When you strip the marketplace down to its bare essence, you’ll find that two things are happening:
- A seller is looking for a buyer
- A buyer is looking for a seller
The difference between the two has been described as outbound vs. inbound marketing, and each has its inherent strengths and weaknesses. I talked about the first one last week in How to Find Clients. But the second half of the marketing equation is: How do clients find you?
Time to Plant Some Crops
Hunter-style prospecting is when you search for clients; whereas, farming makes it easy for clients to find you. Both are essential ingredients for success. Farming takes longer, but the long-term benefits are huge and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Farming is not “prospecting.” It’s relationship-building. It’s based on the idea that, all other things being equal, people prefer to do business with those they like and trust. Building relationships gives both parties the opportunity to like and trust one another.
That means you must give more than you get, so that when those in your network are looking for someone like you—or know others who are—you’ll be the first who comes to mind.
This is not a manipulation tactic. If you don’t truly like and enjoy helping others, don’t bother.
Plant where the Soil’s Fertile
When it comes to getting found, most of us are quick to jump on blogging and social media. It’s comfortable and familiar. But it’s difficult to cut through the clutter and get noticed.
It’s also putting the cart before the horse. Once you begin generating conversations with your target audience, a blog and social media presence can serve to reinforce your credibility and expertise. After all, only a small percentage of those you speak with will be ready to do business with you now; so a blog and a Twitter following is a great Plan B to continue marketing to the rest.
But getting a significant number of people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ you requires an advertising or promotional channel. That “promotional channel” can be a sign in front of a pizza shop—or, for you and me, organizations and groups through which we’ve built relationships.
Farming Means Getting Your Hands Dirty
It somehow feels safe and secure to connect with people in the sterile environment of the online world. But if you expect a harvest of real prospects, you need to get your hands dirty.
I’ve connected with a lot of great people on here on SitePoint and on Twitter that I never would have met otherwise. But I’d like to get all of you in a room and meet you face-to-face, to be able to talk and share with you in the non-virtual world. That’s where lasting connections can occur.
There are many ways to connect with people offline, but the most common is joining a networking or lead-sharing group. Just like social media, the idea is not to hard sell, but to relationship-build. You may go six months without getting a client from the group. That’s okay. Crops don’t spring out of the ground overnight. If you’re spending enough time engaging in hunter-style prospecting, you should be getting plenty of business to keep you going. Over time, you’ll be able to spend less time hunting and more time farming.
Just like the Space Shuttle must first reach orbit before gravity eventually takes over, perhaps one day you’ll be able to claim “all my business comes from word of mouth.”
On that note, join me next week for: “Word-of-Mouth: The Worst Form of Advertising.”
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.