Can you build a business using email as the first contact?

20 replies
Because of my day job, I can't pound out cold calls all day to prospect. I am pretty much limited in the time I have to build my business, and I'm wondering if I can realistically do the initial prospecting by email.

I don't mind talking to business owners, and I really don't want to sell exclusively by email. So the goal of my initial email contact would be basically just prospecting (getting in touch with people who may be interested in marketing their business), not selling. In other words, I just want to use the emails to get the conversations started.

Has anyone done this successfully? Any tips or suggestions on how to get to the point where I can actually talk to some business owners?
#build #business #contact #email
  • Profile picture of the author Arzak
    I had no intention of getting a client, but a new high end fashion boutique will be consulting with me when they do a revamp of their blog and e-commerce site after the holidays.

    I actually heard the brand's name a couple times but could never find their website. I only found it after I coincidentally saw my friend browsing it (small world I guess).

    I'm normally pretty critical of other peoples' fashion and style, but their products were impressive yet actually quite affordable, and I wanted to get something for the S.O. They mention contacting them about sizing if we have questions which I did, and I also mentioned my trouble of finding their website since I guess they're mostly getting around by word-of-mouth at the moment.

    Kinda getting off topic so I'll just go a bit faster... so yeah I get a response and they mention (along with my initial inquiry about sizes) they noticed their search engine problem and I said I could give a few tips if they wanted. Meanwhile, I'm still asking about stuff relating to something I'm interested in buying.

    They gracefully accept, telling me of their little marketing know-how and I give them some general SEO tips and fixes to the obvious problems I saw. I'm no SEO expert but I helped them with what I knew, which wasn't much. Anyway, the result is that they'll be seeing me about their marketing (conversion optimization & social media & probably other stuff I'll suggest).

    The reason I offered them help was because I liked where they were going with their shop and I could see them becoming successful and I genuinely wanted them to succeed. So I suppose by being genuine they could see that and not some guy trying to sell them stuff.

    Some possible takeaways (??):
    - be sincere
    - provide value
    - don't just talk about yourself
    - don't be pushy
    - have something in common or do some research first (I left this part out since it wasn't really relevant, maybe I'll add later)
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    • Profile picture of the author mojo1
      Based upon your day job schedule, when would you realistically have time to talk to business owners? Would it be on the weekends? Would you target a different time zone in order to be in a position to talk to business owners?

      It seems like direct mail might be a good solution for you. Have you considered this?
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    • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
      Originally Posted by Arzak View Post

      I had no intention of getting a client, but a new high end fashion boutique will be consulting with me when they do a revamp of their blog and e-commerce site after the holidays.
      Will be, isn't a sale and a sale isn't a sale until you have money safely in hand.

      To the OP... I say no. You can use email marketing and emails for prospecting to supplement your lead generation efforts but by itself you have to do some serious volume. You would have a big learning curve to overcome as well, along with which industries respond well to emails. Dentists, doctors, lawyers, do not respond well to email marketing, they produce about 30-40% less response rate than other industries.

      The takeaways Arzak mentioned, I don't really agree with but hey, we're all different. However, saying "don't be pushy" is probably why he is currently getting the runaround and waiting until after the holidays, but a gentle rebuttal would have been, I understand wanting to wait on such a big decision but most people would be wanting to get started before the end of the year to write it off for taxes... any reason that you guys aren't wanting to do that? You'll likely end up finding out the real reason they don't want to do business right now and it isn't because of the holidays, it is because they aren't going to use you, or they don't have the funds available.

      You don't need to cold call... but you need to be able to generate leads. In order to generate leads, you need to be available for when they want to advance in the sales process, will you be able to be available when you have a day job? PPC..direct mail...email marketing, can all generate inbound leads, but you have to be available in order to increase your chances of converting them.
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      • Profile picture of the author Arzak
        Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

        Will be, isn't a sale and a sale isn't a sale until you have money safely in hand.

        To the OP... I say no. You can use email marketing and emails for prospecting to supplement your lead generation efforts but by itself you have to do some serious volume. You would have a big learning curve to overcome as well, along with which industries respond well to emails. Dentists, doctors, lawyers, do not respond well to email marketing, they produce about 30-40% less response rate than other industries.

        The takeaways Arzak mentioned, I don't really agree with but hey, we're all different. However, saying "don't be pushy" is probably why he is currently getting the runaround and waiting until after the holidays, but a gentle rebuttal would have been, I understand wanting to wait on such a big decision but most people would be wanting to get started before the end of the year to write it off for taxes... any reason that you guys aren't wanting to do that? You'll likely end up finding out the real reason they don't want to do business right now and it isn't because of the holidays, it is because they aren't going to use you, or they don't have the funds available.

        You don't need to cold call... but you need to be able to generate leads. In order to generate leads, you need to be available for when they want to advance in the sales process, will you be able to be available when you have a day job? PPC..direct mail...email marketing, can all generate inbound leads, but you have to be available in order to increase your chances of converting them.
        I guess technically they aren't a client yet . But I'm not sure I agree about getting the runaround by not being pushy.

        I think if I had been pushy, they probably would've just left it at thanking me instead of asking if I could help them afterwards. They already mentioned making big changes after I gave them the SEO tips so it would make sense for them to take me on then. As for doing it after the holidays, maybe it's a new year kinda thing?

        I agree with Dan about inbound marketing. Not worth the time "pushing" instead of "pulling" (yeah.. I don't like being pushy). You're building up your credibility among a bunch of other things while either getting clients or making it easier to do so.
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        • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
          Originally Posted by Arzak View Post

          I guess technically they aren't a client yet . But I'm not sure I agree about getting the runaround by not being pushy.

          I think if I had been pushy, they probably would've just left it at thanking me instead of asking if I could help them afterwards. They already mentioned making big changes after I gave them the SEO tips so it would make sense for them to take me on then. As for doing it after the holidays, maybe it's a new year kinda thing?
          There is a lot of uncertainty that you just put out there lol. I hope you're not getting the runaround, and yeah... it would make sense for them to use you I guess, but I've been down this road too many times I can walk it backwards blindfolded now.

          I'm not a master sales person... I just like every point of contact to end with a result. I like clarity. To get clarity and to get a result whether ideal or not, you have to ask questions. You don't know why they want to wait... that's a problem in my opinion.

          I'm a cynical MOFO.... so take it how you want... but when I read your first post about them, I was thinking, they're just entertaining you because you are a customer of theirs or a potential customer. I think being straight forward will get you straight forward responses.

          Good luck though, I hope you do land it... stick it to the cynical *******s(since when do they edit this lol) everywhere
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          • Profile picture of the author Arzak
            Inbound marketing is slow at the start, but is something we should all be doing anyway. It'll help in the long run and, like I mentioned in my other post, will make it easier to get clients if it doesn't already directly get us some.

            I always like to see what local competitors are up to. One thing I've noticed is that all of the successful marketers/marketing firms are consistent with their content and social media (if they aren't successful, it sure makes them look successful). Others just seem to drop off the face of the earth. Maybe that's saying something?

            Businesses/potential clients are like this too. There will always be those that just give up on their blog or social media while the guys that keep going are getting all the attention.

            Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

            There is a lot of uncertainty that you just put out there lol. I hope you're not getting the runaround, and yeah... it would make sense for them to use you I guess, but I've been down this road too many times I can walk it backwards blindfolded now.

            I'm not a master sales person... I just like every point of contact to end with a result. I like clarity. To get clarity and to get a result whether ideal or not, you have to ask questions. You don't know why they want to wait... that's a problem in my opinion.

            I'm a cynical MOFO.... so take it how you want... but when I read your first post about them, I was thinking, they're just entertaining you because you are a customer of theirs or a potential customer. I think being straight forward will get you straight forward responses.

            Good luck though, I hope you do land it... stick it to the cynical *******s(since when do they edit this lol) everywhere
            I've noticed in your other posts HAHA . That is true, being straightforward will get fast, straightforward responses. I guess it's my preference, and yup, a lot of uncertainties because I'm just that - uncertain. I don't know what the outcome will be but let's hope it's a good one.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    I used to be in the "burn the phone lines up" crowd. You can find posts from me on here advocating just working harder and making more dials/contacts.

    I'm not saying you should or shouldn't go that direction. I made a living that way for awhile, and there are many here doing very well with it.

    I was even selling it as a service for a bit and had a small phone operation running.

    That is all over now. I shut it down. Not because I couldn't make it happen. It was going OK. I shut it because I felt like everyday, I had to get out of bed and spend the day pushing a rope up a hill. When you need to get a rope up a hill, it is much easier to pull it than to push it.

    Same with clients, in my opinion.

    Consider inbound marketing instead of outbound. You have very limited time and inbound doesn't need anywhere near as much time. It is also not nearly as frustrating, for me.

    I clearly admit that I am not the best seller - and there are many who are much better than me who will find outbound to be the best option. I'm just not in that particular group anymore. I've switched to the inbound side and there is simply no going back.

    Rejection is now almost completely a thing of the past. We are doing the rejecting, and that feels so much better.
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    • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
      Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

      Consider inbound marketing instead of outbound. You have very limited time and inbound doesn't need anywhere near as much time. It is also not nearly as frustrating, for me.
      Huh? Please share how inbound doesn't need anywhere near as much time..maybe I'm missing something here lol. I'm not against inbound, in fact I have even integrated inbound strategies with leads generated through outbound practices. However... Inbound takes a lot of time... picking up the phone and calling is much faster... or direct mail. Inbound doesn't use any "interruption" method.

      Perhaps you mean... once established inbound strategies keep producing, and ultimately make it much faster later down the road.
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      • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
        Originally Posted by iAmNameLess View Post

        Huh? Please share how inbound doesn't need anywhere near as much time. I'm not against inbound, in fact I have even integrated inbound strategies with leads generated through outbound practices. However... Inbound takes a lot of time... picking up the phone and calling is much faster.

        Perhaps you mean... once established inbound strategies keep producing, and ultimately make it much faster later down the road.
        That is partly what I mean. There are so many flavors to any marketing approach and some do indeed take more time than others.

        If Daniel has some real expertise in a particular area, goes to marketingexperiments and grabs some cool or interesting stats, creates a decent/fun presentation, that work will be completed and he can use it over and over.

        Then, it is a matter of making a "hitlist" of anyone who can connect him to groups of people who fit his market. Call these people kingpins, maybe.

        So, you have a list of kingpins - now you target them. Join their groups. Support their efforts. Share value and expertise any chance you get.

        After a few months, the whole dynamic is completely different. Rather than slogging it out on the phone 8 hours a day, he is just going to meetings and being active, hanging out with groups of people he already likes to be around and talk to.

        It's just so much different, and does require many fewer man hours of labor. Instead of 40 hours a week of scratching and digging, he can still keep his day job, and spend 8-10 hours a week building his community and reputation.

        As the presentation gets better and reputation grows, he can speak to larger and larger audiences.

        I'm not recommending inbound tactics like PPC or paid seminars/workshops.

        I'm recommending getting involved with the people who hold the keys to the kingdom, and giving away as much value as possible, for free. Go ahead - teach the secret sauce. Your best customers wont want to do it themselves anyway - they'll be calling/emailing you (whatever you tell them to do).

        I'm not saying it is the only way - just that it is A way he can work around his employment.
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        Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
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        • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
          Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

          That is partly what I mean. There are so many flavors to any marketing approach and some do indeed take more time than others.

          If Daniel has some real expertise in a particular area, goes to marketingexperiments and grabs some cool or interesting stats, creates a decent/fun presentation, that work will be completed and he can use it over and over.

          Then, it is a matter of making a "hitlist" of anyone who can connect him to groups of people who fit his market. Call these people kingpins, maybe.

          So, you have a list of kingpins - now you target them. Join their groups. Support their efforts. Share value and expertise any chance you get.

          After a few months, the whole dynamic is completely different. Rather than slogging it out on the phone 8 hours a day, he is just going to meetings and being active, hanging out with groups of people he already likes to be around and talk to.

          It's just so much different, and does require many fewer man hours of labor. Instead of 40 hours a week of scratching and digging, he can still keep his day job, and spend 8-10 hours a week building his community and reputation.

          As the presentation gets better and reputation grows, he can speak to larger and larger audiences.

          I'm not recommending inbound tactics like PPC or paid seminars/workshops.

          I'm recommending getting involved with the people who hold the keys to the kingdom, and giving away as much value as possible, for free. Go ahead - teach the secret sauce. Your best customers wont want to do it themselves anyway - they'll be calling/emailing you (whatever you tell them to do).

          I'm not saying it is the only way - just that it is A way he can work around his employment.
          Ahh.. we have a different idea of inbound. What you mentioned just seems more like networking to me than anything. I think of inbound as content marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing, webinars, display ads, retargeting, ppc, etc.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mady1234
    Actually, in the past I had a very good conversion rate with email marketing. But there is no way to not pick up the phone after that. Just don't sound like a salesperson and try to sell on the first email.

    Nowadays I prefer cold calling though, much much faster. And with a good auto dialer you can still make a good amount of calls each day in a short amount of time.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    Right on. I kind of lump anything as "inbound" if it relies on earning people's interest, rather than buying it.

    I think a lot of it can go two-ways - email can be inbound or outbound. Webinars are definitely an option he could use. Same presentation but instead of targeting the kingpins offline, he is finding them online.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Daniel-son,
    What services do you market?
    Do you have a team together?
    Can you hire someone to handle inbound or do cold calling or selling?
    Can you network (MeetUP, community service groups, church) evenings and weekends?
    Can you cold walk into local businesses evenings and weekends?
    Can you create an online presence that generates leads?

    I have seen Warriors claim success with personalized emails
    (including video) to specific businesses they think needs their help,
    or that they want to work with. It starts the sales process as you described.

    Dan (or Biz as there are a plethora of Dan's in this thread.)
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    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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    • Profile picture of the author Biz Max
      It depends. I have done it but it was not easy and certainly not a good
      way to 'build' a business.

      I delete messages I get from connections on Linkedin all the time because
      they send me some spammy turd, and they are a connection. If I get pure
      cold emails I'm afraid to even open them. Could be a virus!... or selling me
      an elixir to grow my junk another 2 inches...
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      Small Business Marketing & Branding Specialist
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      • Profile picture of the author Mady1234
        Haha! Yeah, some people do, but then again...everyone is different and there are still a lot of people that do open their emails and actually respond to something personal...

        Originally Posted by OfflineGold View Post

        It depends. I have done it but it was not easy and certainly not a good
        way to 'build' a business.

        I delete messages I get from connections on Likedin all the time because
        they send me some spammy turd, and they are a connection. If I get pure
        cold emails I'm afraid to even open them. Could be a virus!... or selling me
        an elixir to grow my junk another 2 inches...
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  • Profile picture of the author Marta K
    I just had a client to agree the 6 mnths contract, very happy to move forward, next day I get a call from his partner that they put it on hold till next year.
    Turn out they had a quabblle and stopped each others decisions out of spite, worse than a couple!
    So yes, the sale isn't a sale until there is money in your bank..,, and even then they can ask for refund.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mady1234
      Originally Posted by Marta K View Post

      I just had a client to agree the 6 mnths contract, very happy to move forward, next day I get a call from his partner that they put it on hold till next year.
      Turn out they had a quabblle and stopped each others decisions out of spite, worse than a couple!
      So yes, the sale isn't a sale until there is money in your bank..,, and even then they can ask for refund.
      That is one of my qualifying questions...do you have a partner or are you the only decision maker?

      It happened to me once that I sold a mobile site to the business and the owner kept on giving me little pointers he wanted to tweak...

      Once the site was finished and completely as per his requirements, he then told me that the other owner had a look at it (SAY WHAT?!?) and wanted to change the complete site...especially all of the things that the other owner wanted there in the first place...

      Clever move. So qualify and be sure you are dealing with the one taking the decisions.
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  • Profile picture of the author Marta K
    The thing is - I was dealing with the one who had authority to sign it. And yet it happend, be ause of their quarrel - and because the secind partner thinks that if he offers me 'opportunity' to bid for more companies he will get bigger discount. I've dealt with them for a very long time and it always goes like that - one approves contract, second one stops it, they ask for some more work iin the package but give me more work overall. I get more money, they think they get more for free and that I relented form fear of losing the busines...
    But I disn't study psychology for fun:-) I always get larger order after all:-)
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel LaRusso
    Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it!

    I do have time to talk to people on the phone and service/sell, and I am not afraid of that. My thing is, my time is limited, so I have to figure out a system to maximize my time. Right now it's only me. I guess I could outsource part of the prospecting.

    My major plan is to build a community in my local area, and have a directory for business owners to connect with that community of people. It's a little bit of a unique concept I have going, but I'm focusing on building a community first, and then rolling it out to businesses to monetize. In addition to the directory, I can offer the basic laundry list of services like email list management/SMS, mobile, video marketing, reputation management, etc.

    I think I just need to take action FAST and NOW, and put a system in place.

    My goal is to gross $6,000 a month in revenue, which I think could be done in six month with hard work, and then leave my day job to grow that $6,000 to much more than that.

    I can definitely cold call and cold walk in the evenings and on weekends.

    Again, thank you all for your responses!
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    • Profile picture of the author jamesfreddyc
      Originally Posted by Daniel LaRusso View Post

      My major plan is to build a community in my local area, and have a directory for business owners to connect with that community of people. It's a little bit of a unique concept I have going, but I'm focusing on building a community first, and then rolling it out to businesses to monetize.
      It's not that unique. I remember reading Amy Jo Kim's "Community Building on The Web" back in 2000".

      Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies...Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies...
      With that said though, I think your approach is valid. Most put up a website with some product(s) and expect it to sell itself, most fail. Building a community of people and business systems around you and your products has lots of case study to prove it works.
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