Charles: Hey everybody, and welcome to Episode 219 of The Freelancer Show. This week on our panel, we have Jonathan Stark. I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv. We have a special guest this week and that’s Simon Heaton. Simon, do you want to give us a brief introduction to who you are?
Simon: I am a content strategist and I work over at a company called Shopify. We’re a leading multi channel ecommerce platform. I work specifically in our partner program so I work with a few thousand freelancers and agencies, providing them resource, kind of giving them what they need to grow their own businesses.
Charles: Cool. We brought you on today to talk about an article that I ran across that you wrote. It’s Four Overlooked Ways to Find New Clients Offline. I think a lot of times, we focus on the website and, “What can I do on my website to get people to come in?” But there are other ways to do this and I found your article really, really interesting. Do you want to give us a brief overview on that and then we can start talking about some of the particular strategies that you have there.
Simon: Of course. I totally agree. I think today in our digital world, offline marketing or in real life marketing, that’s often forgotten as a tactic to find new clients. A lot of new agencies or freelancers really focus and rely on PPC campaigns, content marketing, and social media to really build a name for themselves in the industry. That online world is kind of becoming a saturated place for freelancers. It’s almost like a shouting match. You have hundreds of suppliers who are vying to get the attention of a client let’s say and really only the loudest one can succeed. What I really want to do with the article is touch base on some of these offline marketing tactics that can really help a freelancer or consultant get in front of a highly qualified group of prospects for their business.
Charles: So instead of fighting the, “Look at me. Look at me.” It’s, “Oh hey, I’m right here in front of you.”
Simon: Totally and having that face to face interaction with somebody can really lead to a more meaningful conversation than kind of broadcasting online through a blog or your Facebook page or something.
Charles: I kind of want to just jump right into these strategies. I think the first one was host a meetup for entrepreneurs. I thought that was really kind of a fascinating idea and I think it’s something we overlook that there’s a local market.
Simon: Yes, exactly. A lot of freelancers or small agencies we work with find a lot of success hosting meet ups or workshops that target entrepreneurs, small businesses in their local community. It’s a really good opportunity for them to work face to face with these guys. You can kind of think of it like content marketing in real life.
Workshops give you a chance to have these kind of meaningful interactions with prospective clients. What’s really effective about it is it allows you to paint yourself as the go to expert in your field within your particular city or region. How do you go about setting one of these up? I think we get the general idea that you’re going to talk about something that you’re the expert in, something that they can pay you for, but how do you go about setting one up? Do you just go on that bright and create something and find a place to do it or is it more complicated than that?
Simon: Yeah of course. It’s definitely a lot more complicated than just that. Let’s say it’s a part of that process. You really want to start with setting up the logistical steps. It’s very much an event so you need to look into that perspective.
You need to have a good venue. If you are working out of your home as a freelancer, you want to maybe do a co working space or partnering up with maybe a local agency that you consult for. I’m trying to use their space. It’s really great to have a space that has kind of a common area where everyone can gather and sit comfortably and listen to the presentation or whatever you have going on to the content itself. It’s really important to also consider that you have food and beverage and all these kind of amenities that some of them come to expect at one of these events before you even start the promotional part.
Once you’ve got that stuff down and the logistics around where you’re going to host the event or what you’re going to have there is settled, you really want to start looking at promoting it. You would kind of go to the usual stuffs there. You can use your social media accounts to help broadcast that way. Put a little ad spend behind some Facebook posts or Twitter posts and get in front of some audiences that you might not have direct contact with to start.
I would also say leverage your email list. If you have clients that you’ve worked with in the past, invite them into the workshop, send them a targeted email and say, “Come on, I have this great topic we’re going to discuss. I really think you’d benefit from them.” And invite them over. A great way to do this like you mentioned before is using something like Eventbrite or an nvite page. These are just kind of event hosting ticket registration CRM’s that you can get people to register, submit their email and give you kind of an idea of how many people to expect once your event’s going to come underway.
Charles: Jonathan, have you done anything like this? I know you speak your conferences and that’s one of the other tactics.
Jonathan: I haven’t done this but it’s kind of a personal reason I guess which is that I prefer not to be in the same town as my clients. I wouldn’t do this just because of that. I don’t live in that big of a town, not that it would be difficult for me to go 45 minutes on a train to Boston and do something like this but I much prefer the, I don’t know if it’s the next one but I much prefer speaking in events like this rather than organizing them.
Charles: That’s totally understandable. I think hosting your own meet up or workshop, it has this extra layer of complexity where you actually have to be the event manager as well, not just the speaker. That can definitely turn some people off.
But for the freelancer who’s just starting out, this a great way to tap into some potential clients. That local market is often overlooked and there’s a lot of small business owners who are probably looking for someone to setup a website or run some digital marketing campaigns for them. It can be quite beneficial for someone, I think.
Charles: I can just hear somebody that’s listening to this and they’re going, “Well that’s sounds like a good idea but what would I talk about?” How do you evaluate what you should be talking about at one of these local meetups?
Simon: Right, and that’s a really good question. The way I look at it is you want to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about who your ideal client is, that small business owner, and try to think of what kind of problem would they be experiencing that my services can solve.
In a lot of cases, the freelancers that we work with, they generally build e-commerce stores. A lot of the clients that they’re targeting are small business owners who maybe haven’t taken that leap to online retail. A great tactic for them is to host a meet up in their town that shows the mom and pop, brick and mortar stores the value of taking their business online. They can walk through how easy it is, the benefits they can have. Maybe even throw out a few case studies of previous projects they’ve done that have shown success. That way, you’re not only pitching your services to the attendees but you’re giving them some insight and information that they can leave the meet up with and actually apply to their business in a way that’s going to have tangible results.
Jonathan: Recently, I heard about it. It sounds like sort of a variation on this or maybe it’s just a different target audience but for a really kind of high end consulting that targets the c-suite type executives. I was listening to someone talk about setting up executive brunch sort of thing where it’s kind of like doing a webinar but in person where you book a spot at a high end hotel and send out ten invites for a really elite list of people in a major city. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the city you live in but probably somewhere close.
It’s basically the same thing where you’re putting out a presentation to these people. It’s kind of like what I would do on a webinar or at an industry conference but feels a little different. Maybe the word meetup is throwing me—it sounds a little more informal. What about doing meet ups? Do you think it’s important that it’s local to you is the question I’m getting at.
Simon: I don’t think it’s necessarily a crucial aspect that it’s local. I think for a lot of people who are just trying to start out in terms of hosting a workshop or a meet up, the local market is the easiest one to kind of connect with. It’s a lot easier to get people to attend something in person especially being hosted by maybe a freelancer that they’ve never even met before if it’s targeting that local. It’s like they don’t want to have to drive all the way at the town for something that maybe they’re not sure what the values going to be, what they’re going to get out of it. I think it’s a lot easier for the guys to target people who are in the local area.
Jonathan: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense.
Simon: Like you said, it doesn’t have to be an extremely formal experience. You can do the whole between seven and eight, we’ll have a presenter and then we’ll mingle. You can have that but you can totally go for the informal situation as well.
We have some of our partners at Shopify Bill. They’ll host meetups and workshops where they run interactive sessions. They’ll actually help people set up their first online store within the workshop itself or they’ll bring in panels and they’ll have these guys kind of talk in a more casual way and do a little AMA up at the stage. It really depends on what you’re willing to talk about and the level of effort you’re willing to put into it. It can be as simple as a little networking event and a meet and greet too if you want.
Charles: One thing I have found though is that even for the programmers and other meet ups, there’s an entrepreneurial meet up that I go too occasionally. The people that pull this together are usually the people that are the best connected and it’s just by virtue of the fact that they are sort of running the show and coordinating a lot of the expert guests and whoever else are going to be there. It makes sense that if you’re the organizer then you can take advantage of that.
If you are doing more of a seminar style though, how do you capitalize on that? You sit down in front of all of the entrepreneurs who need your services, let’s say it is Shopify. You have Shopify expertise, you can help them get set up with e-commerce. You sit down, you do your presentation. How do you push those people from interested parties in e-commerce to customers? How do you get them over that hump?
Jonathan: Right, and that’s the question we get all the time around kind of offline marketing initiatives. I think one thing we need to get clear right off the bat is that these offline techniques are very much a long tail game. You’re probably not going to see someone attending your meet up or have seen you at the conference let’s say immediately become a customer or paying client. You kind of have to nurture them a little bit more after that initial meeting with them at the event.
Normally some of the partners that we work with who successfully host these kind of events, they’ll really focus on the information at the workshop or meet up itself. They’ll really drive home the value of, “I want my attendees to leave this event learning something new.” When you do that, when that prospective client actually needs somebody to develop a website, you’ll be one of the first people that’s top of the vine and they’re more likely to reach out to you.
However, I’m not saying that you should wait passively until they reach out whenever they feel that they need some services. It’s always a good idea to follow up after the event with an email. Normally, I would suggest that you promise a little lead magnet or a little bonus incentive at the end. After the event’s over, you’ll send them something that’s very related to the content you talked about and it gives you that opportunity to start a conversation with them. When you can slowly keep yourself top of mind and kind of drip the idea of them working with you.
As I said, it’s extremely vital that you do this follow up. Gather those emails either through the Eventbrite page or at the event itself for people who are dropping in so you have the opportunity to follow up with them and have that meaningful conversation over the long term.
Charles: I think similar advice was given the last time we talked about speaking at conferences.
Jonathan: Yeah. Absolutely, same exact thing which I think we’re going to talk about next.
Charles: I was going to say the next strategy is speaking at conferences. How is that different from pulling together an entrepreneur presentation or meet up or whatever?
Simon: Right. Jonathan kind of touched on this earlier on our conversation and that when you’re speaking at a pre established event or conference, it kind of removes a layer of complexity to what you have to do in terms of organization. Now, you no longer have to worry about setting up a venue, doing all that logistical prep work and you can really focus and hone in on your speaker notes and the content you want to deliver.
In a way, it makes it a little more complex because you have to actually pitch your idea to the person who’s hosting it. You’re going to have to be able to sell yourself and the topic that you want to talk about to the organizer so that they bring you on board and you have the opportunity to access their audience.
Jonathan: That is true but it has an additional benefit which is that you inherit some trust from the overall event assuming that it’s a good one. If people say, “Oh wow, The Ted organizers aren’t worthwhile to have this person come on.” There’s like this betting thing that happens that I think would confer a little bit more trust than, “Hey, here’s this event that I organized myself and take myself to speak at.” But I absolutely agree that it’s a much longer lead time, you need to convince the organizers or get an introduction to the organizers through a past speaker, you need permission. You need to be picked, you can’t really take control. You can do outreach and try and get picked but that is a major disadvantage from organizing your own thing because it might be a long time before you can get one of those gigs.
Simon: I totally agree. Aligning yourself with a reputable event or conference is a great thing for your brand, especially if you’re new to the industry or you’re not really well known yet. It allows you to kind of access an audience that you wouldn’t have otherwise and kind of build a name for yourself that’s associated to the brand or the event that you’re speaking at.
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely.
Charles: I think it’s interesting too. I’ve spoken at Ruby Conf and Rails Conf a few times and I’ve actually gotten calls from people. I just put something like this, “Hey, I’m a consultant. That’s what I do.” I’ve gotten calls from people. They weren’t calling me for anything related to what I spoke about. They were calling me just because I was on the speaker list. They needed Ruby on Rails. I spoke at Rails Conf.
Jonathan: There’s something about that in person interaction that is just massively trust building, regardless whether it’s a conference or your own event that you organized. There’s just so much information communicated in real life that just gets lost over webinar or even a video call. People who you click with are going to click with you much more easily having seen you in person. I guess you’re saying that you’re just in the list but overall I am a big fan of this notion of getting in front of people in real life one way or another.
Charles: Yeah, I agree. One thing that’s kind of a mix between the two that I’ve done lately is actually pulling together a meet up for podcast listeners or other people on my mailing list and inviting them to come meet up with me. For example while I was in Chicago for podcast movement, I sent email around and said, “Hey, I’m going to be in Chicago. We’re going to meet at this restaurant at this time.” I had five or six people show up. A few of them were actually people who, if you’re in the Ruby community, you’d recognize their names. They just came out because, “Hey, we’re friends and hey we think you’re cool.” We got that in person connection there as well. The other thing is it’s just attending the conferences just, sometimes they have social events or hallway track and you just meet people there too.
Simon: Yeah. We even witness people do this. I haven’t done it yet but I think it’s a good idea which is applying to get selected to speak at an industry conference. You don’t get in for whatever reason or maybe it’s last minute then you miss the call for speakers. One thing you can do is email the speakers and say, “Hey, I’m going to be in town anyway for other reasons or just because I live there,” or whatever the reason is. If anybody backs out the last minute, I would be available to jump in.
I’ve seen speakers back out the last minute probably 25% of the time. 25% of the conferences I’ve been at, somebody gets sick or this is their connection or whatever it is. They don’t show up and if you already got your name in that hat for the organizer to call and jump in last second, that’s huge.
The other thing you can do if that doesn’t come true for you which is a long shot admittedly is kind of do what Charles just said and say a you’d sort of jump on that usually as a Twitter feed for the conference or slack room jump in there and say, “Hey, anybody that wants to hear a presentation on whatever your thing is.” For me you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to do a presentation on responsive web design at 8PM in my suite if anybody wants to come up.” Or at some local venue or whatever it is. You can kind of take advantage of the fact that a whole bunch of people in your target market are in town for the conference and you don’t even have a ticket, you’re not even attending. You’re just staying in the same hotel. You could say, “Hey, free stuff for people if you want to sign up here.”
Charles: Yeah, I actually did that at NG Conf which is the big Angular Conference. They had their feed that you could just post messages to. I booked a table at a local Indian restaurant and then I just posted to that for like two days and had about ten people show up and we just all had dinner and talked about Angular. It was really cool. A lot of them, again, listen to the shows but it was a great way to connect with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to sit down and chat with just in the hall of the conference.
Again, if you have some angle that you can work with these people where it’s interesting enough and for us it was that we have a podcast, doing it live worked out great. because one of the organizers is on both of those shows so he arranged that for us. We’ve done a freelancer show at a Ruby Conference. We’ve done Ruby Rogues at a couple of different conferences. It doesn’t have to be just you and it doesn’t have to be this major thing. If they think that it’s going to be interesting for the people attending the conference, then the organizers will work with you to fit you in.
Jonathan: Now I want Indian food.
Charles: Yeah, we’ll have to do a Facetime call set across the table at Indian restaurants across the country.
Jonathan: So funny.
Simon: I think with speaking at events and conferences too, you’re going to run to the same challenge as you would hosting your own event and that. How do you get these people, the audience members to become a paying customer eventually? Same kind of thing as before, it’s a very long tailed game. There are a few things that I’ve seen some speakers do, a contest to kind of engage the audience, to reach out and kind of add to their mailing list.
One of them was using kind of an automated approach and I’ve used it a few times. It is a software called Lead Pages. This is lead generation SaaS platform. They’re standard solutions are lead generation form pages pop up, that kind of stuff.
They have this really cool solution they came out with, it’s called lead digits. What it is essentially is it’s an SMS based lead capture forms. What I’ve seen people do is, speakers would go up to talk and either they’ll say, “Hey, I have this free resource that’s complementary to what I’m talking about.” Or “Hey, shoot me a message and if you want to chat or have any question, I’ll put this unique custom SMS number up on the screen and people can text it, text their email to it and it automatically uploads that to the mailing list and can trigger drip campaign or it can just wait until you’re ready to reach to them.
It’s a really good way to kind of engage the audience as you’re speaking and trying to capture and capitalize on some of that interest as the conference is going on.
Charles: Yeah, Lead Digits is cool. I find it’s a little bit expensive. The flip side of that is that you can get a tangent digit number. Lead Digits has a five digit number that you text them to. You can get a ten digit number off of Twilio and I built something that does kind of the same thing in a half hour or so. It’s not that complicated if you have the chops to just go build your own. It’s definitely a system that works and Lead Pages integrates with most email providers and so it’s pretty much automatic after that to get people on to the list and get them what they’ve kind of signed up for or texted in to get.
Charles: The next thing on this list is to set up a booth at an industry trade show. This is something that I haven’t done and I know that some of those booths are a little bit expensive but I guess you could just show up with a table and a chair if you really wanted to.
Jonathan: Yeah, you’re right. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges with this type of tactic is the cost. Generally when you go to an industry trade show you’ll usually see the guys with the booths are probably established agencies rather than the freelancer. I’ve just given the cost that it takes to not only purchase the floor space but to have a booth created, designed, shipped and to pay for your own accommodations and stuff to get down to the show if it’s out of town. It can really be quite pricey but as you said, some trade shows have the smaller table booth that you can go set up if you really try to get in but on a budget.
If you have a compelling enough offering and you can show it off in a good way, then it doesn’t matter necessarily that you have this big pretty booth behind you. They were kind of back in a little corner, in a little budget area because that’s all they could afford to get at CES but at the same time enough of the right people were coming through that got excited about their product to where they were able to draw up some interest by being at CES.
It makes a lot of sense especially if you’ve got a vertical that does have a conference like dentists or accountants or whatever. My father in law goes down to the trade shows in Las Vegas pretty frequently and so he’s looking at surfaces and concrete and kitchens because he’s a general contractor. Again if you have a couple of your products to show off and you can show them how it makes their life easier, they don’t care that you’ve got this big pretty picture or this huge banner hanging behind you telling the name of your company. A business card and something memorable that they are going to want to take home and check out is enough.
Simon: I totally agree. I think the look and feel of your booth is really like in real life click bait.
Charles: I like the way you put that.
Simon: It’s only good if you have some substance behind it and that’s really about what you’re going to do, what you’re going to talk about or offer attendees who are at the trade show.
Charles: Is there a way to get in and is there a way to get a good spot on the exhibition floor or you kind of at the mercy of whoever is running the show?
Simon: Yeah, unless you really, you know you’re buddy buddies with the organizer. The spaces are all divided based on cost so the prime real estate in the middle of the trade show at the big sections are going to be significantly more than the ones off in the corner like you said. You’re kind of at the mercy of the organizer for that.
Charles: One other thing that comes to mind when we’re talking about this is that I go to a local conference, of course this year was the last year. We’re trying to organize something that sort of similar but it was Ruby Conference and it was held in the Rose Wagner theater in South Lake City. I would say it’s a smaller theater and the exhibition space was basically along the windows at the front of the building. There really wasn’t great space or terrible space. I guess the terrible space would have been into the theater where less people are going to walk by you but on those smaller conferences or where they have a smaller space for exhibitors, you can probably wind up getting a space for a whole lot cheaper because it’s a smaller event and still be in front of your target market.
The other example that comes to mind is this year at Podcast Movement and last year Podcast Movement, all the exhibitors were down the hallway. The people had to walk down in order to get to their sessions. This year they were all kind of in the same area but they were only two or three rows. If you wanted to get noticed, I think pretty much all of the attendees walk through there at least once or twice thinking, “Okay, is there anything here that I should check out that’s going to help me with my podcast. Again, you don’t have to go to these huge conferences with massive show floors. If you go to a smaller event you may have better luck getting noticed by more people even though there are more people at the bigger events.
Simon: I totally agree. I think in a lot of times in a lot of times this niche smaller trade shows are actually better in a lot of cases. Like you said earlier, if the conference or trade show aligns to a vertical that you normally serve, then you’re going to have an audience that’s more highly aligned to your offering but also you’ll probably face a lot less competition at these smaller events too. It could be up against the agencies that are going to kind of woo some people away from your booth.
Charles: Have you done this kind of thing Jonathan or do you have any other thoughts you want to add?
Jonathan: I’ve done it on behalf of people in the past. In my experience, it can be pretty hitter mist so you want to, you’re going to drop five or ten grand probably for a medium sized conference. It’s easy to drop five or ten grand depending on how fancy you want your booth if you’re going to do any of that. The thing that I would caution people about if they’re thinking about doing this is to make sure that you’re picking an event that will be attended by your buyers, not necessarily people who work for your buyers.
Charles: Good point.
Jonathan: I spend a lot of time speaking at web conferences and in many cases those weren’t that beneficial. I didn’t have a booth but I’d speak at them and that only made sense when I was selling things like books and educational videos. Once I started doing more high end consulting for executives, it really made no sense because they don’t attend those conferences, their employees do.
You can sort of get referred up the chain by employees but if you’re going to spend that kind of money or make that kind of investment, if you’re considering making like a five or ten thousand dollar investment in one of these sorts of things, you’re really going to want to make sure that your actual buyers are there and you can talk to them directly rather than just their employees.
Charles: One other question I have is that a lot of these companies show up and they have cool knick knacks or something. so you got the stress balls or the USB sticks or whatever. I have to admit, I usually don’t look at those more than once even though I grab them and put them in my bag and let my kids play with them but are they worth investing in?
Simon: I think the swag that you see at trade shows or conferences is kind of something that a lot of companies do just because of the status quo. We need to have something to give away. It totally flips side. Instead of doing something like the pens and that kind of throw away swag, you could kind of maybe invest in something that’s a little more impactful.
In my own experience at Shopify, we’ve created a few couple series of free books that help freelancers and agencies kind of get started and get the ball throwing with their businesses. When we go to trade shows and conferences, we just give out these books for free. It’s not something that someone who’s going to throw on their bag, maybe use on the plane ride home or whatever. It’s something they’re actually going to read and engage with on the plane ride home.
That’s really important in keeping yourself top of mind as an industry expert because when it comes down to it, all of these tactics that we’re going through today, it’s all about positioning yourself as the go to expert in your field and any way you can do that on a trade show when it or any of these events is good for me.
Another thing too is when I used to work at an agency in town and we would do a pop up agency at a trade show. We would do these many on the spot consultations with people. They come over, we set them down and we essentially go through what was the mini brief and help them come to the conclusion of these are my problems, where I think it’s heading. What’s interesting is they leave with more insight about the challenges that face their business but they also, if you go to the consultation well enough, they also leave thinking, “Hey, this guy I just spoke to was very insightful about my business problems. Maybe I’ll call him up when I’m looking for a solution. It’s all about getting creative I think with the trade shows so you could kind of offer something that everyone else isn’t.
Charles: That’s really interesting. I don’t know. I think I’ve seen companies kind of give away a mini version of what they offer, but where you’re offering a service, offering kind of a mini service or a mini version of your service, that’s a really interesting idea.
Simon: It gives them a little bit of taste of what you can offer. You want to make sure you’re not giving away the whole service.
Charles: Oh right.
Simon: But just like a little taste of what’s to come if they were to work with you. The impact that that can have is significantly more than a pen or a stress ball ever could right.
Charles: Well yeah because that stuff collects on my desk until I finally throw it out.
Charles: The other stuff it’s like, “Oh yeah, I really need this. I really have to call these folks back.”
Simon: You’re right. It’s building an experience for them. If you’re doing something like on the spot consultations at these events, it becomes kind of an experiential marketing for your company so you really are building a really engaging situation with these leads but you’re also, they’re leaving the conference at the trade show with a memory of, “Hey, that was pretty cool. That was different than what I would have normally expect from the trade show.” That could be all it takes to keep your top of mind above the competitor.
Charles: With the other tactics, it seemed a lot like when you get to the end you try and get them on your mailing list. It’s, “Hey, here’s another freebie. Here’s another goodie. Jump on the mailing list and you’ll get it or text into this number and you’ll get it.” Is there a way to do that if you have a booth at a conference or other event?
Simon: I think so. A lot of the tactics that we discussed previously can still be applied at a booth. I’m a big fan of honestly the paper pen, “Here’s my email to get your freebie or whatever.” You might think having an iPad would actually make that process quicker but if you end up having ten people at your booth at once, you’re going to end up a little bottleneck with people who want to fill up that form. The pen and paper is a tried and tested method for collecting emails at these events.
Charles: Yeah I’ve also seen the jars with the business cards.
Jonathan: I can’t tell you I’ve seen the iPad approach fail because the wifi is not accessible.
Simon: Oh, yeah.
Jonathan: Big plus one for the pen and paper.
Charles: It’s the classic and under inferred technical conferences when you’re trying to demo something, when you’re trying to collect those email addresses.
Now, one other thing that I’ve done that was a little bit different with the booth is that I’ve gotten to be friends with the guys that do dotnetrocks which is a big programming podcast. What wound up happening this last spring was we got invited out to partner with them and do live podcasts at the Microsoft Build conference. That worked out really, really well. We had a booth that’s kind of back in the corner away from, you could still hear the noise if you listen to those episodes. You could hear the people around us in the general above the exhibition floor because that’s where we were but at the same time it was really cool to just kind of have this space where people could walk by and go, “Oh, what’s this over here,” see us recording an episode with Microsoft folks talking about cool technology. Again, it’s something a little bit different but at the same time it was something that people were interested in.
The last one is cold call in person at local businesses. Cold call in person, is that walking in the door or is that picking up the phone?
Simon: It’s exactly what you think so. It can be either. In this circumstance, I was referring to kind of like walking into the business itself and kind of trying to picture services on the spot. A lot of freelancers or agencies would kind of laugh at that idea. It seems a little antiquated or invasive but it can actually be quite effective if it’s done well and with the right research behind it.
Charles: Can you elaborate on that? What do you mean by the right research behind it?
Simon: Sure. You’re not going to be able to win over someone’s business if you walk in without doing a little research upfront. Let’s use the example of your web design and you’re trying to convince a brick and mortar store that they should go online. Figure out if they have an existing website. If they do, take a look at it, do a little mini audit and see where they can improve, what kind of improvements you can make through your services. If they don’t have a site, try to make a case for why it could benefit their business so that when you go in there and you ask to speak to the owner and you’re talking about how e-commerce or website can really benefit your business, you’re able to talk in their language in a way that’s kind of framed around their business objectives and the kind of products that they sell.
If you’ve ever tried to pitch a client with doing minimal research about their business and their existing channels, you’re going to embarrass yourself, you’re going to fail. You want to make sure you go into the situation fully prepared with a solid understanding of who you’re talking to and who they’re talking to as well.
At Shopify, we work with this young freelancers, this guy in his twenties. He was fresh out of school, studied computer science, and he was looking for a way to make little extra cash on the side. What he started doing was going into these local businesses in his two that didn’t have stores online. No e-commerce presence at all. He would go in there after doing a little bit of research, talk to them in person and kind of sell them on the idea of going online.
It’s a really bold approach but in his small town where it’s run by a lot of mom and pop shops would never even consider the e-commerce as an avenue. It really opened their eyes to a potentially huge way to grow their business. You’re going to take a few losses. You’re going to get people who are really resistant to this approach but that’s okay. As long as you’re willing to have some of those tougher conversations, you’ll be surprised at how many people will be positively receptive to you coming in and try to help them grow their business.
Charles: I find it interesting too that as we’re talking about this, it’s a tactic that I don’t think most people will do or will employ. If you’re the only one doing it, then you’re going to be the only one that’s picking up the people that are receptive to it.
Charles: The other thing is that my dad is not a technical guy, he’s a dentist. I brought that up on the show a few times and I honestly don’t think that he would really get into or understand somebody trying to call him on the phone or push some of this stuff from a technical standpoint. But if they came in and show them what they could build them as far as the website went, it would be a completely different conversation.
Simon: I totally agree. If you’re able to actually have some case studies or tangible websites that you built for someone in a similar situation, it can really go a long way with building trust with that person and really showing the value that you can offer their business.
Charles: Very true.
Jonathan: As difficult as it might sound to just sort of walk up and literally knock on the door and introduce yourself, it’s a really fast way if you’re in a position where you really want to get some cash flow going. I think of any of these, it’s the quickest path to a check.
Charles: Yeah that’s true too. The thing is that in all of these scenarios, you’re in a position where you can actually show people what they’re going to get because you’re there in person and hopefully you’ll have something that you can just bring up. But in this case if you’ve done your research, then you can actually show them their website and then show them how you would make it better and they can immediately see and appreciate the value of that.
Simon: I actually have one of my clients, long time clients is in the business of setting up tools that allow this to happen. It’s called sticky apps and the idea is a service for professional photographers and the approach is to just do exactly what we’re talking about which is say, “Okay, here’s this whatever pizza place and they hired me to take professional photos for the menu or whatever it was.” They can go back and create a website for that business with the tool that’s not dissimilar from Lead Pages but it’s just sort of a very quick and easy way to make a gorgeous responsive website and then they can turn around and like bring an iPad and go back to places and say, “Hey, noticed that you don’t have this new photos that I shot for your menu. They’re not on your website and I noticed that your website is not responsive so it doesn’t work that well on phones. What do you think about this? You sort of whip out the iPad and be like, “Oh, check it out here and look how great this is and look at it on your phone.” It’s actually very effective.”
Charles: I’m sure. They can look at that and they can immediately say, “Yes, that’s what we want.”
Simon: Yeah, they want it like, “What? What?” A lot of times, we’re talking about if you have done your research, you know that their current website if it even exist it’s probably pretty junky especially for restaurants. Immediately, they just want to know, “How do I get this?”
Jonathan: I agree, especially if you can show the business outcome as well like it’s great to say, “Hey, I built this beautiful website for a restaurant.” You can show the impact that you had on their business that lead to 20% more online reservations or something. That’s when you’re really speaking the language of the business owner who isn’t necessarily tech savvy, who maybe doesn’t see the upfront value in hiring someone to build a new website for them. But when you can show them the outcomes that they’ll have on their business and the revenue, they’ll really get a little bit more excited.
Simon: Yeah absolutely. I think that’s true regardless of how you’re communicating with clients whether it’s in person or not. You should probably be talking about the results and not the tools or, “I’m going to build you this specific thing and isn’t that going to be wonderful.” It’s like no, they want more leads or whatever, more customers, more sales.
Charles: Are there any other tactics or tricks that you can use while you’re doing this kind of offline connecting with people that will bring them along a little faster or make them more interested in hiring you, or is it really just getting in the door so that they know who you are and so that you can reach out to them again and again to build that relationship?
Simon: Yeah. Honestly, I think first and foremost like you said you just get in there and get some face time with these potential clients so they can put a face to the name. They can see that you can be a trusted adviser for their business but really to kind of move them along the funnel. I would rely on some sort of hook to entice them. Especially if you’re not necessarily talking about the cold calling one but if you’re trying to gather emails at events and stuff. You really want to give them a reason to hand over that email.
As we all know, nobody wants to just give the email for free just to subscribe to something and that’s where it really relates this idea of like content upgrades, lead magnets come into play which typically are used in blogs and online content marketing. They can still be quite effective when you’re marketing in real life.
Charles: Alright, let’s go ahead and get to the picks. In fact before we do that, Simon do you want to just tell people how to follow you on twitter or check out any other blog post or anything else that you want people to have a look at before we get to the picks?
Simon: Yeah, sure. Anyone can easily find me on Twitter. My handle is just @simonheats, unfortunately simonheat was already taken. Like I said, I work for Shopify and Shopify partners. You can follow the blogging that I do about freelancing, working with clients, growing a building agency on our partner blog which is at shopify.com/partner/blog. We’re really publishing a lot of stuff that can really help freelancers to grow and build their businesses. Definitely check it out, some shameless self promotion.
Charles: Awesome. We appreciate it. Jonathan, what are your picks?
Jonathan: I’ve got two picks. One will be a blog post by Allan Branch from Less Accounting called How We Hijack an Entrepreneur.com Event Sponsorship for $500. It’s a really clever article written by Allan who is hilarious. It fits into the topic of if you’re going to a conference or if you’re going to try or maybe not actually speak at the conference but take advantage of the fact that a whole bunch of your target buyers are going to be in town. This is a really clever way to do it on a shoestring budget. That’s pretty funny, we’ll put that on the show notes.
On the same theme, I have a blog post called Hacking Conferences for Fun and Profit which gets into some of the same topics. Not as funny as Allan, but perhaps useful.
Charles: Allan’s hilarious.
Jonathan: Yeah, but that’s it for me.
Charles: We’ve talked about automation already and I think I picked all the stuff there but that’s basically what I did last week. It was just setting that up. I don’t have any picks this week which is odd for me but that the way it is. Simon, what are your picks?
Simon: We kind of mentioned this one earlier in the segment but I’m a huge fan of Lead Pages. I use a lot for my own lead generation and if you’re looking to capture some emails when you’re speaking at an event or hosting a meetup, you want it more of an automated way to do it. I’m a huge fan of the Lead Digits tool which is an SMS based, send your email through a text and you’re signed up, subscribed. You can even integrate that with pretty much any of the email software out there and you can just start a drip campaign or whatever you want to do with them, that’s definitely one of them.
In terms of my second, we mentioned EventBrite earlier but I’m a huge fan of nvite for hosting my events online. It’s entirely free to use if you’re not asking for a payment for the tickets. It’s really cleanly designed and allows you to capture emails to integrate with a lot of other pieces of software. It’s really just a great tool I found for having an online location where people can discover your offline event.
Charles: Alright, thank you for coming. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us. We’re going to go ahead and wrap up the show and we’ll catch everyone next week.
Simon: That sounds great. Thank you so much for having me.