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Using the following plan I was able to get my first digital marketing client, make $1,000 for simply giving my advice and do it all within 10 days.
Not huge, but a good start.
I believe you could use this basic idea for any service-based business where clients are worth thousands of dollars per sale.
This plan involves work – including getting on the phone to reach out to potential clients.
However, this is not cold calling (which I’ve found to be a waste of time). This is ‘warm’ calling with a twist.
It also requires spending some money. I spent about $100 to get my $1,000 client.
‘Secret’ To My Success
There is no secret … but there are some best practices.
One of them is simply getting started.
Imperfect action is always better than perfect inaction.
Next, I tracked like a maniac.
It allowed me to identify things that were holding me back.
For example, you’ll find out why most the stuff the sales ‘guru’s’ tell you is bullshit.
I stopped using ‘scripts’ because my tracking proved they were less effective.
I stopped doing a lot of things they recommended because my data showed they weren’t working as well.
Then, with hard data in hand, I adjusted and took more action.
So tattoo this on your forehead: take action, track your results and adjust based off those results.
Step 0: Target The Right Businesses
The limiting factor in your success is WHO you are targeting.
For that I recommend having some litmus tests to make sure you’re going after ‘ideal’ businesses.
This means businesses that have a problem (in my case – their website) and they want to solve it (they have the money and interest/knowledge of the problem).
From the money/interest standpoint my criteria were as follows:
- Annual revenues of at least $2,000,000.
- Their average sale was at least $2,000 (most were higher)
- I could identify and realistically speak with the decision maker. You aren’t going to be able to pick up the phone and talk with Jeff Bezos at Amazon. But you can realistically talk to the president of an industrial furnace company doing $9 million in revenues.
- They had buildings and employees (10 or more).
Why not go after small businesses like everyone recommends nowadays?
I know from painful experience that talking to business owners who don’t fit this basic criteria is a waste of time.
Their revenues are small. Which means they don’t have the money to pay you for the value you bring to the table.
The types of businesses I wanted to target were serious – not small minded.
They are willing to spend money if they feel it will give them a good ROI.
I found these businesses all sorts of different ways: Google searches, Manta, trade publications and especially looking for companies that were already advertising (trade shows, magazines, etc.).
Step 1: Put Together A Letter
Addressing The Clients Problem
As I came across businesses who fit my criteria above I was also making sure that they had a problem I could solve.
This was based off my research.
But it was pretty obvious because they lacked many of the criteria businesses need nowadays in a website:
- Website wasn’t mobile responsive
- Not collecting email addresses
- Their web copy was not customer focused
Over time I built up a list of companies who had the means to pay me and a problem that they may want to solve.
It was time to send them a letter.
I made mistakes with my first letters but eventually came up with one that addressed the biggest problems and did it in a way that piqued the business owners interest and at least got them thinking about it.
It was direct without being over the top or cute.
It was also short.
I started out sending a two page letter with pictures of their website.
I eventually widdled it down to about 1/2 of the front side of a piece of paper.
The ‘copywriting guru’s’ say that long form sales letters outperform short form. Because I tracked everything I knew I needed to go shorter – not longer.
The long form argument is true when you are directly trying to SELL something in the letter – like a $100 newsletter subscription.
But not when you are selling $5,000 and up website packages to C-level executives.
The only point of my letter was to basically say, “Joe, I noticed that you might have this problem that is costing you money. I’ve seen this before and have/can solve it for you. I’ll call on this day to find out if solving this problem interests you.”
I also included an ‘explanation’ of the problem in the letter.
For example, early on I actually recorded a short (less than 5 minute) video, uploaded it to YouTube, included the link to the video in the letter and also burned the video onto a CD and included it in the package.
I never expected them to watch the CD – but it was a nice touch to show them the kind of effort I put into analyzing their situation.
Now I wanted to really make the package stand out. This is where step 2 comes in.
Step 2: Make Your Letter Lumpy
Lumpy mail is simply sending a package with something lumpy in it.
It’s been around for ages and I knew about it for probably ten years because of my copywriting background – but had never personally used it.
Lumpy mail gives you a couple of advantages over a regular letter:
- Their secretary is NOT going to throw something away that feels like there is something inside it. There’s a curiosity factor.
- You can’t stack other mail on it because it’s lumpy. So it stands out and is usually placed on top of the pile.
I used a couple of different items to make it lumpy.
The first one was a little plastic trash can.
I got this idea from Sam Ovens. It worked pretty well. I threw this fake money in the trash can and put it and the letter in a large envelope to send out.
Sidenote: if you use the garbage can idea make sure to use these poly bubble envelopes. Regular paper envelopes will end up ripping from the sharp edges of the trash can and from getting tossed around during the mailing process.
The second one was a bank bag – it worked well too.
With the bank bag I started by putting my letter in the bank bag and mailing it out. The post office requires you to tape down the little zipper tab so it doesn’t get caught in their machines.
I eventually found out that the post office charges less if you put the bank bag in a large envelope and then mail it. It’s still lumpy and seemed to work.
I bought both of these items from a company called 3D Mail Results. I’m sure you can get them other places.
Step 3: Make It Signature Confirmation
It cost me about $4 to $5 for each package I mailed because I sent it first class with signature confirmation.
The best deal I could find was United States Postal Service.
That’s expensive but when a potential client is worth thousands of dollars in profit it’s well worth it.
Also, I wasn’t sending out hundreds of packages a day – only two.
Remember, I promised I would follow up two days after the receipt of my package. So knowing when the letter was received was critical to the whole system as well as showing the potential client I do what I promise. So signature confirmation was mandatory.
I tried to save some money and sent some without signature confirmation.
I ended up making some calls too soon and they hadn’t received the package yet (you’d be amazed at how delivery times vary even for the same states).
On others I waited too long and they’d remember the package because it was lumpy but forgot what the message was about (their website problem).
Signature confirmation was around $2.50 per package. It’s expensive – but worth it.
Don’t skimp on this step.
Step 4: Follow Up Calls
This is where most people are going to drop the ball.
Because they’re scared to pick up the phone. I know because it was the same boat I was in.
You just have to start dialing and talking. In time you’ll get over it.
I can tell you that after doing this for hundreds of calls I became more comfortable on the phone and I actually began to enjoy having conversations with business owners.
Sales is truly one of the most valuable skills you can develop.
Oh, and the ‘selling/pitching’ thing – that’s a big mindset trick right there: you’re not selling anybody. You’re simply having a conversation.
They’ll either be interested or they won’t.
The vast majority of people I reached out to were professional and kind – even though they weren’t interested.
You’ll get a few people who want to be assholes.
These types of people are mentally damaged. So don’t take it personally.
Remember – you can’t control other people. Only yourself.
How To Deal With Gatekeepers
(Critical To Your Success)
Nine out of ten times a secretary will answer the phone.
I eventually developed a system that got me on the phone with the business owner about 65% of the time.
In short, keep it simple and direct when they answer the phone.
“This is Curtis Alexander, I’m calling to speak with Joe Smith.”
A couple of quick pointers here:
- I gave them my full name – telemarketers don’t do that.
- I directly asked to speak with the owner or executive. There’s no long, drawn out spiel or deception. If a friend of Joe’s called that precisely how they’d respond.
At this point the secretary will do one of two things:
- Put you through
- Do her job and try to gatekeep for Joe.
If she gatekeeps and wants to know why you want to speak with Joe, again, be straightforward and direct. My response was:
“Joe received a package from me on Wednesday (or whenever the package was received – this is why signature confirmation is so important). I told him I’d follow up in a couple of days to get his thoughts.”
At this point the secretary would usually patch me through. Sometimes they’d be REALLY good gatekeepers and ask what the package was about.
If they do simply tell them:
“Just tell Joe it’s the trash can package (or bank bag package). He’ll know what it’s about.”
You have to say that statement with some confidence or else you’ll seem weak and she’ll likely keep questioning.
At this point you’ll likely have gotten through to Joe.
Or, the secretary will take a message or allow you to leave a voice message.
If you leave a voice mail be direct and succinct:
“Joe, This is Curtis Alexander. You received a package on Wednesday with a small plastic trash can in it. I’m following up as promised and would love to find out if you found the information helpful. My voice mail number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. If I don’t hear back from you I’ll call on (state specific date and time). Thanks again.”
Bad Advice About Follow Up Calls
When I first started all the guru’s said you should make 6 to 7 follow up calls.
They got this ‘rule’ from old direct marketing books that said – on average – it takes 7 contacts or touches with a prospect before they’ll either buy or die – as they like to say.
From my time as a copywriter I can tell you that this rule is true when you are using direct mail (email or letters).
But when you’re calling them a half dozen times all you do is aggravate them.
I know this because I tracked all my calls.
I found that 6 or 7 calls was actually making prospects mad – it also didn’t result in any interest.
In fact, I ended up dropping follow up calls down to three times. That was better … but I found that third call very seldom produced any results.
So I recommend only following up two times if you can’t get on the phone with the prospect. That may not seem like a lot but this is 80/20 in action.
Feel free to keep your own stats – maybe your results will vary.
Step 5: Talking To The Prospect
The guru’s love to sell you on scripts. So, in the beginning, I was big on using them.
I found I wasn’t getting positive results and I was aggravating prospects.
Maybe scripts work if you’re selling a bottle of $40 cleaning concentrate but they don’t when you’re trying to sell websites packages for $5,000 and up.
Through trial and error I ended up coming up with my own system.
It’s not scripted – except for the first line.
Other than that it simply focuses on starting a conversation with the prospect and asking a lot of questions to get them talking – that’s it.
The only point of the conversation is to get a declaration of interest. A definite ‘no’ is OK because you can move on. Otherwise I’m just gauging interest with this first call.
I want to point you to a book that helped me solidify my theory (and my opening line). It’s called Predictable Revenue and it’s author Aaron Ross built a business based off outbound calling selling high ticket services and products.
I didn’t follow everything in his book – for example, he used email to try and reach out to clients whereas I was using lumpy mail.
But his opening line served me well.
So if you get through to the prospect don’t start in with a canned pitch, simply ask Joe:
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
I know that seems like a weird opening but psychologically you’re sending the message that you respect his time and you’re not pushing on him.
Anyways, nine times out of ten Joe will tell you he has time.
If he does say it’s a bad time simply say, “I understand, I’ll call back. Is your schedule open at 3PM today?”
Always schedule for a specific date and time and get a commitment from the prospect. If you say, “No problem, I’ll call back tomorrow (or next week)” you’re chances of getting back on the phone with Joe plummet.
If Joe says it a good time then simply introduce yourself and directly state your reason for calling.
“This is Curtis Alexander. On Monday (or whenever the signature confirmation said it arrived) you received a trash can package (or bank bag package) in the mail from me. I mentioned in that package that I’d follow up in two days to get your thoughts. So I’m following up as promised.”
AND. THEN.BE. QUIET.
Warning: this will be tough. You will want to talk but let them respond even if it takes a bit.
About 75% of the time Joe will clearly remember the package and give you his thoughts.
This is the advantage of sending lumpy mail because – most of the time – it gets opened and, at the very least, remembered.
I got a lot of compliments about how ‘clever’ or ‘memorable’ it was.
I even had an older business owner say it was the best marketing piece he had ever received.
Unfortunately, he was in the process of selling his company and retiring.
My point is the package is a natural conversation opener. So from that point things flow pretty well and that’s what I found worked best for me.
Remember, the prospects I was talking to had seven and eight figure companies and had seen and heard every ‘pitch’ in the world. I found that being upfront, not beating around the bush and treating them with respect yielded the best results.
Lose the scripts. Ask questions and have a real conversation.
I want to stress again that I’m not trying to sell the prospect.
My goal was to either get a flat out ‘no’ – which means I could move on. Or to get some form of interest.
Ironically, if the prospect brought up objections I found that to be a sign of interest.
For example, I was often asked, “Tell me about your company. How big is it? How many employees?”
When I first got asked this I immediately wanted to run and hide because I was a one-man shop and I outsourced my IT stuff to freelancers. I knew it would be a deal killer if I told him that.
Instead, I learned to turn my ‘disadvantage’ around into an advantage for the prospect.
In that case I said, “I’m a small company and I’m the principal which means that rather than having to deal with layers of bureaucracy if you have a concern you’ll have my personal number and can reach out to me and have your problem addressed in minutes.”
The one thing I would recommend is before you make any calls think of the typical objections you might get and how to handle them.
Remember, words have power when they are positioned the right way.
A More Effective Way To Handle ’No’
At this point most guru’s would give you 101 lines to use when Joe says, “No, I’m not interested.”
If that’s what Joe said I simply said, “Joe, I understand. Thanks for your honesty and time.”
And then I moved onto Step 6.
Step 6: Get Them On Your Mailing List
Remember when we talked about the rule of 7 above?
Well, it really is a rule in direct mail.
That’s why I started asking prospects if they’d be interested in receiving my free informational newsletter.
So, in the previous example where Joe said ‘no’ my response would be to thank him like I did above but then say, “By the way, I have a free newsletter. You’d receive it once a month, it doesn’t cost anything and it shows you strategies to grow your business.”
Quick note: I know I mentioned free twice just now. I started by only saying it once but I would get asked a lot, “How much does this cost me?” So I started stressing it was free.
This just goes to show you how wary most prospects are and how many times they’ve been promised stuff that consultants never followed through on.
About 40% of people I talked to agreed to receive the newsletter.
An important point: I sent the newsletter via snail mail – not email. It always arrived in a bright red or blue envelope. Something that would catch their eye.
Yes, it cost a bit more to send and was more work to get put together each month. But it also didn’t get ignored because it was going to the spam folder.
The most important part is that I was going to be in front of them providing value each month.
This is a critical part of the system and one you don’t want to skip.
About The Client I Got
The client I got was one of the first 5 packages I sent out.
When I got the guy on the phone he was pretty stern but eventually he began to open up.
He remembered my package but had NOT watched the video. But he was intrigued enough to ask about the changes I had suggested.
So we just talked about what he should do.
It was probably a 5 minute conversation. He told me to follow back up with him so we agreed on a date.
When I called back up he told me that he though my ideas were really good but that they weren’t in a position to implement them right now.
I expected him to thank me for my time and move on but he said, “I’d like to pay you for your advice. I’ll send you a check for $1,000 if that sounds good to you.”
I wasn’t prepared for that.
I just stammered a bit and told him he didn’t need to do that. He repeated that he thought the information was good and simply wanted to know if $1,000 was fair.
I thanked him and said it would be fine. Later that week I got his check in the mail.
Now I didn’t have this happen again but that’s not the point.
The point is that I found an idea that sounded good and took action. That’s the mission critical ingredient that most people miss.
I don’t claim this is the best system in the world.
But if you’re looking for a favorable way to get in front of your ideal prospects and have a conversation than this does work.
I think that if you work the system I laid out above everyday that you could realistically land your first digital marketing client in 30 days.
Worst case scenario is you hone your sales and communication skills.
One other thing: throughout this article you’ll notice one common theme: I took action and adjusted based off my own personal results.
You should do the same thing.