How to get a meeting with a VIP
Wall Street Journal cartoonist Stu Heinecke often sends VIPs a framed cartoon with a message on the back saying he would like to meet. The cartoon always features the VIP. Heinecke usually gets the meeting.
In his new book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, Heinecke explains how to reach previously unreachable people using similar techniques. “It’s about reaching out to important people and creating a human connection with them,” says Heinecke. “You don’t just show up and throw a pitch at someone because all that does is shut them down.”
What Heinecke calls contact marketing — micro focused campaigns to create contact with ultra important contacts — can be especially useful for startups fighting for attention from potential investors, partners and customers.
No matter how much sales changes, people still buy from people that they know, like and trust. The objective of contact marketing, where you don’t even know the people you are trying to contact, is to break the ice and define yourself in one very quick impression.
Heinecke’s cartoons are not just personalized but funny too. “Humor is always about truth being revealed in a twist, “ he says. “When we laugh at something, we’ll often find ourselves saying, ‘I know someone like that or I’ve been through something like that.’ So you’ve connected with them really quickly and they’re already agreeing with you about something.”
Heinecke gives the example of Dan Waldschmidt, who sends his VIP prospects handmade swords. “His brand is about edgy conversations,”says Heinecke. “It’s about being sharp-witted and sharply focused. A sword actually is a wonderful metaphor for all that.”
Waldschmidt is a turnaround specialist. He reads the Wall Street Journal looking for companies who have missed their earning estimates. When he finds one, Waldschmidt has a beautiful sword made and engraved with the name of the company’s CEO. Then he includes a handwritten note that says something like “Business is war and I see that you’ve just lost a battle. If you need a few extra warriors, we’ve got your back.” Waldschmidt’s response rate is close to 100%.
Most startups don’t have several thousand dollars to spend on a sword but contact marketing doesn’t have to be costly. A key element is what Heinecke calls a VIP statement, a way of showing your VIP (or their executive assistant) that you are worthy of their attention by establishing comparable business stature.
“I will often say, ‘My name is Stu Heinecke. I’m one of the Wall Street Journal’s cartoonists,” says Heinecke. ‘I’m a Hall of Fame nominated marketer and an author and I have a print of a cartoon about your boss.’ Essentially what I’m saying is ‘I’m worth listening to.’ Then I can step into what it is I’m looking to accomplish.”
What if you are not a cartoonist for the Wall Street Journal? Then you need a VIP makeover. One tactic is to build a blog or podcast with an audience of interest to your VIP. Another could be to create an award or compile a list like the top 50 contact marketers in the world. This becomes a way to bring attention to the person you are trying to reach.
Heinecke warns that your VIP makeover tactic must add real value. “If it turns into a gimmick, then you haven’t demonstrated the level of thinking necessary to even make contact with these important people,” he says. “Mindlessly copying these contact marketing techniques is not expressing anything about who you are, why this person should care about connecting with you and what sort of value they’re going to get from it.”