Thursday, April 13, 2006

2 Prospecting Tips for Creative Pros - Finding Shiny Nuggets, and Doubling Your Searches

You know the old phrase, "Learn by doing?" I'm currently doing so much learning in my doing (though I'm not sure how well it's doing), that my learning by doing is learning new ways of doing!

Say THAT ten times fast.

On second thought, don't. Wouldn't want anyone to lean out of their cubicle to look at you, now would we?

I've been prospecting like crazy for the past few weeks. I like to think my performance has gotten better in the interim. My approach has modified itself several times, as have my research methods. To that end, I'd like to share two little tips I've found that help me zero in on target companies and contact names.

Finding Shiny Nuggets - Using "Careers" Pages to Find Contacts

Now, when prospecting, it's ideal to have the name of your contact. Looks more personal and friendly to send an email straight to "Karen, Marketing Director" instead of "Attn: Marketing Director" at a general inbox. But how do you find the name? How do you even know which title the company uses for the type of contact you need?

Here's one way I've found. On many websites for companies over, say, 10 people, I've found Careers pages. They list available jobs locally, the search engines index the site, the job engines search the index. Simple (and pretty effective) job search SEO.

In those Career listings are gold nuggets - contact names and position titles. You can look for positions similar to your own function (if you're a consultant) and see who supervises that position. That's your contact.

Let's say I'm a copywriter calling to talk with a marketing director (Gee, that sounds familiar...). What's this? The Careers page lists a Marketing Assistant. Not exactly what I'd be doing, but it's close. Someone named Mark Cox is listed as the supervisor for this Assistant position. That's who I'll want to market myself to - not for the Marketing Assistant job, but for my copywriting. Same department, and he's obviously the decision-maker.

Sometimes the supervisor isn't listed on a job ad. That's okay - the About Us page can help. If a site uses one (if they don't, and there IS a careers page, they've got some skewed priorities), they'll list positions like Director of Marketing, Sales Director, VP of Marketing, Communications Manager/VP, etc. One 15-second scrolldown, and you should have a targeted contact name you can ask for.

Double Your Contacts, Double Your Search - Google's Similar Pages Function
I'm in the habit of checking a company's website before I call them (if they don't have a site, that becomes the reason for my call). Sometimes I find a needed contact name that way. Sometimes it tells me I shouldn't call them, because it'd be a waste of time.

Speaking of wasted time, how much do you think you waste plowing through Google, running search after search to find more prospects, slogging through page after page to gather up enough names for a decent list? (It's probably less than an hour, but hey, I need every second!)

In case you do too (right, who doesn't), here's a quick one. Say you want to target PR firms. You type something like "pr firm California" into Google. Quite a long list there. No time to pick out the prospects. What do you do?

Look at the first relevant response you come across. An individual firm's website, for example. On the bottom line, there's a link: "Similar Pages." Click it. It runs another search through the existing query, cutting out most of the excess and delivering a shorter, cleaner list of prospects. 9 times out of 10 when I do this, the new list is almost 100% individual firms that I could prospect to.

Yahoo and MSN don't offer a Similar Pages link on the list itself. Alexa does, but you have to click on the company's Alexa link first. Then you'll find "Related Link," which brings up similar sites. Either way, you'll save a lot of time making the search engine clean up its own list for you, and get prospects all lined up to boot.

Hope these tips help you in your prospecting, fellow creatives! And remember, do learning.
No, wait, that's not right.
Oh, forget it.



At 5:55 PM , Blogger Mary Kaye said...


I'm building a prospect list now for my copywriting business; I really appreciate this blog and the one on Google Local. (Yes, I'm a Mastermind Marketing member -- MMM). Thanks to you, I now have a list of over 4,000 sofware companies in the area I can pick through.

Also, can you later reveal what you mean by this:

"Sometimes it tells me I shouldn't call them, because it'd be a waste of time."

This Web site peruser wants to know.

~Mary Kaye

At 9:21 PM , Blogger Blue Ferret said...


Thanks for the comment! Always glad to know someone's reading this drivel.

What I mean by a waste of time is that the company in question would be a bad client to work with, would be a very hard sell, or has no need for a freelancer.

It's mostly intuition, the company being in an industry I don't work with, or showing indications of not caring about writing at all. Nowhere near an exact science, but I've learned to trust my gut when it comes to qualifying leads this way.

Hope that cleared up some confusion.


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