Business is all about connections, and when starting in business, forming those connections can be extremely difficult. For the conferences and expos I wanted to go to, a single ticket was over $800. Conferences and trade shows can be prohibitively expensive for many startups and entrepreneurs (like me), and when I got my start in the business world, I knew I had to find a way to do things differently.
I got the results I wanted and didn’t pay a penny.
Here are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned on my journey of forging connections with important CEO’s:
Lesson #1: Research Pays Off
Research the conferences you want to attend. Starting out, I realized that to get the leads and connections from the top marketing agencies in New York, I had to attend the New York Media Festival. Unfortunately, there was one problem – the ticket price was $800. Researching the festival, I found that there were opportunities for volunteering.
While my free labour was probably worth more than $800, I gain the opportunity to attend the conference for free, even getting into the hallowed “speakers room” – which allowed me to talk to the keynote speakers of the event. All the top CEO’s and managers were there and I eventually became responsible for the room, spending all of my time with the speakers. I asked them questions and got them interested in my new project. This is how I landed business with Carat USA, Starcom, Havas Worldwide, United Entertainment Group, Reason2Be, and other agencies.
Research your events, you might uncover hidden opportunities which can save you money and give your business the boost you need.
Lesson #2: Get All the Free Marketing You Can
If you are selling a service within the B2B (business-to-business) sphere, people love Whitepapers. They provide technological and practical expertise about the industry and keep people informed. LinkedIn is a great way to share your eBooks or Whitepapers, but make sure they aren’t too “preachy” about your product or service.
You can use this method to great effect. The more useful your content is, the better your results will be, so it’s worth establishing yourself as a thought-leader in your field if you want to receive inbound leads from key decision makers. Publishing a Whitepaper generally leads to bigger and better things for you and your company. For example, being invited to speak at a conference, which will generally win you even more key decision makers.
Lesson #3: Networking Events Are Ideal
Scouring websites like Eventbrite and Local Chambers of Commerce for events where you might find key decision makers can give you a big leg up on the competition. While at many of these events you might not get to speak with the top CEO’s, you will definitely be able to land some deals and get some handy contacts.
Breakfast networking events are particularly popular with CEO’s, and are often combined with briefing events. These are not only great for producing leads, but will also bring you up to date with current market events, which help you greatly in the future.
Lesson #4: Media Coverage is Unparalleled Exposure
Journalists are always hungry for a scoop, and if you can give them a story you will get some free advertising. Try to get into the publications you think your clients are reading, as it will generate you more leads that way. Talking with a journalist personally and providing a story tailored to their needs is a win-win for both parties, so don’t be shy of going full force with this tactic. Also, take advantage of the season and generic holidays such as Christmas. If you don’t have much of a story, you can use the time of the year to frame your business into a story.
Lesson #5: E-Mails Actually Work
People often think that key decision makers and CEO’s will not read your messages and letters. Don’t be one of these people! I have had great success using LinkedIn and websites like Hunter to personally contact CEO’s. Spend a little time compiling a compelling email, and you’ll be seeing the results in no time. Make sure that your title draws the reader in, ensuring that it doesn’t look like spam. Use this as an opportunity to show off your knowledge in the sector, taking the tip from Whitepapers and offering some knowledge.
Keep your main message short – no more than 5-6 sentences in total with the number of words being no more than 50. Have one sentence to say who you are and what you do, one to say why you are e-mailing, two sentences to say how you can help, one to mention case studies and current clients, and one for your actionable next step (this is normally a meeting, outline what you want to do with them next in one sentence).
Lesson #6: Harness the Power of Infographics
Just like Whitepapers, it pays to be useful. Thanks to LinkedIn’s broken algorithm, infographics on the platform get a huge amount of traffic due to how likes are interpreted. This means that you can reach a huge number of professionals in your field with just one infographic. Your infographics must be useful and interesting, otherwise people will not engage with them. Put your infographics where people will see them and share them with others.
Lesson #7: Referrals Do the Work for You
Ask your customers to tell their friends about you! Encouraging referrals is a great way to win new business, as your customer has already gone through most of the sales process with them leaving you just to close the deal. I constantly try to build my business using this method. If I know my clients are happy, asking them to refer other potential customers lets them do a lot of the work for you. In my personal case, this has been one of the best ways in finding new business for my company, and it’s certainly one of the easiest.
There are many ways to get CEO’s and key decision makers to talk with you and this list is far from definitive. As entrepreneurs and business people, we need to explore exciting and innovative ways to win new business, and when we are starting up we might need to find ways to use the resources we have well. By following these tips, you will be able to build an incoming channel of leads from qualified decision makers.
These tips show that you don’t always need to spend a large amount of money to get new leads, although you always need to give something, whether it’s time or knowledge. We all journey within business, and often the most valuable resource to other entrepreneurs and businesspeople is knowledge. Share what you know, and it will help bring you new business.