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It’s (All) Personal

Here’s how I turned $19 and two hours into a contract worth half a million dollars.

Thousands of articles, opinion pieces, guides and whatnot deal with the great question of how you should market your business. Most will make a great first impression, only to continue with a pale array of clichés and culminate with highly general techniques that border on being overly shallow.

Once I tired of reading what essentially amounted to nothing, I put on my thinking cap and decided to fight the fog and pave my own path. Surprisingly, it even worked.

To help you understand a little better, let me tell you about the company I work at, that deals with new mobile gaming technology. Like every other company introducing a new product to the market, especially with respect to products designed for the B2B market, the entire subject of customer recruitment is a challenge.

The process is hectic and requires quite a bit. It begins when the salesperson finds a company that (they believe) would benefit from our product; a company we want to implement our technology into their daily operations. It continues via social media, deep dives through LinkedIn and into the profiles of specific decision-makers who can help us move towards forging this anticipated connection. Why LinkedIn and not any other social network? Because it’s no coincidence that 73% of salespeople around the world recount that through this channel, they were able to reach the majority of their customers. Later, tools are used to locate that specific decision-maker’s e-mail address. And that’s just the start. You’ll have to sit down to formulate an e-mail that you are certain will deal the ultimate blow, contain an interesting title (and emoji) to increase your e-mail open rates, a captivating opening and the perfect conclusion. You’ll press the “send” button knowing that that’s that; nothing will ever be the same again, and from now on, the person you e-mailed will view their life as before and after you entered it.

But then, a day passes and you’ve yet to receive a reply, and you’ve convinced yourself that it’s perfectly okay. After all, it’s only the beginning of the week. Two days pass, then three, then two weeks. You follow-up again and again, to no avail. Slowly but surely, you begin to understand that maybe you are part of the statistic that only 24.8% of deployed e-mails are truly ever opened. The script you wrote in your head was far more optimistic.

I refused to concede to being ignored. I prepared an organized list of people who work in companies that could benefit from our product and rewrote my “script” so it became far more personal.

How personal?

I took an envelope and labeled it “From the future,” because you wouldn’t want to receive a message from the future?! Inside I placed:

  • A pair of our company’s branded socks

  • A stamp with a QR code and scanning instructions

  • A box that, when opened, displays a photograph of the package’s recipient, and confetti to maximize the element of surprise.

All of my selections were made after considering that even if they could ignore me via e-mail, it would be far harder for them to ignore themselves, face-to-face.

What does this mean in numbers? When it comes to costs — Each package, including delivery, cost me about $19. I sent out 78 of these packages to different people around the world. Since I’d already experienced being ignored, I expected to be ignored yet again. I did not prepare myself for the possibility that out of all the people who received my packages, 61 of them would scan the code. Or, in layman terms — 61 new people were exposed to our technology. I caused them to step out of their boxes for just a moment and do something directly related to us. As for the other 17, I convinced myself that their boxes got lost in the mail, were sent to the wrong address, or that their recipients simply and elegantly ignored the future handed to them.

Of the 61 people who scanned the code, 7 contacted us. One even called to fire me, because I used an old photograph of them, but hey — they left it out in the world for me to use. I tried not to take it personally. After all, I wanted to grab their attention, and I succeeded (albeit with a bit of swearing).

That left us with 6 actual contacts, people who previously ignored us entirely and never took the time to open a single one of our e-mails, yet now, stopped their daily activities, scanned the code, visited our website, and left their contact details.

But, like any other significant life process, work vis-à-vis companies comes with its fair share of bureaucracy that infringes on seamless interfacing. After two months of negotiations with those companies, contract exchanges, budget concerns, human resource constraints, etc. 3 relevant companies remained. How relevant? After we signed work agreements with them, we reached a point where each one of them brought over half a million dollars to our company. Per quarter.

Like with any story that begins with uncertainty and ends with success, I can write some cliché that I may have known how I started this experiment, but had no idea how I’d finish it. I can also be honest enough to admit that what motivated me was a sense of helplessness in the face of being ignored by others. It is important to remember that throughout such a journey, it is better to receive a “no” than to receive no answer at all. My battle was not only against being ignored — it was much more. It was a battle against statistics that claim that just one percent (!) of all cold e-mails sent out are responded to, and that there’s a chance that if I would have known this tidbit before embarking upon my journey, I may never have set out on it at all. Rather, I would have been sucked into the fact that, at the end of the day, I am part of a majority.

I’ll avoid adhering to the generic phrase, “thinking outside of the box.” Instead, I’ll take it one step further and make it far more concrete. In a world that is so deeply immersed in the online space, what causes you to gain others’ true attention is actually found offline. There, behind the e-mail icon, you’ll find a person. Get to know and understand that person — do the hard work, gain as much information as possible about them, and you’ll find your initial encounter will be far easier, as will your establishing your future business relationships. We are all people who are motivated by emotion. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to ensure you arouse positive emotions in the person you wish to interact with.

By Sapir Dror.

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