In marketing your freelance services, you may wonder (or at least I do!) whether it’s better to market to direct clients by e-mail, on paper, or both. I don’t have a succinct answer to that, but here are a few thoughts.
For a long time, I was a devotée of marketing on paper: writing out a full-page cover letter, attaching my resumé and a business card, sticking it all in an envelope and mailing it to the potential client. I also did a number of postcard marketing campaigns, and I do think there’s a place for paper marketing materials:
- They stand out: most people’s postal mail is 95% ads and bills. So, although your marketing packet is a type of ad, it’s also interesting, and personalized, and shows that you took more than 30 seconds to put something together for this potential candidate.
- They stick around: once someone deletes an e-mail, it’s gone. But I’ve gotten inquiries from clients (literally) years after I sent them a marketing pitch in the mail, because my business card was still kicking around their office.
- They let you say more than you would in an e-mail: no one is going to read an e-mail that’s the equivalent of a full-page cover letter. But I’ve had fairly good success with full-page cover letters sent in the mail. They let you describe your recent projects, something about the client that makes you feel there’s a good fit, etc.
The downside of paper marketing materials is that they’re time-consuming and potentially costly to create and send, and your prospect has to make a very deliberate effort (in the form of calling or e-mailing you) to respond. There’s no reply button on a paper letter, so the prospect has to be really interested in order to follow up.
Just because I wondered what I might be missing, I recently joined Ed Gandia’s Warm E-mail Prospecting course. It’s online and self-paced, and I really like it. It’s helped me see the advantages of e-mail marketing–not blast e-mails that you send to 1,000 potential prospects with one click, but short (125 words or less), targeted, personalized e-mails that you send when you see a meaningful connection between you and the potential client. The appeal:
- They’re short: it takes me under one minute to read 125 words. I get a lot of unsolicited e-mail (marketing pitches from other translators, requests for information about freelancing, requests to speak or write or present, etc.) and when I open an e-mail and it’s short, personalized and to the point, I actually feel interested in reading it (here’s something written just for me and it will take two seconds…maybe it’s interesting!). But when I open an unsolicited e-mail and it’s 500 words, or begins with “I’d like to start by telling you about myself,” I often leave the e-mail “for later,” which usually means much later, or if the e-mail isn’t personalized, I end up deleting it without reading it.
- They invite immediate action: if your prospect is interested, they can click Reply, and simply answer, “Sounds interesting; can you send me some more information?” or “We may need someone like you in the future; feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn,” and they’re done with it.
- They’re easy to create once you get the hang of it: and easy is good. Easy is what gets done. Instead of tailoring the cover letter, then printing it, then printing your resumé, then locating a business card and an envelope, then stressing about whether the paper should be white or off-white, and whether it’s OK to use your leftover Christmas stamps on business letters, and so on, you just fire the thing off and you’re done.
Readers, other thoughts on this?