October 20, 2016 Heather James

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

It’s a competitive world out there. It’s more difficult than ever to make first impressions memorable, especially when your potential new business targets are already being pitched by multiple agencies and vendors. How do you get their attention, and build a relationship that turns into a business opportunity? The key is to be strategic about the entire process of acquiring new business leads. This means absolutely no “cold calls.” Building a new business contact is a lot like building a bridge. You need to have a strategy in place–who you will reach out to, how you will reach out to them, and the steps you will take to build and cross the bridge.

Find a Location for your Bridge (Select your Target)– The first order of business: who do you want to contact? If you don’t have a particular person in mind, what companies do you have on your list? Be strategic about the people you choose to pitch. If at all possible, they should be decision-makers in the departments where you can offer your services (for PR companies, this is typically PR/marketing/communications, training, market research, or pitching directly to members of the company’s executive team). Also, you should have some kind of connection to the person- either you have been in communication with them before, or you know someone who can introduce you.

Gather your Materials (Research)– The next step is to research the company/individual(s) you want to reach. Find out more about their background and specialty areas. LinkedIn profiles, if available, are great for this purpose. Also, take some time to research the company. Check the website and all their social media channels to pinpoint areas where you may be able to offer your services. Read any press releases the company has put out recently so you know about current communications. Finally, check for recent news stories that may involve the company in case there have been any recent crisis situations, changes in management, or mergers/acquisitions that could affect your pitch.

Design your Bridge (Outreach Plan)– Now that you know the people you want to contact, find out how to contact them. The best new business targets are people who you have communicated with before or those with whom you share a mutual friend or business associate (see “Select your Target” above). Success is much higher than in circumstances where your targeted contact is a complete stranger. Ask for an introduction from a mutual acquaintance, or if you’ve communicated with them in the past, either email or call to reacquaint them with your services. If reaching out to a stranger can’t be avoided, start with a written communication (either email or letter) and then follow-up with a phone call a few days later. Some people also respond to LinkedIn messages, even if they don’t usually respond to email pitches.

Build your Bridge (Set the Meeting)– Once you’ve made contact with your new business target, use some of the knowledge you collected during your research to help with your initial pitch. Mention the press releases and news stories you’ve read, how you’ve researched their website and social media channels, and talk about a specific service of yours that may be useful for them. Offer to present your capabilities and request a date for a meeting.

Walk Across your Bridge (Get the Business)– Since you’ve done your research and thought about new business strategically, the final step is to get the business. Meet your contact in person and try to create rapport right off the bat. Present your capabilities, starting with options that you think may be most useful to them. Also, ask a lot of questions! The more you know about them, the better. Learn about their audiences, how they communicate both internally and externally, how they handle social media, how they determine when to hire outside consultants, and so on. This will help you tailor your pitch to their needs.

Finally, remember to stay in touch with your new contact. New business relationships require regular check-ins so you stay top-of-mind when opportunities come up. If you’re able to secure a project, you can leverage those new relationships to meet more people inside the company. And, keep in mind that all of these contacts may know people at other companies on your target list. In that case, begin the process of “building your bridge” again, and select your new targets for outreach.

How do you go about finding new business connections? Share with us at www.vandivergroup.com


Tagged: , , ,