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Building Partnerships
Engaging the Business Community, Step 6: Making Contact

Related Materials

Document Type Business Basics
A step-by-step guide to building and sustaining business relationships, with examples of previous business partnerships and their benefits for CKF.
File size: 3.1MB

Document Type Overview Memorandum
Provides an overview of the children’s health care coverage environment and how a business partner can participate in outreach and enrollment efforts. Customize this document with state-specific information.
File size: 35.8KB

Document Type Corporate Outreach Proposal
A sample proposal designed to help guide you in your outreach to local businesses and corporations.
File size: 40.4KB

Document Type Sample Phone Script
Use this phone script to help with your initial business contacting.
File size: 45.6KB

Updated: 6.1.06      Printable Printable version

The most important step in the business recruiting process is to find the best person to approach at a company. Getting a foot in the door is often the hardest part of business recruitment. You should expect to make more than one phone call to a company to reach the best contact.

Getting a Foot in the Door

The best place to start your search for a company contact is your network of colleagues, friends and family. Once you have your business recruitment list, ask people in your organization and network if they know anyone at any of the companies on your list. Personal contacts are invaluable because they can help you navigate through a company's layers to find the most appropriate contact person. You may find that someone in your network is a close friend of the company contact you need to reach.

If you are unable to find a contact through your personal or professional network, start with a company's community relations department. Community relations staff members understand the media potential and goodwill that community involvement can bring to a company. For smaller businesses, the owner or general manager is usually the best person to contact. However, every company is different, so any of the following contacts may be your first point of entry:

• Community Relations - Responsible for a company's community involvement activities

• Corporate Relations - Responsible for business-to-business relationships and corporate sponsorships

• Public Relations - Responsible for handling a company's external communication; often the same as community relations

• Human Resources - Responsible for employee benefits

• Owner (smaller businesses) - Responsible for running the business

• General Manager (smaller businesses) - Responsible for day-to-day operations

Preparation and Practice

After you assemble recruiting information, it is important to think through and practice your approach before contacting a company. Preparation and practice tips include:

• List your core message points on paper. These are the most important points that you want to emphasize with a prospective company:

  • Statistics. Use the statistics that will be most compelling to a particular company. For example, if you are reaching out to a Hispanic-owned business, include Latino health care coverage statistics.
  • Income eligibility. Use a dollar figure instead of the percentage above the federal poverty level (FPL) (i.e., a family of four making up to $38,000 a year may be eligible).
  • Low-cost or free. Explain the differences in your state, if applicable.
  • Coverage benefits. Indicate the benefits that are covered by your state program (e.g., health care provider visits, prescriptions, hospitalization, vision care, dental care).
  • No cost to businesses. This is very important to clarify with prospective business partners.

• Create additional "pitch" points. Your pitch points are the persuasive reasons you present to a company to encourage its participation.

  • Event/activity description, if applicable. For example, a Back-to-School Campaign event would be attractive to many companies. Be prepared to describe your event plans and how a company could participate. For more information on planning a Back-to-School Campaign event, please download a copy of the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign Action Kit.
  • Examples of events and activities. Share examples of outreach activities that may be of interest to a company. Your company contact will be better able to visualize the company's involvement if they have a clear understanding of the different types of outreach activities taking place. But be careful not to highlight events sponsored by the company's competition. For example, if you did a successful promotion with Target, you may not want to use this as an example if you are approaching Kmart. For examples of successful Covering Kids & Families state outreach activities, see the Promising Strategies section.
  • Results and highlights. Tell your contact about the results of previous outreach activities. Share statistics about the amount of media coverage garnered, as well as the number of people who participated, hotline calls made and applications distributed.
  • Special connection points. Look for special points of connection between a company and children's health care coverage. For example, if a company you approach is interested in education issues, you may highlight the research on how health care coverage impacts school attendance and readiness to learn. Explain how a company's involvement in Back-to-School Campaign outreach activities can complement its existing commitment to education by making sure kids are healthy and ready to learn.

• Practice your pitch points out loud. The more comfortable and natural you sound in a conversation or meeting, the easier it will be to interest a company in working with you on outreach efforts. The process will become easier the more often you do it. After each business conversation or meeting, take a minute to think about the points that resonated the most and the questions asked and adjust your pitch accordingly.

Contacting Businesses

Once you have identified a contact person and given thought to your approach, you are ready to start recruiting. You can approach a company by phone, by letter or in person, or use a combination of all three. It is necessary to take your staff resources into consideration to determine the best approach for your organization.

By phone. Contacting a company by phone is the fastest recruiting method. It may take a few calls to find the right contact, but once you have found that person, the process can move quickly. A sample phone script is available in this section. Phone tips include:

• Schedule a time for a phone call with your contact. Scheduling a time to talk with your company contact not only helps you prepare but shows them that you respect their time. Recruiting calls last from five to 10 minutes, on average, depending on the interest the contact shows and the questions they ask.

• Be prepared. Have your core program and recruiting points in front of you when you make your calls. The points will help you stay focused.

• Practice the message you will leave on voice mail if the contact is not available. Speak clearly, keep the message brief, and leave your name and phone number at the beginning of the message so the recipient does not need to listen through the entire message a second time to retrieve your contact information.

• Use a conversational tone and show your enthusiasm. Do not read directly from your core points. Explain your program briefly in simple terms. You can fill in details later. You should also convey your excitement about the opportunity to work with the company you are calling. Smile when you are talking--it will make your contact more inclined to listen.

By mail. A letter is the most traditional form of business contact – download a template letter. A letter allows you to think carefully about the messages you want to convey to a prospective partner. However, companies are inundated with paper, so it is important to follow up on your letter. Tips for writing business outreach letters include:

• Personalize your letters. Avoid sending a generic "Dear Business Leader" letter. A generic letter will end up in the recycle bin.

• Keep your initial letter short and concise. Your letter should introduce your contact to your health care coverage program and convey your interest in working with their company on outreach efforts. The letter should be one to two pages.

• Close your letter by letting the reader know when you will follow up. Be proactive in your letters. Do not close a recruiting letter by asking the person to contact you.

In person. While you may not have time to meet with every company or association on your list, attempt to meet with your top choices. A face-to-face meeting is one of the most effective ways to focus a company's attention on children's health care coverage and the need for and benefits of its participation in outreach efforts. Meeting tips include:

• Confirm your meetings. Call the day before or the morning of the meeting to confirm the meeting time. Double-check who will be attending so you can bring the appropriate number of materials.

• Confirm equipment needs. If you are planning to show a video, PowerPoint presentation or overhead presentation, confirm that the equipment/power outlets will be available. Download a template PowerPoint presentation. You can also order outreach videos from the Covering Kids & Families Web site or by calling the Communications Team at (202) 338-7227.

• Begin the meeting with a thank you and your ask. Begin a meeting by thanking the business representatives for meeting with you and confirming the amount of time they have available for the meeting. It is important that you respect people's time and do not exceed the amount of time allotted to you. Let them know early on what exactly you are asking of them. Discuss several outreach opportunities so they have a choice.

• End the meeting with next steps. End your meeting by summarizing the key points and any next steps that were discussed, and thank the business representatives for their time.

• Leave information behind. Even if you have already sent an information kit, leave behind sample materials with the business representatives.

A note on e-mail. E-mail correspondence is becoming an acceptable method of business communication. However, for business recruiting purposes, a letter is the recommended form of written communication until a relationship with a business contact is established or a contact has indicated a preference for using e-mail. Unsolicited e-mail is even easier to ignore than an unexpected letter.

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