His first experience with contact marketing was many years ago, when he created direct mail campaigns for a few big magazine publishers, at the time the biggest users of direct marketing and the most sophisticated testers. His first two assignments were for Rolling Stone and Bon Appetit.
Amazingly, both of his test campaigns beat the magazine’s controls. The controls were the most effective things they had ever mailed. So when he beat them, he beat the best. In other words, he hit a home run.
Then he spread his tactics to the rest of the publishing industry, 24 targets in fact. People say a 1% response rate is good, but Stu couldn’t tolerate even 10%. He wanted 100%, even though he was trained to see that as impossible.
So what happened?
He achieved his goal. Every target became a client. He launched a business worth millions of dollars, all from a campaign he spent $100 dollars on.
Stu’s specific campaigns involved cartoons, but not everyone is a Wall Street Journal cartoonist. So how can you and your sales team replicate his success?
For his book, Stu interviewed the top 100 sales thought leaders and asked how they break through when they need to reach a VIP prospect. Based on what he found, here are five ways to get a meeting with anyone.
1) Social Media
Contact marketing is something anyone can use. If you have no budget, that’s not an excuse. Anyone can use social media.
(Note: We’ll use “CEO” moving forward to refer to any high-level, VIP prospect, for the sake of convenience.)
If you’re going to send an email to a CEO, good luck getting a response. They’re insanely busy…which might be the biggest understatement ever.
During the week, their emails are probably intercepted by executive assistants. So the best times to email are early Saturday morning or early Sunday evening when they’re checking email themselves over coffee or preparing for the upcoming week on Sunday evening. This is another tactic that costs you absolutely nothing.
The brevity of these emails is key. When CEOs receive a cold email that’s all about you, they don’t know why they should care. It’s not because they’re hideously self-centered: it’s because their focus is on what they’re trying to accomplish.
So if you want to get into their world, you better be addressing what they’re trying to accomplish.
3) Cartoons/Comics/Physical Objects
Stu uses cartoons in his contact marketing, and you should too—or at least something like them.
You don’t have to use cartoons specifically, but think long and hard about combining humor with a tangible object. If you express the right truth through humor, CEOs will get everything they need to know. If you hit it just right, they’re going to be impressed.
Stu’s typical contact campaign now consists of what amounts to a giant postcard, with a cartoon about the recipient and a message from the sender explaining why they should talk or meet.
And when people get these things, they don’t throw them away. They take selfies with them, frame them, and display them on their desks. They cause people to walk in the recipient’s office and say, “What’s that?”
Stu even sent one to the governor of California once, who remembered him 17 years later when they spoke—all because of the memorable display.
If you can give the CEO that you’re trying to reach some form of media exposure, you’ll pique their interest. That’s how you get into their world.
This concept is the backbone of what we do at Sweet Fish. We produce niche podcasts for our clients, which positions them to connect with their ideal clients. This allows our clients to feature their dream clients as expert guests on their podcast. When this happens, a genuine relationship forms between the show host and the guest.
Once a relationship has been established, it’s much easier to initiate a sales conversation that will hopefully end in new business for the podcast host.
If you need a little inspiration to be more audacious, here are a couple of stories that Stu shared with us:
Rick Bennett runs a small agency, and he had a client who owns a tax startup. This client said, “Look Rick, I want to present my company to Larry Ellison (the CEO of Oracle), because I think he’s going to want to buy it.”
So Rick’s idea was to produce a contact letter as a full-page ad and run it in the Wall Street Journal, which Larry Ellison reads.
Now that’s audacious.
It resulted in the sale of the business, too, so it was worth doing.
Dan Waldschmidt is one of the top sales bloggers in the world, runs 100-mile races (and wins), and is an intense guy with an intense message that he calls “Edgy Conversations.” But his primary expertise is as a turnaround specialist.
His process for connecting with CEOs who are in trouble and need his services involves watching for media coverage of missed earnings estimates.
When he finds one, he has a beautiful sword made (by the prop-maker who made all the swords for Gladiator), and he engraves the name of the CEO on the blade.
(Don’t worry—it’s not sharpened.)
The sword arrives in a beautiful wooden box with a handwritten note that basically says, “I know that business is war, and I saw that you lost a battle recently. I just want to let you know that if you need extra hands in the next battle, we’ve got your back.”
He hasn’t even explained what he does, yet he’s almost guaranteed to get a response.
And the cool thing is, this is a visual metaphor for who Dan is and what he brings. Visual metaphors are one of the best gifts you can give in a contact marketing campaign.
The point of all this? If you’re going after the big fish, you better pull out all the stops.
A Quick Note on Executive Assistants
When you’re going after CEOs, don’t neglect executive assistants.
Most salespeople try to get around them, but they can be your best friend if you handle things right.
Everyone talks about executive assistants being gatekeepers, and that’s because half of their job is keeping people out. But the other half is letting the right people in.
One of the most important aspects of their job is to identify opportunities that the CEO would otherwise miss. So they do listen.
If you’re trying to circumvent them, they know. They report directly to the CEO, just like VPs do. Think of them as your partner and not your adversary.
Some of Stu’s clients have even gone as far to execute entire contact marketing campaigns with the sole focus of reaching the CEO’s executive assistant.
In Stu’s book, he says the worst thing you could do is look at a brilliant idea and simply copy and paste.
Got Milk? was fantastic, but Got Art Supplies? makes you look like a bonehead with no imagination.
That’s advice for marketing, but you can apply it to your sales team as well.
Retrain the way you think about reaching these CEOs. Don’t just copy the people in these stories; figure out what you can do creatively for your own brand.
This is nothing like a pitch; there is no pitch. This is making contact in extraordinary ways—and the rest will follow.