Forget the Numbers Game: Adopt a Mindful Outreach Strategy

Posted in Principles @ February 09, 2023

If you’re in the business of selling to other businesses, lead generation is probably a frequent topic on your agenda. There are plenty of ways to put together a cold outreach strategy, but today we’ll look at one we developed.

This came from a need we often faced: we were running standard lead generation campaigns for our clients, which at times produced no results. By thinking outside the box we got from 0 to a steady stream of warm leads, eager prospects, and ultimately sales.

We pretty much give it away in this post, but if you want help putting together and running a campaign like this you can work with us at Task Engine. We don’t specialize in lead generation (our specialty is small business operations), this is one of the many things we’ve done for our clients. 

What follows won’t be a technical overview of the tools and services you would use to set up such a campaign, but as the title says, we’ll be focusing on strategy.


Figure out innovative ways to get to your client. Start doing a few, tweak them, profit. The outline of this initiative is:

  1. Define who your ideal client is.
  2. Figure out what signals they put out that they need you.
  3. Define 3-5 strategies, rank them, then start your outreach
  4. Begin A/B testing; stick with what works, change what doesn’t.

The classic lead generation strategy doesn’t work anymore

… or at least, not as well as it used to. Most of the cold outreach campaigns that people rely on are based on a simple formula:

  1. 1. Build a list of people with a particular role in a specific type of company
  2. Get their email or LinkedIn profile
  3. Message them with a sequence that’s slightly personalized, at best
  4. Tweak the message until you get more people reply and buy

I am positive this still works for some people. I spent years developing and managing tons of campaigns based on this exact formula, with varying levels of success, depending on who was doing the selling, who the campaigns were aimed at, and the offer being pitched.

Another thing I saw was a steady decline in engagement. Not only people who were eager to buy, but people simply replying to these messages became scarce over the past few years – and it’s no surprise, as people have caught on to the existence and extent of automated campagins.

I think running a campaign like this has more drawbacks than potential benefits:

  • it feels impersonal. When crafting the copy for a lead generation campaign, you’re stuck choosing between seeming salesy and being overly friendly with a stranger – and choosing the latter will often make your approach feel impersonal.
  • tons of people are also doing it. It’s never been easier to get your hands on contact information of people who would be your ideal clients – but it’s never been easier for everyone else to do it, too.
  • it’s obvious. How many times have you been sent a message that you knew was an automated campaign? I’m guessing, often. So despite a friendly tone and witty calls to action, you see through and realize the sender just wants your business.
  • mistakes can damage your reputation. All it takes is a misplaced character and your finely crafted campaign is done for. Nobody falls for a message that begins with Hi {{FirstName}.
  • even when done right, it can damage your reputation. Even in the best of conditions you’ll open yourself up to start the conversation in a moderately dishonest way.

I admit, I sometimes call people out when they do most of the things on the list above – it comes from a friendly place, as I would love to see them do better, but sometimes I can’t even get to calling them out because they ghost or block me after lying themselves into a corner, like this person:

There is no chance they followed our successes, and we barely do any SEO. My usual next line is to admit I’m only puling their leg and write a different copy for them, but she didn’t even make it that far.

The better way to do cold outreach: our Mindful Outreach Strategy

Now that I’ve told you what I don’t recommend, let’s move on to today’s topic.

From the start, I want to stress that this method doesn’t rely on contacting large numbers of people. We’re not playing the numbers game, instead we’re going to spend more time researching and qualifying prospects before we reach out, and hopefully reaching out to better suited clients-to-be.

It’s also worth noting that I’m not laying down the strategy for large businesses, so when I talk about “large numbers” of people contacted per day I am referring to anywhere from a few hundred to 1,000 (rarely more), whereas our solution would put those numbers in the dozens.

1. Define who your ideal client is.

This should go without saying, but I’ll put this here just in case: before you even think of reaching out to anyone, figure out who that is. I’ve made the mistake of addressing “just about everyone” in the past, and it led to diffuse messaging that even I didn’t understand.

Here are the questions I usually want to answer when starting out:

  • Who is our ideal client company? What do they do, and how do they position themselves in their industry?
  • Who is the person within the company we’re looking for? What’s their age, level of expertise, overall interests?
  • Where are they located? Where are their clients located?
  • What signals do they put out that we can pick up on? What publicly available information is there that they could work with us, even if they don’t know it?
  • How do we contact them?
  • What do we say?

The first step to creating an effective cold outreach strategy is to define who your ideal client is. This goes beyond simply identifying the industries or companies you want to target. To truly understand your ideal client, you need to consider their pain points, goals, and values. This information will help you create messaging that resonates with them and sets you apart from your competition.

Example time! But full disclosure: we take up to a week to fully create a strategy like the one I’m outlining here, so in order to speed things up in our example I’ll be making a lot of assumptions and introducing quite a few hypotheticals.

Let’s say you are running a marketing agency tailored to contractors. So one of your client personas will look like this:

  • Who is our ideal client company? A roofing company with fewer than 20 employees, started by a young entrepreneur who sees the value in bringing new age solutions to an old school business.
  • Who is the person we’re looking for within the company? They’re younger than 30, born and raised in a medium sized town, has experience in their industry and enough exposure to social media and the internet at large to know that they can’t survive without them – but not enough experience to actually craft digital solutions for their business.
  • Where are they and their clients? Medium sized towns anywhere in the USA.
  • What signals can we spot that we’re a good fit? They have a website, but it’s not great OR they are active on social media but their company isn’t OR their company profile is somewhat active but you can see an amateur feel to them.
  • How do we contact them? Social media DMs, email.
  • What do we say? We offer a free landing page and try to upsell our other services (social media management, outreach).

2. Figure out what signals they put out that they need you.

Here’s where the bulk of our research begins. Once you know who your ideal client is, the next step is to figure out what signals they put out that they need you. This can include anything from their job titles and responsibilities to the questions they ask in forums or on social media. Pay close attention to the language they use and the problems they’re trying to solve, as this information will be invaluable in your outreach efforts.

We usually begin by researching around 15-20 companies that fit the bill. Ideally, they are different from your existing clients or prospects. For each company you research try to gather as much information as possible, such as:

  • who their leadership is
  • where they “hang out” online
  • what their public pain points are
  • notable news
  • any other common thread you find

This is where you start connecting dots and thinking outside the box.

For our example, we might piece together that companies we research:

  • participate in industry trade shows
  • post on LinkedIn
  • are looking to hire and post jobs online
  • don’t have a website, but acquired a domain recently

The list can go on and it varies from case to case, but from our experience there’s always a common thread to be seen that will make you stand out from the crowd and go beyond your standard outreach.

This is the hard part when it comes to strategy, and once you’re done you can move to the hard part when it comes to campaign management.

3. Define 3-5 strategies, rank them, then start your outreach

Basically, just treat these as 3-5 small scale campaigns. Create a strong process for each one and document it thoroughly enough that anyone on your team can pick up a document, follow instructions and run the campaign.

From one of our examples above, it’s clear that your clients who take part in industry trade shows are giving off signals that you might be a good fit for them. Start by preparing for these leads – tighten up your promotional materials, case studies, sales pitch. In short, imagine you’ll actually get in front of the people you’re reaching out to, and prepare fully.

Next, you’ll want to get a list of upcoming and past trade shows in areas you’re targeting, and start researching companies that made an appearance. There are public lists that should help you, with websites and aggregators available for just about any industry and any type of event.

Write a compelling piece of copy and see where you can contact your prospects – email, social media, website. If at all possible, contact them using multiple methods gradually.

It’s important for this copy to be both personalized and to offer clear value. If you went through the trouble of researching them, include as much personal information as possible in your outreach. For example, we once reached out to companies with outdated websites and listed specific things about their website that made us want to reach out (which links were broken, which pages weren’t loading, etc.).

For our example, you might want to reach out to trade show participants and offer that free landing page, mentioning that Trade-Show-X would’ve worked better if they had a website to send people to.

Once you repeat this for all of your strategies, rank them in terms of feasability and the resources you have at your disposal. For example, some of these might require a few minutes of your time, while others will take away someone on your team for half a day – you decide what’s worth pursuing right now and in what capacity. Or just work with us and don’t stress about it too much.

Get ready to start with the most compelling ones.

Then start.

4. Begin A/B testing; stick with what works, change what doesn’t.

A/B test your campaigns after a few days/weeks. Change the copy, change the method you reach out to your prospects, the cadence of the messages, the order of the outreach methods (i.e. first email, then Instagram). Ideally, you already have a few things in mind to try out before you actually start the campaign.

If after a few rounds of A/B testing you still see nothing from that particular campaign – you’re actually seeing it not work. Focus your efforts elsewhere.

From our experience, it will take you anywhere from 2-3 weeks to 3+ months to settle on one or two campaigns that consistently work for you. In those cases, you will stand out from your competition by either contacting prospects in a way they haven’t been contacted before, or with a message that stands out from the rest.

It’s up to you to be creative and figure out how to do that. Or, if you work with Task Engine, it’s up to us.

To sum up

Think outside the box, don’t just blindly reach out to people en masse. Do a bit more research to get to the companies that are perfect for you, and contact them in a more personal way that makes you stand out.

Are you stuck? Email me at and I’d be happy to share my thoughts on your particular campaign.

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