networking...finding your clients
I'm intrigued. How have you all found your best clients?
Ok broad question I know, but bare with me. I'm a freelance video director/editor/motion graphics artist. This year I would really like to get myself infront of a few more people.
My clients are mostly post/design/production/ad companies hiring me for my skills but I'm would like to build my own client base. Working with companies directly (rather than through the production co) for event/corporate/multimedia projects. Its these people I would like to meet. In effect building my own business.
What tips can people give me in finding the person buried in a big company that would be interested in perhaps meeting me? Is it simply pluggin away at cold calling (with some savy internet research to back it up) or is it other places or creative projects that you have met your most valuable clients. I don't believe mail outs ever work, I would like the direct contact if possible, so whats the tips you may have to get that first meeting. Are sometimes your best clients ones that come from other social circles?
There is one thing I absoluley don't do and thats sneek through the back door with my current clients of production/design co's and steal clients. I despise those who do, so for me its just not an option, but I am interested in how the companies I work for find these clients in the first place (there are some weird and wonderful businesses out there willing to pay top dollar for not much I got to tell you!). But I would not dare even strike up that conversation with them in case they thought I was doing the dodgy so I thought I would ask here.
I found that networking takes time. People do business whith people they know and trust. I would suggest that you check out your local chamber of commerce. They have a great deal of information available on companies doing business in your city as well as what business networking events are taking place. I would be willing to bet that prospective clients just may be chamber members also.
If you're targeting a specific industry, find out what trade associations cater to that industry and consider joining as a member of that association. I used to do a lot of editing for a professional group of people and joined their association as a supplier. The business I got from it more than covered the costs. Great arena for word of mouth advertising as well as a few great friendships developed as a result.
If you live in a large town or city, try looking looking up Business Network Internation, (BNI), chapters in your area. You can attend any meeting as a guest twice every six months and they usually allow guests to do a 60 second elevator pitch during the course of the meeting, usually a breakfast or lunch meeting.
If your city has a business development center, take some time to visit them and learn about the resources they have available. It can save you a lot of footwork and parking meter change.
be seen, be heard, be remembered
Big fan of the Chamber of Commerce approach. We wound up doing a show FOR the Chamber of Commerce! We did one episode per month, and it ran once a week for the whole month -- gotta let everyone have their moment in the sun, and then give everyone a chance to see it.
In addition to general community news and entertainment, each show had a 2-3 minute spotlight on two chamber members. We got some business from those members, too, as well as people running similar businesses that wanted us to do something similar for them. Many of those businesses ran the episodes in their offices and waiting rooms -- we got entirely unrelated work from those too, just because people had seen our work.
Yes, the meetings can be painful. Yes, they'll suck down your time and money. Yes, most of them will be a colossal waste. But showing up on time, all cleaned up, big smile, shaking hands firmly, carrying on pleasant conversation -- these are all things that build confidence in your ability to conduct business responsibly. Showing up ALL THE TIME tells them you're sincere about being part of the community.
Those, more than anything else, are what chamber folks look for: that you conduct yourself well, that you're committed to the community, that you inspire confidence, and that you're pleasant to be around. We got jobs from some people before they'd even seen our work.
While the Chamber was the center of the network in our small town, the Rotary was the only other group that mattered. They were hardcore, though -- very little socializing, all about business. But there was no point showing up there uninvited unless you were already a Rotarian. Much better to get invited by being visible at the Chamber.
Your mileage will vary, but that's how it went for me.
[Tim Wilson] "Big fan of the Chamber of Commerce approach. We wound up doing a show FOR the Chamber of Commerce! We did one episode per month, and it ran once a week for the whole month -- gotta let everyone have their moment in the sun, and then give everyone a chance to see it."
I agree with you, Tim. I once got a three year contract on producing the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce local magazine that was a city guide, with history, stories, local attractions, etc., and was a real magazine -- not the newsprint that you see in many cities. It was a great way to meet all the local businesspeople and win many new accounts. Ended up eventually getting the local zoo guide as well.
Chambers, by their by-laws must use locals. Get involved, you *can* get great work from being a part of it -- but you must get involved. Trying it a few times and sitting on your hands while there at a meeting, won't work. Get up and meet people.
Thanks so much for your reply guys. Really interesting stuff there.
Interestingly I have recently got involved with a business network through our local council. So good to hear people have got some interesting leads out of those. I've now just got to be a bit more 'out there' with meeting people at these events.
Yeah, I'm interested in these 'other' little ways of getting in front of people. Seems to make much more sense to me than a random showreel sent out to all.