[Podcast] The Best CRM for Copywriters, Designers & Other Creative Professionals

I am asked at least once a week which CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software I recommend to keep track of clients and prospects. 

Here's my official answer: 
You don't need a CRM. 

If you are a one or two-person business offering any kind of custom creative services, where you are hired for your brains more than your hands, you don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of prospects and clients to keep track of.

Instead, you should have 25, maybe even 50-100 really good prospects to stay in touch with over time and you should be growing that list slowly as you use the 3 most effective marketing tools, as I outline in my Simplest Marketing Plan.

And if you are doing that diligently, you probably already have in place all the elements of the simple strategy I described in my new (and slightly different) podcast episode with Melanie the Marketer.

This is the exact strategy I have used for years and it has worked beautifully and kept my marketing (and my life) supremely simple. Plus, I have never been busier! 

Listen here or below (and let me know what you think):

 

If you like what you hear, write a review, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and, one more thing, be sure to sign up for my Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor.

 

Read the Transcript of Podcast #387 — The Best CRM for Copywriters, Designers & Other Creative Professionals with Melanie Deardorff

ilise benun  

Hi there, this is ilise benun, your Marketing Mentor. And this is the podcast for you if, and only if, you are ready to leave the feast or famine syndrome behind, and I mean for good.

I am asked, at least once a week, which CRM—that means Customer Relationship Management software—I recommend for the creative professionals that I work with. And, I never know which one to suggest. Indeed, there are plenty to choose from; almost a new one every day. But what I realized, last week, was that I don't actually think you need a CRM. 

Now, this may be controversial, but I don't think so, especially if you're a one- or two-person business. Yes, of course, you need to keep track of your prospects and clients, and to know which ones are closest to being ready to pull the trigger to work with you. But, you don't need any special software to do it. Really. 

Anyone who has been following me should know that I like to keep things simple, really simple. I realized that what I've been doing for my own business, for almost the whole 30-plus years now, without any special software, and what I've been teaching all of my clients to do, as well, could work for others who aren't part of my coaching groups. I just have to share the strategy. So, in this slightly different podcast episode, Melanie The Marketer and I do just that. This is the same simple strategy, in fact, that she has been using, too, kind of without quite realizing it, and which you too can use. In fact, I'll bet you already have everything you need in place. So, listen and learn.

ilise benun  

Hello, Melanie, welcome back to the podcast. Introduce yourself, because we want people to know who I'm talking to.

Melanie Deardorff 

My name is Melanie Deardorff, also known as Melanie the Marketer. I live in Phoenix. I've been here almost three years and I spent the rest of my life in Kansas City, Missouri area. I'm a marketing consultant. I work with a lot of small businesses, including creative professionals, helping them figure out their best marketing opportunities, making a plan and tackling that plan.

ilise benun  

There's a particular question that I want to tackle here, but let me approach it from a slightly different angle based on what you're saying. If you use these marketing tools for and with and on behalf of your small-business clients, I want to talk about the role of a CRM, a customer relationship management software, in that process. Maybe not so much even talking about your own experience, but how are you helping them keep track of their leads and prospects? Or are you?

Melanie Deardorff 

I would say, for the most part, I am not, right now. I do keep track of their push marketing, some of the inquiries that come into them, especially if they come in from social media. I definitely make sure they know about that. But I'm not keeping a big spreadsheet of all their leads. We're not comparing notes on that. A lot of the businesses I work with are so small that that their CRM might just be their list in MailChimp. They don't have a lot of detailed information on that back end, other than name, email address and entry date.

ilise benun  

So, let me just say, “Bingo!” Because that's exactly the point I'm trying to make. 

Let me approach it from a different angle, now, which is, so many people ask me what CRM I recommend. For years, they've been asking me that. I just have no good answer. I've tried a few different ones, and I hear about some other ones, and there's always a new one. I explore them but, I was thinking the other day, why don't I care about CRM? Why won't I come up with my recommendation? And then it hit me—I actually don't think you need one. If you're a one- or two- or three-person business, you don't have thousands or hundreds of prospects to keep track of. And, truthfully, I don't think you need a CRM. 

So, then I started to think, I have never used one. I mean, I actually did a long time ago, but I don't use it anymore, and I don't think I need it. So, this dovetailed with the idea that you had for me about a series of podcasts—so, maybe we consider this the first one—where I share my own experience and talk about how I'm doing what I'm doing, and how I practice what I preach. How does that sound? 

Melanie Deardorff 

I like that. 

ilise benun  

Alright, here's my idea. You poke holes in it and tell me where it doesn't make sense. But what I do—and I do have a fairly large email list of people who have been receiving my Quick Tips, which is my email newsletter for the last, I don't know 20 years—I think I've been doing it; maybe not quite that long, but a long time. 

Actually, I don't know if you know this, Melanie, but the Quick Tips evolved out of an actual newsletter, a paper newsletter, that I used to bulk mail to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people, early on in my career before it was called Marketing Mentor, when it was called The Art of Self Promotion. That was my newsletter. It was called The Art of Self Promotion. And then when the internet arrived and the World Wide Web arrived, I created a website called The Art of Self Promotion and then I created the Quick Tips.

Melanie Deardorff 

I did not know that. 

ilise benun  

So, that's the evolution of my email newsletter. But what I've realized over the years is that, really, that's almost all I need. You know, I like the number three. So, then I tried to come up with, what are the three simplest tools that we need to keep track of our prospects? Because here's what I believe. Because I, and you and most of our clients, are very small individual businesses, really, at any given time, we're only going to have five, maybe 10 at the most, really good prospects who are ready to convert. And you should be able to name them, number one. These are the people with whom you have had a pricing conversation. You've talked money. Maybe you've submitted a proposal; they're clear on what you offer. And it's just a question of, are they ready or are they going to choose you? Right? 

So, you need to know who they are. And, I think you should be able to put them on a Post-it note on your wall or on your refrigerator or on your computer or somewhere like that. 

So, you need that list. You need to know who your best prospects are, the ones who are ready to convert. Maybe you have an Excel spreadsheet of the 25 who are close to that, but certainly not ready to convert, but if you need to put your foot on the gas pedal of your business, then you would be reaching out to those people. Those are for targeted outreach. And maybe you keep those in an Excel spreadsheet on your computer. 

Besides that, all you need is a newsletter—a way to keep your visibility high, to stay in front of, on a regular basis—connecting with content all the other people who have ever known you, expressed interest in you, but just are not actual prospects. 

The whole point, and this has been happening almost every day for the last couple of weeks, my clients are really getting into sending out their newsletters and then I'm hearing back from them. “Oh, this person, who I haven't heard from in a couple of years, is finally ready to do that project and the thing that triggered them was the newsletter.” 

So, in summary, what I'm saying is, you don't need a CRM. All you need is a Post-it note with your top five or 10 prospects. Maybe an Excel spreadsheet with the other 25 who are closer to being ready to convert. And your newsletter. What do you think?

Melanie Deardorff 

I agree. Compared to my time in corporate America, where we had CRMs that were huge and expensive and we even had trouble keeping them current then, I think for a small business owner, you don't have to get too fancy.   

I tend to just make notes on things. I will add it to my calendar, like “call ilise in three weeks” and I'll just schedule it out on my calendar and I'll just put a little reminder out there. 

I do know, though, that some of the small business owners and creative professionals that I've met in your circle, I know some of them are big fans of having more official tools and things that they do. I would say that how a person likes to be organized in their own life outside of that could also inform how they want to be in their business. 

Some people prefer a lot of Post-it notes everywhere sticking on their monitor, and that keeps them happy. Other people would stress out if they don't have a system in place, or maybe even a small CRM or a spreadsheet, like you mentioned. There's an expression that says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Maybe it's the same way with organizing your outreach. You've got to find what works for you. It can't be too burdensome. It has to be effective enough that you feel like you're doing the strategic outreach that's important.

ilise benun  

I want to add, actually, what you're saying about the calendar appointment, because I also do that. I have a standing appointment with myself on my calendar, every other week, at let's say 8:30 in the morning on a Monday. I just add, to the appropriate date, the two or three people I want to be sure to follow up with on that date. 

So, I'm not following up with people weekly or bi-weekly until they say, “Yes.” I'm keeping a list so that every two weeks I open at that appointed time, I look at that list, and I think: “What would I say to this guy, today? What should I send him? Is it time to reach out yet? No? You know what, maybe I'll wait till next week.” And then I move it forward. I move him forward. 

There's almost this sixth sense that I think is part of it. You have to not be in touch with your paranoid-fantasizing self, but with the self that is aware of what your prospects are struggling with, and dealing with, and overloaded with. 

“Patiently persistent” is the thing that people sometimes thank me for being, because I don't give into the, “Oh my God. He doesn't want to hear from me because he's not responding.” I just say, “Here's an article I wrote or here's a new podcast that might be relevant to you,” connecting with content just to keep the ball rolling. So, I think to schedule a little half-hour block on a regular basis, and just keep putting the names of the people you want to be sure to follow up with so they don't forget about you, is an important element in that little system, also.

Melanie Deardorff 

That's how I'm using LinkedIn more. I set a goal at the beginning of the year to try to be on LinkedIn every single day in the morning, even if it was just for a few minutes, and I've pretty much stuck with that. Being on there, I see my connection’s blog posts, I see their comments that they make on other people's blog posts or status updates on LinkedIn. 

But, I've also made sure that I just spend some time seeking out people that either are top of mind to me or someone who I might have lost touch with. There was a client contact of mine, last November; I only knew him for a couple months and they sent me a note saying they were moving to a different company and they enjoyed working with me. So, we were already connected on LinkedIn. I remember, I think it was right after the first year, I looked him up on LinkedIn and I saw that he was still with his new company. I just sent him a note and said, “I hope that new job is treating you well. Happy New Year.” Something like that. 

And he responded back within a couple days, thanked me for reaching out, and just said that he hopes I was having a good New Year, too. Well, within about two or three weeks, he reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested in doing some content writing for his new company. When I reached out to him, I really didn't even think about that, because I barely knew the guy. But, it was so nice to make the connection between me just asking how his job was and wishing him a happy New Year and then, two or three weeks later, I get an email from him and he's saying, “Would you have an interest in doing some copywriting work for this company, like you did at the other company?” 

You and I talked before, in another podcast, about generosity as a marketing tool. That's really more my CRM. Things in my life, and in the world, and things I hear during the day, remind me of people I know. Sometimes they’re business people, or former clients, or even a client I worked with last year and I haven't heard from him for a few months. I just let my head and my thoughts cue me into who I should reach out to. It's nothing spiritual or woowoo. It's more like: “Ah, I thought of that person today. I wonder what they're doing?” Quickly look on LinkedIn. “Oh, they have the same job or they have a different job.”

And sure, there are times when I reached out to certain people and I think, maybe they need me for some marketing. But, I think I do it in a friendly, genuine way, with no expectations.  Then, I just reach out and go on my way. 

So, that's kind of my CRM. I actually look in LinkedIn many times to see when the last time is that I reached out to someone. If it was a month ago, and that feels too soon or not long enough ago, I might wait a while. But, somehow I just keep the people that I need to connect with almost top of mind. And then I just look for cues on what I want to say to them. I'm connected to a lot of them on Facebook, too, and even Twitter. So, it's a good way for me to stay on social media, even when I spend all this time for clients on social media. I've upped my social-media game, this year, particularly LinkedIn, just so I can further nurture my network.

ilise benun  

I love that, Melanie. You're basically saying, “generosity and curiosity are your CRM.” Oh my god. That is awesome.

Melanie Deardorff 

Oh, there’s CRM we've got an acronym thing going there. Give me a couple minutes … Curiosity. Something. Machine. {Laughter}

ilise benun  

Yes. Work on that, Melanie. Awesome. I don't think there's anything more to say. I think you've said it all.

Melanie Deardorff 

I appreciate hearing what you do, because I'm sure you've got a huge email list. And you know, all of us marketers, it's all about, how big is our list. But, you've got so many people in your sphere of influence and circle of influence, including LinkedIn connections—because I looked to see how many connections you have, before—it is interesting to hear that even at your company's size, and all the years you've been in business, you still take more of a grassroots approach to a CRM. I think that should encourage people, or remind people: don't spend all this time fretting about the perfect tool. You might not need one now and you might not even need one in 10 years. 

ilise benun  

Right. I want to keep it as simple as I possibly can. Like you, I do use just my memory like, “Oh, I wonder what's going on with that person? Let me reach out.” That's how I decide who I'm going to follow up with. So, I just kind of stay in touch with those people in my mind.

Melanie Deardorff 

I've worked with a lot of salespeople over the years and I really do think that the best salespeople are just keeping their good prospects top of mind. There are a lot of salespeople that have a fancy enterprise-level CRM tool at their organization, and they don't put their call log in there, they don't put their call notes in there. They barely look at it, because they just intuitively know, who do I need to get in front of? Who do I need to schmooze? Who do I need to see how their daughter is enjoying college? It's really just a lot of networking, and even salespeople do that, that work for big multimillion-dollar companies.

ilise benun  

I feel like it's about caring. I think that's what you're describing. Getting out of your own way. Stop thinking about what they're going to think of you. Think about them, and what are they doing, and showing you care.

Melanie Deardorff 

Right. I was on your email list for quite a few years. I know I listened to your podcast for quite a long time, too. Even though you and I talked about one-on-one coaching, probably four years ago when I first was self employed again, I didn't think it was right for me at the time. Probably because I didn't hardly have any clients and I needed to watch every dollar. But, you kept me on your email list. You and I kept in touch. I sent you a note when I saw that you had moved to Savannah. So, even though we had more of a networking-type relationship, you still sent me your Quick Tips and your blog post updates, and I listened to your podcast, and I was connected to you in a way that a CRM really wasn't needed.

ilise benun  

So, maybe the C in CRM is Content. Right? Because I do think connecting with content is enough of a CRM—just making sure that people are “marinating.” That's the word I like to use, lately. Marinating in your content until they're ready to raise their hand and say, “Okay, I'm ready to continue the conversation.” And until then, you don't need to be bugging them anymore.

Melanie Deardorff 

I like that. I love the whole marinate idea. 

ilise benun  

I do too. All right, Melanie. Any last words before you give the people your web address so they can find you? 

Melanie Deardorff 

I think we've covered it all.

ilise benun  

Good. So, tell them where they can find you and your blogging and anything else about you.

Melanie Deardorff 

I am on social media in quite a few places and my handle is typically MelDeardorff, or even if you just search “Melanie Dearfdorff.” If you look online, I'm in a million places, thanks to my website and being in social media for so many years. My website is Melaniedeardorff.com, but an easier way of getting there is probably MelanieTheMarketer.com.

ilise benun  

Beautiful. Thank you, Melanie.

Melanie Deardorff 

Thank you, ilise. I enjoyed it.

ilise benun  

We're going to talk more again about other things, soon. We're going to continue this series, I can just tell. 

I do hope that was helpful, and that you can, sooner rather than later, test these ideas for yourself. You'll see how they will change the way you run your business. It really is the small things that can truly have an impact over time. And, if you want details about my one-on-one accountability or small group coaching, go to Marketing-Mentor.com. I'll be back soon with more conversations with creative professionals who are practicing what I preach to overcome, once and for all, the feast or famine syndrome. See you next time.