Posts

Building Your Client Development System

cultivating imageThe third function in your client development process is . . . CULTIVATING.

People Have The Attention Span of a Gnat
You know it’s true.  We are being deluged with 3,000 – 5,000 messages bombarding us on a daily basis.  It’s daunting!  And, it’s so easy to simply tune out anything and anyone who does not present us with an immediate need for a response or an opportunity for possible gain.

Even Your Ideal Prospect Probably Isn’t Ready To Buy . . . Today
Regardless of how you come into contact with someone who satisfies the ‘Ideal Client’ profile for your services, there’s a very good chance that they will not have an ‘immediate need’ for your services.

You buy groceries weekly, you get a dental cleaning every 6 months, and you look at buying or leasing a new car every 3 – 5 years.    

In between those periodic ‘high need’ moments, you’re still a qualified prospect but you’re not a ‘HOT’ prospect, are you?

And THAT . . . is why you want to Keep-In-Touch to Stay-In-Mind with people who, sooner or later, WILL be buying what you’re selling.

Cultivation Makes You More Competitive
Maintaining contact with your prospects — especially when they’re in the early or middle stage of their buying-cycle — builds awareness of you and preference for your brand . . . so when they are ready to do business or refer someone who is, you’ll have a competitive edge!

KEY POINT:
If you’re not cultivating relationships with people who can buy and/or refer you to others who can . . . you’re missing out.  Big time!

Rules for Building Relationships Online

I get a daily email from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) — brainchild of Peter Shankman. HARO is a service that provides a venue for reporters and bloggers and sources of news and information to connect. It’s totally free and it’s made Shankman well-known and a hero to many of us who seek quality sources for our content.

Recently, he spoke at a blogging conference on how to build relationships online. He was a smashing success, holding the room spellbound for 90 minutes sharing his views on life as much as business. Here are 4 highlights from his talk:

Own It — whatever you do online with a project, share it.  Things won’t always go as you like.  It happens (or, something like that!).  Do your best to make things right.  To make things work.  And if you don’t or can’t . . . own it.  People will regard and respect you more than if you live in denial and seek to blame others for the situations you may find yourself in.

Be Relevant — building a base of fans requires that you offer what people want.  People don’t care about you.  They care about themselves.  If you honor that by offering what they want, they’ll give you what you seek — support and attention and loyalty.

Learn How To Communicate — people have all the time in the world as well as the attention span of a gnat!  If you want to attract and keep the attention of people, you must learn how to make your content not only relevant but rendered coherently as well.

Keep In Touch — it’s so easy to make connections online but it’s difficult to build them into relationships of substance.  Peter suggests making yourself uncomfortable.  “Call people and say, “Hi, how are you doing?”.  It’s going to be difficult.   But it’s also going to make you stand out.  In a good way.

What’s Your Magic Number?

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I just read a great post by a Marcus Sheriden.  Marcus is in the pool & spa business serving the VA and MD area. He’s been through some rough times in the last few years.  He was embezzled out of over $200K in 2005, the economy tanked in ’08 and (oh, yes!) the IRS  actually put a lien on his home to help ‘get his attention’.

Inbound Marketing . . . to the rescue
In 2009, Marcus started using Hubspot to attract interested people to his website.  And his business is doing very well — even though many others in his industry have closed their doors.  He owes it all to learning how to be a business that attracts prospects to him — AKA ‘Inbound Marketing’ and using the Hubspot platform to do that easily and effectively.

The Magic Number: “30 Page Views”
Marcus discovered something very interesting using Hubspot’s built-in website analytics.  Specifically, he’s seen a positive correlation between:

•  the number of website pages someone visits, and
•  their propensity to buy a pool from him

Marcus learned that if a prospective client has at least 30 unique ‘page views’ they present his company with an 80% or better chance of buying a pool.  And with over 600 pools sold and installed by his company, Marcus’ insight is worth noting!

KEY POINT:
The more familiar prospects are with your business, the more likely they are to buy 

Farming vs. Hunting

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In the short time human beings have been on the planet, we started out as ‘hunter-gatherers’ who had to stalk and kill prey to eat to ‘farmers’ who learned to cultivate the land for our food.
Moving from ‘hunting’ to ‘farming’ was a huge step in the growth of civilization.  OK, the ‘thrill of the kill’ may have been lost, but the fact is farmers tend to eat more regularly and predictably.

Farming . . . Leads To Predictable Productivity
Farmers know that planting in the spring means they’ll have a harvest in the fall.  Sure, there’s some risk — like drought, insects, etc. — but overall, “input => output” in farming with a fairly high degree of probability.

Business . . . Has Reverted
In the world of small business, many firms seem to prefer ‘hunting’ rather than ‘farming’.  The problem is that hunting is a ‘hit or miss’ proposition. Cultivating opportunities . . . is not.  But it requires a strategic perspective, not a tactical one.  Not easy to find these days.

You Do Have a Choice
Assuming you’re aware of these two options, which one are you choosing — farming or hunting?  If increasing the predictability of generating everything you need to ‘go to the bank’ — leads, referrals, opportunities and (lest we forget!) revenues . . . is important to you . . . why would you not want to be a farmer of your business?

KEY POINT:
Be a farmer . . . cultivate relationships for the referrals and revenues they offer! 


Why Do You Drip?

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A few years ago I was privileged to attend a workshop conducted by the legendary Seth Godin.  Seth, as you probably know, is a serious marketer and thought leader in his field.

At one point he discussed the purpose of ‘drip’ marketing. “OK. Consider what happens when you’re being admitted to the hospital. A skilled technician (phlebotomist) starts an I.V. by finding your vein with a needle so a benign fluid can keep the vein open until some doctor uses the line to shoot $500 into his or her back pocket”.

“Look, all cynicism aside, that’s pretty accurate.  The ER staff is like the sales staff of a business — they find the vein the way a salesperson finds a prospect and opens a case.  No one on the floor (i.e. administrative staff) could pop a vein (make a sale) if they had to so they make sure the needle is taped down really good.  And yes, once the line’s established in the vein, drugs can be given to the patient because access has been established earlier and maintained until it was needed”.

I have to agree with Seth.  What a ‘drip’ marketing campaign does is keep the prospect’s brain open the same way as an I.V. drip keeps the patient’s vein open.  In both cases, if you need to ‘get in’ with a useful drug or response-able information, having a quick and easy access could spell the difference between a good and a not-so good outcome for the patient or the marketer!

KEY POINT:
Keeping-In-Touch and Staying-in-Mind with prospects for your business or practice is a good practice to practice regularly!

Warm Calling is Better Calling

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In a RainToday article, various methods of LEAD GENERATION were cited, based on surveys of professional service firms.

While the most effective method chosen was “presenting at conferences, seminars and trade shows” the second most effective offline tactic was “making ‘warm’ calls on existing contacts”.

That’s Great News!  Why?  Because you’re a lot more likely to be able to call people you know than get invited to give a keynote presentation at a trade show, aren’t you?

But, just because you know WHAT works pretty effectively doesn’t mean you know HOW to make it work effectively for your practice.  Or, maybe you do. (if not, see me!)

Regardless, the tactic of calling people you know and who know, like and trust you . . . should be an essential part of your marketing.

KEY POINT:
Calling people you know is an effective way to generate goodwill, leads and revenues.

Do You Know Me?

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“You should.  It’s me. I’m sorry, what did you say?  How do I know your name?  HOW do I know your name?  Are you serious?  Really!

Well, I’ve spent a lot of money with you in the past . . . actually had a great experience, too . . . by the way, is that young man, Mark (oh I can’t remember his name) . . . still working with you?  Oh that’s great.  Good kid.  That’s nice to know.”

Why Don’t You Know Me?
Are you so busy building transactions you fail to remember to build relationships . . . bridges . . . between you and your clients?  I’ve got a lot more revenues IF . . . you stay-in-touch!

Don’t Assume
Like a marriage, a client-advisor relationship needs to be nurtured.  Watered.  Cultivated.  And yes, even weeded from time to time.  Do you have a Client Cultivation Plan or System in place to do things to build your relationships AND your business revenues?

KEY POINT:
Don’t let relationships die from apathy. Cultivate the potential in every prospect, client and center-of-influence that you can.  You’ll BOTH be much better for it!

Farming and Hunting

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Many, many years ago, humans were nomadic hunters who either ‘got lucky’ or, they ‘went hungry’.

Civilization took a huge step forward when we learned how to cultivate the land.  Hunting was exciting.  It was also risky.
Some starved to death.

Farming was less exciting.  But farmers ate well and fairly regularly.

Today, learning to cultivate relationships with your prospects, clients and Centers-of-Influence is a major key to generating a steady and recurring form of revenue opportunities for your business or practice.

KEY POINTS:
1.  DECIDE how many times someone is likely to need your kind of services over time
2.  DETERMINE what percentage of those purchases you’re likely to provide
3.  ASK yourself, “Do I feel good about that?”  If not, then . . .
4.  COMMIT to getting a bigger piece of that ‘pie’ than you’re getting now!

Touching Base

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Following up after an initial contact is important.  Unfortunately, however you follow-up,  if you do it too often you may turn someone off.

If you do it too infrequently, you may be forgotten by someone with whom you’re seeking to build awareness and a preference for the brand called ‘YOU’.  Tough call, eh.

Dripping By Design . . . is the solution you may be seeking.  As the name implies, ‘dripping’ information on someone is designed to help you do the following:

1.  build / maintain awareness of you and your business,
2.  educate someone about the need for your services,
3.  position yourself competitively

I suggest having two kinds of ‘drip’ campaigns.  The first one is to acknowledge a new connection.  A simple follow-up note or email with a link to some content that is relevant to the person receiving it.  The second one is a periodic communication from you — perhaps a newsletter — that will serve to maintain awareness and build a preference for you and your brand of services.

KEY POINT:
An initial follow-up and an ongoing stay-in-touch communication campaign builds awareness and preference for your brand.

Following Up

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Some studies suggest it may cost a firm 5  times more to acquire a new customer vs. re-selling / up-selling or cross-selling an existing customer or client.  If so, why do so many firms tend to chase after new leads rather than fully developing the existing relationships they already have?

I believe there are two (2) good explanations for this:

PERSPECTIVE . . . if you don’t recognize the value of cultivating a long-term relationship, you may not even think to cultivate an initial contact into a productive relationship — especially if your new contact isn’t ready to do business.

TIMING . . . most prospects probably don’t need or want what you do, at first.  They’re cooler, not hotter prospects.  In  time they may become ‘hot’, but most are not likely to seriously entertain doing business with you . . . today.

KEY POINT:
Following-up with prospects builds a preference for your brand, reflects a strategic perspective and overcomes the trap of  “Now or never” thinking.