In our interview with Lori Widmer of Words on the Page about marketing your freelance writing services, Lori emphasized the importance of building relationships and following up with prospects.

If you're one of the many writers who are uncomfortable with the idea of marketing from a direct sales perspective, thinking about marketing in terms of relationships can help you ease into a more effective marketing strategy.

With that in mind, today let's talk about relationship marketing and how that might apply to your freelance writing business.

What is Relationship Marketing?

Relationship marketing is simply the act of nurturing relationships with your clients and prospects, and emphasizing client retention. In other words, it's everything you do to stay fresh in your clients' minds and keep them coming back for more.

That sounds easy, right?

It is. You're probably practicing good relationship marketing techniques already, even if you never thought about it as marketing before.

Now let's talk about some of the specific relationship marketing tactics you can use to expand your marketing efforts.

5 Relationship Marketing Tactics for Freelancers

Here are five ways you might be able to work relationship marketing into your larger overall marketing plan. Pick and choose tactics based on what makes sense for you.

1. Offer Rewards or Benefits for Returning Customers

One way to keep customers coming back is to make them feel like they're special. You can do that by giving them something new clients don't get.

That might be a discount -- maybe once or twice a year you offer 10% off as a customer loyalty bonus.

If you don't like the idea of offering discounts, which is perfectly fine, you can give them something else. For example, you could create a premium report that targets your customer base. You might charge non-clients for it, but offer it as a free perk for repeat customers. Or you could publish it solely as a free perk for clients, never making it available publicly.

2. Keep in Touch With Clients Regularly

Once you've established a relationship with a client, it's important to maintain that connection. One way to do that is to keep in touch on a regular basis, even if there isn't an active project in the works.

For example, let's say you were hired to write a holiday newsletter the previous year, and you know your client saw a significant sales boost as a result. You might email them in advance of the same holiday this year, reminisce a bit about the past successful campaign, and put out feelers to see if they're interested in doing the same thing again this year.

It doesn't have to be a pushy sales letter. It should be more personal than that. You're showing the client that you remembered their business goals and what worked before and that you care enough to bring it up so they don't miss out on a similar opportunity. Even if the client doesn't want to place the same order this year, they're bound to remember that you thought of them and that you remembered so much about their business. It's a way to stand out.

Another tip I love comes from Cathy Miller of Simply Stated Business. Cathy stays in touch with her past clients by sending them interesting reports, articles, links, or other resources that she comes across.

If she sees something that might be of interest to a client or relevant to their business, she sends it along. By sending these kinds of notes and resources, Cathy shows clients she cares about their businesses whether or not there is a gig on the line. And it's an easy way to keep the conversations flowing. Besides, you know know when one of those timely articles or reports might inspire a project plan.

3. Maintain a Strong Professional Web Presence

Don't just slap a 90s-era billboard-style website online and expect clients to come and find you. Your website is one of your most important tools as a freelance writer, and it can play a strong role in building relationships, especially with new prospects.

Your professional website will often serve as a buffer between you and new prospects. It is the job of your website to build trust. If it doesn't instill confidence in your abilities, that prospect won't contact you. You don't want to risk missing out on new contacts and opportunities to build relationships because your website isn't up to the task.

While you don't have to do all of these things, here are some ways your professional website can help you build and nurture relationships with clients and prospects:

  • Your website can link to your social media profiles where prospects can keep in touch or follow your updates, even if they aren't ready to buy yet.
  • You can include a blog on your website (always a good idea as "fresh" content has become vital to ranking well in search engines). Blogs keep prospects coming back, and they give you a chance to build trust by showcasing your knowledge and educating readers.
  • Your freelance writing website can include a sign-up form for an email newsletter. Like with a blog, it's about using information and regular updates to build trust and stay fresh in people's minds.
  • You could add a private client area to your website where clients can log in and download copies of past work you've done for them.

Of course, your website should also make it easy for prospects to get in touch with you. If they can't figure out how to contact you about their project, your website isn't doing much to help you build those relationships.

[Note: Check back next week for a series on building a better professional website.]


4. Meet With Clients In Person

Depending on the clients you work with, having face-to-face meet-ups can be a great relationship building opportunity. While you can certainly build relationships with clients from a distance (which is what I do, as the vast majority of my clients are located in other countries), it can help to meet in person.

If you work with local clients, you might choose to meet them in their office for an initial consultation. Or you might meet over coffee. Or you could meet clients at an industry conference.

Is this necessary? No. Will it help you build a more personal relationship with your clients? Yes. And that personal touch can go a long way toward making the professional relationship last.

5. Treat Your Clients Well

This might be the most basic element of relationship marketing, but it's also the most important. You need to keep your customers happy by offering solid customer service at all times.

That means keeping in touch, delivering quotes promptly, meeting deadlines, taking care of edit requests without getting defensive, and just generally meeting and exceeding your clients' expectations. It's amazing how far those little every day things can go toward turning first-time clients into regulars.

Do you engage in relationship marketing on a regular basis? What are your favorite relationship marketing tactics as a freelance writer? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments.