Depending on your niche, you may not find more than a few clients who fit your ideal market locally. But you may be able to find a place where a whole bunch of your ideal clients happen to be hanging out.
No matter what you typically write about, there is a conference for it — probably even an industry conference. Industry conferences can be particularly good for networking and marketing purposes: the attendees are there to see how they can improve their own companies and if you can quickly and clearly demonstrate you can help them out, you can translate a trip to a conference into several new clients.
Which Conferences Do You Need to Attend?
The number of conferences held every week is incredible. People hold conferences for selling particular kinds of dolls, for running blogs and anything else you can think up — which, of course, includes a whole list of writing conferences. And there are conferences of differing sizes. Regional, national and even international conferences. Even if we had the money for every single one, we certainly wouldn’t have the time. That means we have to narrow down the field to those conferences that are both worthwhile to attend — as well as practical.
My approach is pretty simple: I try to attend one big (out of state) conference each year, along with smaller conferences within driving distance every quarter. This schedule is based more on budget than anything else. Even if I don’t find a single client at the conference, I can still comfortably cover my expenses (and I don’t take too much time away from work, either). I’m happy to go to more conferences, of course, but I only do it if I don’t have to pay to get in. That can mean speaking, volunteering or even covering it for a publication, depending on circumstances.
The bigger question is which conferences to attend. I actually won’t pay for more than one writing conference a year, and it’s never the biggest conference I go to. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy writing conferences, but they typically don’t provide me with many new clients.
You may find that they’re more useful for you if your main focus is writing articles for magazines and other publications. But it’s worth noting that editors often show up at the conferences covering their niche. For instance, wandering around a conference that caters to retailers who provide gear for sport fishing, you’ll probably see representatives of a few magazines that cover sport fishing.
How Do You Prepare for a Conference?
The basics of getting for a conference aren’t much different than preparing for any networking event: pack your business cards and polish your elevator pitch. However, you can take it a step beyond that. Many conferences publish at least a partial list of who will be around long before the conference actually starts. Speakers and vendors are almost always listed and some will even make a list of general attendees available.
Study those lists. Identify which people are the decision-makers for companies your writing could help. Going to a real estate conference because you write great copy for real estate websites? Take a look at the websites of those people who will be at the conference and see if you can identify some likely prospects before you actually get to the conference. Make a point of meeting the conference attendees associated with those websites when you are at the conference — tell them exactly how you can help them and explain the benefits.
Once you get to the conference, keep track of everyone you meet. Write down notes on the back of the business cards you receive. And when you get home, follow up on those introductions. Make phone calls and send emails to turn those new contacts into new clients.
This year, I went to Affiliate Summit West and got to talk to a lot of site owners who needed content for their websites. Where can you go that your ideal clients will be waiting?
Just joining us? Check out where we started with Setting Your Goals!