How would you like your best potential clients to come knocking on your door?
Today is Mailbox Monday — where I open up my inbox and answer YOUR questions on marketing, selling, copywriting, business growth and more…
To have your question answered in a future Mailbox Monday, hit reply or send me an email at [email protected].
Today, the question comes from a copywriter who feels like there’s a big gap between how I’ve suggested getting clients and what works in his market…
And even though I think he’s overestimating that gap… I’m still going to use his question as a way to introduce a concept that I don’t think I’ve ever written about before: visible vs. invisible prospects. But there’s a whole lot of ground to cover between here and there, so let’s dive in.
Here’s today’s question…
Thank you for offering to answer questions every Monday.
How the heck am I supposed to find companies I want to work for when I don’t even know what companies exist?
I’ve been subsisting as a writer for many years. Been studying copywriting just as long, if not longer. (“Try that with a brush or roller. It chops, it slices, it dices… it even makes julienne fries! And boy can it catch fish.”) At 19 I was selling home sanitation systems and making more money than my dad the instrumentation technician in a factory. Held a commission-only sales gig for six years. I think I can sell.
Because of my IT background, I’ve been pigeonholed into corporate marketing writing. A couple of times I’ve been hired by somebody who claims they want direct response copy. Then that same person changes my copy into the same old corporate crap used by every corporate marketing department.
I doubt any corporation selling technology will ever use actual direct response copy. Other than Microsoft and Check Point I’d never heard of any of the firms I’ve written for.
EVERY copywriter trainer – including you in your book that I bought on Amazon – says, “Find the companies you want to write for, and contact them.”
How the heck am I supposed to find companies I want to work for when I don’t even know what companies exist?
Dave Chappelle (older, whiter than, and nowhere near as funny as the comedian)
Wait… Dave Chappelle reads my daily essays?!
Either I’ve made it or it’s been way too long since the latest Chappelle show if… Oh wait, I see the note. Well, if it’s not him, it’s probably a different Chris Rock on my list, too. Oh well… 🙂
On to the meat: What’s the real problem here, and how can you get more clients?
First and foremost, I want to hit on a few assumptions that jumped out at me as I read this. Then, a natural and smooth transition into how you can get more clients in almost any industry!
The biggest assumption I don’t agree with? Tech and direct response don’t mix.
This is NOT true at all. There are fields of tech that bristle at the kind of emotional direct response copy you see in the financial publishing industry, for example, or in a lot of modern copywriting books.
But the reality is, the tech industry is probably one of the biggest proponents of direct response, because they measure everything and are data junkies. That said, they apply the principles of direct response in different ways. So instead of long-form sales letters, they use different techniques and tactics. Mixed-media landing pages with a free trial offer, for example. Branded email, instead of an email that sounds like it’s a letter from one person to another. And so on.
The key here is that even though it may look different (and potentially be less effective), you can’t just assume they’re not doing direct response. They are also very mindful of brand and voice, and if you’re going to produce for them, you must map direct response principles and strategies onto their pre-existing brand and voice. If you want to shift their approach, you’re going to be doing it in 1-degree and 2-degree adjustments, not a 90-degree left-turn. But at the start of a 1,000-mile journey, a 2-degree adjustment makes a huge difference.
(Put another way, you have to get good at hiding principles of effective direct response underneath a veneer that pretty much looks and feels like everything else they’re doing.)
The second and perhaps more relevant assumption to your question? You can’t find a list of these clients.
In the financial direct response publishing world, I’ll admit we have it easy. Sign up for a handful of the best-known publishers’ email lists (better yet, buy their products), and you’ll start getting a ton of marketing. From them, yes. But even more useful, “partner” mailings under their masthead, but clearly delineated as marketing from another company. If it’s a company you’re not signed up for, sign up for them, too.
Pretty soon, you’ll be on the email lists of every major financial publisher. From there, you look at who is doing the kind of marketing you want to do, and create a list of potential clients. Same thing applies in many markets best-known for the style of emotional direct response (and long copy) I’m best known for.
Most tech companies don’t do that kind of cross-promotion, and email list rental. It’s there. But it’s not as prevalent, and you won’t build a list as fast. But, they gather in other places.
For example, throughout North America there are probably at least a dozen tech-related conferences that occur every single week of the year, save for a few holidays. If you want to see who is spending money on marketing, look at their vendor and exhibitor list. Even a small booth usually costs a grand or more, plus all the associated costs of getting sales and marketing people on the show floor, including travel, lodging, event passes, and so on.
Even better for you, this is a whole bunch of ideal prospects getting together in a single room, where you could go meet them in person, in one fell swoop.
(Actually meeting potential clients in person leads to a much better relationship, plus a much higher conversion rate. My Networking Secret training through BTMSinsiders tells you exactly how to turn these first meetings into phone calls then high-dollar contracts.)
Here’s how I’d approach this.
I’d find a big conference in my area, if not my city. I’d buy an attendee pass. You really only need to go to the trade show floor — some offer that part for free. I’d get the exhibitor list, and pick the top 20-30 companies I’d want to have a conversation with, prioritizing them based on researching them, their marketing, their websites, their products, and so on. (I’d also tend to focus on smaller companies because the big ones don’t send their management team to the shows, plus they’re less entrepreneurial and more likely to be working with a bigger agency. If you want to get them to change their approach, that’s much easier with entrepreneurial clients than big corporates.)
I’d come up with a specific results-oriented offer for my services. Say, for example, showing them how to make each trade show more profitable with media-based sales tools that get the best prospects from the event calling them (instead of the other way around).
(Consider the Core Offer training — you really want this to be results-oriented, preferably a proprietary system you can plug-and-play into multiple clients’ businesses with ease, and for reliable and impressive results. Creating a trade show lead conversion system would be a perfect offer for this group.)
Then, when the show came, I’d go to each booth, introduce myself, and ask for the person managing their presence at the show. I’d be very mindful as to whether or not they were having a conversation with a potential customer, and make sure I let that conclude naturally.
Then, I’d give a really quick pitch for why they’d want to talk to me. “I help businesses like theirs get more leads, customers, and sales from shows like the one they’re at. The more leads they come home with and more sales they make, the bigger hero they are, and I can help them with that.”
I’d tell them I researched them before the event, and think I could be helpful, but I don’t want to take all their time at the show. Then, following the recommendations in the Networking Secret training, I’d offer to have a follow-up conversation after the event. I’d ask them for their email address, and send them my email to automatically schedule a follow-up meeting after the conference.
Let’s say you do this at 30 booths. Conservatively, I think 2/3 would agree to receive your follow-up email. That means you send 20 emails. Even though you follow up with non-respondents after the show, maybe you expect 50% to either not respond or somehow flake out before the initial call. But this got you 10 qualified leads on the phone. From there, let’s say you close 40% — probably a pretty low number. That’s 4 new clients, using very conservative estimates.
Now, I don’t know how many clients you need per year, but if you did one of these per month — or even just one per quarter — I’ll bet you’d have more work than you could handle. (I go deep with clients so 4 clients for me is enough for a year or more.)
That’s an example of visible prospects — there are also invisible prospects…
Let me explain this concept first. I got it from Dean Jackson, co-host of the I Love Marketing podcast. Dean’s company 90-Minute Books also helped me with my Copywriter’s Guide to Getting Paid book, and is helping me with my new book related to story selling.
Visible prospects are prospects that gather, that you can find. For example, a bunch of direct response companies go to the AWAI Bootcamp and Job Fair every fall. That’s been a great source of clients for me in the past. There’s also the whole strategy with financial publishers I laid out above, that could be duplicated in many heavily direct response-focused markets. But “visible prospects” is also equally applicable as a descriptor of companies that exhibit at tech trade shows. They’re all gathered in one place, where you can see and find them.
Then there’s invisible prospects, which, up until the point you read the above, you might have assumed described the tech industry. There’s a whole lotta tech companies who might be open to direct marketing, but you don’t know who they are or where to find them.
How, pray tell, would you find them?
Well, you need to do something to get them to raise their hand! Dean Jackson teaches the 90-Minute Books model. Find a core problem that members of your target market have (and might be searching to solve) immediately prior to hiring someone like you. And write (or speak) a book about it. Offer that book free (or, if you want a smaller flow of more-qualified leads, sell it or offer it as a free+shipping deal). And use the book as a conversation-starter with your best prospects.
Of course, this model didn’t start with Dean. Way back in 2002 (I think), before AdWords, before 80/20 Sales & Marketing, Perry Marshall created a CD called “Guerrilla Marketing for High-Tech Sales People.”
It was all about how to use direct response marketing to generate leads for your tech business.
By advertising something like this in a place that your ideal prospect might be (e.g. targeting tech industry websites with paid advertising), you’ll get your ideal prospects reaching out to you, raising their hand and expressing interest.
(I’m actually going deep on this in my NEXT BTMSinsiders training, The Value-First Sales Funnel: Maximize sales with systematic education-based marketing. I just updated the Coming Soon list on the site, with that plus one more training coming after.)
The key is, if you don’t think you can find prospects, you need to proactively do something to make them find you. Which means you need to get something that’s worth raising their hand for, in order to get you to give it to them. Then, you need to find the media they consume, the websites they visit, and so on, and put yourself there. Paid advertising is fast and it scales. PR and other organic strategies are free but can be slow and difficult. Both is better than one alone.
I could go on, but I’ve already taken way too long, and this is a HUGE value bomb I’ve just dropped.
Ultimately — the spoils will go to those who take action…
I’ve been thinking about this A LOT recently.
Your next success will NOT likely come from learning something new. Although you should be constantly learning new things, getting new ideas, immersing yourself in skills-boosting education, because it has a cumulative and immediately-inspirational effect. (When I’m not constantly learning, my business stagnates.)
Rather, your next success will come from taking action on something you already know you should be doing.
That is, all these ideas are worthless without implementation.
You must adopt a radical implementation protocol.
Take what I laid out above, make a decision about what to do with it, and act on it. Try it, see what results you get. Then, try a variation, and see if the results increase or decrease. Then keep trying things, and trying things, and trying things. Constant implementation. Radical implementation.
That’s what will get you ahead.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,