Tuesday, January 20, 2015


You may have heard that marketing is just a numbers game: if self-employed professionals can get their marketing message in front of enough people, they will be sure to land enough clients. You'll often hear this type of advice from those who have a personal interest in helping you increase the size of your audience. For example, salespeople for advertising or trade shows, search engine marketing vendors, mailing list brokers, or social media management firms.

But consider for a moment whether it could really be the case that numbers alone are enough. If it were, wouldn't it mean that anyone with enough of a marketing budget to buy ads or exhibit booths, pay for search engine positioning, purchase a mailing list, or hire a pro to manage social media would automatically have a successful business? But you know that isn't true.
In reality, the quality of prospects in your marketing pipeline can be every bit as important as the quantity. Here are five tips for improving the quality of your pipeline:
  1. Choose a specific niche to serve. When you don't define a market niche, you are selling to everyone and anyone by default. And that takes an endless amount of time and money. With a pipeline full of prospects you know nothing about, it's almost impossible to follow up effectively. You don't know what their needs are, what their budget is, or what will get their attention.

    Instead, focus on marketing to a defined niche of people and organizations you like, have experience with, and will pay what you need to charge. You'll have a much clearer picture of what services they might need from you, and be able to reach out to them accordingly. You'll also experience much less rejection, as your sales approaches will become more appropriate.
  2. Tailor your message to your chosen niche. Generic marketing messages are much less effective than communications targeted to a specific audience. Even when a generic message attracts interest, it can clutter up your pipeline with people who aren't the best fit for what you do.

    Once you know who you're trying to attract, customize all your communications to fit that population. Show them you know their wants and needs, and tell them how you can help in ways that other professionals less familiar with their situation can't.
  3. Qualify and segment prospects when they enter your pipeline. Keep track of where every prospect comes from and what you already know about them. This will help you prioritize and customize your follow-up, leading to more closed sales. If you try to categorize a prospect and find you have no appropriate category, that person may not belong in your pipeline at all.
  4. Make referrals a priority. Prospects who are referred to you are more likely to become your clients than those who find you in other ways. Referred prospects are less likely to shop for the lowest price, ask fewer questions about your expertise, and typically come to a decision more quickly. Making contact with people who can become referral sources for you should be part of your marketing plan.
  5. Boost your credibility. Professionals who speak, write, get interviewed, and volunteer in high-profile positions attract higher-quality prospects. People who come to you because of these activities view you as an expert. Therefore, they are pre-disposed to want to work with you, and more willing to pay your stated fee.
Successful marketing and sales takes more than simply increasing the number of people who know about your business. And that's a good thing! Because it means that talented professionals like you, who put the effort into learning how to market well, can always have an edge over those who just throw money at marketing.
Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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