We all know that these days, valuable content is the fastest way to our markets’ hearts. There’s a growing body of evidence that valuable content drives inbound leads and builds trust between a business and its prospects. But providing value shouldn’t be limited to content marketing.
In fact, I’ve found that by similarly offering others value through my networking and outbound sales efforts, I’ve been able to grow my revenue by 200%.
Not long ago, I started taking the philosophy I use in my content marketing—offering lots of free, relevant value—and applying it to my business development efforts, and the impact has been huge.
What do I mean by value in this context? Value can be anything beneficial or meaningful to your prospect. For example, it can be a blog post pertaining to their industry, a Starbucks card since you know they love chai lattes, or a free offer or service. In this post, I`ll explore four creative tactics I’ve used in my business development efforts that have paid off the most.
1. Send a Gift to Your Prospects at No Cost to You
I once called up a local taco shop and got them to give me 100 coupons for free tacos that I could send out in cold emails to prospects. I’ve also done the same to land vouchers for free coffees and even haircuts. Here’s what I did with the coffee shop:
I found a popular, local coffee shop that was in the same area as the prospects I wanted to target. The way to go about choosing a place to target is to first, figure out where your prospects are located. Are you a salesperson with an assigned territory? Great, start there. Are you an entrepreneur with no idea where your prospects are located because you do everything on the web? No worries. If your prospects are all over the world, start somewhere with a high concentration of prospects!
But ideally, you want to use a “micro-location.” For example, if you have lots of prospects in New York City, then stick with one neighborhood like Midtown Manhattan. If you have many prospects in London, choose a smaller neighborhood within the city as your micro-location. This is important, because when you’re giving prospects a physical gift, they’re not going to go too far out of their way to pick it up.
Once you’ve settled on your micro-location, it’s time to choose a local business to partner with for the free gifts. You also want to choose a gift that most people would enjoy, like coffee. I went on Yelp and found a few coffee shops in my chosen neighborhood that had great reviews. I went to their websites and found the email addresses for the managers and the shop phone numbers.
I called them up and asked if they’d like to partner on marketing efforts…free of charge to them! I highlighted the fact that they’d be reaching hundreds of potential customers in their neighborhood and all they needed to do was supply me with as many “1 free coffee” coupons as they could afford. To my surprise, they agreed! In retrospect, it makes sense. They were going to generate repeat customers from this deal, because the coffee was guuuuuuud.
Then, I worked with the coffee shop to generate a code that could be sent to all of my prospects in my cold email message. You can generate a QR code or work with your partnering local business to come up with a code name, like “freecoffee212.”
You might say something like this in your email:
I`m with X Company. I wanted to reach out and personally invite you to a free technology consultation. This will be a full, free hour of 1-on-1 time with an engineer. The engineer can answer any tech questions you might have or help you solve a problem! You’ll leave the consultation with a free design sketch of your new app!
Click here for more info and to RSVP.
Thanks for your time and you can enjoy a free coffee from Coffee212 on me! Just walk in and either show this email or give the barista this code: “freecoffee212”.
The second time I did this, I wanted to have a reason to follow up with my prospects, so I worked out a method of tracking which prospects went in and redeemed the codes/coupons. The best way to track who’s gotten your gifts is to use a digital method (e.g. QR code). However, that would require that the coffee shop or local business be able to scan the code.
If the local business can’t help you track your gift redemptions, you can use an email link and track which recipients have clicked the link. To do this, you’ll need to place your code on a webpage or create a PDF link, as explained in the next section of this article. To put your code on a webpage, sign up for a free Weebly account.
Once you’re logged in, choose any theme you like and then name your site. I like to use a domain name similar to my gift code. Like so:
Next, set up your code or instructions for redeeming your free gift. I do this right on the homepage. I also include a thank you note. Like this:
Next, I get rid of all the other pages in the top menu. To do this, select “pages” from the Weebly menu. You’ll see all the pages in a tab to the left.
Now, click on each unnecessary page and delete them.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of all the extras, you can copy the link to the page you need, and you’re ready to send it out. In the top right corner click the blue “publish” button.
You’ll be presented with a link to your page.
You’ve successfully created a link to your gift that you can add to your email.
Make sure you use a mail merge tool or email tool that will allow you to track clicks or opens. Many CRMs track opens and links, but I like to use MyriadHub because it’s free to email as many prospects as you’d like. Watch MyriadHub’s tutorial if you’re unfamiliar with mail-merge systems.
Although tracking opens/link clicks doesn’t guarantee that the person received your gift, you can still follow up to ask them if they did. I like to follow up with prospects who open or click with a message like:
I saw that you accessed the gift coupon. Did you get a chance to grab a free nitro-brew from Coffee212?
2. Include Valuable Content in Your Emails
Content is King. Despite this, I find that many founders don’t understand what valuable content means. Everyday, I read blog posts about a software company’s latest feature, or a health startup’s recent attendance at some conference. I hate to break it to you but, no one cares about those new updates or your group selfie at said conference.
Value doesn’t mean a sales pitch. In fact, it means don’t talk about your company at all. What’s value to your prospects? Value is something educational, it’s something that helps them be better at their jobs. It enriches your prospect’s life.
Now listen, value isn’t the same to all prospects. You’ve got to think about what would be relevant to each individual. Am I going to send a great article on B2B Lead Generation to my prospect that owns a hair salon? Probably not the best idea.
You also have to try your best not to send basic sh*t to more experienced folks. Make sure you’re sharing articles, ebooks, etc. that have been published recently. Take your time and find something of true value. It will definitely pay off.
You might consider sharing a recently published ebook about Instagram growth with a list of prospects that are executives of digital marketing firms. Or, you could share the latest Forbes article on new research regarding employee well-being with a list of prospects who are HR managers.
Once you’ve got your valuable piece of content picked out, you’re ready to send it along! In your email, make sure you create a link to your content. Creating a link is better than sending an attachment. Why? Because attachments often trigger spam filters, sending your message right to your prospect’s trash (this is also the reason I don’t use a fancy email signature with images aka attachments). If your content is already a link, you’re good to go. If it’s not a link, here’s how to create a link for any document:
Step 1 – Save your doc as a PDF
On a Mac:
On a PC:
Step 2 – Open Google Drive and upload the PDF file.
Step 3 – Right click the uploaded PDF file and open as Google doc.
Step 4 – Click File > Publish to the web
Step 5. Select link and then click publish.
Step 6. Copy your link!
Congrats, you’ve got a link to a document that you can send in your email message! Make sure you don’t just copy/paste this long, sloppy link into the email. Instead, add it as a hyperlink to a call-to-action. For example, you might say the following at the end of your message:
To show my appreciation for your time, check out this great ebook on tripling your Instagram followers.
The underlined words make a perfect place to create a hyperlink to your content.
3. Provide a Free Service
Providing something of value for free is a great way to engage with cold prospects and grow revenue. This is why so many software companies offer a free trial subscription. If your company doesn’t already have a free offering, then it’s time you get one.
The best way to make your offering valuable is to make it somewhat tangible. Meaning, don’t just offer your time, like a free “consultation call.” Yawn. Instead, offer your time and then deliver something tangible like, “a free consultation call with an audit or report.”
Another way to provide value is to offer an immediate solution to a problem. For example, I worked with an IT consulting company that held free one-hour workshops where prospects could come in with tech issues and the team would fix them, free of charge. Other successful examples of free services include:
- A free cleanup of contact data from a prospect’s CRM – offered by a CRM software company
- A free wireframe sketch – offered by a creative marketing company
- 100 free sales leads delivered in a spreadsheet – offered by a company that provides business development services
4. Create a Meetup or Networking Group
I know people making a killing from their Meetup groups. Not only are they able to set up a successful groups for the purposes of networking, they’re also able to monetize them.
How do they do that? By adding value. To grow revenue, you must provide something valuable to people first. They pack a two-hour Meetup with the best training and advice they can find. Here are some tips for setting up a successful Meetup or networking group:
Know your niche
You want to set up a group that is beneficial to the prospects you’re looking to connect with. You also want the group to highlight you/your company as an expert in your industry. For example, if you work for a company that sells CRM subscriptions to startups, you might want to set up a Meetup for teaching sales skills to startup founders.
Set yourself apart
If there are 40 other “UX Design Meetups” in your city, then don’t start another one. Find a unique angle based on your target niche, like “UX Design For FinTech Startups.” If you’re living in a smaller city, you can most likely get away with a broader topic (like UX Design Meetup).
Be consistent and proactive
Hold your meetings or workshops at the same time each month. Stay in contact with your group and provide valuable content via email or messages in between events. Don’t be a spammer—keep it simple and limit it to once per week at most.
This might seem counterintuitive, as common wisdom these days is to give value away whenever possible. But people are more likely to see value in something they have to pay for, even if it’s just a small amount. They’re also more likely to follow through on attending if they’ve paid to be there.
Team up with other people
You can add value to your event by teaming up with other experts looking to target the same prospects that you target. If you’re a software company looking to market yourself to startups, you might invite a startup attorney to come in and speak about filing tech patents. The attorney would provide more value to the event and would probably market the Meetup to their network as well. It’s a win-win-win scenario.
Bonus Tip 1: I once set up a Meetup group based on a Slack channel that I was participating in. The channel was for female founders in NYC. I partnered with two other women from the channel and we started a Meetup where channel members could get together for lunch once a month. We had a great turnout at our first meeting. You can join some excellent Slack groups and find a channel that would benefit from a Meetup or networking group.
Bonus Tip 2: I’ve had the most luck using Meetup or Eventbrite when it comes to generating interest and getting members or RSVPs. I recommend using a hi-res photo from Unsplash or Pixabay on your Meetup/Eventbrite pages. Keep your event descriptions succinct, with enough copy to entice, yet not enough copy to bore or confuse readers.
Watch Your Revenue Grow
By taking these four steps, and any others you may be inspired to try, you’ll find that your efforts to reach out to new client and customer prospects are met with much warmth. Not only will you see more people responding to your outreach and networking efforts, you’ll also find that the people who do respond are more engaged and likely to convert.
As soon as I started getting more creative and adding value, I found I had far more people responding to me and developing relationships with me beyond that first step, resulting in a 200% increase in my revenue.
There are plenty of ways to increase the dollars coming into your pipeline, but the next time you plan on making a new effort, try adding some real value—it goes a long way! It may seem counterintuitive, but the more value you give away for free, the more your prospects/clients/customers will trust you and your brand. It works in content marketing, and it works in lots of other areas too.
Have you discovered any creative ways to add value to your sales efforts? Let us know in the comments below!