Today, I want to focus on logistically how you’ll make the first contact.
In a perfect world, you’d have referrals. Someone you trust (and who trusts you) would make a mutual introduction to the new contact. But what do you do when you don’t have a reference?
I’ve had a lot of luck — and so have others I’ve talked to — in leveraging LinkedIn to apply many of the tactics we’ve previously discussed. Because LinkedIn is by nature a platform that people use professionally, cold contacting someone when you have something of value for them and their business isn’t looked down upon.
It’s important to treat your cold outreach as a campaign. You’re going to want to track who you’ve contacted, who’s responded, who you’ve set up a meeting with, and possibly who you’ve accomplished X with (where X could be anything from getting them to attend a free seminar of yours to booking your services.)
The first thing you’ll want to do is crack open a new spreadsheet and add a few columns: Name, LinkedIn URL, Mutual, Context, Benefit, Urgency, and Contact Date.
Some of those columns should be obvious, but for the rest:
- Mutual: What mutual relationships, if any, do you and this contact share? LinkedIn makes it super easy to see what relationships you and your target have in common. (This could also include shared group memberships.)
- Context: How can you prove that you’ve done your homework? What rewards or other accolades do you know about? What blog posts or initiatives could you reference?
- Benefit: What’s in it for them? Can you feature them in some way? Could you invite them to a free seminar you’re hosting? What’s something that you could offer that won’t trip their “this person’s trying to take my money!” alarm?
- Urgency: Never leave anything open-ended. Don’t say, “get back to me if you’re interested.” As we’ve discussed, give two specific options — e.g. “Does next Tuesday or Wednesday at 10am work for you?” — that can be either accepted or rejected.
You’re going to want to collect as much data you can so you can further tailor your messaging and optimize it for conversions. Here’s a template you could start out with:
“John, I’ve been really impressed with what’s been going on over at Acme Corp. The other day I read a post you published on XYZ, and decided I’d look you up to see if I might be able to help you become an even bigger player in XYZ.
I run a local business blog and I’d love to promote you, your company, and why XYZ is important, especially as it relates to technology — which is my field of expertise. Would you mind if I were to come by and talk to you about Acme for a piece I’d like to write on you?”
Why would anyone want to reject that? You’re basically saying: can I come to you, write about you, and help promote your business? There’s very little friction. (Getting someone to attend a seminar, while more in line with a proper sales funnel, requires actual planning and movement for the client, which isn’t always ideal. Experiment!)
As your spreadsheet grows, you can automate a lot of this messaging by commissioning a VA (virtual assistant) through a platform like oDesk to do the research and possibly write these invitations for you. I know a guy who does this on a very large scale with his team of VAs to book online webinars, and he’s literally making a killing.
Finally, I want to make one thing obvious. Only a percentage of these people will ever become direct clients of yours, and you’re doing things that don’t really scale — meeting with a lead about a real project has a significantly higher percentage of becoming a paying engagement over writing articles about local businesses who may or may not ever need or want to hire you. But what I realized running my consultancy is that this is a long-tail game. You’re looking to build up advocates, referral sources, and a community of trust. This is what I like to call my “ecosystem.”
If you’re looking for projects that pay right now, you’re going to be let down by this strategy. But if you’re looking to cultivate and nourish a pipeline of work that will last over the years, I strongly encourage you to invest in your ecosystem. There’s no way I could have ever brought in six figures a month in project revenue if my company always operated in the here and the now.
I hope this series has been helpful so far. Next, we’re going to go further down the rabbit hole and talk about ways to further move your contacts toward the direction of becoming paying clients — or at least amazing referral sources.