Several years ago, I was meeting a participant in one of my group programs. We were discussing his speaking plan.
“Jeff, I’m glad to hear that you’re getting speaking engagements and that people are enjoying your talks. But what are you doing with the cards you collect after the presentation?”
“Cards?” he asked me with a puzzled tone. “What cards?”
“The business cards of the participants that you asked for after your presentation. You know, so you can follow-up with them,” I replied.
“Oh, I didn’t ask for cards; I thought they were supposed to follow up with me!” he declared.
I’ve told that story dozens of times, but I’m afraid when it comes to proactive marketing, things haven’t improved much over the years.
You might say that proactive marketing is taking the initiative to reach out, to follow up, to have conversations, and make appointments.
But we have been consumed by passive marketing and it’s not working out very well.
Passive marketing is part of the marketing puzzle, of course.
It’s having a website, writing articles, sending an email newsletter, posting on social media, and giving talks or webinars. All of these marketing activities get you visibility and credibility.
But these activities seem to get lower and lower response.
Why? Because the digital space is more crowded than ever before. When I posted my very first website in 1996 there were a grand total of one quarter million websites. Now there are 1.94 billion websites!
That’s about 8000 times as many websites out there today than 23 years ago. So getting found online is harder than ever.
I don’t have exact stats on email, but way back then we got a dozen or so a day. Now most of us get a couple hundred and the majority are promotional emails or spam.
What seemed to work amazingly well twenty, ten, or even five years ago is not working so well now.
Four million blog posts are published online every single day.
More than 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!
This email newsletter was one of the very first twenty-two years ago. Now, I’m one of thousands.
I’m not saying that it’s not useful to have a website, post blogs and videos, it’s just that they won’t get you what they used to get you.
They won’t get many people knocking on your door asking how you can help them.
Even if you are highly productive online, post a ton of material that’s super high quality, it can still be very hard to get noticed.
So, what should you, a self-employed professional, do?
You need to stop being passive and start being more proactive.
That is, you need to start reaching out more in a personalized way, person-to-person.
I’m not talking about sending mass emails to a list. Those don’t work unless you have legitimate subscribers who opted in for your email newsletter.
What does work is reaching out to those in your network and new prospective clients who you want to connect with.
My most successful clients have built a network of people, who they meet with regularly, sharing leads and connections.
Others have become very good at reaching out by email to new connections.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on this lately and one thing is very clear: There is no single best way to do this.
Just go to Google and type in “email templates to get appointments” or something similar and you’ll get a whole lot of articles – some of them very good – on how to make this work for you.
And like anything else, it takes some study and trial and error to make it work.
But today, one of my current program participants sent me an article by Alex Banyan who tracked down Tim Ferriss (famed author of the 4-Hour Work Week) to ask him how he connected with people he wanted to meet with.
I loved Tim’s simple approach:
I know you’re really busy and that you get a lot of emails, so this will only take sixty seconds to read.
[Here is where you say who you are: add one or two lines that establish your credibility.]
[Here is where you ask your very specific question.]
I totally understand if you’re too busy to respond, but even a one- or two-line reply would really make my day.
All the best,
And then he added a number of valuable tips:
“Put your question right in the email,” he said. “It might be as simple as, ‘I’d like to discuss a relationship of some type that could take this-and-this form. Would you be willing to discuss it? I think a phone call might be faster, but if you prefer, I could throw a couple of questions your way via email.’
“And never write lines like, ‘This is perfect for you,’ or ‘You’ll love this because I know this-and-this about you.’ Don’t use superlative or exaggerated words because” – he let out an almost mocking laugh – “they don’t know you and they’ll assume, quite fairly, it’s hard for you to determine if something’s perfect for them.
“I’d also not end with something like, ‘Thanks in advance!’ It’s annoying and entitled. Do the opposite and say, ‘I know you’re super busy, so if you can’t respond, I totally understand.’
“And certainly, watch your frequency of emailing. Don’t email a lot. It really” – he let out a heavy breath – “does not make people happy.”
Will this approach always work? Of course not. Is it worth a try? Absolutely!
Look, this email approach is very simple and direct and doesn’t take a lot of time to write or for the recipient to read (which is essential these days).
Your question may be to get some information, but it also may be to ask them if they are open to knowing more about how you help people or companies like them.
You can also send similar messages via LinkedIn.
If you have a name to drop, that always helps, or any other way you can connect the dots to someone in your network.
The whole idea behind proactive marketing is very simple: If you don’t reach out to someone, the chances are they will never know about you.
So, sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring is deadly. That’s the ultimate in passivity.
You need to make your communication clear, direct, honest and simple. And only if you do that is there a chance someone will respond.