In Defense of the Dreaded Cold Call, Part 1: Going Door to Door
Peddling Your Design Services the old fashioned way in 6 simple steps…
There are a million different ways to market your design services nowadays, and countless tools to connect with potential clients. Thanks to the advent of technology, the conquest of the internet, and the proliferation of the social network, connecting with people across multiple boundaries, real or imagined, is just a hashtag away. Sure, the search for new markets can often feel like a search for life on other planets. But in the celestial spheres of business, niche markets be damned. The possibilities are endless. The potential for new business, boundless. The ability for an enterprising young designer to plot a course through the far corners of the galaxy, and penetrate sectors of the marketplace once deemed too remote, have become a heck of alot easier. Sadly, however, much of this technology has rendered our communications with one another soulless.
You can email, tweet, instagram, WHATEVER your clients to death. But, sometimes, nothing moves the needle more than simple, honest-to-goodness human interaction.
And so, today, we re-examine the importance of connecting with clients through the lost art of the dreaded cold call.
Part One: Going door to door. It’s a necessary approach to doing business that can solicit dread among even the most ambitious among us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The following is a kind of instruction manual designed to help you overcome the dread, find the joy, embrace the challenge, and master the art of the cold call in six simple steps:
- Determine a need in the Marketplace. Identify your Target Market
Maybe you’ve already done your homework and identified your target market. You’ve catered to them for years. Your loyalty is charming. But let’s face it, you can’t live in a bubble forever. It goes against the natural order of things. You run the risk of stagnating. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to expand into new territory and hunt for bigger game. Take stock of what it is that you do best. Then take a moment to think outside the box, step outside your bubble. Think of the most popular item in your portfolio, then do a complete 180, aesthetically speaking. Imagine your work being applied at opposite ends of the commercial spectrum. There are a lot of companies out there, for instance, whose brand and marketing collateral could use a re-boot, an upgrade. On the surface, it may appear that they are part of the “old economy”. Not as glamorous, true. But that’s beside the point. They have the means. They just lack strategy and guidance. Like treasure on a map, you can find them. Make it your business to educate them on the importance of getting their house in order.
- Strategize: Ground Game
After you’ve determined a need in the marketplace, a void that you can fill, get excited about it! In fact, get very excited! It’s okay. Thanks to this article, you’ve just accomplished – within the span of only a few short minutes – what a lot of designers have struggled their whole lives to figure out. And now you just can’t wait to get in touch with your new clients, and show them what you can do. Develop a ground game. Prepare a list of companies that meet your new target market criteria. Map these companies out in your area, and break them up into manageable, geographic segments, or territories. But be sensible. If you have an opportunity all the way on the other side of town, identify opportunities that surround it. Build your day around tackling them together. Identify key players within the organization, and, if it’s public record, gather the necessary phone numbers and email addresses of those individuals. Reach out. Provide a friendly heads up, and inform them that you’ll be in their area soon and you would appreciate a moment of their time to tell them about your design services. [*Note: we will explore the art of cold calling by phone in more detail in Part Two of this series.]
- Get all your ducks in a row. Gather your collateral.
Of course you don’t want to go out there empty handed. But don’t overdo it. Travel light. Keep your message lean. Don’t overwhelm potential clients with too much information. Distill your message down to a small sample of bite sized collateral describing your business, and put them in a sales folder with the usual suspects (and maybe even a few surprises): Business card (because it’s more than a calling card, it’s a badge of honor), a one page description of your services, a special “for your eyes only” promotion, exclusive to the recipient. And, by all means, be sure to include some swag from the office if you have it. But no junk. Make sure it’s useful. Something as simple as a pencil or pen with your company name & logo on it goes a long way in breaking the ice. It’s important to make clients feel like they’re getting something they can use for giving you the time of day. People appreciate it, and it makes for good conversation.
- Get scripted, but don’t tell anybody, sort of…
You may look good on paper, but it won’t mean a thing if you can’t speak with confidence to the value of your design services. No one appreciates a message more than when it comes from the horse’s mouth. Be the horse. Get scripted. Formalize your message into a brief set of talking points, but don’t sound so formal. Keep it simple. And avoid language that sounds too insulated, or trade specific. Think about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to. Grab a thesaurus if you have to. Never mind the tricks of the trade, because people hate feeling like they’re being tricked. Clients want to hear about solutions. Respect your audience. You’ll earn their trust a whole lot faster.
- Pop in for a chat
And now the moment of truth, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Time to hit the streets. Get your map. Grab your collateral. Get in your car. Hop on your bike (they don’t call it peddling your wares for nothing). Whatever it takes. There’s gold in them there hills. Now go get it. And let your conscience be your guide if dropping by unannounced. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t like it if someone popped in on you and demanded time out of your busy schedule. Always go in with the courtesy of a deliveryman, but be prepared to have a conversation. Bare in mind, for every nine people that are just too busy to engage with you, there’s always that one individual with a genuine need, and a little time to spare to talk about your design services. Know when to split and when to stick around. Follow the performer’s maxim: always leave your audience wanting more. Deliver the script. Pass the collateral. Confirm a time when it’s appropriate to follow up, and move along.
- Follow up
It’s important to maintain regular communication with your new target market. After all, you’ve already invested a great deal of time and effort in them, and you’ve only just begun. Take heart. You’ve worked hard in the old school tradition. And now’s the time to take advantage of all that new school technology. Revisit your new target market regularly from the comforts of your office through inbound marketing, and other appropriate forms of communication available to you these days (email, LinkedIn, whatever works). And when going out again in search of other opportunities, be sure to leave room in your calendar to touch base again when you’re in the neighborhood. Just be sure to give advance notice. And, no matter what, always be willing to get on the horn and reach out with a simple phone call. You can’t beat the human touch.