Tag Archives: freelance

Anatomy of a MASSIVE Marketing Mistake 

For the past year or so wearing one of my professional hats as a radio station program director, I have been keeping an eye on a particular email marketing effort from a voiceover talent trying to pick up new radio station imaging clients.  I immediately flagged it as an example of what NOT to do, but I knew it probably wouldn’t be anything that would hurt short term.  I never unsubscribed because I wanted to see when the colossal blunder being risked would occur.  The time when it did came a week ago Monday, and I’m breaking it down here as a cautionary tale.

The first email I received in this particular marketing effort came a little over a year ago.  Aside from the big blunder, a smaller one that was made with this particular VO artist not properly researching my radio station and its format to see if there was a fit.  We’re a mainstream AC station, and a link to the website in this email did not include a demo to match my format.  Even if it’s a mass email campaign, a little personal touch and demonstration that you have some idea who you’re pitching goes a very long way in converting a lead to a client.

What made that initial email in this artist’s marketing campaign a little unusual was that it wasn’t the standard introductory “Here’s who I am and here’s what I do” or “How can I help you?” message.  It was dated January 10, 2016.  If that date rings a bell, the subject line will jog your memory.  It read…..”David Bowie”.  It was hours after his death, and it’s not uncommon for some companies to put together audio tributes, but in most cases they’re free and clear to use with no sales pitch of any kind.  This one was some dry VO liners and some produced stuff. I was OK until I got to the last line, which read something like, “Hey, if you need a new VO talent, let’s talk!” followed by contact info.  My initial thought was, “This seems tacky and exploitative”.  My second thought was, “I wonder if this person has considered what might happen in the 24 hour news cycle world in which we live where news outlets sometimes get these things wrong in an effort to be first?”

Several more of these “tributes” followed as we lost way too many legends last year……Prince, Glenn Frey, Gregg Allman, etc.  Then, it happened.  Last Monday afternoon, I get the Inbox ding and find a new email with the subject line, “Tom Petty”.  This coincided almost to the minute with the erroneous CBS News report of his death.  Same song and dance…..liners, sweepers, and the “Hey!  Hire me as your new VO talent!” tag line.   That was all I needed to permanently put this VO artist in the discard bin and unsubscribe, but I didn’t do it right away.  Several hours later, I glanced at my work email account from home and the first email in the Inbox was from……guess who?…..along with the subject line, “I’m Sorry”.  It was a profuse apology based on the backlash he had obviously received, and it also came way too late.  The damage to his prospect database is most likely permanent, and unfortunately, it was self-inflicted.

I would love to know what this VO artist was thinking when devising a marketing plan that included trying to capitalize on celebrity deaths.  I also hope……no, pray might actually be a better word…..that advice didn’t come from a professional “marketing coach” or other self-proclaimed expert.  I’d also be curious to know if this person is still able to make it as a full time VO artist a year from now.  I also hope this provides a teachable moment for you as you develop and execute your plan for freelance world domination.


Shane Wilson is an award winning broadcaster and voice talent. His voice has been heard worldwide across commercials, audiobooks, corporate and industrial videos, e-learning modules, and explained videos. Among the companies and brands who have trusted him to tell their story…..Wal Mart, Papa John’s, John Deere, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and Cracker Barrel. Reach him at ihearvoicesonline.com or at (205) 201-1454.

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In Defense of Cold Calling

A few weeks back, one of the Facebook groups on which I occasionally engage in professional discussion had someone mention that he was taking some time off from his “day job” to work on marketing and growing his voiceover business. One thing he had on his “to do” list seemed to inspire a backlash from seemingly out of nowhere, including some rather pointed words from a very well-known voiceover artist. Of all the ways we as freelancers put ourselves in front of prospective clients, none seem to generate such simultaneous endorsement and condemnation with no in between as cold calling to build a business. Count me as someone who appreciates the value of cold calling as a tool in your marketing arsenal. Done right, it might be the best way to build long lasting, and most importantly, profitable relationships.

If you’re still either on the fence or still vehemently anti-cold calling for any reason, i.e. nerves, the perception it doesn’t work, you think it’s intrusive and turns off potential clients, here are a few reasons why cold calling could be effective for you, along with a few humble suggestions on howto go about pulling it off successfully.

First, the “why”……

It costs you nothing!

In the current economy, you can’t beat free, especially when it applies to your marketing efforts. As long as you have a phone and an unlimited long distance plan, and most of us do these days, you can put it to good use to help establish yourself as you engage in a career for which you have a passion.

Personal connections still matter

In an age where email, social media, and texting rules, there is still nothing more powerful than being old fashioned. The spoken conversation still trumps the written one any day of the week when it comes to establishing relationships, both personal and professional. Cold calling proves that you’re a real live human being who can communicate.

The results are long lasting

The ultimate success barometer with cold calling isn’t gaining new clients. It’s gaining repeat, long term clients who sometimes become much more than partners in the growth of a business, both yours and theirs. They sometimes become friends as well.

So how should it be done? I certainly don’t even pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few pointers based on personal experience…….

Don’t sell them anything!

The initial goal of a cold call is not getting a “buy”. You only want a potential client to sample your product or service. As a voice talent, I’m interested in getting to someone who will agree to hear my demo, not hire me on the spot for their next project. Offering to customize the product or service and gear it to them is also very effective. No one likes pushy, and we all loathe the stereotype of the pushy salesperson. Be polite, keep it low key, and sell nothing.

Keep it brief

Time is money, and the companies you’re calling come in all shapes and sizes. This is a great way to perfect your “elevator pitch” while getting to the person who works directly with the service or product you have to offer. Assume that they’re busy and get to the point.

Treat it as an “audition”!

As a voice talent, cold calling can literally be my initial opportunity to prove I can do a great job as a company spokesperson. Regardless of what facet of media you represent, the world is your stage on a cold call. The value of a good first impression goes without saying, so make the world your stage when you make that call!

As a born introvert, cold calling was not something I looked forward to and took a while to get used to. There are far more introverts in the field of media and communications than those on the outside might ever imagine. Once you get a few under your belt, however, and realize that the worst case scenario you have pictured in your mind neverhappens, it can become quite the cash cow for you. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

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