It’s great to have a formal prospecting tactics system in place. But sometimes the best opportunities come to us through unconventional means.
In this episode of The High-Income Business Writing podcast you’ll hear from Angus Stocking, a successful business writer who specializes in the infrastructure industry.
Angus has had great success landing good-paying writing clients using low-cost “guerilla-style” methods.
The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.
What type of writing do you do and for what types of markets?
Angus writes case studies, white papers and educational content for infrastructure firms (water, sewer, roadways, power plants, underground utilities) and land surveying companies. He has a concentration in sewer rehabilitation technology.
A few years ago, Angus realized that writing for magazines or newspapers wasn’t going to be a great way to make a lot of money for him. So, after writing for an alternative magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle, he decided that writing commercial work for corporations and writing marketing content would be more lucrative.
Strategies and prospecting tactics used to land clients
Angus’s approach to landing great clients has been unorthodox in that it is different from what other freelance B2B writers do to get new clients.
Years ago he read Peter Bowerman’s The Well Fed Writer and it really resonated with him. It nurtured a dream in him about getting the work rather than doing the work. A writer is a writer; the difficult part of earning a living as a writer is landing clients.
Jumping in feet first, Angus started by cold calling from the yellow pages. He took assignments from a hospital in his area and worked with some realtors and others. Then he had an epiphany and realized that he already had credibility in infrastructure. He’d already been published in land surveyor publications, so he took recent copies of magazines that these companies advertised in, and reviewed them. His reasoning was that the companies obviously valued writing, because they were advertising in print magazines. By doing this he learned that many of the editorial content was contributed by the advertisers.
Angus found that it was relatively easy to find the decision maker in these companies that were advertising — especially in the mid-tier companies. He used the usual venues, including LinkedIn or the receptionist, to find them.
Additionally, editorial space was included in advertising packages in the trade journals, and it went unused because they needed someone to write the case studies for them. They were very open to Angus writing the editorial content for them, because there was such a need for someone to write the case study, an opinion article or a white paper-like report. It was a win-win for the company and for Angus.
The approach for cold calling
Angus’s simple script was direct and included facts:
My name is Angus Stocking. I have land surveyor background and I’m writing for infrastructure firms now. Can I speak to someone in your marketing department, please?
Infrastructure firms have an engineering background, so they are not usually defensive when someone calls. They listen to a factual argument and respond to it. This made it a bit easier for Angus to get passed on to someone in the marketing department.
After explaining his experience as a licensed land surveyor, he would ask “Do you ever work with contractors to prepare marketing content?”
The question was very effective because these companies use contractors all the time. They also didn’t want to appear unprofessional by saying no. They were open to him staying in touch. After 20 calls in a morning, he would often have 3 or 4 solid prospects, sometimes even a paying gig.
If they were doing writing at all, they were doing it in-house and the top executive(s) were doing it themselves. So it was easy for them to say “yes” to the idea of contracting out the writing. Further, by offering a whole package (working with the publication for specs, the marketing rep for creative, etc.), Angus freed them from the hassle and allowed them to do what they really needed to do.
Key factors to success
Cold calling is scary to a lot of us. However, there are few ways to make this tactic more effective. Angus made cold calling work by:
- Narrowly focusing on an industry in which he had background
- Going after high-demand writing projects
- Targeting companies that were already spending money on advertising in industry publications
All of this contributed to the high probability of success in landing a job/client.
PLUS, he had credibility from past articles in publications he could mention.
Staying motivated and confident through the rejection
By keeping his eye on the “Yeses” rather than the “Nos,” Angus didn’t suffer from being rejected! He viewed it as a treasure hunt, and his successes motivated him. His technique of keeping it simple, telling the truth and being honest about his experience worked great. He didn’t feel much resistance.
Writing for Municipal Sewer and Water magazine gave him a lot of credibility. Additionally, these publications would often send him to trade shows and conferences, which gave him an opportunity to network with others in the industry that might need his writing.
He would get referrals from editors, because he was reliable, met deadlines and made things easy by working with art and marketing departments, editorial groups, etc.
Leads from attending conferences and trade shows
Most target markets have at least one big conference every year. Make it a priority to attend. It will cost to register and participate, but you’ll reap the benefits in the number of people you meet and turn into solid prospects.
Try to be creative by getting an assignment and ask the client to pay for you to attend. Or ask an editor of a magazine to pay your registration fee and/or expenses to attend.
Getting your foot in the door
You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in a specific field, but it can help and may make the entrée easier. However, if you have an interest in an area, you can certainly develop enough expertise by doing research and reading the trade journals.
Interviewing people for articles/case studies has also been a way that Angus has gotten leads for other opportunities. A few years back, at the request of an industry magazine client, he wrote an article about an engineering firm in Chicago. The man he interviewed remembered him and came back to Angus to ghost write for the online site he launched a few years later.
Angus says the best sales advice he ever got was from a religious coach who taught him to always ask a closing question regardless of how things are going; ask for what you want. Whenever he is in a situation where a job is closing or he recognizes an opportunity, he asks for it. Think of ways they could use your writing. Help them see how they could use your writing!
Expanding into new areas of services
After 12 years, Angus is one of the top five writers in the infrastructure industry, he is looking for a new challenge. So he recently decided to partner with a production company in Colorado to provide clients with higher-end videos that marry a strong infrastructure background with powerful visual storytelling.
Items mentioned in this podcast include:
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Till next time,