Sold From The Start

I don’t know about you, but here at Blue Penguin Development Intergalactic Headquarters, things have been pretty hectic these past few days. And it’s all because of what happened on Wednesday morning.

First, my friend Jill Whalen, the world’s leading SEO expert, mentioned me favorably in her newsletter. She’s got a loyal following of something like 8 billion readers, many of whom would enthusiastically eat broken glass if she said it was a good idea. So a mention in Jill’s newsletter is like gold.

Second, and on the exact same day, my buddies over at Constant Contact, the world’s leading e-mail marketing vendor, published an interview with me in their newsletter, a publication which is read by more people than voted in the Democratic primary*. I don’t exactly remember what the interview was about – I started hyperventilating after the part where they described me as “a legend” – but I think it was pretty good.

And so as you might imagine, there’s been a lot of activity in my office this week. I’ve had a ton of people sign up for this newsletter (welcome tons of people); I’ve had truckloads of people send me e-mail with questions or comments (nice to have corresponded with you, truckloads of people); and I’ve had oodles of people buy my products and download my free stuff (my family thanks you, oodles of people).

I’ve also had about 20 people call, most of whom were inquiring about hiring me in one way or another. That’s where it starts to get interesting.

Because the thing I’ve noticed during these recent phone calls is that they’ve been decidedly different than the ones I usually get. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but first a bit of background…

My entire business is based on inbound phone traffic. I don’t do any prospecting; I just sit in my office, publish this newsletter, drink (really good) coffee, and wait for the phone to ring. The phone doesn’t ring off the hook – I get 10-15 calls per month – but when it does ring, the calls are usually quite productive (i.e. they very often lead to interesting projects with people I want to work with).

The calls these past few days, however, were less productive. In fact, as of this writing, not a single one of them has resulted in actual work.

I can think of two reasons why not:

  1. These people don’t know what I do. The calls this week have included inquiries about print newsletters, web site development, freelance writing, dog grooming (I think that one was a wrong number), and other related, but not quite direct hits to the work I do (relationship-leveraging, e-mail newsletters for professional service providers). They were close, but not close enough for us to work together.

    That’s not what happens when someone who’s been reading this newsletter for months (or years) calls. Those people, by contrast, know exactly what’s for sale. In fact, in those calls, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about what I do; we mostly discuss how what I do might be applied to their particular situation.

    This is a critical difference, and speaks to the value of publishing a targeted newsletter for a particular audience on a particular topic. If you do that, your readers end up weeding themselves out (or in), and what you’re left with are only those who want what you’ve got. It’s targeted, segmented marketing at its best; a perfect match between buyer and seller. (That was a good sentence. Please take a moment to read it again.)

  1. These people don’t know who I am. It’s great to come highly recommended, but that only goes so far. In order for a prospect to take action and hire you as a professional service provider today, that person needs to feel comfortable with you.

    He needs to trust you and he needs to like you… two things that don’t happen overnight. And so while my calls this week were enjoyable, they had a decidedly “first date” feel to them: friendly, but not friends.

    Here as well, compare that to the calls I receive from long time newsletter readers. These people often open the conversation with some variation of, “We’ve been reading your newsletter for X months now and we’re finally ready to move ahead.” It may be the first time we’ve spoken, but, because we’ve been through several newsletters “together,” we connect like old friends. Old friends trust each other; old friends like each other; old friends feel comfortable doing business together.

I have to confess, I keep thinking that sooner or later, I’ll have uncovered every possible benefit that an e-mail newsletter has to offer. And yet this week, I discovered one more:

An effective E-Newsletter doesn’t “just” make the phone ring with prospective clients on the line… it makes it ring with the right ones. People who know what you do, like who you are, and arrive happy and ready to engage you in helping them solve their problems.

If there’s a better professional service marketing tool on the planet, I’d sure like to know what it is.

* I might be making that up.

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