Cold Calling as an Artist Blacksmith

In December 2010 I launched a new marketing campaign for Jacob Lefton | Artist Blacksmith. It consists of post cards and cold-calling.

Cold calling is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Pick up the phone, dial a number and ask to speak to a total stranger who you are going to try to get something out of. It’s one of the last things on anyone’s list, but if you need to rapidly broaden your horizons and contact a lot of people who are outside your immediate sphere of influence, it’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to approach it.

I wanted to soften the impact of my cold call, give myself an opening, present my work so that I’m not a complete stranger — something along that line of thought. I’m marketing as a visual artist, primarily to architects, designers, landscapers, and private home owners. I decided the best way I could personally reach out and not spend very much money to do so was to come up with my own post card:

I also developed my own marketing list. It’s a spreadsheet with the type of business, name of business, contact name, phone number, e-mail, and address. Following that, I enter the date of post card mailing, and the date of follow up, notes etc. I enter information for everyone I mail a card.

My follow-up comes three weeks later. I figure it can take up to a week to arrive at their desk. I give a week for it to sit there, get passed around the office, and then I wait another week so to offset any feeling that I am contacting too much. I wrote out a small script for when I get an answering machine, but I start with it for any person I talk to as well:

Hi, my name is Jacob Lefton. I sent you a post card advertising my artistic blacksmithing business the other week — I just want to make sure you got it. I sent it to you because I found your website/saw your work and thought it was absolutely beautiful/really inspiring. If you are ever in need of decorative ironwork (like railings, fences, furniture, or pretty much anything else), I would be honored to work with you. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 781.439.1203, or visit my website at www.jacoblefton.com. Thank you.

Notice how I make sure to advertise my website. Also I go to some length to spell out Lefton, because I know it often gets mistaken for Leston or Lestom, and I can’t afford confusion.

Does it work? In short, yes.

The longer answer is a bit more complicated, but I think you’ll agree with me. To start with, I haven’t actually gotten any work from this approach — yet. Keep in mind I’ve only been at it for 2-3 months, and I’ve only mailed out about 80-100 post cards to date. It’s pretty time consuming to pull all the information from the internet and then put it on post cards. I’m hoping for a 1% return rate on post cards sent to commissioned work.

I’ve found though that when I follow up with people, the results are astounding. Normally when I cold call, I get something like a 10% interest rate. That’s a made up number, but suffice it to say the hit count is low, the interest count is low, and the annoyance factor is quite high.

However, the groups of people I send postcards to first have a dramatic increase in interest, when I reach them. I would say easily 50% of the time, people compliment me on the work pictured on the post card. Furthermore, I hear they pass it around the office, so everyone gets to see it. Some people have said they will try to sell my work for me, and some have said that there are some upcoming projects, so they will hang onto the card to see what happens. I’ve even had people e-mail me or call me back after I’ve left them a message. It’s pretty clear that this strategy dramatically increases the positive contacts from cold calling.

If I get even one commission from this approach, it will have paid for itself several times over. I know this winter has been slow, but I have heard that work is picking up for some people. I am hoping that come spring, people will start building again and decide they need ironwork.

That’s how I do it. What’s your strategy?

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4 Responses to Cold Calling as an Artist Blacksmith

  1. Huck says:

    Wow. Thanks for writing about this. I’ve been facing cold calls lately with some trepidation. Even though I tend to be pretty good with people, it’s just not intuitive for me to pick up the phone and sell myself that way. Your confidence makes me feel a lot better about tackling this.

    ; )

    • Jacob says:

      It’s definitely a hard thing to do… I find myself sometimes trying to cold call someone while I’m filling out the postcard, and it usually feels like a waste of time. It all changes when they have the card in hand though.

  2. If you could effort it, it is better to hire someone, who has a beautiful voice and experiences in working at a call center, to make the call for you. If you made 10%, your voice must be great. The postcard action cans be repeated many times, so that people will not forget you. You have already collected the addresses. How about Emailing? Do you have a Mailing list? For example from your fans of you site.
    I am missing the field of requesting for newsletters here. Fans accept your news, read your newsletters and forward your newsletters….

    • Jacob says:

      I don’t have the extra money to hire someone at the moment, unfortunately. Also, I really like talking with the people on the other end of the phone — I think it’s good for them to talk directly to me. I do want a mailing list. I just haven’t had the chance to set one up! Computers aren’t my strong suit, so it always takes me a while to get these things done… Thanks for the advice :)

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