Prospecting: Boiling the Ocean
This section is all about prospecting. And I think this is the lifeblood of a business. It is something that, maybe some of you don't use this term, maybe it's not the language that you're accustomed to, or maybe you and your partners don't talk about prospecting. I would hope that you know that we're not digging for gold. Well maybe we are, I think we are, actually. Okay, we are, we are digging for gold. We're digging for new client opportunities. And, I learned about prospecting in the most visceral, the most visceral way, and I'm not suggesting that you do this. But, my first, actually second, job out of school, I was doing biz dev at a very small agency, it was about five people, and my job was to pull in all the biggest local advertising accounts. This was in Washington, D.C. And so what your brain starts to do is go, well, how do I find out who those people are? Maybe this is obvious, maybe it's not. So how do you find out who are the biggest advertisers? Well, who advertises the...
most? Okay, so you look at the newspaper, you look at TV, you listen to radio. But that takes a lot of time. So what I did was, I set up multiple TIVOs and I recorded all the local broadcast channels, and I was the only person in the world skipping the programming to watch the advertising. Literally the only person doing that. And then I wrote a little script because the advertising pods on many channels are at the same times. So at minute eight, there's gonna be another commercial break. So I wrote a little script that cut out all the content, and dumped QuickTime files of those ads, and then later in the day I'd come into a folder and just look at 40 different commercials. I was, like, oh, it's a local Ford dealer, it's a local fitness club, it's this, this, and this, and this. And I'd do the same thing with radio. So I'd record the big sports station in that market. I'd record the big news station, a few others. And then I would clip out the rest of the audio and I listened to the spots. And that was my initial prospecting list. And I think I had 30 or 40 different potential clients that I wanted to call on to see if they might want to work with the agency that I was working with at the time. And we were doing media planning and buying, right. Our job was to buy TV and buy radio advertising. And so when I would call, let's say I called the local Ford dealer. I could say, oh, I noticed that you were advertising on these four stations in the local market, and based on what we understand, for the pricing of those spots, you're probably spending like 50-60 grand a month. We could probably buy the same amount of media for you for about 30. And they're like, really? If you can do it for 30, we're hiring you. And so in short order in the first two years, I won all the major advertising accounts in the D.C. market for that agency. And then I moved on, I went on to a bigger shop. So that's prospecting, that is a very visceral way that I learned what prospecting was. No one taught me that that was what you were supposed to do. So I can't teach you specifically like how to prospect for your own business. I think you have to think about the services you're offering, the possible clients that you want, the local market that you're in, all of those things. But I'm gonna go into sort of a few, a few broad buckets of prospecting approaches. I just described that one. I didn't lay it out in slides for you because it's a very weird esoteric one that likely is completely irrelevant in 2016 and beyond, in '17 and '18 and what have you. Most of you are not trying to pitch people running broadcast advertising. Or maybe you are. So, if you are, use that approach, it'll serve you well. The first big broad bucket of prospecting is called boil the ocean. You guys probably know this phrase. Maybe you don't, maybe you do, maybe you don't. Depending on, maybe, some of our friends out there on the Internet, who are, maybe you're in Europe, maybe you're in Asia, or even if you're from the U.S., boil the ocean means we don't fully, we don't know what's under there. We don't know where the clients, right, we don't know what's below the surface. Robin's nodding his head, he's like, no we don't. We do not know what is under there. So when we don't know what's under there, we need to boil that thing so it all floats to the top so we can pick it off. That's boil the ocean in a nutshell. So I'm gonna describe to you a few ways that we boiled the ocean in the onset and I will say boiling the ocean is both the most energy intensive activity. That's why it's a good analogy. Like really, how much energy, fire, heat, do you need to put into the ocean to make the thing boil? It's also, it's like a blunt instrument, which is kinda good 'cause you just kinda heat the thing up and then the stuff floats to the top, like oh, I'm gonna take that. Let's do this, right. So I'll describe to you how we boiled the ocean in the early days. And I don't mean this to be a cynical approach to the world. It might sound like it. So one of the ways that we boiled the ocean, I keep saying we, in the first year, again, it was just me, so I'm very caught up in the CEO mentality now with 80 employees and saying, we, we, we, and it's true. In the beginning, me, I said, you know, I don't really know who could have a problem that I might be able to solve, and in the process of solving that problem, do it profitably. I don't know who wants to hire us, basically. So how do I just bring a lot of, how do I bring a lot of people together in short order? So what I did was, and maybe this crosses over to another point I'll show later. What I do is I hosted a happy hour. This might sound simple, like, oh whatever. I thought I was tuning into an incredible course from a luminary on this subject and he says host a happy hour. Well, I realized at that point in time, this was about 2008, I was in Washington, D.C., and if for any of you who have seen the emerging sort of, generations of technology companies, you know there was like a generation in the '90s, right, and there was this bust that happened. Then we went into a recession, 9/11 happens, we got out of a recession in 2004, right, and by 2006 and '07, things are starting to pick up again before the financial crisis. So what I saw was in 2008 that the, I won't call them the older generation, but the veterans of the startup and technology business, had not yet mixed and mashed up with the new class. The young guns, the 20-somethings and 30-somethings. So the happy hour I hosted was called Twin Tech. So it was about these twin communities that needed to meet. And guess what? People wanted to meet each other. They want to network, they want to, the older crowd, right, older, the veterans. The veteran community, they had the money and the experience, and the young guns didn't have the money, didn't have the experience, but had the energy and the vision for new things, and so when you smash 'em together, new companies get created. So I host this happy hour, about 800 people came. The first one which is, it's a pretty big happy hour. The second one, two months later, 1,500 people came. The third one, like a month or two later, 2,200 people came. And I didn't spend a dollar. And my whole approach was, it's an open bar, unlimited amount of alcohol, only up to the point where all of you contribute through sponsorship to pay for it. If no one puts in a dollar, there's no free alcohol. If people put in 10 grand, we're drinking, we're taking 10 grand worth of booze. People love free beer, I'll tell you that. The two most powerful promotional marketing words in the world are free beer. Seriously, it is like the biggest lock up of two words you can imagine. Actually they say the most beautiful phrase is cellar door, I don't know. Free beer is more beautiful to me. So, I essentially got people to pay to market me as the boiler of this ocean. And so, throw these big events, everyone's going, oh my God, who is this guy? I don't know who he is. And then I look at his website, oh they do this, they have these services. Oh wow, I have just surfaced as somebody that may possibly want to work with this new company. And so I didn't know who I'd want to work with, I just wanted to serve, is a whole bunch of stuff, in very short order, and not pay for it. And that's how I did it. So I would encourage you to think about how can you do that in your own business? How can you do that in your own market? Now, mind you, if you look at it one way, it sounds very selfish. It sounds like it, oh, well Peter was just trying to get new clients, and it was a thinly veiled guise of community organizing to connect people to build new businesses. Okay, you can be cynical if you want or negative if you want. The reality is a lot of people met a lot of co-founders at those events, a lot of people found investors at those events. I found at least two or three employees that I ended up hiring over the years. We found many, many clients, which fueled my business, and hired more people, and then we paid more tax dollars, now we can buy schoolbooks. That's how it works, we bought a lot of schoolbooks over the years in D.C. So that's boiling the ocean. I would encourage the Internet audience to be thinking about questions for each of these sort of prospecting buckets as we go. So if you have any, Chris'll bring 'em up. And then the audience, do you guys have questions about boiling the ocean, 'cause I'll go to the next piece if not. Or we could loop back and all of 'em at the end. Lucky, go ahead.
What is the Internet version of boiling the ocean?
Yeah, the Internet version of boiling the ocean is what CreativeLive is doing right now, I think. Right? Think about it, this is a free live streaming course. I know that it sells for 60 bucks. I encouraged them to add two zeros and they just, they said no. (chuckling) So yeah, you bring a whole bunch of people together around, like, you can learn live and we don't know who's gonna buy the course, but maybe they eventually do. From the context of a service business, what I find to be boiling the ocean is probably related to content marketing. So you don't know, yeah, I mentioned in an earlier session, there is one blog post, and now it's a series of them, four or five that we've written over the years, about Facebook statistics and demographics, that has been easily read over a million times. And I don't know of those million people, like who's gonna hire us, but there's several people that have and several people that probably maybe they didn't hire us as our client, maybe they joined us as an employee. So I think content marketing is the online equivalent of boiling the ocean. It's like you put the thing out there, it reaches a big wide audience, and over time, that things float to the top, they funnel into opportunities.