Tag Archives: business development

Write Effective Pitch Letters to Grow Your Business

mailbox-planet-mailbox-rentalsOver the past 20 years, most of my firm’s new business has been generated by unsolicited pitch letters sent to targeted prospects. These brief, tailored messages – sent either by email or snail mail – have not only enabled us to maintain a consistent pipeline of clients; but more importantly, we’ve built a practice consisting of high-value companies and people that we wanted to work for. And we’ve never resorted to advertising, sponsorships or other expensive, low-yielding tactics to promote our brand or services.

The simple truth is that properly researched, well-crafted pitch letters are probably the most effective way for any type of professional services firm to build its client base and grow revenue. Unsolicited pitch letters, when they succeed, can also be an extremely effective way for your firm to avoid the RFP process…by anticipating their needs, you enable the targeted company to skip the beauty contest altogether.

Here are 5 of the many lessons that we’ve learned about how to use this powerful marketing tactic properly:

The Secret Sauce is NOT the Pitch Letter. For every pitch letter we send out, my firm invests at least an hour or two researching the target company. We review all of the target’ s public facing information to understand its value proposition, competitive landscape, leadership, reputation, marketing & sales sophistication and apparent resources. Our research goal is to identify either a specific problem or an opportunity where we think we can add value. Lacking this insight, you have no tangible basis for an effective pitch letter.

Your Pitch Letter Must be About Them, Not You. Your targeted decision-makers receive scores of pitch letters and phone solicitations from your competitors. Nearly all of those firms will mistakenly talk about themselves, and what they’ve done for their clients. But the only thing that’s of interest to prospects is what you can do for them. So you need to first let prospects know that you understand their problem / opportunity (because you’ve done proper research), and then offer to share your ideas on that topic. (Yes…you’ll need to have some ideas to offer.)

Grabbing Their Attention is Goal #1. Using email, your pitch letter will not be read unless you incent the target to open it. This is no easy task, given the volume of email most decision-makers receive every day. Your subject line should be serious, rather than cute or clever, and should generate some curiosity. Also try to mention the name of the target company in your subject line, so that it’s not discounted as a canned letter or mass mailing. You should also consider mailing a hard copy pitch letter, in addition to, or in lieu of an email pitch. These days, a hard copy letter is more likely to be noticed than an email.

Stop Selling and Start Listening. The only goal of your pitch letter is to start a conversation, ideally face-to-face. This is your opportunity to discuss the target’s issues and your ideas. Sometimes you’ll miss the mark, sometimes you will nail it, and sometimes they’ll have a need or problem that’s unrelated to the one you’ve identified. If you ask smart questions, take notes, and focus on understanding their business and personal circumstances (instead of seeking to walk out with a signed contract), you’ll establish the foundation for a relationship that might lead to revenue at some point.

View Selling as a Numbers Game. Timing is every in life, including business development. You can research a great target, identify their problem or opportunity, and be in a position to add value, but for 100 different reasons (unrelated to you or your pitch), the prospect is not willing, able or ready to engage you. So the only way you can address the random nature of sales is to increase the number of doors that you knock on. If you’re serious about leveraging the power of pitch letters, you’ll need to send them out on a consistent, disciplined basis. Think of your program simply as a long-term seed-sewing process, and shoot to send out 2-3 well researched pitch letters every week. Over time, you’ll see tangible results.

There are many more tactical aspects involved in the art of pitch letters – what content to include and avoid, which individual to solicit, what attachments to include, how to monitor and follow-up, etc. – to cover in a single blog post. But simply getting started, and establishing a pitch letter routine are the two most critical steps.

What’s presented here, combined with overcoming a fear of failure, is all you’ll need to get started on the path to building your business through pitch letters. Happy hunting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

B2B Marketing Strategies and Insights

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are You Wasting Money on Publicity?

The Value of Publicity is Based on 3 Key Factors

Every year, companies waste time, money and opportunity generating publicity that accomplishes little or nothing in terms of tangible business outcomes.

Here are a few hard truths regarding publicity:

  • Your audiences are unlikely to notice the exposure, or do anything about it.  Even with content shelf-life driven by intelligent SEO management, there is simply too much information, too many online and offline media sources, and too little time in the day for your customers, prospects and referral sources to read, see or hear your message. And if they do get your message, there’s often little motivation for them to act on it.
  • Publicity volume does not translate into business results.  A single high-value media placement that’s properly merchandised often has greater impact than a pile of press clippings. In fact, publicity for its own sake is often unfocused, with no connection to the company’s underlying value proposition or core messages; generating confusion and apathy among target audiences.
  • Some types of publicity have significantly greater marketing value than others. The old PR adage that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” may work for Lindsay Lohan, but it has no application for companies that care about their brand. To calculate the media placement value of various types of publicity (see chart above), Highlander Consulting uses three key criteria:
  1. BRAND RISK – If you have little control over how your company’s reputation or intellectual capital is presented – such as in a feature story where a reporter or editor will seek to produce “balanced coverage” by presenting negative items or including a competitor – then the publicity has inherent brand risk. (Value Scoring: +1 if you have total control over content; -1 if you have little or no control.)
  2. CREDIBILITY – Often called “masthead value,” this factor is based on how well the media source is recognized and respected. The potential value of the publicity is based in large measure on the underlying credibility of the source, because the exposure supplies an inherent 3rd party endorsement. (Value Scoring: +1 if the source has strong credibility; -1 if it has low credibility.)
  3. MERCHANDISING POTENTIAL – This often overlooked factor is sometimes mistakenly called “reprint value,” but Merchandising Potential encompasses far more, relating to how easily and how broadly the media exposure can be leveraged to support and drive specific marketing goals. Simply posting publicity on a website does not deliver a high ROI.  (Value Scoring: +1 if the publicity has a range of applications; -1 if it’s limited to one or two.)

Using this ranking methodology, and as reflected in the chart above , bylined articles and OpEd pieces published in credible sources typically deliver the highest marketing ROI; while inclusion (being mentioned or quoted) in a round-up news or feature story does not score well. Most home-grown efforts, such as self-published press releases, have very little value.

By using this formula, or a similar methodology, to evaluate the potential ROI of individual publicity tactics, and by building media and marketing strategies around only high-value activity,companies can consistently make the connection between publicity and tangible business results.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized