ABM Playbook

Contact marketing

In this episode of Lets Talk ABM we speak with Stu Heinecke, Author and WSJ Cartoonist on what Contact Marketing is, and why personalisation is key to ABM.

Date published: Date modified: 2021-08-03 strategicabm 550 60

Stu Heinecke
Author and WSJ Cartoonist

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Stu Heinecke

Stu Heinecke is a hall-of-fame nominated marketer, a Wall Street Journal cartoonist, best selling business author, and founder of Cartoonists.org, a group of prominent cartoonists from around the world who donate their art to help charities raise funds. The American Marketing Association just recognized him as “the father of Contact Marketing,” a term coined in his highly successful book, “How to Get a Meeting with Anyone”.

Declan heads up marketing at strategicabm. After some 20 years working as a CMO in the Professional Services, SaaS and EdTech sectors, Declan is now Agency-side building the Strategic IC brand and sharing our clients’ ABM success stories.

Watch this webinar and learn:

  • What is Contact Marketing?
  • Why personalisation is the key to ABM
  • How to get a meeting with anyone
  • Why brevity and relevancy are key when targeting C-suite
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Contact marketing

The full transcript

Declan Mulkeen (Strategic IC) - Today, I'm joined by Stu Heinecke - twice nominated to the Marketing Hall of Fame, and father of Contact Marketing, and renowned author of, "How to Get a Meeting with Anyone". Stu, thank you for joining me today.
Stu Heinecke - It's so great to join you.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Well, I've got a lot of questions lined up. And I think I put a post on LinkedIn actually the other day with a photograph of your book that arrived here in Madrid, "How to Get a Meeting with Anyone," - fascinating, many, many people recommended it to me before I purchased it and it's one of the best books I've read, actually, in the last few months to be quite frank, and I think it's a book for this time.

We can delve into a little bit but can you, you talk about, or you've coined the phrase, Contact Marketing. Can you tell us a little bit about what Contact Marketing is?

Stu - Yeah, well, it's kind of it's, I mean, the genesis of it was, as I was writing, the first of the two books, "How to Get a Meeting with Anyone." I was interviewing the top sales thought leaders in the world, and asking them.

First of all, when you absolutely must break through to someone of great importance, like someone who's very, very difficult to reach, how are you doing it, like impossible to reach? How are you reaching those people? And they would share all sorts of great, amazing stories about what they would do to breakthrough. But well, as we were talking about it, I would ask, well, by the way, this thing that we're doing, 'cause I use my cartoons,

I've been using my cartoons my whole career to break through to people, people I should never be able to break through to. And so I was asking, what's this thing that we're doing? What's it called? Is there a name for it? And everyone said, "No, I don't think there is one."

So, I had to call it something and so I gave it the name 'Contact Marketing' in the book. Contact Marketing is a fusion of Marketing and Selling and we use really high level, high level creative would say very, very professional, creative in many cases to reach out to people who are of great importance these could be top prospects or accounts, people at the top accounts. And, the object is to break through and create a really a breakthrough in your business.

So that's the essence of Contact Marketing. I guess the other part of it though, is that Contact Marketing is really, Mass Marketing is based on going out to large numbers of people, marketing and television and digital, and so on. But this is not Mass Marketing.

This is a 'sniper shot' to those 'scatter shots.'

What we're interested in doing is reaching the people who have the greatest ability to change the scale of either our careers or our businesses.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  And I think...there is a story in the book of in your early career this influence $100 campaign?

Stu - Yeah, well, I think you're talking about the one that I did my first campaign?

Declan (Strategic IC) -  That's right, the one that you did to a couple of dozen VPs of New York magazines?

Stu - Yeah, of New York magazines. Well, so I was just starting out I wanted to create, the thing that I wanted to do professionally is I wanted to create direct mail campaigns for the big magazine publishers in the States. Now they're different from those in actually, like, they're almost gone.

But they were very different from those in the UK because the UK subscriptions weren't really much of a factor in how they marketed magazines...sorry, how magazines were marketed in the UK, it was all the newsagents and so on. So people didn't sign up for subscriptions.

But in the U.S., what was really quite common was that people would sign up for a one-year subscription and it would be delivered to your home through the posts. You get a deep deep discount to sell that, they used a lot of direct mail in effect.

They were some of the biggest and most sophisticated users of direct marketing at the time, and also had the biggest budgets. So that's where I wanted to go. And so my first two assignments, I should say also, I wanted to I had something very specific in mind.

I wanted to mix cartoons and personalisation, to create a different sort of direct mail campaign. So when mine show up, they have a cartoon about you. They showed up at your place in your mailbox, they would have a cartoon about you. And I just knew this would work 'cause I knew the nature of cartoons. I know that they were the best right and remembered, parts of magazines and newspapers according to readership surveys, I knew that people would respond to them.

So my first two assignments were for Rolling Stone and Bon Appetit Magazines. Both of those beat 'the control' and statistics we always test against the control group and in marketing and certainly in direct marketing.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Yeah.

Stu - You're testing against the most effective thing they've ever used. It's their record-setter or record holder. So the first two assignments in Rolling Stone and Bon appetite.

Both of those assignments, both of those test campaigns beat the controls, which was remarkable. I mean, they set new records right out of the box. So I thought, "Okay, perfect.

"This is my opportunity to reach the rest "of the publishing industry and do business with them."

So what that meant was I needed to reach out to about two dozen people. These were VPs of circulation at companies like Time Inc., and Time Warner and Condé Nast, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, et cetera.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Yeah.

Stu - And I put together, I knew that this would not be easy to reach these people but what I did was I put together a little campaign, that consisted of an 8" by 10" print of a cartoon that was personalised for each recipient.

With a note that said, "This is a device I just used...to beat the controls for Rolling Stone and Bon Apettite. "I think we should put this to the test for your titles." And often when I'm speaking in front of a group, I'll ask the group, "What do you think I got for a response "to this?"

And they'll guess all over the..., typical, the thing I used to hear is that the typical number or response rate for a direct mail campaign was 1%. There is no such number actually, but if we use that number for a moment, 1% and if you think about, think about click-through rates, for example, in digital, they could be thousands of a percent.

Well, and the other thing we used to hear is that a 100% response rate was absolutely impossible. Well, in fact, that's what I got from that campaign, was a 100% response rate, I got through to all of them. All of them agreed to meet, all of them then became clients, - all of them.

So it was a 100% response rate and 100% conversion to a campaign that cost me about $100 and launched my business and was worth millions of dollars.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Incredible, well actually linked to that Stu, Obviously, in the book, you illustrate the 'strange' nature of CEOs and VIPs. Can you shine a light on that for us a little bit?

Stu - Well, I wouldn't say that they're strange at all, actually, they're very intelligent people really very sharp people in their work.  They're working or living in a different dimension than we are their lives are going much faster, everything moves much faster.

And so certainly, if you're going to reach out to someone like that you should be very brief. If you're going to send an email for example. Try to keep it under a dozen words, actually. What you're then demonstrating is a respect for their time. You also think about, what are CEOs paid? And you hear about these ungodly amounts that they're paid.

So then if you just break that down to, let's say, what's a minute of their time worth? Not only in terms of their salary and bonuses but also what's the, I mean they're paid a fraction of what they're actually worth.

Because they're moving a company in a direction that changes at scale, perhaps. So the scale of their efforts is far greater than the scale of their pay. But still, if you just break it down there, it's probably a few thousand dollars per minute. And that's just very, very valuable time.

So you don't, want to be approaching them with the notion that you can take all the time you need, you've got to be very, very quick.

So you've got to express value very quickly. You need to know, you don't want to be calling and then asking them, what do they do? Or what are some of their biggest problems, you need to know. You need to have really done your homework. But I think ultimately, the thing that we want a contact marketing campaign to do is to introduce you in a way that has the recipient saying,

"Oh my god, I love the way this product, "I love the way you think." Because if you do that, if you've reached out to someone that you don't know, who's very busy, and very difficult to reach, and you got that reaction, you're way, way ahead of the game.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  And that's probably linked to, I think you mentioned when we were talking previously about some, I think was Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue. Who kind of shared a story with you?

Stu - Yeah, that was an interesting one. He'd said to me that he'd reached out to Marc Benioff. Marc is the founder of Salesforce.com. And he's a very busy guy.  So he reached out to Marc Benioff, and he did exactly what I've just suggested.

Actually, he suggested to me and I think that it made sense. He made sure that his message was less than a dozen words. It was essentially, "Marc, we do this, is that of interest "or is that useful?"

And, and he got a response, he figured out what his email address is, and that's usually not very hard to do. And he got a response within 30 seconds. That's remarkable, I've got to try. Sort of a mischief thing, I've got to try that.

And so I tried it and got the same result. You can get, I hear people talk, salespeople complaining about the response rates, to their sequences and kind of think about what the nature of a sequence is. It's a blast of email that goes out to a lot of people, which probably has a lot of copy. It has that little slug at the bottom that says it was sent through XYZ email service and here's how you unsubscribe and so on.

It's not a personal bit of correspondence. And a CEO would never take the time to read something, no C-level executive, probably most decision-makers wouldn't take the time to read something like that. They wouldn't, the more you send, it wouldn't work in your favour. But if you send someone an email that has very, very few words, a very simple question and demonstrates, you don't say, "I respect your time." Show it and it demonstrates that. Then it really makes sense.

The other thing beyond what Aaron suggested about keeping the message very, very short is to identify sometimes when you're most likely to get that email through to someone like Marc.

He's a pretty good representative of someone who's very difficult to reach, but someone who could change your life.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Yeah.

Stu - If you became a client. So one of the things that had been suggested by Mark Hunter actually, was to send email either Saturday morning, early Saturday morning or Sunday evening, six or sevenish. And the reason he suggested that is because there is no gatekeepers, I hate calling them gatekeepers.

But anyway, there's no one watching or filtering the email. They're looking at their email account directly. And Saturday mornings, early they will check in just to see what's happening before they start their weekend. And Sunday evening, it's a different time in their weekend when they're saying, "Okay, what am I doing this week?" And so they're at their computers and they're already working so you can get responses just based on timing.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  And yeah, I mean, the whole kind of concept of context, relevance, and timing obviously is key in any approach, really. You talk about a VIP makeover.

Now, are you referring to how we as individuals who are looking to prospect, should undergo some form of VIP makeover?

Stu - Well, I do think that we can be doing things to have more gravitas, I suppose. They can be a lot of things. Actually, one of the great things that you can do is get involved with a charity. And if by been involved in a charity, you could then reach out to someone and they may be, you may have a connection in common actually through the charity. I think that's a good one.

I tell you, being a Wall Street Journal cartoonist is a big one for me because when I call people and if I'm introducing myself, part of the VIP makeover is creating a VIP statement.

So again, a dozen words, a dozen seems to be a theme here. But a dozen words or less, how do you introduce yourself? And so I go over a little bit, but if I say,

"Hi, I'm one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists," and I'm sending a print of a cartoon, "one of my cartoons and it's about your boss." Well, that's a great way to introduce myself to an assistant and I do get a great reaction out of that, usually, it's "What, really?"

So that opens the door. And you want to have these things about you that cause people to become well just to arrest their intent of getting through the day and getting through these phone calls, and you're another one of those phone calls to get through.

You want to find a way to make it a little more interesting, actually a lot more interesting. So that you stop that pattern and get them to say, "Well, wait a minute, really." So even, I mean one of mine, beyond being one of the Wall Street Journal cartoonists is that I also started a charitable group. It's called cartoonists.org. And we're a group of cartoonists from the Wall Street Journal in the New Yorker. And we donate our art to help charities raise funds.

So if I'm reaching out to someone who's involved with a charity, and I want to connect with them, of course, that's why I'm reaching out, one of the things I might do is just to say, "I would really love to talk to you about "how we can support the work that you're doing "with XYZ charity." But you want to be, you don't want to just show up saying, "Hi, I'm a salesperson, "and I want to sell you something." because that doesn't really convey a lot of value and you want to be doing that, it's part of that value is, who are you as a person?

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Yeah. And I think particularly, as you were saying if you're targeting VPs, and CEOs and the whole C-suite, you need to get personal really, and to you need to give them a very, very good reason why they should be even, as you said, talking to you, engaging with you, listening to you, and building some form of rapport around some kind of shared or common interest is key really. I thought it might be interesting to share this with you. You know Alex Olley, who's also one of the Co-founders at Reachdesk, you know him very well.

We were doing a series at the moment called 'ABM in the House', and we were literally just talking the other day about how to define or redefine your Ideal Customer Profile, which kind of accounts should you be going after? Now, you talk about this very same thing in your book, talk to us a little bit about that, how you decide, who you should be prospecting with?

Stu - Well, I mean, in the book, I talk about compiling a top 100 list. And these are the people. Oops, I will back up a little bit. If you think about it, every big thing that happens in our lives happens because we've had meetings, because we've connected with the right people at the right time. So extending that well then, who are those people, who should they be, who should you be reaching out to?

And they...if you sell for a living, then obviously these would be, I guess we could call them dream clients or they might be that your assigned accounts.

But, you certainly need to know who they are. You can be, if you have the list, that's the first step in organising this, all of this work, all of this effort to connect with the right people, you can start to set up things like Google alerts to alert you to when they're in the news and when something's said about them because you need to get to know who they are. You could also do profile scrapes, there's a lot of really interesting ways to do that. Seamless.ai is kind of an interesting way to get some details that would take a long time to find otherwise.

But you really want to get to know, and this is an audience of people who can change everything in your life. So get to know who they are, what they're interested in, what are they talking about, and find ways to reach out to them.

You know, what I'm describing actually, is the basis of deep personalisation as opposed to wide personalisation. So wide personalisation is what I've used in all of those big direct marketing campaigns. I mean, when we were doing direct mail campaigns, let's say for Forbes. And assuming my campaign was the new control,  well, that would go out to a couple million people at a time.

And all we needed to do, of course, there's personalization in the cartoon I mean, that's why mine became controls is because the personalised cartoon element was so successful.

Well, that's a great example of wide personalization, all we needed is there is the correct spelling of the first and last name, of course, a correct address. And then we could make a very personalised experience right on the outer envelope or the face of the mailing.

But deep personalisation came about when, I guess as a result of social media, and the internet. In both instances, we're able to get a lot more information, we can go to people's profiles and get their pictures and do really interesting things with their pictures, if we wanted to create let's say, a card to reach out to them, you can use their pictures as the art for the card.

But you also get a chance to understand, who they are and what they're really interested in and what they're talking about and what they're thinking, almost what they're thinking about.

In fact, there's another… AI is really interesting in the way that it's becoming part of the selling process. And so I can't, there's another AI platform that, it's called 'Insaleble'. And it actually, it listens for, it'll watch for buying signs. And then it will alert you to who's actually looking to buy what you sell, especially in the technology sector.

There are really interesting things out there that help you create really, really relevant outreach. And so deep personalisation is about using profiles scrapes to then craft a very individualised, usually, it's a gift but some form of approach that is tied to what you know about the person.

I mean, they could just have a dog named Uncle Bob. And you could send him something. I mean, my cartoons, I could send them something a cartoon about Uncle Bob obviously, and they'd be thrilled with it.

But there are so many other examples of people saying they discovered that someone is really interested in falconry, then you can send a glove, a falconry glove, just as a gift or a personalised apron because they're really interested in cooking and family or something like that, or maybe cooking and technology. I'm actually talking about actual campaigns that people have done that they've sent the gift out and they've gotten through when no one else was able to get through to them from their company or from their sales team. They get through because they've tapped into something that's very, very important to them. So those are the two forms of personalization and why.

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Yeah, those two actual examples I picked up on those in your book, actually, which I think, it was somebody wrote into you to kind of thank you for your book. And they talked about a couple of examples. And one of you mentioned about the apron. And I think, an Arthur C. Clarke quote, that they had embroidered on the apron. And, as you said, this kind of scraping or it sounds a little bit ominous, but just obviously, using publicly available data to know what people like and don't like and the example of the falconry and the falconry glove that must have been very special.

I know that with our own agency, we've done very similar things... and one contact that we were looking to engage with, it was a very senior contact. We kind of found out that they were a great netball, which is kind of like basketball, lover and we sent them some personalised shoes and they absolutely loved it and they became a client.

So it's those kind of, as you said, those kind of personal human touches that go beyond the classic kind of merchandise, the swag, the kind of the books, the pens, the iPad or whatever. I think all have our desks are covered with all kinds of paraphernalia and merchandise that we've received from various events.

And, well, just a quick one, actually. So you in your book, you go into great detail about how to run a Contact campaign. Right, and obviously, there's immense detail about it and goes into each step. But can you just give us a flavour of how you see a campaign running?

Stu - Well, they're just so many ways, so many different approaches, but I can't think how I would like to answer that, because I could explain how we use cartoons. There's just a really, really quick--

Dec - Yeah.

Stu - And I got to say, I mean, I talked about cartoons a lot, but there's so many and the other another one that's just one of my personal favourites is visual metaphors. I just love them. I think they're amazing, I'm going to show you something,

I know that this is an audio but what I'm showing is an ultra-realistic coffee spill. It's a paper cup, coffee cup, but it's been custom made so that the person's logo and their, I mean their contact information is on there actually. So I mean the marketer's logo and contact information are on there. So this is actually a drop-off device. This is a device that is used when they just drop in and they're visiting, they're just going to stop in at somebody's office and ask if they're there.

And usually, they're not, the responses of course not receptionist since not going to let you through so "Okay, great, I just wanted to leave this." And this changes everything they'll sometimes say, "Wait, hang on a second. "Let me see if he's in after all."

Declan (Strategic IC) -  (laughs)

Stu - It's a device, and it's just this device, it's a fascination. It's something that someone will get and they will never throw it away. They'll keep it on their desk because everyone else,

"It looked like something you got from a joke shop." Actually, it's so realistic, it does look like you spilled your coffee, but--

Dec - Well good news I'll say Stu, 'cause we're recording this on Zoom people can actually obviously see that so that'll be, definitely great.

Stu - Yeah, yeah.

Dec - So and I was just thinking actually that, if that happened to me and my PA came in and brought that into the office, it'd make me think twice is, who is the person, or who is the company behind this, and how can everyone else just drops a business card and these guys are doing something so unique. 

Look...just to end on really. What one thing would you say to anybody involved in sales and marketing that they should do differently tomorrow morning? They come in, they've seen they watched this webinar, they watch this interview with you. They get inspired, they probably even go on to Amazon and buy your book.

But what's the one thing they should be, what's the one thing they should be doing tomorrow?

Stu - I was going to say that what's the first thing!

Dec - Well, okay, sorry, let me rephrase that. What's the second thing they should be doing?

Stu - I think you shouldn't, it's not because of selling the books, but because there is so much information in there about, in both books of things that you can do, or at least things that will give you inspiration. But what would be the first thing other than that? I would say, realise that,I guess we do realise, we realise that magic happens from meetings. Not every meeting, but certainly meeting the right people.

That is how our lives are propelled forward. And so the ability to get a meeting with anyone is really kind of superhuman power. So you need to get on, you do need to think in an audacious and very creative way.

Just give yourself permission I suppose to be, just kind of wild and mischievous about how you're going to do this. And we just described a little bit about profile scrapes and using deep personalisation. The wonderful thing about that approach is it's not a formal campaign at all, it's just seeking out this information, finding out what people are interested in, and then coming up with something that you can send them or do for them.

Might be an experience as well, but something that you can convey to them that causes them to just stop dead in their tracks and say, "Who is this, man, wow, I'm impressed. "They really did their homework." or, "Wow, this is funny, this is hilarious."

Or, "Wow, this is really impressive. "I've got it, I just I love the way you think, "I've got to meet you."

Declan (Strategic IC) - Just to summarise, with all this kind of noise that we will have nowadays in our lives, in our work lives in our social, personal lives. You need something just to cut through that noise, right?

Stu - Absolutely, yeah, do it and do it in a way that well I would say actually do it in a way that not only has people saying, "I love the way you think," but has them showing it off.

And I don't know if we have time for a little story, man, can I share one?

Declan (Strategic IC) -  Please.

Stu - So there's one of the most interesting and I wrote about it in, "Get the Meeting" my most recent book I wrote about, we need a replacement for business cards because business cards, they're not following the right strategy anymore, they're seeking to make us look important and impressive.

And, so there's sort of an arms race of using thicker stock or sandwiched paper stock or debossing, embossing, foil stamping,  etched metal, et cetera.

But it all follows a strategy that doesn't really make a lot of sense. I think pocket campaigns do. It looks like you're pulling out a business card, but what you're really pulling out is an involvement device that leads to actually visiting a website or a web page that sets a pixel and sets in motion, a digital persistence campaign.

Well, so one of the inspirations was someone who had a card made out of this, just a bit of sheet rubber, and what so the thing is that the rubber was stretched on a jig.

And then the fellow's contact information was printed on it and when it once it dried and cured, they take it off the jig and now all of that information was squeezed together on the on this floppy little rubber card. And so he said that every time he'd hand out one of these cards, let's say went to the pub and gotten into a conversation with someone.

And they eventually they got to "Well, what do you do? "What do you do? "What do you have a card? "Yeah, sure, of course, here's mine." Well, he would hand this out. And the person would just quite naturally they'd because it couldn't read it yet.

It's sort of like a balloon that's been deflated and printed. So they'd stretch it to read it and reveals It's Paul Nielsen's card, he's a fitness trainer.

And guess what? He already has you exercising. (chuckles)

Right, so people would, they get so excited about it that they would, it's like, "Gosh, can I keep this?" "Yeah, of course, it's my business card." So they'd take it, to their office or just they take it around with them, and they'd show it around because they got such a kick out of it.

And every time they'd show it, the person would just start to stretch it and they said, "Look at that he's a fitness trainer. "And he already has you exercising. Well, this is also a visual metaphor or a metaphor for sort of the fun approach that Paul takes to working out, which is important because it should be fun.

And he said that every time he handled one of those out, he would get three or four new clients. So he gave one out if that one person became a client if that happened every time,

what he would be getting is a 100% response to that pocket campaign.

But he was getting three or four, what's happening with that? People were so excited about it, they were so enamoured with it, that they were showing it off.

Dec - Yeah.

Stu - And the people that they were showing it to were also responding to the campaign. That's remarkable. That's, I would say that's Contact Marketing in a nutshell.

Dec - That's a great way to end this… this interview...this chat. Stu, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. And thank you so much for sharing all these great stories today.

Stu - Thank you Declan. What a pleasure to join you.