The Direct Approach


If you’re active on Linkedin, chances are that you receive generic pitches in your feed or messages on a regular basis.

Today, I received one that said “We work with a lot of Principals in your industry,” which clearly meant that he didn’t bother to see what my industry was, A few days ago, I received one that said “I saw your profile and your business looks interesting so U thought I would reach out.” Since I have 7 different projects, I responded with “Which business?” and got no response.

These folks are casting a wide net, thinking that through repeated, blanket messages, they might secure a quick phone call that will lead to a sale. They think this is a shortcut, that it saves time instead of playing the long game of building relationships and extending value to others first. But the reality is that this “shotgun” approach isn’t effective at hitting the target. The reality is that shotguns are only effective at close range anyways. That only works if you have a warm introduction, a reputation for giving to others. If you want to hit something far away, you want to use a laser, something that will save both parties time from sorting out the clutter.

Marketing and sales comparisons aside, I believe that the same lesson applies in nonprofit fundraising (making a few, personal and qualified asks instead of an automated mass email will always bring in more), in booking your band (find the right venue instead of BCC’ing every venue in town), and of course, in creating public policy change (connect based on matching values instead of broad demographics or party affiliation/voter registration).

In personal relationships, people prefer a direct approach as opposed to being ignored or given the runaround. In communication, a wide net is the equivalent of ignoring an individual’s direct needs, their unique experiences, and their values. In politics, it’s treating entire communities as one voting block, holding fast to broad stereotypes and prejudices. People don’t want broad, they want the direct approach.

Instead of wasting time, money, and energy creating a brand for yourself that says “I don’t care enough to be a direct,” create a reputation that says “I care more than anyone else to get to know you, respond to the things you care about, and will respect your time by doing my homework first.”

With the shotgun approach, it says “I hope I hit you as my target.” With the direct approach, you’re saying “let’s hit your target, together.”


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