GUEST POST By Cliff Ennico
“I run a one-person consulting service that provides marketing, public relations and other image and branding consulting services to large corporations.
I generate most of my new business through personal networking. The problem is that personal networking is extremely time-consuming. Even when I do get an appointment with a decision maker at a large corporation, everything I suggest is often shot down with responses such as ‘we’ve already tried that’, ‘we already have someone doing that for us,’ and so forth.
While I plan to continue my networking program, I’m thinking that I may also want to do some ‘cold calling’ on some of these companies, for example by sending them e-mail newsletters and other ‘news release’ communications that may generate interest.
What do you think of that idea?”
Frankly, not much.
Frequent readers of this column know that I am no fan of “cold calling” of any kind. It is a waste of your time, and an insult to the people you are trying to sell. When you cold-call, you are hoping that the person you call just, possibly, at that very moment, have a need for your services.
Having said that, I recognize that it’s difficult sometimes to resist the temptation to reach out blindly to a company or other potential client with whom you (or anyone in your network) have a personal relationship.
Let’s say, for example, you read a newspaper or magazine article about a great new company in Silicon Valley that has created a killer software application for mobile phones. You know that you can help them build their brand awareness but there’s no time to work your way through your LinkedIn contacts to get to someone at that company. The opportunity is immediate, and the time to strike is now.
Here are some techniques that might, just, possibly work.
First of all, forget about e-mail. Sending someone you don’t know an e-mail message of any kind is spam, period. We’ve all got spam filters on your computers, and there’s always the “delete” key, which can be struck several times a second after a quick glance at the message heading.
You need to put together a short presentation and overnight it, via Federal Express, UPS or other overnight courier, to the CEO of the company.
The cover letter of the presentation should reach out and grab the CEO by the throat – if you don’t get his or her attention within five seconds, the ballgame’s over.
Here’s a suggestion: “I was intrigued by the recent article about your company in XYZ Magazine, so I took a look at your website. While it’s obvious you are building a world-class business, there are several things you could be doing a lot better. Specifically, . . . “
Then, list some specific issues with their website that require improvement.
Yes, this is aggressive and “in your face”. But most CEOs I know will stop whatever they’re doing and read the specifics out of curiosity. You have gotten their attention and, if your arguments are compelling, you might just get a callback (perhaps from the company’s existing web design firm once the CEO forwards your letter to them).
A friend of mine is a marketing consultant who specializes in direct mail campaigns – what most of us might call “junk mail”. When she receives a piece of junk mail that doesn’t work, she sends it back to the CEO of the company that sent it, along with a short letter pointing out what doesn’t work, why she would never respond, and offering her services to help improve the company’s direct mail image. Believe it or not, she sometimes gets responses from these companies wanting to know more about her and what she does.
Once you have gotten the prospect’s attention, there is no need for further direct mail approaches. You would schedule a meeting with the company CEO and handle it the same way you would a networking contact.
Here’s another idea: identify a new, “hot button” issue your corporate clients are facing, and offer the CEO some free advice on how to deal with it.
For example: “Many companies are worried that their employees are saying bad things about them, or disclosing confidential information about their operations, on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media websites. I am willing to visit your corporate headquarters and meet with you and your senior officers, without charge, to discuss ways you can deal with that challenge without damaging employee morale or depriving them of their constitutional rights to freedom of speech. If you are impressed with what I have to say, I would ask that you reimburse my airplane ticket, but otherwise you would have no obligation to me.”
By offering your corporate clients a no-risk, no-lose proposition, you are quite likely to get a positive response. And if they’re not impressed and refuse to reimburse your plane ticket, well, it’s usually tax deductible . . .
Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.