Can cold calling ever be the way to a marketing director’s heart?

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At one point or another the role of Business Development will require you to undertake “cold calling”. With no prior contact, anyone working in Business Development will have to pick up the phone and try to solicit the interests of potential customers. It is a dirty term, and also a misleading one.

James Sansom, The Future Factory

When you hear the phrase “cold calling” it is too often thought of as a steady stream of uninformed scripted conversations wherein names and companies are swapped out, but the body of the argument remains the same. It recalls those phone calls you get at just the wrong moment. When making a phone call from an agency to a brand, that idea is ingrained in your psyche.

I am being a nuisance. They do not want to talk to me.

Cold calling from a creative or comms agency should have very different objective. Every call should serve to build awareness for your agency, showcase the agency’s creativity and ethos, and hopefully provide an opportunity to secure an exploratory meeting. Representing your agency, it is key to build an instant rapport with a contact. However, it’s important to remember that you aren’t selling yourself, you’re selling your agency and what they can do for that brand as well as what the person might stand to gain from meeting you.

When making initial contact, be it via a 'cold call' or an email, formality is often the standard approach. This is a mistake. You go through the motions, ticking off all the important information to convey. However in doing this, business developers run away from what makes our industry so unique – creativity!

Anyone client side will tell you they’re inundated with cold calls and emails day after day. Unless your agency has a genuine, clear point of difference, most agencies sound very similar. Here’s what we do [the same as your incumbent], and we’d like to get our hands on a brief. You need to make your approach different. You need to stand out. But how?

A few tips. Firstly, know who you are talking to. When calling a Marketing Director, see if they are quoted online, or have recently changed roles. Make the approach as personal to them as you can without making it sycophantic. Let them know, you’ve done your research, but haven’t stalked them.

Secondly, highlight what they have to gain from establishing a relationship with your agency. What is the trade press saying their brand’s ambitions are, and can you help? Being informed about where a brand stands in the wider market gives you an idea of what they will be thinking about.

Neither of the above tips is time consuming if you have Google. In a few minutes, you can have an understanding of who you are contacting, and even potentially an inkling of their brand challenges. Having this will help you make your approach more relevant, and you will have their attention for the right reasons. Business development is, in the end, about building a long-term working relationship with someone. A call can provide the first step into building that relationship. You just have to hope they pick up the phone when you dial.

James Sansom is business development manager at The Future Factory

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