If you took January’s and February’s business-building challenges, you have already made some great progress this year toward reaching your ideal writer’s life. And, hopefully, after February’s challenge, you even have ideas for a few clients you’d like to reach out to.
This is a fantastic starting point — but, ultimately, if you want to build a thriving and sustainable web-writing business, you’re going to need many prospects to market yourself to.
That’s why this month, we’re going to be taking this research to the next level. We’ll be focused on building a long list of prospects — 100 of them, to be exact — all of them great potential clients for your web-writing services.
Before taking this challenge, it’s helpful if you have already decided your niche or target audience. But, if you haven’t yet narrowed that down, going through these steps may help you discover whether a niche you’re thinking about is a viable industry for your services.
So, without further ado, let’s start building that list of 100 prospects.
Our Approach: Follow the Money
We’re going to be looking at two main criteria for adding prospects to your list. The first is the company should be relevant to a particular industry (your niche). The second is they should be able to pay you professional rates for your services — ideally, without any complaining!
In order to find clients who have no problem paying you well, it makes sense to target companies that are already spending a lot of money on marketing.
What’s one of the best places to look for these businesses? Trade conferences. Events where companies in a certain industry get together, share ideas, and market themselves as industry leaders.
Just attending these events can be pricey, but companies that exhibit at or sponsor them are laying out even more cash.
Let’s look at a few examples…
- At the Organic Trade Association’s event Organic Week, it costs companies a minimum of $3,500 to market themselves at the event, with packages ranging up to $25,000.
- At ISPO Munich online, a large trade fair for the sports industry, it costs between $3,000 and $24,000 to exhibit at the event.
- At AFP 2021, a trade conference for finance professionals in the U.S., booth costs range from $5,000 to a whopping $73,750!
In short, many of the companies that exhibit at these events are already dumping buckets of money into their marketing department. All you have to do is convince them YOU are worthy of their investment.
Step 1: Identify 3 Trade Conferences
Now that you know our approach, the first step is to identify three trade conferences in your industry where you can research prospects.
It’s easiest to start by searching “[your industry] + trade association,” since many trade associations host annual events. Once you’re on the trade association’s website, you can probably then find an event section of their website, where they feature past or upcoming events.
Note that, in light of the pandemic, many trade conferences are being held online or being postponed, but you should be able to find the names of past or future events all the same.
To record your findings, open a blank spreadsheet and list all the relevant trade associations and trade conferences you find in one tab. Make sure to record links to their homepages, so you can easily find them again.
Keep going until you have at least three trade conferences to work with.
Step 2: Identify the Big Spenders
Now, you’re going to investigate your list of trade conferences and research their websites to see what information you can find about their exhibitors and sponsors.
Each conference will do this differently, so you’ll just have to see what you can find. Many conferences will feature the logos of their sponsors right on their website — these are the biggest spenders and are often multinational corporations.
Other conference websites will provide a handy list of exhibitors and sponsors you can simply copy and paste into your research file. For example, in the ISPO event I mentioned in Step 1, their “exhibitor directory” has 2,800 entries… that’s more than enough to work with!
For this step, in a separate tab of the same spreadsheet from Step 1, record all the exhibitors and sponsors you find from your identified trade conference websites.
I recommend having two initial columns in your spreadsheet:
- Company name, and
- Source (i.e., “XYZ trade conference platinum sponsor”)
After you comb through your three trade conference websites, you should have at least several companies to work with… or, you may already have dozens.
If you haven’t yet reached 100 prospects after this, then continue on to Step 3.
Step 3: Keep Building Your List of Prospects
If you still need many more prospects to beef up your list, one option is to repeat Steps 1 and 2, and to keep looking for additional trade conferences and exhibitors.
Or, you can hugely expand your list by simply searching for membership lists of the trade associations you identified in Step 1. Trade association members have to pay annual dues, so the companies on this list are investing in their marketing… and that makes them potentially good prospects.
Whether you look for additional trade conference attendees or additional association members, add these companies to your spreadsheet, again indicating where you found them listed.
What if, after all this, you are still far from 100 companies on your list?
If you’ve struggled to find trade conferences for your industry, and/or you’ve found only a few companies in all your research, then you may need to widen your niche or find one in a more active and thriving industry.
After all, you want plenty of options, so you can be somewhat picky about who you work with.
Step 4: Scope Out Your Companies
You’ve done it! By now, if you’ve followed all the steps above, you should have at least 100 companies to work with. If you’ve done the steps above and have nowhere else to look for additional prospects, you can skip to the last section.
It’s now time to start researching each individual company on your prospect spreadsheet. Yes, this will take time, but there are just a few pieces of information you’ll be looking for in this initial stage, so each company will go quickly.
For this, we’re going to add a few columns to your spreadsheet. Here’s how to fill these columns with useful information:
- Notes: Look at the company’s website. What do they sell? How professional is their website? Write down anything noteworthy you want to remember here.
- Contact information: Scour their website for any contact information – ideally, the name and contact details of a person in their marketing department. Since that’s usually hard to find, any email address from the company, even an “info” email address, will do. At the very least, you can probably find a contact form — paste the link to that here.
- Size: Pop the name of the company into LinkedIn. If they have a LinkedIn profile, you will be able to see a rough estimate of the size of the company, for example, 250 employees. Write this down in this “Size” column. (While you’re at it, go ahead and “follow” the LinkedIn profile of each company, if one exists.)
Do this one by one, until you have a short profile for each of your 100 companies!
Your Next Steps
Awesome! You’ve succeeded at building a list of prospects, but now what?
You have so many options of what to do next.
You can use this list to…
- Further research your industry and your prospects
- Create client personas that suit the businesses you’ve found
- Start reaching out to companies on LinkedIn, email, or even by phone (we’ll cover this more next month!)
- Brainstorm ideas for blogs, videos, or social media posts to market yourself to these companies
- And, so much more…
Next month, we’ll talk about ways you can market to these companies you’ve identified in this list.
But, of course, you don’t have to wait — you can already get started reaching out to these 100 excellent prospects!