My Favourite Way to Find New Clients

Georgina Laidlaw

lilwingsIn this age of job networks, folio sites, and online recruitment agencies, it’s easy to overlook some of the best old skool client-finding techniques. My favourite of these is very simple:

  1. Find a company that does something you like.
  2. Get to know what they do, and how they operate, and find yourself an opportunity.
  3. Approach them with a pitch.

It sounds simple, but there are a million ways you can implement this kind of approach, online or off. But the secret to success, I think, is passion. If I’m passionate about an organisation, and really believe in what I can do for them, this strategy can work very well.

Find a company that does something you like.

We can all list organisations we admire. Some time ago, I became enamoured by a public market in my city. I shopped there every week. Over time I came to love the atmosphere and the quality of the experience (and, of course, the food!). I really appreciated what the market was all about.

When I visited the market’s website to check the opening hours one day, I found that the content — and the site itself — hadn’t been updated in a very long time. This seemed to be a good opportunity to try to land some work.

Research the company.

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to using search engines, but even my stock-standard searches turned up some interesting information: the public market was run and funded by the local council (which suggested something about the kind of culture I might expect, that budgets might not be enormous but that they’d probably be good about paying invoices, and so on), the market office was right near my house, and the head of marketing was a woman.

Some more searching turned up a history of the market, some information about various initiatives the market had undertaken (like installing solar panels) and the name and email address of the head of marketing. This was very handy, but usually, if I can’t find this information, I call reception and simply ask for the name and email address of the person I’m after.

Since the market office was so close by, I dropped in for a few minutes, which I spent perusing brochures about market events, and overhearing the kinds of enquiries the staff were asked by the public as well as stall holders.

Approach the company with a pitch.

We all take the pitching process differently, and unsolicited pitches are always a gamble. In this case, I wrote an email to the head of marketing explaining who I was, and that I loved the market and shopped there weekly. I explained that I’d visited the website and found that the content was outdated and didn’t reflect the vibrancy of the market. Finally, I attached a couple of samples of content I’d created for other similar organisations, along with my resume, and told her I’d give her a call to discuss my email in the next week. I sent off the email and set an alert in my calendar.

When the alert popped up the following week, I gave the head of marketing a call. Getting through reception was easy — after all, I had her name, and I was following up some information I’d sent. The receptionist got cagey, so I mentioned the browser version I was using and explained that I couldn’t access the content I needed. She panicked and put me through without further ado. Before I knew it I was speaking to the head of marketing about my email and her website, and we were making a time to meet to discuss it.

Make your passion pay.

This technique seems so simple, yet it can be so effective. Why? Because your prospect can tell if you’re genuinely inspired by what they do, and they’re more likely to want to use someone who actually cares about their business. For that reason, the approach-a-company-you-love technique can work well whether that company’s on your street or on the other side of the world.

In this case, the prospect felt that I was genuine, that she could trust me to do the best for her organisation, and that we would work well together. She was surprised by how well I knew the market — I even mentioned a few details that she wasn’t aware of in that first meeting.

As it turned out, the company needed to redevelop their entire website, and I ended up working with a freelancer friend of mine for many months, and a decent paycheck, to redevelop the website and its content completely.

Do you use your passion for a particular organisation, offering, or sector to drive your job-hunting efforts? I’d love to hear if you’ve made an impassioned, direct approach to a particular organisation — and won the work.