... This is an article just for you! On any given day I receive a handful of offers for outsourcing services - whether it be BIM modelling, visualization, web design or kangaroo wrangling. I've decided to put an article together to help spread some heartfelt advice for the many more I'll no doubt hear from in future!
Before I begin diving into this article I want to point out that I do not have an issue with outsourcing - I respect the tenacity of a good hustle and how much work it can take to land a client, especially in increasingly competitive times. The outsourcing business has been a godsend for some companies looking to displace their technical divisions and spending - it just requires the right consultant for the right client.
Whilst I respect the general intent of outsourcing, the same cannot always be said for its typical marketing tactics (or as I'd call them, mistakes). I decided it would be beneficial for me to break down the advice I give outsourcing firms on a daily basis, rather than repeating myself to each individual (plus I can just share this article if I'm too busy - and so can others!). I'd like to note that I've never used outsourcing services - and I'm not sure when/if I ever will.
Without further ado, here are my tips for getting a better result when you engage a potential client for outsourced work (and it may give you an idea of why this article was shared with you specifically).
Indicate your intent in your connection request
Having reached just over 6000 connections on LinkedIn, I can spot lurking outsourcing requests a mile away. If it wasn't for fear of rejecting a potentially genuine connection I would likely ignore many of these, however I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.
The outsourcers I actively engage with usually include a brief introduction to their business and their intent in their initial request. Yes, you will receive less cold call opportunities - but marketing shouldn't be a game of numbers. You will waste less of our time, and less of yours ultimately. Win/win.
Use our name somewhere in your opener
There is nothing more dull than receiving an offer beginning with 'Dear sir/madam'. I'm speaking explicitly here - this is more often than not the actual greeting I receive. If you cannot take the time to determine my name, let alone whether I am likely to identify as a specific gender, then it is unlikely I will return anymore effort in my response - in fact I will likely use just 4 clicks from this point:
Click on your profile picture
Remove you as a connection
Block your profile
By using a potential client's name in your opener they can see that you have taken some time in your approach to identify something unique about them. Attention to detail is critical in AEC related projects - as is it in your marketing hence.
Do not ask us where we live
For some reason, this is one of the most common first questions I receive in discussions with outsourcers. This information is 1 click away from our discussion on our profiles (in most cases).
If an outsourcer has to ask me where I live and/or work, it does not give me confidence that they approached me because they have a specific understanding of my market and its requirements - local context is crucial to how we work. We wear the entire risk of work we choose to outsource, so giving us a bit of confidence that you understand our market goes a long way.
Don't say the C-19 word
I expect I speak for most of us when I say we're all tired of experiencing and hearing about this blight on our working and personal lives. Many people are affected by this awful event on a personal level, hence it is not an appropriate topic to discuss with a stranger.
Having said that, I wont give anymore airtime to it myself.
Message pacing and scale
Sometimes I can feel an outsourcer connect with me on LinkedIn from within my pocket. The buzz of a notification, followed by a telltale barrage of further notifications in quick succession. Write your opener as you would write an email to a colleague - efficient and to the point, and ideally just one message. We're not on Facebook (I think... LinkedIn is a having a bit of an identity crisis these days).
On the flip side, make sure your introduction is short and captures your intent as briefly as possible. If I'm not intrigued at paragraph 1, there is little chance I'll be reading much further beyond that. Likewise, if the message fills an entire browser it probably won't be read.
Effective business is all about doing more with less - words are cheap, time is dear.
Skip most of the pleasantries
"Hello Sir" "How are you?" "How is the weather?" "Where are you from?" "How is Covid going?" "Anyway, I was messaging because..."
"Urgh"... Many discussions with outsourcers begin in this manner. We're not catching up after the weekend in the lunch room - we're talking business here! Whilst I always appreciate good manners, a drawn out conversation is unnecessary - make your intent clear as early as possible in your approach.
The unlikely warm and fuzzy feelings our banter may generate have no direct correlation to the likelihood of my generating anything more profitable for you than gambling with your colleagues on the weather in Australia.
Get a website, bin the brochures
It's been 30 years since the dot com bubble subsided, web domains are cheaper than they have ever been - there is no excuse for a business specializing in digital services not to exist on the web in some form.
This is my first screening query for any outsourcer I speak with, and it's a shame to see that many of them still fail at this simple hurdle. Websites offer the client a public window into your business - whether it be in relation to your work or your team. What your website tells the public ultimately serves to validate what you tell us privately.
A brochure is not a replacement for a website, in fact it is a negative experience to provide your potential client with. A brochure (usually in .pdf format) must be downloaded, virus scanned and inevitably deleted from our downloads. As well as this, you are far more constrained by the limits of file size and potential client patience.
Ultimately, you must ask yourself how not having a website reflects on your your business. To me, a business without a website appears as unprepared, unsuccessful and unwilling to invest in itself. Appearances are everything.
No means no, yes?
I would hazard a guess that the percentage of consulting projects won through begging or nagging is pretty close to zero. Having run my own consulting business since February, I know the frustrating feeling of a cold or dead lead. At the same time, I've learnt that the best thing to do once a lead goes cold is to move on - time is money.
Better to have a conversation go cold than end in a block. It's your choice!
Proof read your messages
Last week I had an outsourcer contact me in regards to GIS services. They assured me in paragraph 9 of 10 that they have a strict and thorough quality management team that is involved in every project. I didn't actually read paragraphs 1 through to 8, I just read the first line and searched for the paragraph with the most irony in relation to its mistake.
The message was addressed to someone else!
I searched for the name they used on LinkedIn, and sure enough it was another professional involved in the industry. Put this in a professional context - what if you shared some client material with the wrong client in your database? That's a lawsuit just waiting to happen (although I highly doubt I'd ever be told about it). In this case, the outsourcer shot themselves in the foot from line 1 - but they were memorable I guess.
Proof read carefully to see if you any words out.
Keep your pitch relevant to the lead
You know a market is saturated when the consultants market themselves to the consultants! I would have expected that I'm one of the least likely leads to generate work in an outsourcers marketing process - my clients outsource to me already as it is.
Beyond this conundrum, I notice that many outsourcers fail to realize the scale or services of their leads' businesses. I've noticed a significant rise in visualization offers as of late, where the pitches typically address me as the owner of an architectural practice. In context of my business model, this couldn't be more misguided. Scan to BIM offers are also increasing by the day, despite the obvious challenge of having a local site scanned from overseas.
Try to gauge what type of needs your leads are likely to have of your services, and I guarantee you will find more luck in your marketing efforts.
Ultimately, the theme I hope you've picked up on throughout these suggestions is that a little bit of effort goes a long way. Try to make that cold call just a little bit less chilly for your potential client next time.
And please, don't take this as an open invitation to cold call me on LinkedIn (unless you think you have something to offer my business of course). I can, and will send you this article otherwise.
Work hard, market smarter.
- Gavin Crump @BIM Guru