Get More Clients With This Simple Trick

a small business edge

Cliff Edge(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know that there’s a simple trick that can help you get more clients?

It’s something that many small and medium size businesses ignore, or don’t even know about.

It isn’t more years of experience or knowing more software. It isn’t your location either.

It’s something that can help you stand out from your competition and make it easier for you to get more clients.

I call it having “an edge.”

What’s an edge?

What do I mean by an “edge” anyway? Lower prices? A sack of razors in the back?


An edge is a term that Seth Godin uses to define something that makes your company different.

Something that other businesses would have a great deal of trouble duplicating.

For instance, any restaurant can lower prices, but not every restaurant could (or would) offer a 15-course meal that takes three hours to serve and consume. And not every patron could afford the time or the money to eat such a meal.

Does an edge mean complicated and expensive?

Not necessarily. Your edge could be a meal that lasts three hours. Or, one that’s served in 12 seconds.

You could treat everyone really, really well (like Zappos). Or treat them badly. Ratner’s (a restaurant in New York City), was famous for its grumpy waiters. They told you what to eat, steered you away from the fish and toward the blintzes, and generally treated their customers poorly. Customers ate it up (sorry), because it was something to talk about to their friends.

Your edge could be adding something (a free web site favicon, a free soup strategy, or a font of the month).

You could over-engineer your products (like Patagonia does).  Most of its customers don’t really need clothing that can withstand -80F temperatures, or keep them comfortable three miles up on a mountain, but they like to think they do.

Or, you could offer super-fast turnaround (at an appropriate rush price), for clients with big, hairy deadlines breathing down their necks. Think of what FedEx did for packages for people in a hurry.

The key is to create something that’s impressive, noteworthy, and well remarkable.

This is the last in a series of posts about competing against outsourcing.  The other posts are:

Simple Ways to Keep Your Clients and Get New Ones

Bagel Day!

Bagel Day! (Photo credit: Joey DeVilla)

Trying to compete against overseas designers and developers?  Overseas designers and writers are churning out work as fast as they can (to make money as quickly as possible). Luckily, there are simple ways to beat outsourcing, keep your clients, and get new ones.

Back to those outsourcers for a minute.  The trouble they have is that they’re many time zones away.  They don’t have time for personal attention.  And, they can’t meet or talk to their clients face to face. But you can.

Send something personal

Instead of thinking like a 21st century person, try thinking like a Victorian instead. Create a calendar with your company name, photos, and appropriate reminders (if you’re in the gardening business, this could be planting and fertilizing timing).  A graphic designer might display beautiful typefaces (or even art made with type). Or just include a bunch of completely silly holidays (like International Bacon Day).  You can even make them up.

Bagel Day!

 Bob Poole suggests Bagel Day! Who doesn’t love bagels?  Call your favorite client and ask if you can drop by the next day.  Why?  Because you’ve just declared tomorrow to be Bagel Day.  Deliver the bagels, and thank them for being a client.


If personally delivering bagels is impractical, send something else (tickets to their favorite sports team, a bottle of wine, or even better, gifts for their kids or grandkids.  My dad owns several buildings in CT. His real estate broker regularly sends gifts for my nephew.  Has she endeared herself in a way that no other broker ever did?  Sure she has!

Video calls

Email and telephone conversations are great, but sometimes quite a bit can get lost in translation.  With written words, verbal cues, tone of voice, and temper are missed.  Telephones are better, but you can’t see face-to-face.

Try scheduling regular video conferences with your clients.  It can be for updates, conference calls, or even part of the work process (don’t just suggest a typeface, show them in real time and get real time feedback).  Or go through comps.  This used to be expensive, but with Skype and Google Hangouts it’s free.

Face to face

When you’re  a freelancer, it’s easy to get stuck in your own “cave.”  I’m creating! Don’t bother me.

But, sometimes, you need to get out (you’ll feel better, get new ideas, and meet new people). Go to a networking meeting.  Have coffee with a client, or reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while.  Look for complementary creatives (graphics and web development, for instance). People do business with people they know and like.  If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind too.

What other ways can you reach out?

This post is the second in a series about competing against outsourcing.
The remaining posts are:

The One Rule Your Marketing Writing Must Follow

one marketing ruleYou hear it often.

Everyone seems to agree on it.

It’s the only way that you’ll get attention. If you don’t follow this rule, your sales letters won’t be read, your posts will be abandoned, and your emails will sit unopened and unloved.

It’s funny how everyone says the same thing, and repeats it knowingly.

It’s too long

They said the same thing in Claude Hopkins’ day, back in 1920. People won’t read it. You have to write shorter sales letters or posts. People have short attention spans.  If you write something too long, nobody will read it. Some bloggers go so far as to include word counts and estimated reading times on their posts (don’t worry, I’ll only take up 3:31 of your time!). There’s even an internet abbreviation: TL, DR (too long, didn’t read).

It’s a trap

Readers avidly devour each Game of Thrones installment, despite the fact that the books are  about 1,000 pages long. A friend told me she read Shantaram in a few days (even though it’s 944 pages), because she was so entranced by it.

It’s not the length

The length of your email or sales letter, or post, isn’t what stops people from reading all of it. People don’t turn away because something is long. They leave because it’s dull. If you keep your readers’ interest, they’ll read every word. Bore them, and they’re gone.

Format for the screen

If you’re used to print, you will need to make a few changes for the web.  Break up the paragraphs into smaller pieces.  Use more line breaks, and more subheads.  It’s easier to read on a screen that way.

Good enough to share

Memorable, interesting posts (even ads) get shared, read, or watched over and over.  The length isn’t relevant. Don’t worry if it’s long; just make it interesting.

Meanwhile, if you could get George R.R. Martin to write faster, I’d appreciate it!

Photo: walknboston on flickr

Free Creative Brief Template

drawing board

You know how frustrating it can be to do the same project over and over? Or when the creative you hired doesn’t seem to “get” what you want?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about using a creative brief to  turn tough clients into easy ones.  This week, I thought I’d share an actual sample of a creative brief template.

Using a creative brief can help eliminate a lot of the frustration on both sides.  Whether you are a web developer or a designer, having your client’s wants, needs, and expectations on paper will help smooth the creative and design process and help your project move ahead more quickly.

Seven essential elements of a creative brief

First, you need a quick overview of the project.  What product or service are they promoting?  What is the goal of this service? What is the situation in the rest of the market? What is the competition doing?

Second, what is the goal of the project?  Is it a branding exercise? Or an effort to get more sales? Is the product new, or a relaunch of an existing product?

Third, what makes the service (or the product) special?  How does it differ from existing products? What’s the most important thing your audience should know about your product? What are the next three or four most important benefits?

Fourth, who is your target audience? Who are they? Where can you find them? What’s their age, job, interests? Why would your intended audience want to pay for it?  What does it do for them? How does it make them feel?

Fifth, what’s the best way to talk to them? Should it be formal? Or more relaxed?  Write down everything you know about how they think, who they are, and how to reach them. What design and writing styles would appeal to them the most?

Sixth, where will this be used?  Is it for print? For a website? Or a social media campaign? Or will it be used in multiple campaigns/media?

Seventh, what are the due dates for each stage of the project?  Who else needs to be involved?  Will you need additional resources (designers, printers, web developers) in order to finish the project?

Creatives working with clients

This creative brief is perfect for the initial consultation meeting.  Use it to screen your clients (it will help you decide if a prospect is a good fit).  Or, send it after the contract is signed.  There’s space to outline their strategy, identify their audience,  and how they want to separate themselves from the competition.

Businesses hiring a creative

If, on the other hand, you want to hire a creative, use the form to explain more about your business, your competition, and your philosophy.  It will help your designer (or your copywriter) to come up with concepts or copy.  This will make their jobs easier, and save time (and possibly, money).

For example, if the designer or web developer knows you want a playful, bright, colorful design for your new kids clothing store, they won’t bother developing concepts with dark colors and a formal look more suitable for a law firm. Fewer concepts and fewer changes means fewer charges (or extra charges).

If your designer knows your audience in advance, it will be easier for him or her to choose what fonts to use, decide which colors are appropriate, and how to approach your project.

The same information will help your copywriter.  If you know how to find your ideal client, what keeps them up at night, and what your company’s biggest marketing challenges are it will be easier to write copy, and ask pertinent questions.

Download your creative brief template here.

How to Write Ad Copy That Keeps Your Prospects Entranced

write entrancing ad copyMonday, I showed you two ads, one by Samsung and one by Apple.

Both are about electronics.  Both have multi-million dollar campaigns behind them, sponsored by large well-known companies.

What’s the difference?

The Samsung ad starts off, “Nobody aspires to be second best, or make an average entrance…”  Good, it’s telling me that I can be better than average! Unusual and remarkable.

Samsung loves themselves

But towards the end, it goes off the rails. It turns all of that into an ode to themselves, rather than about the people buying the phone.

“We have the best and brightest screen on our fastest phone ever.  Because we’re Samsung, and that’s just the way we’re wired.”

The phone spins. You see the logo over and over, while the announcer repeats the product name.

Lastly, the words “The Wonder of Samsung” appear on the screen, along with the logo, and those of retailers that sell the phone.

You’re not better, Samsung is better.

Apple loves their audience

In contrast, the Apple ad says,  “Are you curious about new ideas? Do you want to learn a new language? Or just a new word? ..Uncover a hidden talent?  There has never been a better time to learn.”

The announcer never mentions the name of the product or who makes it.  He never says “we” or “our” only “you.”

The Apple logo and the words “Ipad2” show up only briefly, at the end.

The entire experience is about the viewer.

And that’s why it works.

Focus on your audience

Run the one-minute marketing test on your ad or your email or your web page.  See who you’re really talking about.

Write ad copy and promote your products and services to fulfill your audience’s desires, what they want to achieve, or save, or earn. They’ll be entranced.

Photo: Broderick via Flickr