Cold-calling is an effective way to reach customers, but meeting face-to-face has proven much more successful.

It’s an age-old marketing problem: You’ve got a great service you know people need, but you’re searching for the best way to reach them so they can benefit from it.

It’s a challenge that program managers at New Jersey Comfort Partners — which offers free energy audits and efficiency measures to eligible low-income families — know well.

“We knew we had to try something different,” says Tom Desimpel, CMC’s energy program manager, whose team performs outreach and audits on behalf of Comfort Partners.

Tom and other program and utility managers began the search for every marketer’s Holy Grail: a captive audience. They found it at a PSE&G service center last March.

“We were invited to have a booth at the service center so we could present our case in person,” explains Desimpel, whose CMC team distributed flyers and energy-efficient lightbulbs. “The room was elbow to elbow with people who needed assistance. The prospect of a free refrigerator can be pretty appealing to a person struggling to pay an electric bill.”

Meeting face-to-face with people when they needed help the most gave the team a sign-up success rate of one confirmed audit per hour — a much higher success rate than cold-calling.

CMC has since expanded its outreach to five service centers, targeting heavy volume days — after a bill mailing, for example.

The key to success is the ability to build a rapport with customers.

“These people get solicitations about switching their providers and enrolling in programs all the time — it’s really hard for them to know whom to trust,” says Desimpel. “It’s much easier to be persuasive in person than on the phone. Our outreach efforts are a strong start, definitely something to build on.”

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