January 8

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The Lazy Way to Automate Client Roundtables

• Running client roundtables is a good way to get in front of new clients.
• But organising them takes ages. You have to email hundreds of strangers. It’s a massive faff!
• So I came up with a cool way to automate much of this process.

Here’s a photo of a client roundtable I organised in November 2019.

In this post I will show you how I got all these people around the same table – with only two to three hours’ work (including all the emailing.)

Roundtables: fun to host, hard to make happen

Did you know I work in an agency, as well as running Agency Hackers?

I’m leaving in March 2020 to do this full time – but for the moment I work here. We are Gatehouse, and we’re an internal communication agency.

We have lots of ways to get in front of new clients, but one great way is the good old client roundtable.

? How a client roundtable works
• We invite people we’d like to work with to our office
• We feed them breakfast ? and tell them some clever stuff
• But mostly just let them talk to each other and make friends
• Sometimes they become our clients – which is where it pays off ?

The job of organising client roundtables sometimes falls to me. It is a job that I always put off, because it is a lot of work.

Here is what you have to do to organise a client roundtable:

How to organise a client rountable

1. Make a list of all the people you ideally want to come (half a day)
2. Find their email addresses (one day)
3. Email them to see if they want to come (two or three hours if you really focus)
4. Weed through the responses as they trickle in (another half-day in total)

This is the rough process that we have followed for a few years.

One day in October 2019, my colleague Agnes trotted over to my desk to see how November’s roundtable was coming along.

“Fantastic” I lied. I had totally forgotten about it, and now it was three weeks away. Oh lordy.

So, to motivate myself to organise it I decided to set myself the challenge of automating as much of it as possible.

It worked really well, so I thought I would share the process with you.

Step 1 – Finding the right people

Time: 15 minutes
Tool required: LinkedIn Premium (£60 per month)

The first step is to find the right people to invite to your roundtable. You want to pick senior people at the kind of organisations you’d like to work with as an agency.

The obvious place to go is LinkedIn. I started by creating a search to find my ideal targets: internal communication directors based in London.

Here’s the search I created. I’m using LinkedIn Premium, but you can do this with the free LinkedIn I think. You just have fewer fancy search filters to play with.

I normally enter the job type I’m looking for in the ‘keywords’ field. There is a field specifically for job titles (‘Title’) but I don’t use it, because it makes you pick from a limited list of titles that don’t always match what I need.

I wanted them to be 1st or 2nd degree connections – because if I’m connected with them, or if we know somebody in common, they’re more likely to be a good fit.

That’s really all the filters I need.

Okay, let’s run this search:

Hmm. This search returns 20,179 results.

Obviously, this is way too many.

There are not even 20,179 ‘internal communication directors’ in the whole of the UK – let alone London. Surely most of these results are garbage.

To check, I skim through the first six or seven pages of results. But you know what? They actually seem okay.

I am seeing some reasonable people here:

Typically with a LinkedIn search, the people who come up first are the best matches because they are closer to you socially.

Once you get too deep into the search results – like, page 40 – the matches start to get really sketchy. You get people who did the role you’re looking for 9 years ago, but are now running a dry stone walling retreat in the Orkneys.

You just have to play around with the targeting a little bit until the results start looking sensible

Step 2 – Exporting the results from LinkedIn

Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Tool required: Skrapp ($49 per month)

Great, you have a list of prospects in LinkedIn!

Now, your job is to get that list OUT of LinkedIn.

As you would imagine, LinkedIn really does not want you to do this. Luckily there is a tool called Skrapp that will let you.

You install the Chrome plugin, go to the LinkedIn page with all your search results, and Skrapp will snuffle through the first 20 pages and export all the names.

Oh – and this is kind of important – it will also find the email addresses too.

Skrapp lets you export 20 pages at once. You can have it export the next 20 pages if you want to, but for what I need, 20 pages is enough.

Now – go to the Skrapp website and you can see all the results in one place. You can download them as a CSV file

Step 3 – Emailing people to invite them to the roundtable

Time: 30 minutes
Tool required: Reply.io ($69 per month)

Let’s recap where we are:

  • Thanks to LinkedIn, we’ve found a bunch of people to invite to our roundtable.
  • Because we spent some time fine-tuning the search targeting, the people are have are mostly 1) senior enough 2) have the right job titles 3) work for the kind of companies that we want to have as clients.
  • Thanks to Skrapp, we exported that list off LinkedIn – and now it’s sitting in a neat little CSV file.

The next step is to email them.

I use a tool called Reply.io, which lets you send cold emails to people you don’t know.

You might think think: uh oh – spam! And we’ll cover this later.

All I would say is that it helps to remember we’re doing something nice here.

Overwhelmingly, I have found that people are pleased to be invited to a free event where they can meet other people doing their job at different companies.

? As long as the thing you are inviting them to is genuinely lovely and worth their time, I think you can sleep okay.

How does this part work then?

Well, Reply lets you upload the CSV file of email addresses, and send a message to them.

The copy is quite important here. Here’s what I wrote:

{FirstName},

Would you be interested in joining a friendly roundtable we’re holding with other senior IC leaders?

It’s happening on 27 November (9am – 11.00am) at our offices near Bank.

We’ll show you some research we did (“The 9 Hallmarks of IC”) – but really the main purpose is to introduce you to other people who are doing your role at different organisations.

We’re “handpicking” the people so they of a similar level and calibre to yourself.

Would you be interested in coming? No charge to attend. 

Thanks,
Ian

Ian Harris | Associate Director
Gatehouse Consulting Ltd | 1 Vogans Mill Wharf, 17 Mill Street, London, SE1 2BZ 
 Tel: +44 (0)20 305 74363 | Mob: +44 (0)7834 535864| www: gatehouse.co.uk

That’s it. There’s a few things going on with the copy here.

Notice I don’t give too many details.

This is a cold email – these people don’t know me so it’s important to keep this message really short and to the point. Resist the urge to tell them everything right now.

The subject line is about them, not about me.

Notice how it’s “Meeting other senior IC people?” and not “Attend a Gatehouse roundtable” or something formal like that. Mention the benefit, not what it is.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak.

All you want to communicate is:

  • It’s a friendly roundtable. You will get to meet other nice people. (True.)
  • We’re not selling you stuff or lecturing you on things. (True.)
  • It’s free! (True)
  • You’ve been handpicked! (Um, kind of.)

When you paste the message in, Reply.io uses some ‘machine learning’ technology to predict how your message will perform. To be honest I mostly ignore that.

Step 5 – Wade through the replies

Once you start sending those emails, this is what will happen:

  1. You will get a lot of bounce backs and automated ‘out of office’ notifications.
  2. You will start getting replies from humans.

Your results will vary – but this what I found:

  • About 50% of people who replied wanted to come and could make it.
  • The other 50% wanted to come but couldn’t make it.
  • Nobody hated me for contacting them.

I was quite surprised by this.

I emailed 147 people I didn’t know, and not one person sent me an email moaning about me having cold-emailed them.

Why not?

Well, probably because the thing I’m inviting them to is genuinely something they would want to attend. Please don’t get the idea that people generally like strangers emailing them! It’s just in this specific, targeted context they were cool with it.

Here are some of the replies:

Step 6 – Run your roundtable! ?

That’s it!

The conventional wisdom with free events is that only 50% of people turn up. With this, we ended up inviting 20 people – and they all turned up.

? There’s one major reason why I think this was a success: we signposted very clearly that this was about them meeting each other.

A lot of agencies still run ‘breakfast briefings’ where you sit and listen to a presentation, and then maybe you get to ‘network’ afterwards. I feel that these are quite dated now, and don’t work very well.

Pure peer-to-peer is the way to go

Anyway, I hope I’ve given you enough information to try this yourself. Running roundtables is a very effective way to get in front of new clients and build new relationships.

Deploying a little bit of automation can take a lot of pain out of organising them.

Did you find this useful? I’m happy to answer any simple questions about this for free – just email me on ian@agencyhackers.co.uk. If you don’t want to do all this stuff yourself, I can help you set this up for your agency. I would charge about £2,500 – or thereabouts – to set everything up. If you want me to do that let me know.


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