Let me start this off by saying this is not my area of expertise. I work with B2B companies in a standardized industry, but want to help further a deeper conversation around marketing, and help you sell your services at the same time.
I’m not a procrastinator. I’m the opposite…I over-prepare and pre-prepare, and whatever else it is us big-picture/worry-prone people tend to do.
Today though, I hit a new level of procrastination.
I have one client that requires 3-6 pieces a week, and I normally knock them out before Friday, but not this week. This week, I found myself, up early on a Friday morning, skimming through a corporate report and making mental notes. That was 9AM.
3 hours later, I was knee deep in natural hair and makeup videos, jewelry, and West-African-inspired dress shops (it was great). As I bounced around between there and Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice a disconnect between the vibrance of the world of Black Twitter, and companies who sold to those same people.
I started looking at some businesses and saw social media activity, but not much that even touched on the level of the activity of their buyers online…and I think that’s because a LOT of Black businesses, whether they sell specifically to Black people or to general audiences, use social media and marketing techniques as developed by White business minds to connect with White audiences…that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense if your target demographic is, say, Black women.
So I’m going to throw out some ideas here, and afterward in the comments, please add your own (you never know who might benefit from the insight you have.)
Get personal/Do your research.
If you’re freelancing, you should be devoting a considerable amount of your time to marketing.
That doesn’t have to be all cold calling or take up half your week, but if freelancing something you want to do seriously, you should have time set aside to organize social, connect with other freelancers, and find new clients. That last one can be a freelancer’s biggest challenge, but when it comes to Black businesses, you’ve got a leg up.
Find products or services you like and that you know are popular. Check out their social media presences, video, logos, blogs, and contact them about what you do. Do a few minutes of leg work learning what they do, and the conversation will be much more genuine and less sales-y.
Decide what value you bring them and let them know.
Staying on that non-sales-y point…don’t contact a company if you don’t think you can help them in their business.
One of the most challenging things about freelancing is that customers are much more aware of the benefit you bring them than traditional employers are. You’re in a position where you’ll have to convince them of value (through your portfolio, referrals, etc.) and that’s much easier when you’re confident and know concretely how you make their business better (that is, after all, what you’re selling).
So for me, I’m a writer. When I sell my work, I’m not selling words or sentences. I’m selling work that establishes brand trust and shortens their selling process. Maybe you’re selling attention and increased sales in the form of social media account management or peace of mind in the form of accounting and finance services. Regardless, lead with that value.
Go light on standard advertising channels.
I use online advertising…Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and it’s worked for me, but I can’t help but wonder how well any of those channels target Black business owners.
Advertising on The Root or The Grio could be good alternatives though…maybe even Twitter ads (since they let you take advantage of hashtags and promote tweets). The thing about advertising within a community though, is sensitivity.
Don’t piggyback off of crises or any serious discussions. Maintain a communal presence so people see you are connected, but don’t exploit that.
Focus on building the relationship over time.
Getting a new freelance client is usually a process.
I’ve only had one client come to me who was ready to sign immediately, and she was in a crisis situation. Most clients aren’t like that. Most Black business owners are incredibly busy running the business itself and are likely putting off making the decisions around the services you offer. That’s why you’ll have to be persistent and check in with them occasionally if your first contact doesn’t work out.
Also don’t forget to look for common ground…did you both attend HBCUs? Are you from the same city? Fans of the same groups or movies? Don’t make assumptions (Blackness is a highly-varied experience), but it’s likely you’ll have something in common…even if it’s only experiences as Black business owners.
Just keep in mind that even though you might share racial experiences, that’s not enough to sell your services. Give the owner time to get to know you, trust you, and understand that you can make their work-life easier.
Have a portfolio and own where it lives (stop digital sharecropping).
This one applies to everybody. Buy a domain. Put your work and services on it. If you haven’t, set aside a day within the next week to get started. (Seriously…stick it on your to-do list right now.) It’s gotten much easier in the last few years (with services like these) and buying a domain is simple and cheap even with hosting.
Regardless, if you haven’t invested in a static web presence, and are still renting space on someone else’s property (digital sharecropping), it makes you look much less stable and reliable, and that ‘s something most business owners can’t afford to take a risk on.
If you have any advice as a business owner on the services you need or how to market to you, leave a quick comment below…we’d love to hear your needs. Thanks!