“How do you get your clients?” This is one of the most common questions I hear. I don’t advertise or have booths at trade shows or send out direct mail. And I don’t think many people get to my website because they Googled “survey methodologist for hire.”
So what DO I do? Here’s what has worked for me:
Having a great network: I was lucky enough to spend several years working with fantastic colleagues at two major PR agencies, and probably 60% of my work has come from people I know from that world (either PR folks or former research colleagues). I’m also a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Program in Survey Methodology, and faculty there sometimes get calls from companies seeking research consultation—which they are kind enough to send my way.
Schmoozing: Nobody likes this word. But I do try to get to know and stay in touch with a lot of people, usually because I like them, and also because I want to be top of mind if they need a survey designed or a focus group moderated. I also leave my card anywhere I can—once, somebody found it in the bathroom of a co-working space in Vermont and called me.
Educating people: I didn’t know I needed a plumber until I had a mop in one hand and a plunger in the other. Most people don’t know they need a survey methodologist (or that there even is such a person!) until they’ve realized that they have a question only primary research can answer, and they don’t know how to go about it. If people know who I am and what I do, they’re more likely to call. Simple.
Guerilla marketing: When someone sends me a survey to take, I look at it. Usually, I have ideas on how it can be made better. If I do, I’ll write to the person who sent it to me and explain who I am and how I can help them. Sometimes I feel like the makeup ladies in department stores: “You could be so pretty if you wore this lipstick!” But twice, this has resulted in paying gigs. So I persist.
Applying for jobs I’ll never take: I don’t want a job. But there are companies with open research jobs. Having been, in my past life, in the terrible position of desperately needing to hire someone to get the work done but not finding a good candidate, I can sympathize. So, when I see job postings that look interesting to me, I respond. I am honest about what I will do (contract, project, or freelance work; temporary relocation) and will not do (full time permanent job). I’ve gotten great short-term jobs in this way. For a lot of managers, the idea of having a qualified person to “keep the seat warm” while they search for a perfect hire is appealing. Everybody wins!
These are just a few of my favorite ways to keep drumming up business. Writing this has served as a good reminder that even when I’m busy, I have to keep looking for the next project. Onward!