If it feels like you’re hitting a dead end and you’re not getting the responses you want when marketing to direct clients, you’re not alone. It’s a frustration and challenge shared by many translators, including one of my email subscribers, who wrote the following:
I’m not getting a response from potential prospects following the initial contact. For example, I connected with an interesting person on LinkedIn, have done a few follow-ups (including a message, liking/sharing posts) but I’m not getting any response and now it feels like I’ve hit a dead end.
It’s a relatable challenge, isn’t it? When you’ve identified the perfect company, you contact them, follow up and… crickets. Maybe you have hit a dead end with that person but before giving up entirely, let’s look at a few things you can do to maximise your prospecting.
Three things to increase when you’re marketing to direct clients
When you’re marketing to a client you really want to work with, it’s easy to focus on the message you sent, the response (or lack of) that you received and overthink and overanalyse the process. It’s good to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Make sure you’re maximising each opportunity as well as the number of opportunities you’re creating. If you can increase any or all of the following, you’ll see results.
1. The number of people involved
Connect with multiple people from the same company. Damien might be the perfect person to contact and yet he’s content with the current translation provider, thinking everything’s good enough, no need to rock the boat and go through the whole ‘approved supplier’ rigmarole again. Meanwhile Susanne is fuming. She works in the technical department and is sick to the back teeth of correcting the technical translations Damien sends her. After meeting you, she
interrogates you asks a few questions about your experience to ensure she can trust you to do a better job and marches down to the marketing department to insist they contact you. [based on a true story, I don’t know if she marched exactly, but I like to imagine she did]
2. The number of channels you use
On LinkedIn, you’re competing with a continuously updating feed and notifications popping up everywhere. Your prospect is unlikely to notice you sharing or liking their content, may not read comments or if they do, they might not make the connection between you and you the translator as someone who can help them in their business. [Can you be friend-zoned on LinkedIn?🤔]
If you can take a potential relationship away from social media, I would. Email, telephone, post, online/offline attendance at the same events, in-person meetings can all work well for people who aren’t receptive on social media.
3. The number of people you contact
Only about 3 % of people are ready to buy when you contact them. The remaining 97 % will include some potential clients who will like you, be happy to connect and discuss potential collaborations, some who won’t be interested until an upcoming project gets urgent and zooms up the priority list.
Some will never buy.
And some people might be interested in the future but won’t be bothered to reply because… well, various reasons which may or may not include them not seeing any benefit to interacting with you (harsh I know). They might not be active on LinkedIn or your emails disappear into a black hole, they never get to the bottom of their messages because they’re constantly putting out fires or otherwise busy, or they may even be planning to leave the company or change position. Who knows? I say let’s leave them to their business and contact more good-fit companies who are interested.
What else can you do to increase your success when marketing to direct clients?
Other things to increase: the perceived value of your message, your curiosity and how long you expect it to take to see results. You can get quick results (from that 3 % of people who are ready to buy right now) but often it takes time to build up the relationship and a varying number of contact points – some say 7, some say 21 – before a person is ready to entrust their carefully crafted text to you for translation or editing.
Most sales people will say it’s a numbers game and I agree that if you’re not getting responses, then you need to increase the numbers as explained under point 3. However, we don’t need 1000s of new clients as a freelance translator (can you imagine what that would be like?!). Another successful strategy is to target a relatively small number of potential clients and up the level of personalisation and effort you put into each budding relationship.
I’ve run campaigns where I’ve selected a highly targeted group of individuals – say 10-25 potential clients – and have contacted them to make a credible offer. By following up and keeping in touch regularly, this strategy has won me clients I still work with today and gained me many new contacts in my target market.
If that sounds like an approach you’d like to take, I outline one type of campaign in this free resource: Direct Marketing for Translators in 5 Easy Steps.
If you’d like further inspiration and guidance to create a customised plan, and support every step of the way to put the plan into action and handle the responses, then I highly recommend my Destination Direct Clients course. It’s a 12-week marketing accelerator that combines strategy and action and won’t leave you feeling like you’ve hit a dead end. Instead you’ll be actively marketing to direct clients you want to work with. You’ll get quick answers to all your questions so you can keep building your marketing momentum. And you’ll go away with new contacts, even clients, as well as a strategy you can rinse, adapt and repeat to attract new translation clients.