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RIP Cold Calling!

How you can profit from face to face meetings

12/14/2023 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters

One year ago this blog took a look at cold calling and what success might be associated with that activity. An industry distributor/sales executive asked me about software for automating cold calls. Some research suggested that cold calls still had a place in overall marketing, but at the same time warned that automated calls have very little success generating sales leads and that different types of businesses will have dissimilar results.

I mentioned that to me a cold call had always been a face to face conversation with a potential client, not  a phone call and certainly not an email. She (my distributor associate) agreed to build a list of potential prospects and contact some by phone and others face to face. Her experience is most likely a good indicator but it was a fairly small study as studies go, so your results might be different.

The prospect list was not simply a listing of local and regional business. A business was reviewed as to potential for using promotional products media, so the results were likely better than using a random list.

Telephone contact required 6 attempts to reach the person on the list. One out of 5 people stayed on the call long enough to be told the reason for the call and how to contact the distributor. That adds up to 30 calls to have one short conversation. She made contact with 21 people. That required more than 600 call attempts. No sales resulted from this effort.

Face to face contact resulted in a conversation in just about 50% of the visits and an opportunity to leave behind a business card and promotional item that likely ended up with the intended contact. She has had 80% secondary contact with the prospects, that was initiated by the prospect. 58 cold calls were made. 23 sales have resulted to date.

So it certainly looks like face to face cold call marketing is a fantastic way to build your client base. The reality is that promotional products media might be the last business that is seeing good results and helping their clients grab more attention with their marketing.

A web search for “cold calls” brought back 807 million hits. I was not able to find a single reference to face to face cold calling. There were hundreds of sellers of automated calling systems, the latest AI that almost sounds “human” and too many to count “consultants” to help improve results. There were plenty of statistics and agreement that a 2% success rate (agree to have a conversation) was a good result.

If we were in the window replacement business it might be worth telemarketing a few hundred homeowners in the same neighborhood and getting 1 or 2 jobs. But for what we do and especially wanting to present a professional  appearance to compete against the online sources, it looks like face to face marketing is still a great investment. 

Voicemail is easily ignored. Email will be discarded with a single click. But standing in front of a prospect, handing them a “gift” and your business card still has a surprisingly strong impact. 

Maybe face to face marketing will go the way of “sampling” (like the 4 packs of cigarettes that were handed out at department stores) and “demonstrating” that were mainstays of consumer marketing for many decades. It does however appear that our very special corner of marketing can still profit from face to face conversations and perhaps some of our clients can too.

Gregg Emmer managed Kaeser & Blair’s marketing, catalog publishing and vendor relations for more than 30 years. Prior to arriving at K&B in 1991 he owned and operated a graphic communication company featuring promotional products and full service printing. Today Emmer’s consulting work provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of businesses including promotional industry suppliers, venture capital and market research companies. If you are interested in growing your business (or privately commenting on articles) contact Gregg at
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