OK, so you’ve gotten your LinkedIn profile in tip-top shape (if not, click here for tips on how to do this), and you’ve been busily searching and clicking to connect with the very people who need the service you provide (if you missed the article on how to do that, here it is).
Now it’s time to start building those oh-so-important client relationships. Because as I talked about recently on Episode 32 of the Mike Lenz Voice podcast, it’s not about booking that one gig, it’s about becoming the go-to for that client’s voiceover needs.
The first thing to do before sending a message to your new client is to put yourself in the right mindset. Susan Berkley of The Great Voice Company recently released a short video about this very topic wherein she asks if you’re thinking of yourself as a peer or a pest.
You are not peddling cookies to a diabetic here, you are a professional who provides a great service that this person uses on a regular basis. (Sidenote: if what you have to offer is not great and you know it, you need to get your act together before you go another step. For voiceover talents who need more training, call Edge Studio NOW! They are awesome!!!) So remember that by reaching out, you are not bugging anybody, you’re doing them a favor by saving them the time and energy of finding someone to meet their particular business need—YOU!
Now that that’s out of the way and you’ve built up your confidence, it’s time to do that seemingly scary thing and communicate! When you look in your email inbox and see the name of that new connection, don’t immediately click “send message”—take a little time to get to know them first by checking out their profile. When you’re first starting this LinkedIn communication process, it’s helpful to make up a few templates for yourself that you can copy/paste with the repetitive information, then change the names and add a personalized comment or two. I just made up a simple document that has the templates categorized by job title, because typically I will phrase things similarly for people who work in the same industry, based on their perceived needs. So I have one for marketing directors, video producers, creative directors, etc. The longer you follow this method, the longer your list of templates could potentially get and the more streamlined you’ll become according to what works for you. Here’s a sample of things to include in your message:
- Salutation: This may seem like a “duh” moment, but simple manners seem to have fallen by the wayside in our culture. My mother taught me to write thank you notes for every birthday present I ever received, and I make my kids do the same. And according to common letter-writing skills, we don’t dive into the message without first saying a little word like, “Hi” or “Hello”. “Dear” is a bit formal for me, but do whatever suits your personality.
- That person’s name: Again, very rudimentary, but who doesn’t like to be acknowledged by name? It says that you took the time to look up how to spell their name correctly (VERY important) and that you are not a robot sending out generic, auto-generated messages. It’s the first step in saying, “You matter to me.”
- Thank them for connecting with you. They didn’t have to do this, and yet they took time to click the“connect” button next to your name and photo. In order to live a life of gratefulness, I believe in thanking those around me without groveling. Acknowledge even the little things.
- Share a personal comment and sincere compliment. A good relationship begins by taking interest someone else. Even if you’re a non-religious person, this Bible verse from Philippians 2:4 has a great message for anyone in the business world: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”Here’s your opportunity to make a personal connection, so don’t blow it! Whether it’s something about their picture, where they live, what school they went to, something you noticed in their summary or job experience, or part of their body of work that speaks to you, this is the type of thing you can talk about with them that will start the ball rolling on a beautiful business relationship. Just like a first date, you gotta make small talk, not go straight to the conversation about how many kids you want. If you really don’t see anything you can connect with on their LinkedIn profile, look under the “Contact Info” tab (to the bottom right of their name/position, underneath the number of connections they have) and go to their website. Check out their portfolio and find something to connect with. If they don’t have their website listed, you can try Googling it or go to their Twitter or Facebook page, and while you’re there, follow them. You’ll see in a moment why that’s important too.
- Ask a question. I like to ask what type of projects this potential client works on the most, or something to that effect. Not only does asking a question elicit an implied response, but it again shows an interest in what’s going on in their world. Plus it tells you information you need to know. If they work on mostly corporate videos and you’ve got a ton of experience with those, you will know to market that aspect of your skills stronger than others.
- Offer to be a resource for them. Again, this is not about you. Don’t ask them to listen to your demo, buy your product, or check out your website. Keep it casual and play it cool. They can tell what you do and they know that by reaching out to them, you want them to hire you. So you don’t need to say it. Find your own phrases that fit your style, but maybe say something about how you would love to collaborate or work together or join forces or whatever sounds like you. Because their company is awesome and it would be an honor/pleasure to be considered, not because of your own awesomeness. You can briefly mention that you’d like to help elevate them or their client’s brand (this phrasing tip courtesy of Anne Ganguzza), because that stays consistent with the message that your goal is to bring THEM success, which of course should be your goal.
- Direct them to check out ONE and only one thing. Once the body of the message is there, tell them where they can find the ONE thing you most want to direct them to (for voice actors, it’s our demo) and that place needs to be right here on LinkedIn. Stay focused and do not start talking about all the other stuff you have to offer. If they check out that one thing and like it, they will get interested in the rest of your goodies.
- Offer to answer any questions. That shows you’re willing and available to communicate with them. And you need to be responsive and timely when you do hear from a potential client.
- Wish them the best! I always say, “I wish you continued success” because I do. I wouldn’t be contacting this person if I didn’t want to help them grow their business, prosper, and succeed. And even if they don’t want to work with me, they still have my best wishes. But you find your own trademark, even if it’s just “Have a great day”.
- Sign off. Yup, it’s time to stop talking now. You’ve said all you need to say and done all that you can do. No more words need to be exchanged. Whether it’s “warm regards”, “sincerely”, or “all the best” (my personal favorite), say goodbye and hang it up.
- Leave your contact info. I do not mean ALL your contact info, including cell#, Skype ID, Twitter handle, Facebook page link, and all that business. Just your website and email addresses will suffice, gently placed right underneath your name as you close the message. They can find all the rest on your LinkedIn profile if they want it, but these two bits of contact information are what you want them to save and use to contact you directly in the future, so put them out there underneath your name and leave it at that. No shouting “Look at my stuff!” or “Can’t wait to hear from you!”, just a calm reminder that you’re here to help anytime. Which is exactly what I say whenever someone contacts me to say they’ll put me on their roster or they’ll let me know when they need voiceover talent. I’m here to humbly be of service to them whenever it is that they need me, not be a spammy jerk, as the fabulous Jonathan Tilley warns against .
A FEW DO’S AND DON’TS
DO NOT start listing all kinds of information about yourself. As Marc Scott recommends, initial communication messages should stay within 50-125 words, and he references a study done by Boomerang, so if you start talking about your stellar recording studio or tell them all about your past clients, not only will you start making it all about you, but you’ll blow the 125 word limit REALLY fast! Know what that gets you? Crickets, not clients. Nobody wants to work with a horn-tooter. You’ll have time later to tell them the intricate details of your past work, but for now, keep the attention focused on your potential client. Here’s a summary of tips from the above-referenced Boomerang article that increase your chances of getting someone to respond to your message:
- Use shorter sentences with simpler words. A 3rd grade reading level works best.
- Include 1-3 questions in your email (I usually only ask one)
- Make sure you include a subject line! Aim for 3-4 words. (I usually say, “Thanks for connecting!”)
- Use a slightly positive or slightly negative tone. Both outperform a completely neutral tone. (I ALWAYS go with positive!)
- Take a stand! Opinionated messages see higher response rates than objective ones. (Have a positive opinion about their demo reel, profile picture, etc, but be sincere)
- Write enough, but not too much. Try to keep messages between 50-125 words (Mine are averaging 80).
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SET SOME MARKETING GOALS
Pick a goal number of how many NEW people you want to reach out to on LinkedIn per day, and stay accountable to that number. What gets even more results is having an accountability partner who will lovingly hold your feet to the fire to keep you focused and thriving. I use a simple notebook where I write the date and next to it I make tally marks for how many new contacts I make on LinkedIn that day. Responding to a contact I’ve already reached out to doesn’t count (sorry!). I also meet with a small accountability group of less than six people once a week so we make sure there’s no slacking off.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT FOLLOW-UP
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an area that I’m still learning about and am not equipped to teach others in, but I have invested in Nimble which is a great way to keep track of people you’re reaching out to, set up tasks, and all kinds of other helpful tools. The biggest thing Nimble has that others don’t is the ability to automatically pull in all your social media contacts like a giant vacuum cleaner and plunk them neatly into one database. The only downside to LinkedIn is that you will need to follow the steps to turn all your LinkedIn contacts into a CSV and feed it into the system that way, which means you will need to update it periodically, but that can’t be helped (at least, I don’t know of a way—if you do, please tell me!). Here are 4 steps to continuing to build customer relationships after that initial contact:
- Follow them on whatever social media platforms you can find. If you use Nimble, it will tell you what your contacts are doing out there in the wide world of social media and hopefully you can connect again on an article they wrote, a video they published, or a photo they shared. Keep reaching out in small ways so that you stay in their sight line and they will think of you next time they need the service you provide.
- Pay attention to what your contacts are doing specifically on LinkedIn. Did they get a promotion? Write an article? Have a work anniversary? Take a moment to reach out with a little note to say congrats. LinkedIn provides you with notifications, updates, and even a feed showing what your contacts “liked” so that you can stay connected. Take advantage of those opportunities!
- Save talking points to trigger their memory of who you are. I keep track of comments I exchange with a new connection that will help us remember each other. Like the girl who worked in Australia for a year and we chatted about how I spent a summer near Brisbane, or how one guy just became a new dad and we talked about how I’m a mother of four. These are real people with real feelings and real lives apart from their ability to hire you. Treasure the knowledge that they shared some detail about their personal life with you and respect that vulnerability as another human being. Even if that detail wasn’t personal, they took the time to respond to you and deserve to not have to repeat themselves in whatever it is that they told you, so track it! Whether it’s Nimble, an Excel spreadsheet or whatever, find a system that works for you and use it. That’s just another step in the process of building a relationship.
- Decide how often to reach out to your potential client and then do it! Nimble can help with this when you set a quick reminder to follow up with this person every week, month, quarter, or year. Or find another system that works for you, but without a plan, we all know that valuable follow-up probably won’t happen as effectively as it should, which means missed opportunities and lost revenue.
Has this LinkedIn series been helpful for you? I would LOVE to hear any stories about how putting this series of tips into practice for your business has propelled you forward and gained you new clients. If you have any tips or tweaks of your own to add, please share them in the comments below and we’ll all grow together! Also, if you’re interested in trying a free 15-day trial for Nimble, click here and see if using it helps you grow your business and cultivate a broader client base. I would love the opportunity to keep sharing marketing tips with you, so please click here to subscribe to my blog and let’s keep in touch!