Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Actively managing your marketing pipeline is a key element of building a successful, sustainable business for any self-employed professional. When you meet people or acquire information about people or organizations, you need to capture their contact details in an organized way, then follow up regularly over time.

But who exactly are these people and organizations you should be staying in touch with? You don't want to waste effort on following up with a lot of folks who won't ever produce sales for you. On the other hand, you also don't want to neglect anyone who might lead to new business. So here's a handy guide to deciding who belongs in your marketing pipeline and who doesn't.

There are two broad groups of people and organizations you want to have in your marketing pipeline: those who may become clients, and those who can lead you to clients.

Prospective clients may be:
  • Contacts in your market niche you have met or been introduced to
  • Former clients who have done business with you in the past
  • Prospects who have expressed interest in your services or have opted in to your mailing list
  • Leads in your market niche you have identified or been told about
  • Referrals in your market niche who have been sent to you by someone else

Potential sources of referrals or leads may be:
  • Former clients
  • Others who regularly interact with your market niche, including other business owners, employed professionals, or educators, advisors, and officials
  • Active networkers who know many people
  • Your personal fans and champions

If a person or organization doesn't fall into one of the above categories, he, she, or it probably doesn't belong in your pipeline. For example, you met a contact at a networking mixer who appears to have no connection to your market niche, and expressed no particular interest in what you do. Toss that business card out! There are plenty of other more valuable contacts for you to spend time following up with.

Notice, though, that you should only eliminate those who have no regular connection to your niche. When you encounter people who don't match your client profile, but are still likely to have regular contact with your niche, they do belong in your pipeline. They'll simply be there as potential referral/lead sources rather than as prospective clients, and it's in that context that you should follow up with them.

In fact, you may want to put more effort into intentionally connecting with possible referral or lead sources than you have in the past. Many professionals find that increasing the number of referral/lead sources in their marketing pipeline results in significantly more new clients. (For more on this topic, see Wanted: 100 Referral Partners.)

Like many elements of marketing, the contents of your marketing pipeline should ultimately be a blend, rather than only one flavor. You don't want to waste your follow-up efforts on just anyone, but you also don't want to focus exclusively on prospective clients and ignore potential referral/lead sources completely.

Don't let your pipeline overflow with irrelevant contacts. After all, the way to win the marketing game is not to collect the most names and phone numbers, but to make the most sales.

Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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