Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch
by Louise Harnby
The holidays are round the corner. We freelancers, and our clients, are working flat out to finalize current projects (or to find a comfortable pause point) before we take a short break for the end-of-year festivities. In the Harnby household we celebrate Christmas, so my mind’s on the tree we’re getting this weekend and the couple of hours we’ll spend decorating it with some of the beautiful baubles I’ve collected over the years. I’ll turn 48 next March but looking at that tree will give me the same warm, fuzzy feeling it did 4 decades ago!
I love this time of year — the lights, the gift wrapping, the tree, the decorations, the frost on the holly bush in our garden. Here’s the thing, though — it’s also a really good time to do some targeted and personal business promotion to past and present clients.
I could have sent an email to my customers, wishing them well and telling them I’m looking forward to working with them in 2015, even if I haven’t heard from them in a while. I could have gone a little further and sent them a holiday card from that rather nice selection box I picked up a few weeks ago.
Both of those are fine — that’s what most people do. Each of my customers can add his or her card to the pile of other cards from other freelancers. If I’m lucky, he or she will hang it up on their pin board. But that’s about as much impact as it will make. It will be appreciated for what it is — one not-so-interesting example among many. Still, my clients are nice people and they’ll appreciate the thought.
Getting the Client Talking
What if I can do better than just “fine”? What if I want more than a quick nod of appreciation? What if I could garner more than an appreciative smile? What if I got them talking? What if I could make the following happen?
Kim: “Hey, Joe, look at what’s just arrived from Louise Harnby!”
Joe: “Who’s Louise Harnby?!”
Kim: “One of the proofreaders I use.”
Joe: “She any good?”
Kim: “Yeah, she’s top notch. But look at this fabulous custom card she just sent me. Isn’t it brilliant?”
Joe: [Looks at my card] “Ha! That’s great. I want one of those! It’s got her website info on it, too. I’ll take a look — I need a good proofreader for that crime novel I’ve got coming up in two months. Mind if I give her a call to check her schedule?”
Jane: “What’s all the noise about, guys? Oh, Kim, that card is funny! Who gave you that?”
Kim: “It’s from one of my proofreaders, Louise Harnby. She’s great. You should try her out.”
In the above scenario, my holiday card has turned into a talking point. It’s no longer one client smiling appreciatively at a card; instead, three people are talking about my business. And that’s the point, as Rich Adin reminds us: “You must not forget the primary reason for sending a gift, which is to promote you. Consequently, whatever you send should be something that can be (is likely to be) shared among office colleagues or shown around” (“The Business of Editing: Thinking Holidays,” 2014). I’d recommend reading Adin’s article in full, not least because it offers useful advice on timing.
Certainly, many of us have clients who work alone, so sending a customized card won’t always generate a conversation. But at the very least it will get you noticed by those whose radars you’ve slipped off, perhaps because you haven’t worked for them recently. If like me, however, you work for larger corporations such as publishers, and have one managing editor working within a larger team, this scenario could very well lead to your client discussing you and your work with colleagues.
This year I decided to make my own holiday cards. I say “make my own” — I drew the pictures and wrote the words, but I let a professional take care of the printing. The thing is, you don’t have to be a gifted artist — I’m not. All you have to do is stand out, thereby giving the client a reason keep the card, place it in a prominent position, and talk about it. If it’s in front of them, and it’s branded with your logo and your web address, it becomes more than a holiday card — it’s also a huge business card. It keeps you (or puts you back) on your client’s radar; what’s more, you might well end up on your client’s colleagues’ radars too.
This year, my seasonal greetings come in the form of large postcards (see below), with my business name and website address on the front, and a picture of a snowy scene that I drew in Microsoft Publisher, using nothing more than the Shapes tool. I differentiated my cards by incorporating the UK proof-correction symbols in the design — the snowflakes are made from while delete symbols; the tree is decorated with insert carats, transposition instructions, space markers, and so on; and “Christmas” is spelled incorrectly (I used the relevant symbols to mark the error). Then I added my business name and website address. The reverse was left blank so that I could write a personal message to each recipient.
I uploaded a PDF of the final design to a UK high-street printer’s website (Vistaprint). Printing costs worked out at less than a pound per card (including envelopes). The stock is 350g, so it’s sturdy, and the cards have a gloss finish that looks great but still allows me to write on the reverse using a standard pen.
I’m thrilled with the results. Each of my clients will get a custom card that I hope will make them smile — and make them talk. I’m wishing them a Happy Christams [sic], but I’m marketing my business too.
Appreciating Others’ Beliefs
I chose to send Christmas cards this year. What if my clients have different beliefs? Will I offend them? The clients I’m sending these cards to are those whom I’ve worked with for years. They send me Christmas cards, too, so I’m not going to be offending them by reciprocating.
As our relationships with particular clients grow, we learn more about them and their preferences. As time passes, we can be more personal. But as a business trying to accomplish multiple tasks with a single stroke of the pen, we do need to tread cautiously and use common sense.
I’ve worked in publishing, particularly academic publishing, for over two decades. I’ve found this industry to be one that is particularly open, tolerant, and celebratory of difference. I suspect that most recipients of cards with messages that don’t match their own belief systems will accept them with good grace, rather than taking offence. Still, if you are worried that you might offend even one of the clients you are gifting, make your season messages neutral. “Seasonal greetings,” “Happy holidays,” and “Peace and good health” are sentiments shared the world over.
You don’t have to do it my way, of course. Your budget will determine what’s feasible; your creativity will do the rest. If your clients celebrate different holidays because of different belief systems, your choice of how to communicate will be influenced by this.
Other ideas could include mugs, fridge magnets, pens, Post-It notes, baubles, other small decorations, perhaps even food, all with a holiday theme and branded with your logo and website address.
The holidays are a time for giving. Telling our clients that we wish them well, value their custom, have enjoyed working with them in the past, and look forward to doing so in the future, is common sense. To differentiate ourselves while we’re doing it is good business practice.
Happy holidays to all of you who’ve read my column on Rich’s blog in 2014. I wish you all peace and good health for the rest of the year and beyond. See you in the New Year!
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.