A Comprehensive Guide to Outbound Prospecting (for Agencies and Consultants)

Two weeks ago, I announced the 90 day relationship challenge, and in that blog post I outlined a simple six step process on how you could get started. Today I’ll expand upon that process, and give you a step-by-step system you can use today to contact any potential business contact. 

For this prospecting guide, the main outreach method will be email.

Why email? Because it is the most dominant form of workplace communication, emails are easy to find, and it provides direct access to your contact. If email isn’t your thing, you can also message your contact via Linkedin or call them.

For those participating in the 90 Day Relationship Challenge, feel free to use this process to meet your goal.

And if you’re on the fence, imagine the effect on your bottom-line that contacting one new potential client or potential business partner each day will have for your business. Remember, the agency business is a relationship business. Make it a habit to contact one new lead a day.

In this blog post, I’ll be using a fictional character named Sam Morty, Owner of SEORick, an SEO agency focused on the hotel niche, whose headquarters are based in Los Angeles, California.

Let’s get started!

Step 1  – Define Your Target Market

Before contacting anyone, be specific as to who you are targeting.

Let’s boil this down to a simple formula:

Niche + Location + Ideal Company Contact = Target Market

In our example, Sam will be targeting contacts who have the following job titles, “Director of Marketing”, “Marketing Manager”, and “Chief Marketing Officer” who work at established hotels in the Los Angeles, California area.

Step 2 – Research Your Leads

Not everyone you contact is going to be a good sales lead. Only a handful of them will convert into a customer or client. Keep that in mind.

Having said that, you need to determine what is and what is NOT a good sales lead in your business. You need to define your Ideal Client Lead Criteria before you do any research on the individuals and companies you want to target.

Lead Criteria General Principles

In general, the following principles are characteristic of a good potential client:

  1. There’s an urgent problem that the company needs solved.
  2. The company you are contacting is established. (Not a startup).

Lead Criteria For Those Who Sell Digital Marketing

Specific to the selling of marketing services, the following criteria are also recommended:

  1. Company is actively spending money on marketing, and they have a budget.
  2. Company is earning at least one million dollars in annual revenue.
  3. Company is established and has been operating for 5 years or more.

Ideal Client Lead Criteria (for SEORick)

In our example, SEORick is looking for the following Ideal Client Lead Criteria:

  1. Client recognizes the value of SEO to boost sales.
  2. Client is looking to increase hotel bookings attributed to organic search results.
  3. Client’s organic search traffic has plummeted in the past 12 months or barely growing.
  4. Client is actively spending money on marketing and they have a budget.
  5. The hotel is earning at least $5 million in revenue.

Finding A Company To Contact

Initially, you are not going to know if the company, and person you contact is going to fit all the lead criteria. But you will have a good idea of revenues and past SEO performance by conducting competitive research. The whole point of contacting a lead is to start building a new relationship by having an honest conversation about their problems, and then keeping in touch every so often to build upon the initial conversation.

For an SEO agency, a great way to discover if a potential client has had issues with SEO is to use a tool like ahrefs, or SEMRush to see their assumed organic traffic results, and notice if there has been an upward, downward, or flat trend in traffic from search engines.

As with all third-party data tools, the data might not be accurate, however the data trend is most likely on point.

After doing a quick Google search, Sam Morty finds that the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles was ranking on page 2 of Google for the term, “hotels in los angeles”; the Sheraton is a well known hotel that could probably improve it’s organic rankings.

Sheraton Grand Los Angeles’s ahrefs assumed organic traffic results:

 

From the trend, it appears there was a spike in traffic during the middle of 2017, and then a sharp drop in organic traffic. What was the reason for that? At this moment, it’s inconclusive, but it makes for a good conversation starter.

After searching for the query, “marketing director sheraton grand los angeles” in Google, Sam discovered that Vito Corleone, the former Director of Sales and Marketing at the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles just recently quit, in December 2017, and now works at the Pyramid Hotel Group – thanks Linkedin!

Now Sam has two potential companies that he can connect with and discuss SEO: 1) The Sheraton Grand Los Angeles, and 2) The Pyramid Hotel Group. Two-for-one!

Okay, after another 2 minutes, Sam couldn’t find the current Director of Sales and Marketing at the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles, but he did find the name of the General Manager, Jon Jones, who happens to be on LinkedIn. In addition, Sam found his email by typing the following search query in Google, “[first name] [last name] @ .com” – thanks Trip Advisor.

Now Sam has a contact from the Sheraton, an email, and a Linkedin profile. In all, this took about 5 minutes to do. For the Pyramid Hotel Group, Sam already knows that Vito Corleone is the VP of Sales and Marketing, and has recently started his new role as of January 2018 – perfect window to outreach and inquire about SEO needs.

Note: All names used are fictional with the exception of the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles hotel.

Step 3 – Email Scripting Template

This is the part where most people get hung up on, but not you. I’m going to give you a template you can use to write your cold emails in 5 minutes or less.

Cold Email Template:

Hi [add name of contact]

I read that [add company name here] goal for 2018 is to do [add company goal here].

My name is [your name here], and I’m the [add your job title] of [add your company here] based here in [add your location]. My agency specializes in [add your specialization], and we’ve been able to [insert who you’ve helped before and the results or your credentials]

I’m emailing you because [Add reason for your email]

Do you have time for a 15-minute phone call? If so, would any of these times work? 

– [Insert day of the week] ([insert date]) [insert time availability]  

– [Insert day of the week] ([insert date]) [insert time availability]

– [Insert day of the week] ([insert date]) [insert time availability]

If those don’t work, just let me know, and I can work around your schedule.

I can call your office line, [add their office number] or if you prefer, my phone number is [add your number]

Thanks,

[Add your name here]

Example of Sam’s initial email to Jon Jones:

Hi Jon, 

I read about the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles on Google, and was impressed by your 4.3-star rating.

My name is Sam Morty, and I’m the owner of SEORick agency based here in Los Angeles. My agency specializes in SEO marketing for hotels, and we’ve been able to help hotels like the Musk Hotel, and Jobs Hotel increase their direct website bookings from search engines by an average of 15%.

I noticed that your Director of Sales and Marketing, Vito Corleone, recently resigned, and I’m emailing you to see if you would be open to discussing the Sheraton’s SEO initiatives for 2018.

Do you have time for a 15-minute phone call? If so, would any of these times work? 

– Friday (01/31) all day 

– Tuesday (02/04) any time after 1 pm EST 

– Wednesday(02/05) any time after 1 pm EST

If those don’t work, just let me know, and I can work around your schedule.

I can call your office line, 213-488-4000 or if you prefer, my phone number is 213-111-1111.

Thanks,

Sam Morty

Next step, send the email.

Step 4 – Send Email

Sam finishes the email and sends it. Great!

Now, time for some expectations. When you send an email to a business contact you don’t know – expect no reply. That’s normal. Think about it from their perspective, you’re a random stranger messaging them for something – their time.

Don’t expect a quick reply. Expect to follow up. Be persistent, but not annoying.

Always provide value. For SEO agencies, it might be 5 free hours of consults as my friend Dan Shure once wrote about, or something else. Give them an offer they can’t refuse.

Step 5 – Follow Up

Let’s keep it simple here. If you don’t receive a reply within 2 – 3 business days, then send a quick reminder email.

Follow-up email template

Hi [add name of contact],

I didn’t want this email to get lost in your inbox.

Best,

[add your name]

Sam’s follow-up email to Jon Jones

Hi Jon,

I didn’t want this email to get lost in your inbox.

Best,

Sam

You would be surprised how many people reply to this second email. It’s simple, it’s short, and it’s effective.

Let me know how it works for you. Also, there’s no fast rule on how many times you should follow-up, some sales people will follow-up every single week until they get a reply, others follow-up 7 times, and some 3 times.

I like to follow up a maximum of 3 times, and then move on. But how many follow-ups is up to you to decide based on your experience.

Step 6 – Schedule Meeting

This is the best part! It’s the finish line. Here is where you schedule your meeting with your new business contact. It can be over the phone, Zoom, Google Hangout – just schedule it!

You now have a step-by-step process that you can use starting today.  Find a new business contact, and message them.

If you’re ambitious, and want to join the 90 Day Relationship Challenge, and start contacting one new business contact per day then comment on this blog post, and my team will add you to our secret 90 Day Challenge Facebook group.

You in?

Comments

  1. juan

    Thank you Jeff for this prospecting guide and email template. I need to try this challenge out.

  2. Samantha Cromwell

    Thanks Jeff. This was a great blog post.

  3. Hema

    Thanks, Jeff. This was really helpful. I would love to join the challenge.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *