Entries Tagged as 'networking'

are your voice-over prospects dead?

Peter K. O'Connell Google Contacts

If you’ve worked with any prospect or client database for any period of time, it will happen to you. Through a phone call, a direct mail or an email blast that you’ve done, you find out one of your prospects has died.

Worse, they’ve been dead for a while but because you hadn’t reached out to them in much more than an automatic (read: email blast way) you didn’t know.

You didn’t kill them but you feel like crap about it anyway for a number of reasons. Maybe it shook you a bit. OK, take the day, do something else at the office. Come back to prospecting tomorrow.

And when tomorrow comes, learn the lessons.

One lesson is that if someone is a TRUE prospect, you should try and call them a few times a year. Be a real person on the phone (not salesy), chat and talk a little business. Keep them on your prospect/client list if there’s an opportunity and pull them off the list if there is not. Also pull them off if you can never get through or if they never call you back. Or put them on a secondary (not prime) list if you don’t want to give up on them completely.

The other lesson, the one that requires more physical work for you, is that it’s probably time to clean up your database of prospects and clients.

I know this to be a valuable exercise because I just finished doing it.

No, a death didn’t trigger the clean up. It did, however, make an eye-catching headline (gotcha) and yes, I actually have been through that “death” experience with a few prospects (it’s bound to happen to every business person). It was awkward and I survived.

What caused me to go through all my voice-over prospects were the results of my voice-over email marketing campaigns and some voice-over direct mail campaigns I did in 2015. What I knew in my head before all that was that it had been a while (read: years) since I did a thorough scrubbing of my list. I tried to do some work on it but it wasn’t enough.

Also, let me be clear, I am well aware that it is the quality of the list and not the quantity that makes it valuable. I’m not saying I always “lived it” but I know it.

It is a lot of tedious work to purge as you are looking at every name on your lists. For me, that totaled easily over 4,000 contacts (leads, clients, voice talents, family, friends, etc.)

I knew there were going to be some “corpses” in there – some that were still alive but were dead to me, in a business context.

Studying data results (most easily done, in this context, via email blast results included in most email programs) showed me that a lot of people were not opening my voice-over business emails. Now, there are many reasons for that (like spam filters). I also know that some people HAD opened my emails but it didn’t register as having been opened (ah, technology). Ultimately, the numbers were enough of an indication to me that I needed to look through the data and purge.

In my case, I use two primary tools for coordinating prospects: Google Contacts and LinkedIn. Google Contacts is a free address book (and or Customer Relationship Manager if you want to be all fancy pants about it). In it are the contacts I have had since the beginning of time (importing them to Google Contacts when that became my tool). LinkedIn started in 2002 and I remember hopping on around 2005 or ’06; LinkedIn lets connected members download each other’s emails. My profile clearly states I will be communicating with my connections via email (and it is not terribly frequently).

Time gets away from all of us. While we are seemingly always busy gathering prospects and client information, it is a more rare occasion when any of us purge it. While not hoarders, there is definitely some cleaning up we all need to do.

And so I began.

I looked at each individually exported list (Google Contacts and LinkedIn). I also compared those lists to those email addresses that had bounced, opted out or otherwise failed from my email blast system. It was a lot of checking and cross checking, then updating or (mostly) deleting.

What I discovered in my voice-over database probably won’t surprise you but it still agitated me…

• There were prospects from easily 10 years ago who I had long forgotten about…some of who’s businesses had even closed (they aren’t prospects anymore); same with some really old one-time only clients
• When I first joined LinkedIn, likely not understanding it and not having a business plan for it at that time, I connected with a lot (A LOT) of people for no good reason other than to build connections —those folks are gone from my connections now
• Google Mail will create contacts for folks you may only briefly email in something called “Other Contacts”; evidently it was a few (many) years before I got that memo and noticed that option (more deletions)
• You and likely only you can do this task as the voice-over business owner because only you know who to keep and who to toss – this job cannot be delegated and done effectively
• Tedious and tiresome as it is to do, the result of your focused efforts to manage your prospect and contact lists will pay off in your future marketing efforts

Between my two main sources, I deleted or updated over 1,200 contacts (yes, one by one). Besides feeling lighter and less stupid (or stupid to a lesser degree) what, if any, outcomes came from this exercise?

Well, here what I have found in only the past 2-3 weeks since I completed the chore:

audioconnell email blast study

• In November, 2015 I sent out an email blast to 2,749 prospects and clients (excluding all voice talents, family members and other non prospect/client related people)
• Overall, I had an open rate of 28.3%
• I had a “unique viewer” click through rate (people clicking on a link to read something) of 11.31%
• I had 88 bounced emails (even though I “thought” I was keeping up with deletions after every email blast)

• In February, 2015 with my purged and updated list, I sent out an email blast to 1,547 prospects and clients (same exclusions) (-1,202 contacts)
• Overall, I had an open rate of 35.4% (+7.1%)
• I had a “unique viewer” click through rate of 12.4% (+1.1%)
• I had 15 bounced emails (almost 6x fewer)

Taking into account, within this imperfect science, that the two blasts had different content, were sent at different times of the year and different times of day, the numbers are improved. They’d HAVE to improve considering I was carrying so much “dead” prospect weight. Worse, the numbers I’d previously studied were inaccurate. Because I didn’t properly manage my database, I was not managing my business as effectively as I could have. Advice: don’t be me.

There are other steps and plans that I can take with this renewed focus on database management. If I choose to target certain media business categories, there’s no reason I can’t pull them up from Google Contacts and LinkedIn, update the addresses (or lookup and add addresses in the case of LinkedIn) and do some better-targeted marketing.

I need to get on the phone to these folks more.

Finally, I need to try and make it a priority to more regularly edit, update and purge my database. It’s hard to keep up with it but I need to make an effort.

You’ve read about my mistakes here because I know you made some of them too, maybe more. You don’t have to write about your mistakes but I sure hope you can learn from mine. It’s not the end of the world for me or you, just another step in the voice-over journey.

I hope this helps.

two voice-over jobs i never would have gotten if I didn’t go to high school

Canisius High School

My parents were kind enough to send me to a good high school. Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY

But it was high school mostly know for pumping out future lawyers and doctors and CPA’s and other folks who contribute to society. This was not a school that was known for it’s media graduates who went on to be voice-over talents (was that even a job), video producers or radio production directors. The lone notable media exceptions being Tim Russert (but I believe he sort of slipped into media having graduated with a law degree) and comedian Mark Russell (but come on, he’s a comedian for goodness sake 😉

When I went there, the school did have a Media Production Center but the school didn’t really know what to do with it (the excellent teacher of the Media Center went on to join me as co-owner of a media production company after I graduated college and was a groomsman at my wedding)

With so little focus paid to media at the high school, you can imagine the school’s surprise in 1981 when I approached them about getting credits for a radio internship I fell into at a local radio station. No one had ever done that. And I helped put together a school radio station too….that evidently died after I graduated. But no, I did not have a pocket protector or tape holding my glasses together…most days.

For the longest time, I thought I was pretty much the lone media geek out of a class of about 150+ guys. Upon recent reflection, it turns out I was rather myopic in that thinking.

There were other media geeks who graduated in my class (friends then and friends now) and I’ve been now fortunate enough to work professionally with both of them! That realization simply makes me happy and I’m not sure why but who cares why. I need to enjoy happy, not analyze it!

After I came back from college at the University of Dayton (working in radio there while in school), I was surprised to find my friend Matt Young had gotten an on-air job in Buffalo radio. He sounded great and has worked pretty steady in radio ever since…in Buffalo, now as a station production director. In the past couple of years we’ve gotten to work on a radio campaign (I think it was only one series of spots but I can’t even remember who the client was — that happens in the VO business sometimes as the clients roll through).

Then this week, another talented media geek from my class – Phil Wnuk contacted me from the successful communication company he works for in Chicago saying he needed some voice-over work done and could I help him with that. Heck yea, no problem. Here’s how that project turned out:

How Design Phase is “Making Retail Fun” from Roark, Pirsig & Dobie on Vimeo.

All this reflection has just made me appreciate a couple of things. First it’s nice that some non-lawyer types succeeded out of my high school and occassionally get to work together. Second, be aware of all the unique connections you can make in life – or have already made, even in high school – and to try and remember to never (even today) to take any of them for granted.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

Thanks fellas.

helpful tips to start a networking conversation

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Often times when people ask me about marketing, a discussion begins about attending networking events.

And at least a third of the time, someone complains about how awkward they feel going to events with people they don’t know to talk about a service (theirs) that the think no one wants to hear about.

If their attitude is everything then failure for these folks is imminent. Abort, Abort!

Look, I get that for some people, handling networking events is somehow intrinsically easier than for others. However, as an avid networker, I will add that I cannot read music or speak any other language besides English. Point being: we all have our strengths and if we put our minds to it, we can probably play a song or “sprechen sie deutsche.” Same thing with networking.

Sometimes, though, when people are uncomfortable with tasks like networking, a couple tricks can help ease the awkwardness. So when I saw this article from Fox Business News, I knew I wanted to share it with my friends in voice-over who aren’t always fans of business networking.

Some are going to equate these ideas with pick-up lines at a singles bar – but I don’t (and not because I ever used pick-up lines at singles bars…never knew where those bars were or what the lines were either).

Just read the article, give the content some thought and maybe customize them for yourself. It may be the beginning of a profitable conversation that you otherwise never thought you could start.

Good luck, I hope this helps.

networking is about listening

hands

Because I have kids now, I don’t attend nearly as many networking events as I once did. But there is real short-term and long-term benefits to attending business-focused networking events, no matter what the count.

I also once played putt-putt with my son, his friend and his friend’s father, which resulted in new business from the other Dad. So networking isn’t always related to business focused events.

People have told me that networking events are easy for me, because of my personality. While I think there is something to that (shy people don’t initiate conversations very often) I also think there are some basic tenets to business networking that I have learned over the past two centuries (see what I did there?) that can work for anyone – even voice-over talents.

Listen – If you want to offer the best non-verbal cue to another person that you are focused on what they are talking about, that you are engaged in the conversation, be an attentive listener. Another what of saying this is: don’t talk too much. Listening is the most important sales tool ever. Ever. Period. OK? Good

Don’t Sell – Networking events are not a sales call. Have a conversation – ask THEM questions about THEM. If they ask what you do, have a few thoughtful, impactful sentences to say about your business and some examples how it helps business (maybe like theirs – maybe apply a story you just heard them tell you about an aspect of their business) and leave it there. If you’ve done it right, THEM will ask YOU some follow up questions. You’ll be having a conversation.

Share – Be open to giving you insights on business issues (not politics, not religion) – keeping it all conversational. But don’t come cross as a know it all. And don’t try to impress…that just comes across as phony.

Be Real – and speaking of phony, don’t be. You probably aren’t and wouldn’t be but but when folks get in business situations, they can get nervous and try too hard, if you know what I mean. So as a rule of thumb, remember this “friends prefer to do business with friends.” So in business networking, be friendly.

LinkedIn…you are so NOT premium

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Dear LinkedIn,

How kind of you to contact me, your loyal member (your words not mine) to offer me in your email two free months of LinkedIn Premium!

Thank you!

Um, but wait, it seems for this FREE opportunity you want me to give you a credit card number. Specifically MY credit card number. This confuses me.

See, in my country, free is actually free meaning no financial transaction takes place. If the service is free then no money or credit card is needed.

I have the card and I could pay the fee but I don’t know whether I see the value. This is why I’d be willing to try it for free for 2 months.

I’m assuming you want to take my card information so that after the 60 days of free use is over, on the 61st day you can begin charging my card the $40/month LinkedIn premium fee. I say assumed because after you asked for the card, I stopped the process.

I had a credibility gut check on you, LinkedIn. I started to doubt you…I never thought that way about you before.

As a “loyal member” (remember?), couldn’t we trust each other enough that you would pull the plug on the free option on Day 61 unless I contact you (LinkedIn) and said sign me up?

Come on, we’ve been together going on 8 years. I’m loyal, you said it yourself. What’s the need for a free trial with credit card?

That credit card number thing sounds a bit too siding salesman or used car salesman to me. It seems well beneath what I perceive (perceived) the LinkedIn brand to be about.

But hey, LinkedIn, you have over 187 million members (I’m not sure how many of them are “loyal” like me) so you must know what you are doing.

I’m going to pass on the introduction to your so called free trial for your LinkedIn Premium service right now. It just doesn’t feel very premium to me.

And to be honest, neither does your brand at the moment.

Your loyal member,
– Peter

the oversharing voice talent

audio'connell voice over talent_microphone on stage

There are two or three voiceover coaches who post so much on Facebook, Voiceover Universe and Twitter et al about their latest seminars in Tupelo, Mississippi or where ever that I’ve simply unfriended them. Social media for them is an endless informercial, I guess.

Oy.

Evidently so many voice talents have sooo much new business – based on all the Facebinkedinwitter posts I read from them – that there may be no voice over jobs left for me (or you for that matter) so we all should just quit. It’s like an accountant in April posting “I just completed another tax return!” Um, pal, that what you’re supposed to do.

The debate over the best microphone has become so intense that two voiceover talents will duel to the death tomorrow morning– their weapons of choice will be a Neumann TLM 103 and a Sennheiser 416. It begs the question if two voice over talents die in the forest, who will announce it?

And it will surprise you to learn that voxmarketising is NOT the only blog on the topic of voiceover – at last count there were 14 billion voice over blogs, all of them debating whether breaths should or should not be edited out of narrations.

Obviously I’m being silly but the truth is: in the voiceover business, we talk a lot.

When it’s not on mic, it’s on line.

The trouble is we’re ALL talking about the same things…over and over. And I think I’m getting burnt out.

That’s a bad thing because while I thought I was contributing to the conversation, I wondering now if I’ve simply been contributing to the noise.

Paul Strikwerda, my Double Dutch voiceover friend, recently wrote about this issue, which I have been bandying about in my head for a while. He’s felt tad bored by what he’s read.

My concern is not that I’m bored (I know how to fix that – change the channel, hit the off switch) but rather that I’m the one being boring. I’ve actually cut back a bit on my social media and blogging because I didn’t feel I had anything interesting to contribute. I’m not sure “my perspective” is always enough.

Thinking about it that way made me feel a little better because at least I was thinking before typing. I think when it comes to Social Media, that’s not done a lot (and it’s not an issue exclusive to voice over talents, believe me). I’ve also been guilty as charged so don’t think I’m casting aspersions (so please, no emails from aspersions looking for voice work).

It seems we’re now all (and that “all” was a lot smaller when I started in Social Media) talking about the same voice over topics and from where I sit (just one man’s opinion here) the individual perspectives don’t always seem unique enough or even thought-provoking…and again, myself included.

I know we all just want to be heard and we all enjoy freedom of expression and that’s great. I don’t want it stifled but shouldn’t we all consider a little self-editing? Just a little?

I don’t know about you but I do NOT want to be the “oh not THAT guy again” brand. The line between frequency and obnoxious gets thin fast in social media; brands are now suffering (and not reaping).

SEO and marketing opportunities available through Social Media are so enticing (based on cost) that I think we all forget sometimes that for Social Media to be effective, we have to be maybe less frequent but certainly more interesting. And that’s not always easy.

Nor should it be.

What do you think? Or are you even paying attention anymore? 🙂