Making Contact
by Kevin Gallagher

I have read a number of articles and heard a few magicians talk about making new contacts, much of which has been complete bunkum in my own experience.

Someone suggests that sending a faxshot is effective because a fax will always end up 'opened' on someone's desk. This might have been partially true a few years ago but the fact is, unsolicited faxes, which consume the recipient's consumables, are now very firmly an irritation to the point that some businesses switch off fax machines at night to avoid coming in the next morning to a floor full of junk mail. A definite no. The same thing applies to e-mailshots, particularly when attachments are involved. The receiver is paying to download them and is then presented with the problem of handling an attached file from an unqualified and therefore potentially unsafe source. Legislation to make both activities illegal with hefty penalties for violators is currently being strongly considered. Mailshots are acceptable but generally ineffective, particularly if unnamed. You will be lucky if you get better than 5% positive response. To make any sort of living where this was the key activity would therefore require more than 50 new letters per week.

I personally find telephone cold calling very tedious. The knock back percentage is high and when I have given it a go, I have quickly become deflated and therefore de-motivated. This may however, work for some because you will at least get some direct personal contact, albeit over the phone, with the person you need to. Dropping in uninvited because you 'happen to be passing', is often frowned upon. An improvement is to call on the mobile and arrange an appointment for later. Only ever see the manager, an assistant manager will almost invariably be a complete waste of time.

In my experience, by far the richest source of new work is from referrals or from people that actually see you work. Magic unfortunately, has a bit of a stigma attached to it and it is not generally well esteemed. Having them see you do exactly what you do and how well it is received is the best shop window you could ever wish for. How many times have you heard "you should be on the tele" or "you are better than Paul Daniels"? These are not of course entirely correct tributes but Magic has a very strong impact when it is happening for 'real' right under their noses and this is the point where you can make the most effective contact. The key therefore, is to learn to make good use of the situation. Credit card style, double-sided business cards produced from digital images will cost over a pound each even in reasonable quantity but this only equates to three mailings and they will only go to already strongly qualified leads. I sometimes use playing cards printed with my logo and contact details which I very generously let them keep once it has been produced from an impossible location still bearing their signature. Remember, people will often want your details, it simply does not occur to them to ask for them while you are working. If you simply make it clear to see that something which bears them is readily available, they will be taken up keenly. How many times have you given a business card to someone who has asked for one only to have a number of other people request one when you have produced them?

Agents often stipulate that you should not hand out your own promotional material. In this case, insist that they provide you with their own business cards on which you can write your own name. If they fail to do so, rather than let opportunity go to waste, I use my own but, in the case of good agents, I am happy to refer bookers back to them or to pay the agreed 'resulting work' commission.

Kevin Gallagher July 2003