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EPISODE 18: Establishing Relationships to Build Your Client List

by Jan 26, 2021Podcast, Thought Leadership

In this episode we will cover:

  • Understanding how niching works with relationship building
  • Speaking to your audience and growing your network
  • Asking questions to grow as a professional
  • Mastering the follow-up

Businesses need to establish solid relationships to grow.

And if you’re in content creation, you know client relationships are among the most important you can have. 

Looking back, we can associate nearly every major milestone for our business with a key relationship that helped us get there.

How can YOU harness the power of relationships to build your client list? We’ll teach you!

In this episode, we’ll cover different ways you can establish, grow, and maintain client relationships, including:

  • Narrowing your niche
  • Speaking to your audience
  • Asking for professional advice
  • Mastering the follow-up


This episode is the first in a series of tips for content creators, so stay tuned for more to come! And if you can’t wait until next week, grab even more free tips and tricks at northstarmessaging.com/writers.

Additional notes: This episode references Ask. by Ryan Levesque.


Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi...

…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Hi there and welcome to another episode. And today we're going to be starting a series. The first episode in this series is all about establishing relationships to build your client list. Now, as you could probably imagine, this is. Totally applicable to everyone who owns a business. But this series specifically is for content creators.
The reason we're doing this is that we want to share some of the lessons that we've learned. This may feel a bit more you know, business strategy-ish than what we typically talk about. A lot of it will be relevant to business owners of any type. And it will also probably be of interest to business owners to see what they should be looking for as they consider hiring a content creator.
But really the heart of these episodes is meant for content creators, just like us.

Yes. So if you are a content creator, a copywriter, someone who is looking to build their client list and establish their business within content creation, these episodes are specifically for you. And at the time of recording this, our business has been doing this for about 10 years, going, coming up on 11 now, and along the way, we have learned a lot.
And, we thought it would be a good idea to share the top 10 things that we've learned that have really allowed us to not just maintain our business, but also grow it, and grow it with clients that we adore serving and build a team that we absolutely love and to do so in a way that really felt like it was an integrity and alignment.
And also some of the pitfalls that we fell into and how we got out of them. So we're going to talk about all of that, and we are starting with establishing relationships to build your client list. And we're going to break this down into a few different pieces.

Yeah. And I'll say too, before we dive in that, yes, this is for a new content creators, but it's also for established content creators, because I think all of us are always looking for more relationships. We always want to have that next client who is a dream client. So really no matter what stage you're in, this is hopefully relevant for you. And yeah, we can, we can share our lessons learned along the way. So, I think just before we dive into our topics, I just want to say, like, I think every time we've hit a big milestone in our business or accomplished something that, we were really proud of almost all the time it's because just before that, we'd really focused on creating relationships.
So like we, for instance, when I was able to go full-time with the company, because initially, both of us were part-time. It's because I had established relationships professionally and there was, I was able to turn into clients as I left my nine to five job and was able to shift. Also I think, you know, as we, really started understanding more of the nuts and bolts of business that allowed us to succeed more it's because we'd invested in a coaching mastermind. That was extremely powerful for us, not just because of the coach, but because of the other business owners in the mastermind, you know, and it, as you kind of go on and on everything we've learned along the way, the relationships have really been key for that.
And that has led to our transformation. One little baby step, right?

Yeah. You remember Marie? I think maybe four or five years ago, we would refer to ourselves as a two person Island. And this was before we invested in those masterminds or really focused even in our business on not just building relationships, but also nurturing them and continuing to nurture them over time.
And we're lucky in that we are a co CEO team. And so at least there was one other person on the Island with us. But I know that also I've heard time and time again from solopreneurs, how isolating it can feel to be on your own, trying to figure this out. Now, when we're talking about relationships today, we're primarily focusing on the relationships that build your client list, but it is important to mention that the relationships of.
Your peers are also incredibly valuable, not just because they may turn into word of mouth referrals, but because they are there with you on that Island then, and it becomes its own little town and its own little ecosystem of supporting one another. So keeping all of that in mind, let's dive in and talk about establishing relationships to build your client list as a content creator.
And the very first thing that we want to talk about is probably one that you've heard heard before, but it's worth mentioning, and that is narrowing your niche. Often, especially in the early phases of running a copywriting business or a content creation business, it can be tempting to want to be everything to everyone, to want to create every type of content for every type of business.
And while that may lead to two more people on your client list, at least, you know, For one-off projects and ad hoc work. What it ends up doing is stretching you thin, and it means that you don't have the opportunity to become an expert in any one area. And so, while I think content creators in some ways have a little bit more leeway to be broad because they have the joy of being able to write for a ton of different industries and, and whatnot.
They also, it's important to be careful about how broad you cast that net.

Totally agree. So, and I think too, you know, when you're looking at your niche, there's a lot of ways to kind of slice the pie. For a little while early on in our business we decided that we were going to focus on serving the travel and hospitality and outdoor industries.
And that was fine, except that, you know, Hey, we didn't actually really have that many clients or connections, those relationships in that space to begin with. But even as we started to develop them, we discovered that some of the clients that we gained were actually not a great values fit for us.
And so, it wasn't really about the industry for us. Really, what we discovered is it was really more about the place that a business owner was in, what they valued, whether they could respect our boundaries, all that kind of stuff. And so at this point, you know, on one level, when you look at the fields that our clients are in, you think.
They haven't niched at all, but it's not true because all the clients that we work with pretty much have the same sort of psychographics and the same values we do. And that has been our direction that we decided to niche in. So that may just be some food for thought for you. If you thought about niching down as like, well, I'm only going to work with e-comm businesses or I'm only getting like, whatever it is, that's fine too. But just some food for thought there.

Yeah. And a third way that you can think about niching too, is in the type of content you create. So you may absolutely adore sales pages and decide that you want to build your entire content creation business on that specific area of content creation for a while, our business was really well-known for website copy, and that was really the bulk of what we did, maybe 80, 90% of the content that we created for our clients was copywriting for websites. And that has shifted over time because we shifted our niche to be more in lines with that value spit, then with a specific industry or a specific type of content, but all of them are valid ways to niche and you can even kind of layer them on top of each other and figure out sort of your Venn diagram of a niche.
I think the important thing is just making sure that you are thinking about it rather than just looking for it. Anyone who needs content creation for any reason.

Yeah. And honor your boundary around that. So, I can't tell you how many times I've been on a sales call with somebody and they ask, well, do you do this thing?
And I tell them, I mean, you know, we probably could, but it's not really in our wheelhouse and you'd probably be better served going with somebody else for that. They actually respect us a lot more. And then they say, okay, well, what are you good at? Because let me just see if that aligns with my needs, or they'll refer people to us, or like, that's, they have a lot of respect for somebody for a business owner and a content creator who sort of knows and honors their limit.

Yeah. And I think that dovetails nicely into the next point, which is speak to your audience, have conversations with them before they are clients, while they're clients. And after they've been clients, having those conversations is really vital. And I think sometimes some content creators can struggle with this because we have this tendency or at least I do. I'm speaking for myself here to go into the writer's cave and you are working on the content that you're creating and it's head down doing the work. And sometimes in that, whether it's the work of. Creating your own content to build an audience or creating content for your clients, the conversation sometimes get lost because you're so busy doing the work of writing and creating the content, which is exhausting. And, you know, it can be mentally draining and it can take a lot of time. And it's not a reason to bypass actually having real conversations with your audience, actually asking them what they're looking for and why they're looking for it.
This is what allowed us to really establish the piece of our niche that we haven't talked about yet, which is brand voice. And the only reason our business recognized that brand voice was what sets. Our content creation apart. Our process around brand voice was because we listened to our audience. We listened to them before they started working with us and they were talking about their problems with past content creation.
We listened to them while we were working with them, what they were really raving about in the copy that we created. And then afterwards on the followup, when we asked them about their experience, what were the trends? What kept coming up again and again, and in our case, it was brand voice. And so that let us know that a part of our niche includes people who really want to nail their brand voice, and don't necessarily feel like it's happened in the past with other content creators. And it let us know what those audience members valued in the work that we provide.

For sure. Okay. We'll talk a little bit more about onboarding and off-boarding systems for clients in a later episode in this series, but, just quick food for thought that's relevant to this, speak to your audience point.
If you don't already have. A process for asking those questions. It doesn't have to be any kind of automated thing. It just could be a part of your process of asking those questions on the sales calls as they get onboarded. And then as they're stepping away as the client project is wrapping up, go ahead and do that.
I think where some content creators also get a little tripped up, especially if they are newer, either to business. Or newer to this niche and they haven't developed a lot of the relationships yet is like not knowing where to start. They don't necessarily have a whole lot of prospects yet. And so if that's, you, it’s, you know, it's sort of time to say, “Hey, you know, like asking questions is, is going to be okay and no one's going to judge me for this. And people who want to help me will help me because they want to help me.” So, you know, I can go ahead and invite people into coffee chats or sort of just have research posts on social media or emails to the list or whatever the case is, just to touch base with them. And I'll tell you the thing people love to talk about more than anything is themselves. And so when you ask them questions about themselves, they'd probably be very happy to help you. Jessi: Yeah, and I kind of want to briefly mention the flip side of the having conversations, which is the listening to the responses. And we've found that in our own processes. Yes. We have incredible writers on our team who create. Amazing content for our clients. And the reason for that, isn't just because they're good writers. It's because they're good listeners. And they're able to translate what our clients and what our audience is saying into the written word. And so speaking to your audience is the first step towards having the information that you need in order to. Build your client list, create clients who are over the moon, happy about the content you're creating and retain them for future projects.
And that all comes down to listening, to not just hearing their responses, but truly listening and internalizing it and thinking about, okay, these are the things they said. What does that mean? What does that mean for them? What does that mean for their business? For their aspirations, for the vision that they have and how can I help support them on that journey with my skillset?

Absolutely. If you're looking for a quick direction to point in, in terms of doing that audience research, especially if you're kind of in the beginning stages or you're pivoting quite a bit we often direct people to Ryan Levesque's Ask method. You can buy the book, Ask. Chapter 13, the deep dive survey is what you're after the rest of it is probably not something you need to implement at all or straightaway. But certainly that deep dive survey has been really helpful.

Yeah. I mean, we're writers, right? We're all content creators. And the more language we can get the better and that deep dive survey, as well as any conversations you have with your audience, it's an exercise in getting the language that your audience is using so that you can then do something with it, do something meaningful with that language so that you can, yeah, build your business, build a successful business, build a client list, but also so that you can have a genuine impact on the people that you're really most passionate about helping.

Exactly. I mean, we want to actually address the frustrations that they're having. So, we have to know what those frustrations are first. Okay. So our final points then today is following up. Yay. This is the often neglected, but so important aspect of establishing relationships. The absolute worst case thing that happens is someone thinks, you know, I don't have time for this right now. The best case, even if they are busy, is, wow, they really care. Like this person is on it. They take their business seriously. They really want to hear from me, they're serious about establishing relationships. So, I think a lot of times our imposter syndrome comes in and we think like, I'm not worth their time of day. But you have to let them make that decision and they can't make that decision unless you make the offer.

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's really. I want to kind of be clear in that the followup doesn't have to be a, "Hey, do you have any other projects that you need help with?" Type of followup. There are a number of past clients of ours who regularly, you know, every three months, every six months or so, we reach out to, to just see if they want to hop on a coffee chat, a virtual coffee, where we hop into a zoom room and just talk about what they're up to. And for one, it's really cool to hear what they're doing often with the content that you created. And for another, it just allows that relationship to continue to grow. And they may never again hire us for a project, but they may refer a friend to us, or they may just let us know about the cool thing they're doing so that we can support them.
And if it's something that is appropriate for our audience, we can share it with them. Business as a whole is all about those relationships being mutually beneficial and making sure that you're keeping those relationships intact even after the project is closed down. Can- you can reap a ton of reward from that even if the reward is the relationship itself.

Absolutely. And even if, you know, somebody will probably never be a client at all. Again, that's, that's can be a really great way to, like Jesse said, maybe establish a referral partnership or just be top of mind for potentially a partnership opportunity or you never know exactly like what could come from that now. Obviously you could spend all day every day, you know, trying to go to conferences, be on social media, you know, reaching out to people individually, you know, networking on LinkedIn, like whatever the, you know, even like my university has its own little like internal LinkedIn type thing for, alumni and students to connect with each other.
And so like there's a million ways that you can do that. Obviously this can take all day every day. So, we're not saying to do that because you don't necessarily want to neglect, you know, your client work and all that other good stuff. But make sure you're not neglecting this as a whole, it's sort of a morphous.
So we suggest setting some goals around it. Maybe it's once a week, I will do something to make a connection with somebody or follow up with the past clients. Or maybe it's something along the lines of maybe not quantity, but, you know, I- one of my goals is to establish some kind of new, collaborative project this year. And so in order to achieve that, the, the thing that I can control is creating those relationships that are going to help me move in that direction.

Yeah, for sure. So as we wrap up this episode, I want to encourage you to think about the relationships you may already have because often we may not be thinking about them actively. And to put some of those systems in place for following up with them so that you can continue to deepen them. And also to think about where you could go to forge relationships in the future and how you can continue to nurture them. If you are a content creator or a copywriter who is interested in more resources you're in luck because this is the first episode of a series. So we will continue to talk about how to really feel competent in your content creation business, no matter what phase you're at, whether you're brand new or established and looking to grow. In the meantime, though, if you want additional resources, you can go to northstarmessaging.com/writers and sign up for some content creator, specific tips, tricks, resources, all the good stuff that will continue to help you on this journey.

Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 

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