Strategies for effective prospecting

The key to an effective contact strategy is to clearly define your target audience. Who exactly are your prospective clients? Which industries do they work in? Are they mostly small businesses or marketing managers in FTSE 100 companies?

Define your prospective clients.

There is a saying in direct marketing that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your list. This is very likely to be true for your business too.

Only 20% of the companies in your area are likely to offer a good return on your marketing efforts. We can term these clients as ‘high-status’ contacts.

80% of the companies in your area are not likely to offer a good return on your marketing efforts. We can term these clients as ‘low-status’ contacts.

The time you spend pitching to prospective clients should be proportional to the status they fall into. As a rough rule, spend 20% of your time marketing your services to low-status contacts, and 80% of your time marketing to high-status contacts.

So how do we define high-status and low-status contacts in the marketing sector?

High-status contacts

High-status contacts are simply clients likely to give you on-going or lucrative work.

In the main, we’re talking about people working in big companies. More specifically, promotional coordinators and marketing managers in sales and marketing departments.

These contacts offer the best return on your marketing efforts because they have bigger budgets (which means more lucrative assignments), they have more numerous on-going projects, they are more likely to rely on freelancers, they might recommend you to other departments, and they are likely to move around within the industry, taking their contacts with them.

High-status contacts may also be managers of smaller businesses, whose design needs relate to your particular area of expertise-maybe because you have substantial experience designing within their industry sector.

High-status contacts require personalized marketing contact. Focus your energy on getting meeting time with them. Stay visible; mail them, call them now and again, and send emails once a month to remind them you’re out there.

Low-status contacts

Low-status contacts are either people who rarely call upon freelance designers, or people who only call upon freelance designers for small-scale ad-hoc items. It is therefore unlikely they will offer lucrative or on-going work.

Low-status contacts are likely to be general managers or marketing managers of small-to-medium-size businesses with small promotional budgets. Since they don’t produce a constant stream of promotional materials, it’s not worth focussing your marketing efforts on substantial personalized contact.

The exceptions would be existing clients or contacts who may call on you as their ‘designer of choice’, maybe because you provide a specialist service (as mentioned above).

You shouldn’t neglect low-status contacts because they make up such a large section of your potential client-base. Sure, only a tiny percentage of low-status contacts will offer a good return on your marketing efforts. But even if just 1% of low-status contacts offer on-going or lucrative design work, that 1% is a large enough list of prospective clients to make a real difference to your bottom line.

Target low-status contacts with an email or mailing campaign. It’s not worth personalizing your contact with such a large section of low-priority contacts. Instead, look for ways of reaching these people on-mass.

You can do this by buying a data-list of low-status contacts, and emailing or snail-mailing the people on the list. In my forthcoming book "The Freelance Designer's Self-Marketing Handbook" I'll show you how to buy a data-list, how to set up a direct mail campaign, and how to write your email or DM letter.

Set up a database of high-status contacts. High-status contacts require lots of personalized contact. But first you have to find them and gather their details.

Search engines are the simplest way of looking for high-status contacts. Simply type in “Marketing department” followed by your region, and look for contact names, email addresses, and telephone numbers of likely high-status marketing contacts working within big corporations.

It’s a good idea to build yourself a database of high-status contacts, and to keep it regularly updated by adding new contacts on a weekly basis.

A database allows you to update all your marketing activities, so you can see who you contacted, when you contacted them, and what their response was. It’s an essential organizational tool.

To set up your database spreadsheet, allow columns for company name, company description, contact name, contact position, address, telephone number, email address, website address, low-status/high-status (we’ll discuss the reasons for including this later), and update notes.

Spend as much time as you can Googling businesses and searching their ‘Contact Us’ pages, entering new high-status contacts into your spreadsheet as you go. Your aim is to have hundreds of contacts on your database. The law of averages dictates that around 5% of these will make promising leads.

Phone then email. The standard strategy for contacting prospective clients is to phone first, then follow up with reminder emails. There are two reasons why it’s advisable to contact people in this order.

Firstly, in an age when spamming is an increasing problem, a lot of people only trust emails from known contacts. To become a “known contact” you need to introduce yourself either face-to-face or on the telephone.

Secondly, talking to contacts on the phone gives you a chance to ask what kind of design needs they have. You can record everything in the company description column of your database, so when you email the contact later, you can tailor your message to the specific needs of the contact. You can also include relevant links to your online portfolio, making your design offer more targeted to the individual.

When you have phoned a contact on your database, make sure you keep your update notes column up-to-date. Include the date you contacted, degree of interest in your offer, and when next to contact.

In some instances, a telephone conversation will reveal that the contact isn’t really high-status at all, but for some reason or other, falls into the low-status category. Rather than delete the contact from your database, just tag the contact as low-status for your own reference—you’ve gone to the trouble of calling, so a quick email now and again won’t be a waste of time. (That’s why it’s a good idea to include a high-status/low-status column in your database, as advised above.)

Snail-mail then phone. Cold-calling people can be a daunting experience. It is especially daunting if you’re calling really high-status contacts; when the stakes are high and one call can make a profound difference to your freelancing job opportunities.

In these cases, sending a teaser mailer through snail-mail a week before you call will help to break the ice, so when the contact picks up the phone, he/she already knows who you are.

Your teaser mailer could be a postcard with a thought-provoking line, a provocative question, or something else to arouse the recipient’s curiosity. For example: the front side of your mailer could read:

Heard the news?...

and the back could read:

…there’s a new freelance publicity designer in town

Then a short message at the bottom to introduce yourself:

Jon Woo— freelance publicity designer.
Need a fast designer?

The secret of a good teaser mailer is to grab the recipient’s attention. You’re not trying to say everything about you and your service. Save that for your follow-up phone call. You’re simply gaining exposure by communicating your name and the core aspect of your design offer in a memorable way.

For example, one teaser I recently received from a touting freelancer was a Heinz tin-can, labeled “Double-concentrated talent”. The tin-can contained pureed tomato—the fact I tried to open the can reflects how successfully it caught my attention.

(In fact, I was so impressed by the self-promotion of this designer, I made it my mission to give him a graphic design assignment.)

Shaun Crowley

The above article is adapted from Shaun Crowley’s new book, The Freelance Designer’s Self-Marketing Handbook. The book is available for download at


11th September 2007

Related News

Latest News