Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So what’s your client acquisition strategy?

"You got leads. Mitch & Murray paid good money. Get their names to sell them. You can't close the leads you're given, you can't close shit, *you are* shit, hit the bricks pal, and beat it, 'cause you are going *out*." -- From the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Written by David Mamet.

I’ve been leading the new business charge from a PR perspective for about 15 years. Everything from prospecting identification to designing “spec” campaigns, leading the pitch and closing the deal. And if I can say so myself, I’ve become quite good at it.

Most of our business leads are referral based (nothing like the environment of the Glengarry Glen Ross film!). In fact, more than 80 percent of our business comes in via a recommendation. The rest come way of RFPs, our web site and some aggressive prospecting from our end. At our annual MAVERICK retreat - we held our most recent one earlier this month - we spend a considerable amount of time drumming up names of companies we’d like to work for (our motto is: “We chase the brand, not the buck!”) and then we try to brainstorm ways to get our foot in the door.

However, one of the ways we don’t go after new clients is the proverbial cold call. Whether it’s a smile-and-dial attempt or a letter writing campaign, we don’t do it. Simply because it doesn’t work for our industry.

Unfortunately, some PR folks just don’t get it. One of my esteemed competitors is currently littering my clients’ in-boxes with an insipid letter that goes something like this:

“Hi. I’m (insert name). I work for a multinational called (blank.) We’re really smart and have won a ton of awards. Are you happy with your PR firm? Because if you’re not, here is my business card. You should consider us in the future. So call me. Signed: Lackluster PR Guy.”

When one of my clients laughingly told me he received this ridiculous letter, I had only one comment:“ I do believe this strategy does work, but only in the Bizarro World!”

My competitor’s letter only reaffirms my belief that there a lot of senior PR people out there who haven’t a clue when it comes to sourcing new business or how to attract new clients.

With competition like this, I’ll have no trouble sleeping at night.


Chris Clarke said...

Hi Julie,

I personally think you're 100% correct - in our day and age, writing such a letter sounds silly. I think it's great that you and your staff don't write letters like this, but the reality is that other firms are writing them, and in some cases, getting something out of them. If it didn't work, PR consultants wouldn't keep writing the letters, would they?

And I love GGR! "First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you're fired."

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Maybe Chris, but I don't think prospects are motivated much by a direct mail campaign. However, if you follow up the letter with a personal call, followed up by two free Leaf tickets, you might get a toe in the door! What am I saying! The way the Leafs are playing the door will slam in your face.

Leslie said...

If as they say luck is when opportunity and preparation meet, writing a letter is only a fraction of the equation. Effective preparation starts far in advance of a letter. It begins when you build your external brand, develop rapport and establish credibility with prospects or influencers. If you do that well, a letter is redundant. And if you burn bridges early, your letter becomes bird cage liner or worse. However, if you're in the middle, it may help... sometimes.

Sherrilynne said...

I guess the movie was right, coffee is for closers, and the firm in your example will be cranky in the caffeine fix.

I'm a fellow Canadian, but am living and working Far Far Away. Here's a client acquisition strategy I stumbled upon. Twice now, I've interviewed excellent candidates as potential account managers, but their price tag was out of my reach. Said candidates eventually moved somewhere with deeper pockets and brought us in as soon as they could. Makes paying for those high-priced recruitment ads a little more acceptable. :-)