Greater than 4 minutes, my friend!
I have been trying different approaches in my search for direct clients and it is hard. I did a lot of research before trying for every single attempt and over the last year I have visited a fair, sent emails to specific people offering my services, published blog articles aimed at direct clients and been active on LinkedIn. Unfortunately none of these have resulted into a single direct client… but I see my attempts not as failures, but as steps in building my online presence and credibility. Both my blog and my network are growing, which cannot be bad.
I had been looking into LinkedIn Marketing Solutions but I could not decide if it was useful for freelance translators. So when I was given the chance to try it out for free, I took it. LinkedIn sent me a coupon worth $50 and I decided to set up a campaign for that same amount. And now I want to share my experiences with you.
First I had to decide whether to place a small ad on the right side of the LinkedIn newsfeed or to promote a post. Whereas I would have thought an ad would be best, since I could link that to my profile, I read that such ads are mostly ignored and are therefore not effective. So I decided to promote one of my blog posts. Whenever I publish I blog post I copy it to LinkedIn and share it with my network. This campaign would allow me to share it outside my network.
I had taken the time to think about my target audience and to decide on an article that would appeal to them. Living in Belgium and translating from English into Dutch I decided my target audience consisted of English-speaking companies exporting to or doing business in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). I was of course able to narrow my target audience down to marketing managers, marketing assistants and similar roles in British and American companies, but I thought it would be impossible to find out which companies do business in Flanders. However LinkedIn’s possibilities surprised me. I could indicate that my target audience had to be members of certain LinkedIn groups – so all I had to do was indicate groups like business chambers with a link to both countries or regions and I had my target audience all set the way I wanted it.
I had given the topic of the article a lot of thought. What would appeal to English-speaking marketing managers that did business with Flanders? I did not want a general topic, since I was well aware that a budget of only $50 would not get me far and I did not want to spend it on clicks that were not interesting enough. I came up with the topic: “What you should know about Flemish before doing business in Belgium”. Again I did research on the way the article should be written and I followed guidelines such as using an interesting and striking photo that is to the point (I used one of the new and controversial Port House in Antwerp, an important building for the Belgian business world); starting the title with “What you should know about…” to arouse interest; keeping the text short and clear etc. In view of the intended result – connecting with potential end clients – I ended the article with my contact details and links to earlier blog posts.
And then it ran. In less than three days my budget had been spent and unfortunately, I did not end up with any conversions (i.e. LinkedIn connections or company page likes) at all. That said, the metrics are interesting and do show promise. Of 1395 impressions no less than 14 people clicked on the article. One person gave it a like.
My conclusion: LinkedIn Marketing Solutions do seem promising, because you do seem to reach the right audience, but they are too expensive for freelancers. The amount of clicks is very impressive, but it is not enough on such a small scale. Basically I spent $50 on one like. Fourteen interesting people now know that I exist – but they will probably forget in a matter of days. It would be interesting to see what happens on a bigger budget, but unfortunately I cannot spend $500 on a campaign that might not lead to anything.
I’d like to end on a positive note though. All this research did lead to something. I also posted my article in the conventional way on LinkedIn, like my earlier articles, and this one received a lot more attention. I published it about 48 hours ago and it has already become my most popular article by far, with many likes and shares and even some new connections. I am now posting it in the groups I targeted in my campaign, i.e. the various business chamber groups. I even dared ask some of them if they would be interested in publishing it in their newsletters and they do reply (even the people with impressive business titles!). They have referred me to their newsletter editors and to other LinkedIn groups and connected with me on LinkedIn – so now people like the Vice-President & Chief Operating Officer of an important business chamber are following me on LinkedIn, and I am hoping for the opportunity to publish my article in newsletters sent to my target audience.
So all in all this was a positive experience. While I cannot recommend using LinkedIn Marketing Solutions for freelancers as a result of the high cost, a thought experiment similar to the procedure I followed may help you connect with interesting people and find new opportunities.