This post is also an answer to a question asked by a colleague after reading my post10 Things that Freelance Translators Should do Every Day. Item 3 suggests that you contact two former colleagues or clients every day to touch-base. She expressed her concern about annoying people and asked me for some pointers on how to avoid that.
Well, here is my take on the art of keeping in touch.
First, why should you keep in touch with people who have been your clients and colleagues?
The obvious answer, particularly concerning your former clients, is because they may need you again.
However, there is more to it – they know about you, they know what you do and (hopefully) they know how good you are. These people are potential walking adverts for you, and you want to make sure that if they ever have reason to think of a translator in your language pair, you are the first person who will come to mind. This will mean that they will not only think of you when they have a job for you, but also when someone asks for a reference, when they need help finding things that are in your language or country, etc.
So how do you ensure that you are always fresh on their minds without annoying them?
The first rule of positive interaction is making sure that both sides are getting something out of the conversation. The only people on whom you can pour your information, without giving them something or being ignored, are your closest friends and your mum. Except for your mum, not even your friends are being completely altruistic there, because they expect to be able to do the same to you when they need too.
Everybody else will need to feel like they are also getting something out of that conversation.
Therefore, when you contact people, your main concern must not be what am I going to say to promote myself/my business, but how will this person benefit from this interaction.
There are several types of “perceived benefits”. Here are some that you can offer in your interactions to make them mutually beneficial:
– Financial incentives: this is sales 101, if you offer a discount or a gift along with your services, your potential/former clients are more likely to see the ‘benefit’ of that interaction for them. However, you cannot use this resource too often, because it does get annoying, and you give the impression that you are struggling or that your products/services are of low value. I tend to use this once or twice a year. If I have had a good year, I usually offer one month of discounted rates to my clients as a thank you. Hence, I get to promote the success of my business to them and, at the same time, they get a month in which they may pay less for the same quality of service that they are used to.
– Mutual interests: My strategy here is to connect. Whenever I engage with someone, I try to find something that I find memorable about him or her. To me that means something in common, because I have a shocking memory.
This usually involves me asking many questions and trying to connect with that person in some level. The upside of that is that I often do find things or interests in common with people, and this leads to positive and rewarding interactions (sometimes business connections even become friends). If you can find a connection, it then becomes easy to interact, because you will have that shared interest to draw from.
For example, men do that all the time with sports. A friend of mine is a big football fan, so the first thing he does when engaging with other men is trying to find if they are also into football. He is not subtle about it at all, he will just ask, “do you have a football team?”, and if the person does, he is in. What follows is usually a conversation about football, and he gets a piece of information that he will not forget about that person. He does that in every level, from taxi drivers to business partners and it works every time. Next time he wants to engage with that person, he can just share information about football, which he is always reading anyway, or ask the other person’s opinion about football news, etc.
How does this apply to your daily e-mails? You do not need to send marketing information every time you want to engage. Your goal is to be remembered. Your former clients and colleagues already know what you do, so unless you are doing something new or have a new offer, there is no need to keep repeating that information to them.
The best way of ensuring that you are remembered is by remembering others. So if you are reading about something that a client of yours is also interested in, just share it with that person and let them know it reminded you of them, or you thought they might be interested, or you wanted their opinion, etc. He/she may not have time to answer you, but he will not forget that you remembered.
Genuine interest: we all love to be remembered and cherished, regardless of whether we are in a professional or personal relationship. Taking a genuine interest in people is not as hard and time consuming as it seems. With technology today, people are increasingly connected; your clients probably have blogs, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook, so find them and follow them. Whenever they post news or content, comment on those, share their content, congratulate them on accomplishments, and be invested in helping their business succeed. You do not need to have a personal relationship with every client or former colleague, but showing interest in their success will get their empathy, will make you happier because your interactions with people are positive, and ultimately will put you under their radar.
I have recently read that your success will be directly proportional to how many people want you to succeed. I believe this to be very true. When people empathize with you, they talk about you, they are happy to recommend you and they want to be a part of your success too.
This is how I try to keep in touch with my clients and colleagues. How about you? Any other strategies?
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