Written by Carrie Hebert, Vice President of Business Development
The task of cold outreach is daunting for even the most senior professionals. Whether it’s an email or the phone call every Gen Z and millennial dreads, someone must make the first move and it may as well be you! And no, your mom can’t make the phone call for you.
When getting started, it is important to know your audience based on the core issues you are advocating for. But often you will find yourself at the ever-present crossroad where your list of super advocates and regularly engaged supporters has gone dry and you’re hitting your head against the proverbial brick wall figuring out where to start next. In my nine years of business development and fundraising I’ve learned (and if I’m being honest here, still learning to accept) to trust the uncomfortable process.
Whether you are new to a job… *cough, cough* me… or you’ve been in your role for a while, cold outreach will be an omnipresent factor in your workday. And although it's tedious and often seems archaic, cold outreach isn’t going away anytime soon. So how do we incorporate it into our advocacy toolboxes without wanting to crawl under a rock and cry?
Who? Begin with figuring out who your advocates are and how they will help your mission for change. What are their demographics? What are their values? What are ideologies? Look at the past and current advocates lists to help guide what an ideal person and story look like.
Build a list: Creating a list of targets can be an overwhelming task, especially if your organization hasn’t started an advocacy database (and if not consider this the beginning - and we can help!). Start with what you know or can easily obtain from your coworkers. What tactics have engaged advocates in the past? Are there regions or states more critical than others? What type of action are you requesting?
Just do it—Thanks for inspo Nike: The hardest part about getting started is just that, getting started. If you wait around for the perfect email draft to come or to have a script for every scenario before reaching out, you’ll never get there. Trust your gut and get moving!
Set daily goals: It’s easy to get bogged down while sending email after email or making phone calls all day. For me, although I’m working, it sometimes feels as if I’m not making any progress, which isn’t true at all! Setting daily outreach and follow-up goals has been a helpful strategy that I’ve implemented over the years. Whether it’s reaching out to 10 potential advocates per day plus following up on outreach that’s gone 3 days unanswered, determine your goal and stick to it.
Make it personal: This takes some finessing and practice to get down pat. Know your pitch and how to get their attention. Establishing a connection with the person you are reaching out to is key. You know the issues and the impact they have on the people you are reaching out to - so you have a great starting point. Mention why you are reaching out to them specifically and show them the impact their story had on you and how sharing their story can enact real change. Most importantly, don’t forget to include your actionable request and next step.
Be persistent: Follow-up is key, on average it takes EIGHT cold calls to connect. You read that correctly… EIGHT. So keep after it!
Learn when to take the L: As much as it pains me to type it, sometimes you must walk away from a prospect or accept the ‘no.’ This allows you to focus your time and energy on other potential advocates and keep moving forward. Plus, even if they do not want to or cannot accommodate your request at the present time you still want to end communication on a positive note so that this person will still engage with your cause.
Less talking, more listening: Yes! They’ve committed to helping you with your campaign — congratulations! Now let’s make sure all that hard work doesn’t go to waste. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this plenty of times, they commit and then bail at the last minute or worse, ghost you. This is often due to one critical error: not letting the advocate speak. It’s important to remember that the advocate’s stories are personal and they are not used to sharing them with strangers. Get to know them and allow them to get comfortable talking to you, this will help open them to sharing their story with others.
Lastly, celebrate your successes. Cold outreach can be daunting, so celebrate your achievements whether it be finding a new addition to your outreach list, sending your daily emails, or acquiring a new advocate to support your cause. Every step taken is progress!