Over the last several years, my team and I have made a name for ourselves by coming up with crazy ways of getting in front of clients. Donut Drops, cardboard tubes, niche podcasts… these are keywords that sound funny to outsiders, but they represent some of the biggest drivers of our business.
Which is why since the quarantine started, countless people have been reaching out to us saying, “Is it too late to start my digital agency? I was just getting started before the Coronavirus hit, and now that we’re locked down I can’t go meet prospects in person!”
I totally get it. A lot of people have a dreadful feeling that they waited too long. They feel guilty that they’ve talked about entrepreneurship for years, and if they would have taken action sooner they’d be in a better position to weather this crisis.
Well, here’s the good news. You don’t have to beat yourself up because the window is definitely not closed.
Take a deep breath, give yourself a pep talk in the mirror, and follow along. I’m about to share strategies you can start using today to launch your digital agency without even leaving your living room.
What we’re NOT going to do
Before we dive in, I want to tell you why I’ve been critical of cold email outreach in the past.
Here’s what I see 95% of people do…
They decide they want to start a digital agency, and they create a service they think would be perfect for dentists. So they buy an email list with 20,000 dentists in America, they write a generic email, and they blast the list.
They think to themselves, “If only 1% of the list replies, and if I only close 1% of them at $500/mo… I’ll be making $10k/mo! And of course my numbers will be bigger than that.”
They kick back and wait for the money to come streaming in while debating if they should go to Cabo or Cancun. Which is why it comes as a huge shock when two weeks later they still haven’t received a single reply.
The truth is, if you’re targeting doctors, lawyers, therapists, consultants, or other local professional services, your prospects get dozens of sales emails every day. At this point they’re blind to it, and you need to step your game up if you want to get their attention.
So now that we know that doesn’t work, what are we going to do?
Do Free Work
There’s an age-old debate amongst service providers: should you sometimes do work for free to prove your value, or should you never work for free?
Years ago I heard a rule of thumb that has stuck with me ever since: do free work when it’s your idea, but never when a prospect asks for it.
I think free work can be a fantastic way of rising above the noise, showing your value, and building a relationship.
But there’s one critical caveat: you have to find ways to use templates to deliver the work lightning fast.
In the past, I’ve created a digital product- an ebook, a piece of content, a digital download, an infographic, or countless other things. And I’ve designed it in a way where it’s easy for me to quickly swap out the client’s logo or their brand colors. This way by just making a few fast changes, I can make something that is valuable for them.
Now rather than sending a generic email that is obviously copied and pasted, I can send something specifically to the client. I’ll say something like, “I believe in what you’re doing so much I wanted to give you something you can start using right away to grow your business.”
When they open the attachment they’ll see their own logo and colors- or however else I customized it to their business- and they’ll think, “Wow, this isn’t a generic sales pitch. They’re talking directly to me, and they really put in a lot of time to provide value.”
Think about how you can use this for yourself. How can you use templates to deliver free work quickly and impress your prospects?
Create Samples For Famous Dream Clients
Depending on your service, maybe it’s not practical to send free work to each prospect. In that case, try this instead.
Find a business or an entrepreneur that is famous in your industry. Whatever your service is, create work samples for this person. It could be social media content, or marketing materials, or graphic design, or countless other things. Just create something that shows your skills and makes their business look good.
Now when you’re reaching out to prospects, include these samples and say, “Here are some examples of what we’re capable of.” Don’t lie and say you were paid to do this work or that they’re your clients. But leave it up to their imagination, and let them associate your name with this famous business.
If you’re just starting out and you don’t have work samples to share, this is a great way to have something tangible to show. And of course, if anyone asks, “Are they your clients?” It’s not a problem to say, “No, I’m just starting out and I made those to try to get on their radar.”
Which reminds me… you should definitely use these to get on their radar! I’ve landed clients way outside my league even when I was just starting out by sending them free work. So if you use this strategy to create work examples for yourself, send it to them and you just might surprise yourself.
The Pamphlet Principle
Sean Ogle runs a website called LocationRebel.com where he teaches people how to start freelance writing businesses they can run from anywhere in the world. He teaches something he calls “The Pamphlet Principle,” and it works wonders for digital agencies as well.
When Sean was in college he would paint houses on weekends. He would go to a neighborhood and go door-to-door, offering his services. Not surprisingly his conversion rate was terrible.
One weekend he decided to do something different. He printed up pamphlets that introduced him and his service and he left one at each house in a new neighborhood. When he went back the following weekend and knocked on the doors, he discovered that his conversion rate was suddenly through the roof.
That’s because people had a whole week to think about his service. And when he knocked on the door they recognized his face so they already had some rapport. And even when people said still no, they were able to say so right away rather than Sean having to give his whole pitch.
Now Sean teaches his writing students to do the same thing online. Before you reach out to someone, follow them on Facebook. Retweet them on Twitter. Comment on their Instagram posts. Show up to their live streams.
Now when you reach out you’re not an intrusive stranger. They’ll think, “Hey, this is that person who has been providing value in my comments section! This is the lady that has been helpful to my other followers. This is the guy that has been asking really smart questions.”
When your name pops up in their inbox, you’ll already have a ton of rapport.
Automate Your Follow-Ups With MailShake
If you’re doing cold outreach, one of the most important things you can do is to send follow-ups. The chances that your first email is going to get glossed over, or just buried in a mountain of other sales emails, is incredibly high.
That’s why you need to send 2, 3, 4, even 5 more emails. Of course the problem is now your 5x’ing the amount of work you need to do. Not only does it take a ton of time, but it can also be difficult just keeping track of where everyone is in your follow-up sequence.
That’s where MailShake comes in. MailShake lets you automate the entire process.
You write your first email and then you can schedule all of the follow-ups in advance. You paste your emails and tell it, “Send the second one 3 days later, and the next one 4 days after that, and the next one 3 days after that…”
You click send and you don’t need to touch it again. If someone replies you’ll get the email in your inbox and the process stops. But if not, it keeps going until you get a response or you run out of follow-ups.
Be careful that you don’t get tempted by the automation and start sending generic bulk emails. But if you can still sound personal, this can be a powerful way to maximize your output.
Use video to go above and beyond
One of the tactics I’ve really fallen in love with is filming short videos and attaching a link in an email. If I’m writing to someone I’ll just pull out my phone, shoot a quick message, and attach it.
Then I’ll write something like, “I figured I’d cut a quick video really quick for you, just to introduce myself and tell you about…”
When people read this they think, “Wait a minute. He said he filmed a video for me. I figured this was a generic copy-and-paste email. Is he being serious?” Curiosity will force them to click through.
Some people will click through out of skepticism. They think they’re going to catch you in a lie. “I bet he tries to make it sound like he filmed it for me, but really he’s reusing the same video.”
Then when they see me using their name it shocks them. It really is a powerful way for standing out from your competition. How many other people are taking the time to talk specifically to this person?
Obviously it’s more work, but that’s precisely why you should do it. We do what our competitors won’t… which is why we get results that they don’t!
Sell Someone Else’s Expertise
When you reach out to someone out of the blue, a lot of times their defenses are going to be up. They’re going to think, “Who is this person and why should I listen to them?”
It’s difficult to prove your qualifications because they’re already skeptical, and the cards are stacked against you. That’s why I don’t try to prove my expertise at all.
I’ll try to find an article the person has shared from a famous business in my industry. Or maybe they were interviewed on a podcast. Or they liked a social media post. (This will make more sense in just a minute.)
Then I reach out and say, “I saw on Facebook that you’re a fan of So-And-So. I’m a huge fan too! You’ve probably noticed they started using a really smart marketing tactic recently.” Or maybe I’ll say, “You probably know they teach a really smart strategy for accomplishing XYZ.”
“But I’m willing to bet you haven’t started using this for yourself, just because it takes a ton of time. Well I created a service where I do it for you.”
So now it doesn’t matter that you’re a stranger on the internet. You’re not trying to convince them of your expertise, you’re selling them the expertise and the strategies of someone they already pay attention to.
You instantly stand out from all the other sales messages in their inbox because you’re leveraging the social credit of a famous name.
Putting It Into Practice
I know it’s disheartening being quarantined in our homes. It can feel like our hands are tied and we can’t use our normal tools to get clients and grow our businesses.
But this actually creates a massive opportunity for us. That’s because everyone else is sending generic emails out of desperation. By sending personalized emails and using the strategies above, we can rise above the noise and get our prospects’ attention.
Leave a comment below and let me know: what other tactics do you use to get clients without leaving your house?