As a nineteen year old college student with no time or interest to get some crappy part time job, I recently decided to give internet marketing game a try. After failing miserably at (giving up on) making adsense blogs, I figured I would take a look in the offline section and see what its all about. After almost immediately realizing the potential in offline marketing, I've recently put my findings and research to work and even developed my own method of somewhat manipulating prospects in my favor. I don't think I'd consider it entirely black hat, though, so I'll call it a grey hat method instead. Social Engineering is commonly defined as manipulating people performing certain actions or divulging information. I hope after reading that sentence that you instantly realized how such an idea can be twisted into your favor when it comes to dealing with potential clients. The letter that I'm including in this thread is the first attempt I made to get a client via mailing. I will point out the truths and falsehoods of the letter to give a better understanding of how I applied a social engineering method to it. Oh, and yes.. you better believe that I decided to make my first attempt on the very business that I pay rent to; my apartment complex. What I did here is not only address the fact that I'm a college student (which can seem more interesting to the prospect rather than a letter that has corporate agenda written all over it), but also immediately dove into bring up that I'm trying to start a business. The reason why I did this first is because by linking it with the college student ploy, I've managed to lower the possibility of the prospect being suspicious of hidden agendas. (as opposed to if I had mentioned it after making it seem like I may be trying to sell something.) Instead of thinking "Oh, its just another sales letter" the prospect has been geared more towards thinking "wow, starting a business as a college student?" Setting up a situation that would provoke this potential change in their though process is often referred to as pretexting. Or as I like to call it, "the plug". Now this is where I like to further push the though process behind the plug a little deeper. I've colored these portions orange because these are mainly the "smoke and mirrors" portions of the letter that are aimed at presenting yourself in a way that is merely aimed at impressing the prospect enough to set yourself apart from many competitors, but not so much to the point that you'll come off as fake. Now the reason why these sections aren't just red is because that while the statements being made are aimed to impress, they are also true statements that I've just thrown some verbal glitter on. Here comes the portion that will likely turn some people away from this method; the lie. Any one of you who read the red sentence should know that I have no interest in talking to them just to gain a little bit of knowledge. We all know that the second I got into the meeting that I had to throw my game face on and present myself in a way that wouldn't instantly give away the idea that I'm there to make a sale. Don't worry, I'll explain how that was done next. This is where I would normally leave a hook for my prospect but in this case, because it happened to be my next door neighbor, I decided to just leave a humorous comment. Now by hook I typically mean a link to some free content on my site. I use a great rebrandable document that discusses more in-depth the world of online reviews, and why having negative reviews can be greatly hurting their customer base. So, as no surprise (considering I literally happen to live next door to one of the lower-end managers of the apartments; the person who the letter was to) I got a call back and they gladly told me who I should talk to. I mean why not? As far as she knows, I'm just attempting to conduct some insider research. Skipping ahead to the meeting (I don't want to bore you with the process of getting the meeting as it was very similar to the method used in this letter, just in a phone call and to the person whom I really needed to be talking to.) I was all ready to go. I had my figures memorized, my documents prepared, and I looked the part with a NICE button-down shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. (The reason behind avoiding the whole suit and tie approach is simply because I need to preserve the idea that I'm a motivated college student and not some weasel type of businessman trying to sell a product by presenting a facade.) The documents I had prepared were the same ones I would have included if I were to send out the full package with the letter. Included was printouts of any high to semi-high PR review sites (Google places, Yahoo local, and apartment ratings in this case) and the Google search results which lead me to said pages. Now the idea behind how I needed to present the documents was simple, but the delivery is what will either make or break this attempt. Basically you will want to convince them (in a casual but serious manner) that by presenting them these figures that you are merely using them as an example and are simply looking for feedback on your approach. The reaction I got out of this was mixture of negative and positive, but both aspects work in our favors at this stage of the game. The positive was mainly the shock and awe factor behind me, with them knowing that I'm a full-time college student, taking the time to do this research on their business just so I can get some feedback on my (as far as they know) "mock-up" business model. The negative aspect was that they were stunned to see some of the things being said online, not only about their business, but about one of them personally as well. (oh and it was a doozy.) :chicken_w So after I explained to them VERY briefly about what online reputation management is (never once mentioning that I think they need it as I've already managed to push that point with the "example" review pages) and as I was getting prepared to make my casual conclusion to the meeting, without even needing to prompt it the head apartment manager point blank said to me "Hey, you never mentioned anything about pricing. What does this type of service go for?" After discussing few memorized figures about what my competitors would likely charge and mentioning that I plan on charging less than they will in order to present the idea that I'm not doing this to get rich, but to simply put myself through college by doing something more fulfilling than flipping burgers; I pretty much had them eating out of the palm of my hand. In an idle discussion that occurred during the meeting, I also made it a point to present my stance on how the laziness, lack of respect, and complacency displayed by a vast majority of the knuckleheads of my generation (known as Generation "X") has made it tough for me to get my foot in the door with other clients just because they assume that I'm guilty by association. For whatever reason, those from previous generations love, and I mean LOVE, to see a younger person who seems to share similar opinions about today's youth as they do. So I hope that this slightly darker, but not quite black hat method for us younger guys and gals to exploit the negative connotations about our generation in a way that blows the prospects away. I also don't doubt that such type of social engineering could easily work for those who aren't as young as they used to be. That just means they have to apply some of that extra wisdom they've gained through the years towards twisting this method to work for them. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I always love to hear about others' success around here on BHW so I figured it was time to share a success of my own.