Benjamin Ward runs a corporate incentives travel agency that specializes in the creation and administration of sales performance incentive programs. He subscribes to every e-mail discussion list that has to do with corporate travel, the travel industry, sales performance, sales training, human resources and some others. He looks for opportunities to step in and quietly establish rapport with potential clients.
One morning Mr. Ward sees a post in the e-sales list from "Dave," the sales director of a company looking for advice on salespeople turnover and retention. Upon seeing this post, Mr. Ward replies with the following e-mail to the group:
"Regarding Dave's post today about retaining salespeople: You may want to take a look at a travel incentives plan that rewards salespeople with free travel. If not travel, there are other incentive programs, and industry research indicates these can help improve staff retention.
"I know the incentives industry well and, whether or not it ends up making sense in your case, I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about it."
Note the following about this post: Mr. Ward did not solicit Dave by sending him an advertisement for his business. He did not tell Dave he works at a travel incentive company.
The positioning of Mr. Ward's message was "helping." His e-mail signature will identify him and his company.
At this point, if Dave is interested, he can reply to Mr. Ward outside the list. It may end up in new business for Mr. Ward; regardless, he has introduced himself to all the members in a way that shows he understands what the list is about.
Mr. Ward subscribed to this list for free. He spent a few minutes each morning monitoring it. It took him just a few minutes to send the e-mail, and he is now on the verge of getting a new client.
Will this work for you? Nobody can predict that, but it won't if you don't participate.
Eric Ward is a consultant, speaker and writer who launched the Web's first awareness-building service for Web sites in 1994. Reach him at AdAge@netpost.com.