadlines in place, it’s time to get our actual course of action laid out.

 

Why do we need a repeatable sequence of actions? The short answer is that we’re always going to have a set of obstacles holding us back from our goals, and those obstacles never go away entirely. A freelancer’s work is never done.

 

You’ll always need more clients. You’ll always need to do some marketing. You’ll always need to do the client work.

 

The point of developing a repeatable sequence of actions is to organize yourself so you can take care of everything without any unnecessary stress. It’s about becoming as efficient as you can. It’s about keeping things as regular and predictable as you can. It’s about eliminating busyness from your business.

 

And if that all sounds seriously boring… it sort of is. You’re pretty much learning how to build and run your own small business. But when you’ve built the system and make your own decisions, it doesn’t feel oppressive.

 

That’s one of the things I couldn’t stand about working for somebody else’s company. I hated following someone else’s procedures and having someone else set the agenda. Freelance writing was a way to get free of all that.

 

So even though running your own business means you have to do a lot of organizing, it’s your own organizing. It’s your own set of solutions to your own problems.

 

And that makes it a lot better.

 

But you don’t have to come up with brand-new solutions to every problem under the sun. There are plenty of places online where you can find experienced freelancers who can help you learn how they do things. Find a few mentors, and you’ll be well on your way to running your own freelance business.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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Have You Found Your Niche?

Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about me and my work, but I think you can find something valuable in it if you take a look.

 

The story begins back when I was first starting out as a freelance writer. To put it mildly, I didn’t know what I was doing. You know how it is, right? You read a couple articles, decide, “Now I know exactly what I’m going to do with my life!” and promptly walk over a cliff.

 

When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you’re a lot like a lemming.

 

You see one person acting on a bad idea and you think, “Oh, that’s nice.”

 

You see another person acting on a bad idea and you think, “Well, that’s interesting. Maybe they’re onto something.”

 

But then you see every other freelance writer tripping over the crowd on the way to jump off a cliff and you start thinking, “Oh boy, I’m gonna get me a piece of this action!”

 

In other words, I was making all the rookie mistakes. Trawling job boards for lousy jobs for lousy clients. Pitching prospects who weren’t interested in hearing what I had to say. Writing lifeless blog posts that had all the right content but none of the personality that got people really interested.

 

In short, I was going with the flow. I was getting enough work to get by, but it wasn’t anything I could be proud of. I was working with clients who were okay at best.

 

I wasn’t working on the types of projects that really excited me.

 

I wasn’t being treated like a business owner offering a valuable service.

 

I wasn’t being paid the rates I knew I deserved or being taken with the kind of seriousness I expected.

To sum it up: I was following all the bad advice I heard and wondering why I didn’t have control of my sales and marketing process. I was following a reactive strategy where I expected to be given the work and paid well for it simply because I knew I was capable. It didn’t occur to me that the real problem was that my prospects didn’t know I was capable.

 

(Listen, I know how naïve that sounds, but we’ve all got to start somewhere, don’t we?)

 

I could beat myself up for barking up the wrong tree, but there’s really no point. Maybe I was acting like an idiot, but at least I didn’t know any better. The point is that I learned my lesson.

 

I started paying attention.

 

Specifically, I started paying close attention to what was going on with the feeds on the social media accounts I was using to promote myself. (See? I wasn’t a complete idiot. At least I knew I should be on social media!) The big ones here were LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Especially LinkedIn. Especially LinkedIn.

 

Because as soon as I actually started looking at what I was seeing and thinking about what it meant, the answer became obvious.

 

I’d been working and working at something I vaguely thought of as “promoting myself” on social media, but I didn’t know what exactly I was promoting, to whom, or to what end I was doing it. The social media was just an on-the-side thing I had that came along with the perpetual hunt for clients on job boards.

 

I was aimless. I only had the vaguest idea of how I wanted to market my services. I didn’t even have a long-term goal to aim at, let alone some intermediate goals to use for measuring my progress.

 

Let’s put it bluntly: I didn’t have a niche.

 

But one day I saw a LinkedIn post that changed all that. I wish I would have saved it, because when I saw it I knew just what I had to do.

 

And what was this magnificent post? What was this life-changing post that made me realize how I needed to live my life from then on? What was this mind-bogglingly significant post that changed the entire course of my existence from that day forward?

 

It was just some guy complaining about recruiters on LinkedIn.

 

He had a story about how a recruiter on LinkedIn approached him about a position he wasn’t even remotely qualified for. Understandably, he was pretty annoyed because he had the feeling that the recruiter didn’t even take a minute to read his LinkedIn profile before tossing a generic pitch at him.

 

And apparently this was a common complaint. The post I was looking at had nearly 2,000 likes and probably over 100 comments. Apparently it was hitting a major nerve with LinkedIn users!

This was all news to me. I’m a dedicated freelancer, so for me the approach of a recruiter was something very rare indeed—and even when it did happen, 99% of the time the spam filter got rid of it before I even saw it.

 

So this was the first time I realized just how much recruiters use LinkedIn. (I know, I know, this makes me sound even more like some naïve chump, but I honestly never thought about it.) I’d always known about it in theory, but I’d been using LinkedIn mostly for networking and marketing my freelance services, so I didn’t think about it.

 

But when I saw this post, it was like the wires crossed in my mind and I realized exactly what I had to do. I realized LinkedIn was crawling with recruiters who were working on practically the same problem I was—and just like me, they were trying to solve it the wrong way.

 

I realized when I was sending generic pitches to people who weren’t interested in my work, I was doing the same thing these people were doing when they send job descriptions to people who aren’t even qualified. I knew exactly how it felt to be in their shoes.

 

Because whenever I was slow on freelance work, I knew I’d start getting desperate. I’d start flinging out low-quality pitches at random because I was anxious for something to stick. I’d make lousy pitches because I was so nervous and so anxious to get the whole process over with all at once that I’d end up sabotaging myself.

 

And that’s exactly what was going on with this post I found on LinkedIn that day. I realized there was some recruiter out there who wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t reel in the hire, and she was getting desperate. The way I imagined it, she was a 28-year-old woman named Veronica. She was a little neurotic, and she had nightmares every night about ending up on the street because she couldn’t cut the mustard as a recruiter. She could see her landlord smiling evilly and thinking about evicting her. Her stomach grumbled every day because she couldn’t afford food.

 

Worst of all, she had to cancel her Netflix membership.

 

With all that on her shoulders, it’s no wonder poor Veronica was making mistakes. She was so scared she started flinging out generic inquiries because she was so overwhelmed and so nervous and so panicky.

 

So when I read that LinkedIn post, I realized I couldn’t blame Veronica for doing something very like what I’ve done when I’ve been desperate. And I realized her story wasn’t unique. Who knows how many recruiters just like Veronica are out there on LinkedIn?

 

I realized she was facing the same kind of problem I’d been dealing with for my whole time as a freelancer: how do you get people to listen to your message?

 

I realized that, and that’s when I realized I’d just found my niche. I could put myself to work helping recruiting agencies get their message out.

 

I knew I could do it because I’d struggled with the same problem for such a long time. And I knew I should do it because I could feel that recruiter’s pain.

 

And that’s how I found my niche.

 

I could go on about how valuable it is to have a niche when you’re a freelancer—or any kind of business owner, really—but in all honesty this post is getting to be a little longer than I’d ever intended for it to be, so I’ll start winding down and save all that for next time.

 

But let me close with just a few words about niches. I know freelancers always hear about finding a niche, but it’s not until you find one that you really realize why that is.

 

A freelancer needs to start out with one niche for the same reason Amazon had to start out with one niche: selling books. You have to build a system that works for something before you can even think about building a system that works for everything. We underestimate how complicated things are, and we forget that we have to master one thing before we can ever master a whole range of things.

 

If I leave you with one thing, I hope it’s this: that while finding a niche may feel like you’re limiting yourself, it’s actually the best way to growth, both in business and in life. It may feel like you’re giving up your potential if you limit yourself to one thing, and in a way that’s true. But until you approach one niche with enough seriousness to truly master it, you’ll never master anything.

 

So: what’s your niche?

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How to Build Your Email List

Used correctly, email can be an amazing sales tool. Even in the social media age, email selling is the standard by which all digital marketing is judged.

 

If you’re new to digital marketing, it can be hard to tell where to start with your email selling. And with so much information out there on the subject, it can be hard to tell where to start!

 

Never fear. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with this blog post: I’m going to come up with a short guide to how you can leverage your online presence into effective email selling that helps you to improve your service and learn about your ideal customers all at once.

 

Of course, I don’t want to hype this up too much. Email selling has been around a while, and it’s definitely not a quick fix method. But if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort to get a good email campaign going, you can turn this into a highly effective tool for driving sales.

 

So as you keep on reading I’ll let you know exactly how to leverage your website into an effective selling tool.

 

Build Traffic with Social Media

Naturally, this whole thing isn’t going to get off the ground until you get some traffic to your website. And while there are many ways to do that, we’re going to focus on social media here.

 

Social media is an indispensable tool for digital marketing. It’s often the first point of contact between you and the people you’re meant to serve.

 

With your social media efforts you’ve got two things you’re most interested in: driving traffic to your site and making connections with prospects and other networkers.

 

Now, this article isn’t about social media marketing, but the point here is that an effective social media strategy will drive plenty of traffic to your site. So you want to be visible on social media. You want to be posting, commenting, and engaging with people. Actively.

 

Of course, I can’t tell you exactly how you should do that. The thing about social media is that you’ve got to develop your own style. If you’re doing it the same way everybody else does it, you might as well not even be doing it.

 

All I can tell you for sure is that you should commit to at least posting once per day on every site you or your organization is on. That will force you to develop your own unique approach.

 

Attract Prospects to Your Site with Quality Content

But what’s the point of having the social media in the first place if you’re not driving traffic back to your site? And how are you going to drive traffic back to your site unless you’ve got some great content to show your followers?

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of content marketing.

 

So what’s content marketing? Well, the short answer is that it’s informational content on your site that attracts readers (or viewers, or listeners) and gives them useful information.

 

Blog posts. Videos. Podcasts. How-to articles. Ebooks. All of that is content marketing.

 

Let’s assume you’re using blog posts. You want to drive your ideal prospects to your site. How do you do that?

 

Well, you write content that matches what your prospects need to see when they’re ready to buy from you. You educate them about what they need to know in order to understand your offer and what it can do for them.

 

The best part of this strategy is that web content lasts a long time. With a solid posting schedule and a good content strategy, you can turn a small site into an authority site and a recognized thought leader in your industry.

 

Build Your List with Gated Content

So you’ve got your traffic flowing into your site with your content. Now what?

 

Now you want to convince those visitors that it’s worth their while to send you their email addresses. You want to open up that flow of communication and foster that relationship.

 

How do you do that? Gated content, of course!

 

Gated content is content that your prospect can only access after they’ve performed some action. It could be signing up for an account, subscribing for email updates, or any one of a million possible things. In this case we’re assuming you’re offering them something in return for their email address and permission to contact them.

 

So what do you offer them? It’s got to be something your ideal prospect would want, and which will help educate them about the value of your offer. My personal favorite kind of gated content is an eBook lead magnet. It could be a how-to guide or a valuable bit of data.

 

If you use a how-to guide, stick to a subject your prospect will be interested in. Let them know how to do something they’d like to be able to do on their own (even if you and I both know they should go ahead and hire you if they want the best results).

 

And After That?

Once you’ve got your lead magnet ready and got it building your list, you need to start sending out emails. This is another thing where you’re going to have to work out your own plans. At the very least, you should reach out to your email lists once every month. (If you contact them less than that, some of your subscribers might start to forget who you are, and unsubscribe just as soon as they see your emails.)

 

Try not to be too salesy with your emails. Unless you want to be. It’s important to find an approach that works for you and go with it. I’ve seen some people go as shamelessly salesy as it’s possible to be, and I’ve seen some people run their email marketing in a much more subtle way. It depends on your style.

 

The prospects you’re meant to find are the kind of people who will appreciate your style. So feel free to experiment until you find the voice that works. When it does, you’ll know.

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How to Set Up Your Lead Magnet

You’ve got your content marketing up and running. You’ve got a steady stream of visitors coming to your site. You’ve got a pretty steady clip of blog comments piling up.

 

But there’s a problem.

 

Your conversion rates are way too low. You’ve got oodles of visitors coming to your site, but they’re not buying. Sure, maybe a few of them are getting in touch with you, but it’s not enough. You’ve got to crank up those numbers.

 

No worries though: this is where you make a lead magnet. If you already know about lead magnets, this is old stuff to you. If not, let me set the stage.

 

First off: the real action in selling online doesn’t come from your site. It comes from your email list. So you need to be able to build that email list.

 

But of course there’s a problem here, and it’s pretty obvious: people don’t love giving out their email addresses online, and they’re going to want something valuable in exchange. That’s where your lead magnet comes in.

 

So what is the lead magnet? A lead magnet is whatever you offer your prospects in exchange for their contact information.

 

It could be an eBook, a free trial period, or a free 30-minute consultation. It could be any of a wide variety of things. The point is that it’s something valuable that you’re giving away to your prospects.

 

Why use a lead magnet?

  • It leverages reciprocity. You give your prospects something valuable and they’ll be disposed to exchange value with you.
  • It establishes your authority with the prospect. This way, you don’t have to tell them you know what you’re talking about. You show them.
  • It allows you to educate your prospect on the value of your products and services without the whole drama and angst of a sales presentation.
  • But most importantly: it incentivizes your prospects to give you their email addresses.

 

A good lead magnet is part sales document and part educational piece. Writing a good lead magnet can take significant time and effort, but the results are well worth the investment.

 

Just like content marketing, some companies prefer to outsource the work to skilled professionals who have demonstrated an ability in the field. But if you’d like to have a crack at it yourself, I’ve got some steps together that you can follow in prepping your lead magnet.

 

Choose Your Topic

I’m a writer, so I’m going to assume we’re going with some kind of written informational lead magnet. This isn’t the only kind of lead magnet you could consider, but it’s the one I’ve got the most expertise and understanding in, so we’ll go with it.

 

(Just in case you’re interested, some other types of lead magnets include free trial offers, access to market information, etc.)

 

One of the classics of the lead magnet genre is the how-to guide. This is pretty intuitive, since it’s just an eBook guide that tells your prospect how to get something done.

 

Ideally, your how-to guide will be about something your prospect could do if they had the time or energy, but that it’s easier for them to hire your organization to do for them. (This is part of the underlying sales message of your lead magnet.)

 

More than likely, you’ve already got a pretty clear idea of what a good lead magnet topic would be for your organization. If not, take a minute and think of some problems your organization solves for clients who could take care of the problem for themselves, at the cost of some major inefficiency.

 

It shouldn’t take you long to think of something.

 

Write and Produce Your Lead Magnet

When you’re writing your lead magnet, remember it’s supposed to do three things:

  1. Add value to the prospect.
  2. Educate your prospect about your products or services.
  3. Incentivize the prospect to give you their contact information.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but this point is important: the lead magnet isn’t primarily a sales tool, but you want your prospect to finish reading with the distinct impression that they could do the thing, but it would be better to adopt your professional services.

 

You don’t necessarily want to sell them immediately, but you want them to at least imagine buying from you.

 

But that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to give the prospect something valuable, so he or she will be more disposed to open your sales emails and do business with you later on.

 

That means you want to give good information, for one thing. And for another thing, you want the copy in your lead magnet to be well-written and conversational enough that the prospect will actually want to read the thing.

 

You’re asking for your prospect’s time and attention here, and that’s the most valuable commodity they have. That means your lead magnet had better be good enough to deserve that attention.

 

Set Up Your Email List

Now that you’ve got your lead magnet produced, you want to get it up on your site where it can do you some good. If you haven’t already done so, this is the time to get your email list up and running.

 

Your email list is going to be the most valuable sales tool in your digital marketing efforts. It’s going to give you the chance to educate your prospects on your offerings and gradually dial in on their needs and desires.

 

That’s why you’re going to want an opt-in screen that’s optimized to generate as many opt-ins as possible. You want to make sure your prospect has a real incentive to give you his or her email address and open up the lines of communication.

 

You’re going to want to run your email list through a batch email service such as Mailchimp. Mailchimp is usually a good idea for new email marketers, because it has a free option and allows the service to grow with your list.

 

We’ll talk about this in more depth some other time, but you’re going to want to make sure to optimize your opt-in and rigorously iterate your sales emails on a long-term basis. (These are serious issues, but unfortunately they take us pretty far afield from this blog post.)

 

The important thing is that you realize email marketing is a serious commitment and it’s something that will take a lot of adjustment, especially at the beginning.

 

Conclusion

Your lead magnet is the first crucial link in the chain leading your website’s visitors from their first visit to the day they become customers or clients. The idea is simple, but the execution can vary incredibly.

 

Some lead magnets are brilliant pieces of writing. They’re funny, thoughtful, informative, and a joy to read. Those are the lead magnets that build goodwill with the prospect and dispose him or her to open your emails when they show up in the inbox.

 

Some lead magnets are awful, boring, predictable things with confusing language and useless information. They’re the kind of thing that make a prospect want to unsubscribe from your list as soon as possible.

 

Remember that when you’re putting together your lead magnet. This is one of the first points of contact a prospect will have with your brand.

 

What kind of first impression do you want to make?

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