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Cold-calling For Craven Cowards
Posted 03 September 2003 - 11:01 AM
I need advice on how to approach potential SEO clients about optimizing their sites, without offending them by criticizing their previous efforts. In short, how do I tell someone I've never met, in effect, "Your site stinks, but I can fix it for you." Only in a NICE way.
Here's an example: My oldest daughter interned over the summer at a local PR firm that has a number of national accounts. When she told me where she would be working, I tried searching on the firm's name to find their web site. No luck. I finally found a link to their site in an online marketing publication.
So I went to this company's site, and the home page was horrible. The only spiderable text was the copyright statement; everything else was done graphically. And even the graphics were poorly done, since the web programmer used large images and squeezed them into the page using height & width attributes. As a result, the entire page looked very amateurish.
They actually do have some fairly well-written informational text (it is a PR firm, after all), but it is buried deep within a menu structure that is not at all intuitive.
I know that I could improve this site in so many ways, it almost makes me salivate to think about it. All I need is some cold-calling advice from people who have done this sort of thing before. Any and all gems of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.
Posted 03 September 2003 - 11:29 AM
The second advice is to try to establish a friendly relationship with whoever answers the telephone and figure out who is the best person to open up the subject with.
When you are talking to that person, a good first question is "Do you have a brief moment?" This leaves the control with the person you are contacting. Surprisingly, a good fraction of your contacts will have such a brief moment.
If you have any way of trying to establish a personal connection now is the time to use it. For example, "By the way, my eldest daughter worked with your company during the summer and really found it a great place to work."
A good second question then is "Have you thought about optimizing your web site?" This often takes the conversation in all sorts of interesting directions. Once the other is talking, then you can try to take it in a direction where you can help them.
If you get as far as this, then with a certain fraction of those you talk to, you will develop opportunities.
Keep a database or a card index collection of those you contact and keep notes on what happens. Some say it takes 6 contacts to make the sale.
Posted 03 September 2003 - 11:49 AM
You could always pretend to be an international rock star who was going to employ the firm - until he/she saw their web site and noted it wasn't good enough. Then when the firm apologises and, after your demands for a better web site, promises to improve it you could say, 'by the way, I'm also an SEO/web design expert as well as international rock star'.
I haven't actually tried this response before but would be very grateful if anyone were to trial it (and even more interested in the 'results').
Seriously, talk to them and tell them the benefits. Rather than 'do you want a better web site' style of conversation, cut to the chase as to what a better web site will give to them (more visitors, customers, creibility, etc). Rather than focus on the present (site lacking big time) look to the future after you've created the web site and how things will have improved and benefited the company then.
Posted 03 September 2003 - 03:56 PM
I like to point out all the possibilities of what their site could be doing for them.
I don't cold-call (eeek! Just could not do it.) but often find myself talking to people about their websites after they ask what I do.
(Kind of like doctors... Oh, you're a doctor? I've got this thing... would you take a look?)
Anyway- if they don't have a site, we end up talking about why not. If they do have a site, we talk about how much more it could be doing for them.
The last time I got my hair cut, I ended up concepting a new site for the salon/day spa based on their new interior decoration and a quick look showed that no one was competiting for the local terms they would want to be found under. I'm meeting with the owner next week to talk about how much work they can get in return for family haircuts for the next year and a couple of massage appointments.
I didn't say a word against their current site...
Posted 03 September 2003 - 04:10 PM
So, be honest, be direct, and don't sound like a sell.
Don't: "Would you like more traffic, and more money?"
Do: "I was looking for your website (explain why-- personal connection) and couldn't find it. You know, I specialize in making sites easier to find. Are you interested?"
The first-- too slick, trying to spam or scam me.
The second-- honest, truthful, direct, and I understand what they're saying and either knew there was a problem and didn't know how to solve it, or just never thought about the possibility of a problem and am grateful for having it gently pointed out.
Honesty gets you a lot farther in these oversaturated days than slick marketing would. That's not to say you should just phone them up and say the first thing that pops in your head, but you shouldn't write out a careful script either. (What if *they* don't stick to the script?)
Posted 03 September 2003 - 05:16 PM
Along those same lines, does "cold calling" always involve a phone call? How many initiate contact with an e-mail, letter, or brochure? What are the merits and pitfalls of each, and what has worked best for you? Anyone?....Anyone?....
Posted 03 September 2003 - 08:41 PM
First, do whatever you can to make that first call a little less "cold." Know something about the company going in. You're already looking at the website - that's good. A quick search will provide you with information on what's happening with the company. You may learn about a recent success or failure, a new venture or someone taking a new position. You can use this information to plan your approach and refer to it when you make contact.
I do not agree with the suggestion that you ask if this is a good time. You have to QUICKLY (like 30 seconds) persuade someone that you are worth talking to, and then you can arrange a time for a more serious discussion. In your case, it might go something like this: "I'm leftbrain from Leftbrain Optimization Services. We help companies like [name some successful recognizable clients] attain top rankings in online searches. Our services can enable you to improve customer acquisition, retain customers longer and improve conversion rates." Then you ask for an appointment to talk further.
If you don't have a recognizable client, you can say something else, just so you say something to demonstrate that you are respected in your field. Another good way to do this is to say that you were referred by someone who the prospect respects, so if you have such a referral, use it.
Make sure that you have something to talk about when your prospect agrees to talk further. Most of the talk should be that prospect telling you about his/her business concerns in response to your well-planned questions.
If you don't want to do this on the phone, that's fine. Start with e-mail. No matter how you contact people, don't expect that one contact will do it. You can use e-mail, traditional mail, phone, fax, ads...
Posted 03 September 2003 - 10:53 PM
1. Make sure you're talking to the right person. Asking for their title, or asking them who else within the company would be involved in making a decision will help you here.
2. Don't waste their time. Try something like introducing yourself, explain what you do, ask them if they're doing this now, ask them for a few terms they might search for in looking for their own site. Then ask them if you can send them a 2-page report on how their site is doing on those terms (then proactively add a few other terms that are also relevant and happen to receive higher search volumes)
3. Don't eat or chew gun while you're on the phone. (people do this to me all the time!)
4. Always ask people if they have a couple minutes after introducing yourself. Respect their time.
5. If they say they don't have time to talk, ask them if there is a better time. If they tell you a specific time, call them at that time. It builds credibility.
Hope this helps.
Posted 04 September 2003 - 11:58 AM
email reeks of spam, delete
I read my mail- better if you can get it to me during the weekat the office- it piles up on weekends at the office- I will pay attention for at lesat a brief moment of it doesn't scream mass mailing on teh outside
What do I want in the email?
Evidence that you know my target audience -this is the #1 way to hit my trash can. I am amazed at how many people start with somthign like i found you at #27 for this term... and want to help you hit #1 when the term they are using is at best marginally relavant to my target.
I would rather see the story you just told of trying to find me and failing- how ou got there. Maybe numbers of long most searchers would look. Tell me what terms are popular in my market- i know, but I want to know you do. Tell me how many people use those- which of my competitors are at the top?
Call with an update- how have my competitors gotten better since your letter and what can you do to help me?
Posted 05 September 2003 - 09:17 AM
Posted 30 September 2003 - 07:21 PM
You MUSt get the name of the person you need to speak to, you MUSt have an opening statement that makes whoever you are talking to wan to know more, regardless of who they are. Ideally you should ask whoever answers if they can help you, tell them who you are and what you do (what you do is what you can do for them) ie i am james, i have a small specialist internet business that gets more business for the companies i work with, can you tell me who is responsible for your website please?
Get their name, ask the person giving the name who the name you have been given is in relation to the company.. ie oh he is the CEO's son in law, or he is the owner he designs it. ask the best time to call to speak to the person (you will either get a time and day or a 'I will see if he is free now'
Once you have this information get out of there and plan your attack. You should already have done some research and be ready to pitch (yuk) if you are put through. remember the facts they want to hear , who, what , when , why where and How. Keep it really simple to the point of spartan.
I always say/have said, I appreciate you are busy as am I , we are just a small business me, my wife etc so i will come straight to the point if its ok with you. I am a specialist web marketer (or whatever) and i have looked at you website and would like to arrange a brief meeting with you to go through one or two recent changes is web marketing that could push your website way above your competitors sites on the search engines, getting you more (leads/sales/whatever the site is there for), I do not charge anything for the first meeting, and at the very least you will com away with some VERY useful, but FREE information, when is best for you? close it down.
IMHO this has always worked for me, i have never used a script, but i have always written down objections so that i can mention them during the conversation.
Inevitably, you will be asked to put something in the post DON NOT, simply say, Mr X i will be more than happy to put something in the post, a but i want it to be exactly what you want to save you reading through a load of information not relevant, thats why i wanted to have a brief meeting, (close)
Good luck and remember if what you want is what you customer wants then you will get the work, know your customer and their industry.
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