Clinic: How can we improve outreach?

We get experts to give practical advice to a business founder with a tricky problem. This week, Cameron Epstein, co-founder of Inhabit asks for advice on how to get through to customers.
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‘Inhabit is aiming to provide a subscription service for people and companies who want to live more sustainably. We’re trying to improve our B2B model by contacting relevant businesses so we can find out what they’re looking for, but we’re struggling to make headway through cold calls and unsolicited emails.'

How can we get through?

Stephen Allott, venture partner at European seed fund Seedcamp, and a scale-up expert based in London. 

‘There are two parts to the question. Picking the right brands to target and then getting through to them. Define the parameters of the right brands and create an initial target list of 100 targets with which to experiment. The parameters could be type of product, company size, public position on the environment, and ownership. This is the ‘ideal customer profile’, and this initial target segment should be one where your offer is attractive and you already have some customer traction. 

‘Smaller is better than larger, so you can reach critical mass faster but make sure the segment is very high growth. You will grow with it. They should have short buying cycles and be willing to buy from new entrants. 

‘Then you have to get through. Use LinkedIn, identify the job titles and names of potential targets. Research each target and handcraft a personal email with a strong subject line. This will get up to 10 times the response of copy and paste. Make the call to action about education, not a sales meeting or a research call. 

‘Invite the target to an educational seminar to hear one of your customers tell their story. Try to do it over breakfast or drinks in a unique venue. Prospects will find that hard to resist as meeting their peers is a draw on top of the talk.’

Stuart Arsenault, co-founder of Junip, a product-reviewing app for retail and e-commerce brands based in Ontario.

‘At Junip, we initially used our previous e-commerce experience to reach out to brands offering personalised recommendations and then asked for some insight on our product. There are countless creative ways to add value, it just takes a little time. 

‘A bit more subtly, I would do outreach with my personal Gmail. Sometimes I’d explicitly say, “I have nothing to sell”. I wanted to seem like the scrappy person trying to find their way, which I was. People like helping people, if you provide value and it’s abundantly clear you have nothing to sell you’re a lot more likely to catch their attention.

‘When I managed to get their attention, it was key to start small with the ask. A question like, “Have you considered carbon offsets for your business”, is huge and difficult to answer. For us a good start was, “Is there one thing you dislike about your current review vendor?” Sometimes we would switch it up to: “Tell us one thing you like”, or “One thing you wish you could do with [your current vendor].”

‘This helped us get quick likes, dislikes and dreams, but it also identified the people passionate about the issue. The folks who wrote back paragraphs instead of a sentence became those who we built relationships with, continued to get more feedback from and who ultimately became our early adopters.’

Find more useful advice to help your business.

This article was first published in Courier Issue 34, April/May 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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