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It probably does not cary any significant information, but I just sorted the rollodex (thank you Irving Fischer) I have been feeding over the last 3 years 1/2 as a biz dev. I kept more than 600 business cards (I already discarded the irrelevant ones I guess) : 24 VIP, 14 current customers, 31 leads, 40 partners/consultants/competitors and 496 contacts that I can not use in any way. 5 out of 6 contacts I collected are just useless…
So far the most successful marketing campaign I’ve done was structured around a unique piece of content, relevant to our industry.
After 2 weeks of datacrunching, we created various indicators and computed them from our user base. We then packaged those indicators in a neat infographics (1 week of work).
The infographics was available for free against a valid email address. We did not advertise it at all, beyond a couple of tweets and statuses on FB and LinkedIn. The results were astonishing:
Considering we were on a niche market, these figures exceeded largely any other paying marketing operation we had done previously including professional PR, fairs & conferences, advertising in specialists’ press, adwords or advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Or tu put it differently, as far as I’m concerned, a solid technical description of a feature is (almost) better than the actual feature.
Most biz dev are reluctant to sell something they do not have yet. I agree, they have the moral high ground. But it does not make any sens from any other point of view:
I hated doing this the first couple of time. And then it turned out it is the only way to be sure you are not wasting your developing ressource.
It is not because social marketing is hype that old emailing tactics do not work any more.
Over the last 12 campaigns sent to more than 500 relevant people (not to an external database), the opening rate has been varying between 20% and 35% with an average at 23%. The click-through-rate varies between 12% and 27% with an average at 15%.
Another project I’m working on did some A/B testing :
Some people become entrepreneurs because they like strategic thinking. Well, go to McKinsey because unless you have access to big seed capital, your start-up life is not going to be about strategy, it’s going to be about generating revenues quickly. Not all products can be sold on-line or to your direct network so direct marketing is likely to be your best friend. To put it bluntly: grab your phone!
In B2B, the most successful emailing campaigns are the one where people that opened your email are phone-called afterward. You should also directly phone relevant people in companies located around your own. The key is to build a relevant listing with the name, position and location of the people you want to actually meet.
Building a relevant listing is fairly easy albeit time-consuming. If you’re nice and polite, people will give you most information you need on the phone. LinkedIn can also be a nice supplement. Once you have their name, you can reach most people in a company in less than 3 attempts.
You can easily reach 10% to 20% conversion, depending on how you built your listing and how relevant you are. Also once you have the person on the line, getting a meeting has nothing to do with your actual product, it’s about sounding like a nice and qualified person. You have to make the person WANT to meet you and spend a bit of time listening to you. Do not be defensive and over-argue, it will just make the person think you’re not confident.
Also if after 5 attempts you still have not manage to reach somebody, just give up. The chance she will one day pick up her phone and not be hyper busy are close to 0.
A meeting with the CEO of a large company is always unique. Because of the difference in power between you - start-up guy - and him, you rarely know what is going to happen and so it’s almost impossible to prepare a good pitch: Is the meeting going to last 15 minutes or an hour? Is she going to let you pitch more than 2 slides? Is he going to let you answer his questions with more than 3 words? Etc.
The big mistake is to pitch your product. CEO are not interested in your features or for that matter any technicality. There are 95% chances he has a very superficial knowledge of your field. The idea is to present your value proposition in regard of HIS global business i.e. to behave as a challenger.
If you’re pitching something too pragmatic - like a feature or a deployment strategy - you’ll be redirected to someone more junior before you closed the deal (which is not always bad, but can break your memantum in this organization). If you pitch something too abstract there will not be any next step and the meeting will last 15mn max and end up with a “It’s interesting I’ll think about it”.
To get a meeting in the first place and to successfully follow-up it is critical to know the assistant. If you can introduce yourself the day you meet the CEO do it. She’s the one that will allow a second and a third meeting…
Providing it does not cost them any energy, most people love attending meetings with nice guys. But repeated meetings with no pragmatic advance is a pure waste of time when you’re building a start-up. Having a clear sales process / paperwork is the key to making sure your lead is not wasting your time and energy.
Asking for the project deadlines is a necessary start, as well as asking for a general budget. At a later stage, i.e. after the second meeting or third discussion, sending a short proposal and asking for a signature is a great way to make someone commit, even if it does not involve an immediat cash transaction. What you want is a commitment. If deadlines are not respected on the client’s side or if you can not get a signed document, it most probably mean your lead is not one…
A lead is a lead as long as something featuring a price and a deadline has not been signed by the client. You must avoid working for free for anyone as long as nothing is signed. Answering questions or sending presentations is a normal part of the sales process. Sending 15-pages long answers or developing certain features on the other hand is free work you’ll never get cash for.
Sales cycle, closing and getting the actual cash are time-consuming processes. Transactions should NEVER be expected to be automatic, so it will never be brought to 0, no matter how efficient you become. Sending an email with a deadline does not count as an action and activelly pursuing the customer is critical.
There is a fixed time between identifying a lead and closing it. That time is recquired to create trust. It is all the longer that the deal is important and the relationship has not started with a referal. Count around 6 months in France.
When the deal is actually closed, there is a minimum of 2 months before the cash shows up on your account, providing you sent the bill to the good person and called him/her regularly to make sure everything goes right. As a young company, you’re not going to sue your (limited amount of) clients, so forget about the condition of payments stated on your terms of sales. Focus on finding the accountant and sending weekly reminders instead.
In your business plan, cash flows should always include these costs in the revenue generation. Expecting to see fresh cash on your account shortly - i.e. less than 6 months - after starting your sales operations is I think largely irealistic - unless you already have relevant contacts with available budgets and identified needs.