I’m in the process of producing an online course called Marketing Mastery for Creative Entrepreneurs (I hope to have it available later this summer). As I’ve been writing the session on alternative methods for reaching out to prospects using email and cold calling I’ve been reflecting on the old days when those were the main ways of reaching out.
These days my go-to prospecting method uses LinkedIn. And while that platform is by far the easiest and most fruitful, there are always going to be some prospects in your lists that just don’t respond on that channel. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re uninterested, it could just be that they don’t go on LinkedIn very often, and perhaps have notifications turned off. And so you need to find other paths to reach them, and that usually means falling back on the old-fashioned methods of email and cold calling.
Cold Outreach Gets Bad Rap
Do you shudder at the thought of sending cold, unsolicited emails, or worse calling a prospect on the phone like some kind of telemarketer? We’re all on the receiving end of such efforts and we hate them. I personally get about a dozen robo-calls a day. If I don’t have a number in my contacts to tell me exactly who’s calling, I don’t answer. Which is such a pain when I’m waiting for a call back from my HVAC repair service, or some other number not in my contacts. And so it’s totally natural for us to have some reluctance to use these methods ourselves.
But as with any form of marketing, the problem is never with the channel, it’s with methods and messaging. Calling me using a robot at dinner time is never going to work. If I accidentally pick up and bother to listen long enough to find out who’s calling, I’ll only resolve to never use that product or service. But if someone calls as a human being, and introduces themselves and their services, and it’s something that I could possibly use, I tend to have the opposite reaction. I admire their hustle, I respect their effort, and I’ll either listen or, at worst, politely let them know that I’m not in need of their services.
The same goes for email. If a robotic mass email makes it through my spam filters, it’ll stay in my inbox for about as long as it takes me to hit the “report spam” button. But if I get an email about a product or service that’s feasibly something I could use, I may delete it, but it doesn’t bother me. Of course those canned follow-up drip campaigns do get on my nerves.
But targeted emails, that show a reasonable match to things I could be in the market for, really can work. So how can you use email, or even cold calling, to follow up with prospects when other efforts have failed?
Relevancy and Personalization
The key is relevancy and personalization. If you have a service that is clearly tailored to a specific market, and you reach out to someone in that market with a clear statement about what you offer and its benefits, you’re going to find general receptivity. But if you just open a phone book (do phone book examples even work anymore?) and begin dialing starting with the “A’s,” you should expect to receive a lot of hang-ups and not a few curses.
For example, if you provide package design for home goods and reach out to product managers at home goods design and manufacturing companies to inquire if they’ve tried out some new material or packing method that you deployed for a recent client, you’re going to get reasonable traction.
And if you add personalization to those efforts you’ll get very good results. I recently got an email from someone selling email marketing services and in his intro, he referenced a specific aspect of a project we did for a client by name. I didn’t respond, because I’m not looking for those kinds of services right now, but I did read the whole message, and I even checked out their website, in part because I admired the effort made to clearly write a message tailored for me, not just some generic “your company does great work” pseudo personalization.
Do You Have the Courage for Cold Calls?
The same goes for call calls. A couple of weeks ago I got a voicemail from a design firm looking to introduce their services. Since I own a design firm, this was not well-targeted, though there are occasions when one firm will outsource to another when work volume is high, so it wasn’t entirely out of place. My firm primarily designs and builds websites for museums, so if he had referenced work he had done for museums he might have gotten a call back. But he at least had a reasonable relevancy score for his call.
When you move away from the more efficient modes of outreach like you can do on LinkedIn, and onto more direct cold outreach, the demands for relevancy and personalization go up. And the effort involved to meet those standards increases. You also have to develop something of a thick skin. Because even the most targeted prospecting, and perfectly written message, is going to be ignored by many. And worse, there are always a few highly reactive individuals out there who are hardwired to hate on any unsolicited message. I can’t imagine how such people preserve their sanity in today’s day and age, but you can’t let a small minority of outraged prospects impede your efforts to diligently market your services by carefully reaching out to targeted prospects.
That said, one last tip, if you’re on the east coast, don’t make cold calls to the west coast at 9:00am. Nobody would ever do that, that’s crazy. (Did that, was rightfully cursed out, and learned my lesson.)