Now, onto today's topic: the LOI, or letter of introduction, is one of my favorite marketing weapons. Yet too many writers have no success with theirs, and they don't understand why. Let's take a look at five common LOI mistakes--and how to make yours stand out from the crowd:
1. It's too general. Yes, I have a standard template that I used for LOIs, but that's only the starting point. Every LOI is targeted to that specific potential client. If I'm responding to a job post, I list the skills I have that match what the company is looking for. If I'm pitching a custom publication, I mention a recent article so the editor knows I actually looked at her magazine--you'd be amazed at how many writers don't even take that simple step.
2. You haven't proven yourself. Your LOI should demonstrate that you can deliver what the market or company needs. I make sure that each LOI highlights my specific experience that is likely most important to that client. For a ghostwriting client, that may be my ability to capture someone's voice; for a regular blogging gig, it might be my ability to produce a lot of content with tight deadlines. So for example, I recently went after project involving writing for law firms, so I highlighted my legal background. Sure, I specialize in health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness, but that's not relevant to this particular client so I omitted that.
3. Your LOI is sloppy. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes are a big turnoff when you're trying to impress a potential client. Proofread your LOI out loud (you'll catch more mistakes) before you send it out to make the best first impression.
4. You didn't use an "in." Instead of pitching a potential client "cold," look for a way to make a connection with that person. Can you connect with him or her through LinkedIn? Follow her for a few weeks on Twitter and mention a funny or helpful Tweet she posted? A "warm" pitch is more likely to be read, and responded to, than a completely cold one.
5. You failed to follow up. You can't just send an LOI and then hope that something happens. Occasionally, I hear back from a potential client after the first contact, but it usually takes me following up at least once. So plan to follow up a week or two after sending an LOI, either by sending an email or by calling. If you choose the latter, make sure to keep your call brief and professional. (You say you're afraid to call? Tell me why in a comment below--and I'll give phoning tips in an upcoming post!)
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