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  • Diana Schneidman

Telephoning the impenetrable corporate fortress

Michele writes:

What kind of strategy do you suggest when the person you’re trying to reach with your marketing is very insulated?

One of my marketing targets is communications director of a large company. I did send a marketing letter on paper, which I assume was received. When I tried to do a follow-up call to confirm that the letter had been received and, I hope, read, I ran into the “assistant roadblock.” The administrative assistant would not put my call through nor would she give me the intended person’s email address. There was also no voice mail system. When she asked what I wanted, I explained I had sent a letter and was calling as a follow-up to the letter as I had promised in the letter. I then asked her to let the intended person know that I had called as I had promised. She took my name and phone number (or so she intimated), but who knows if the intended person ever saw either the letter or the message that I had called.

The assistant also told me, “We already have people who do this,” and implied that they had no need for my services. (Now she is making management decisions!) I didn’t have a quick retort ready, but afterwards I thought of saying, “Yes, but you have no idea if your boss would like to outsource this function or redesign the way you are doing it, so I’d appreciate your forwarding my message.”

What do you do when you can’t reach the intended person by either phone or email? Give up? (Send a letter?) This has happened to me several times.

OK, Michele, I have three ideas on how to proceed.

Number 1. Dress up as the grim reaper and get past the receptionist by telling her you are there to deliver a singing birthday telegram. (I can lend you my outfit but you may find the sleeves a little short.)

Number 2. Send your husband to pace on the front sidewalk of the target company wearing a sandwich-board sign saying his wife needs work.

Number 3. Tie a copy of your letter to a rock and throw it through the window.

The first two have an advantage over the third because they’re legal. However, I’m sure they’ve been done before and are no longer fresh and fun. The third may be the most emotionally satisfying, but don’t tell anyone I said that.

Seriously, if you really want to work with that particular person, I’d advise contacting him or her through more than one channel: phone, postal mail, email, etc.

But wait, you’ve already done that. Never mind. (Unless perhaps you can find a new connection via LinkedIn or something else along those lines.)

I suggest putting this company on the back burner. Remember all of the names you have there in case you ever happen upon someone who could serve as your entrée, but for the time being, end this seemingly hopeless pursuit.

I suspect this is all for the best. This company flashes neon signs of being a miserable client. Inaccessible and egotistical executives, with support staff who share these characteristics. It could be exceedingly difficult to move projects along to completion or obtain needed information. And if your check is late, good luck in finding anyone willing to follow up on it for you.

If you aim to contact 1,000 relevant individuals for assignments, this communications director represents only 0.1% of the database. Insignificant and not worthy of your concern. (One thousand names is a worthy objective, but I’ve never had to assemble even nearly this many to keep busy.)

You make calls to offer people your help, not to pester them. Because you choose whom to call with care, they should be pleased to hear from you. Minimally, they should tolerate your approach and consider keeping you on file in case they need you later.

I recommend simply moving on to the next name. Take your offer to someone who will value it and who has opened the communication channels to receive it.

Originally posted 4-9-09

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