By John Tabita

Hunting or Farming: Which Type of Prospecting is Best?

By John Tabita

There are two different types of prospecting, and which you choose depends on how hungry you are.


When hunting, you eat what you kill. Hunter prospecting methods involve doing things that get you business immediately. The downside is, you’ll soon be hungry again and need to spend time hunting down new clients. As any jungle predator can tell you, your success rate will vary and there are times you may go hungry for a spell.


As some point in our pre-history, early Man figured out that planting crops to grow food was less dangerous than taking forays into the forest. Plus, having food around when you’re hungry is a nice perk. But farming takes time—crops don’t just spring up overnight.


But we also learned to domesticate animals, because having a food source corralled in pens eliminated the need to hunt their wild cousins.

So what does this have to do with prospecting? Early settlers pulled up stakes and travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to start a new life. The first thing they probably did after erecting some type of lodging was hunt for food. I doubt they merely planted a few crops and waited until spring before having their first meal. Yet, that’s what many new businesses and startups do—they’ve been told that social media and inbound marketing is where it’s at … and they starve before spring arrives.

So how hungry are you? Early settlers needed to make a kill immediately in order to survive. If you’re just starting out, you need to do the same.

One thing I’ve learned from being in this industry is that each marketing or advertising method has inherent strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, many business owners are looking for the “silver bullet”—the one method that will bring in all the business they need. The reality is that effective marketing is more like a team than a shotgun.

What will you do to get clients immediately? You may be well-connected and begin to generate enough business through your network. (We did.) The trick is to define what “enough business” means to you. If you’re an independent freelancer who needs $4,000 a month to live, take your average sale and divide. If that tells you that you need three new clients a month, how many leads must you generate? If 10 leads lands three new clients, how many people should you talk to each month? Here’s a hint: it’s more than 10. What’s your success rate? Lions catch less than 30 percent of the prey it hunts; cheetahs, 60 to 70 percent. Which are you?

Consistently having conversations with people in your target market is the first step. How are you going to get in front of enough of them? Here’s where the either-or fallacy hurts most freelancers: either inbound marketing is best, or outbound marketing is best. But you can generate plenty of conversations using both cold-calling and social media. The former is hunting, the latter is farming. Cold-calling is more likely to generate a new client immediately; social media less so. Social media is farming—it takes time for the relationship to flourish, but once it does, the prospect is more likely to hire you because of it. Cold-calling’s major disadvantage is that you have no relationship (therefore, no credibility) with the person on the other end of the phone.

Just like those early settlers, your marketing goal ought to be to gradually wean yourself away from hunting and into farming. As your crops begin to grow and you begin to domesticate some wild prospects, you’ll have a barn full to which to market.

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  • Great tips here. It is all about hooking your reader and keeping them there. Unlike what they taught you in grade school you definitely want to front-load and lead with your best stuff. It is all writing to attract.

  • Great article John.

    I hadn’t thought about it like that before. I think I’m a farmer but really need to do more hunting too :-)

  • Wow! Great insight. I’ve always been a hunter and I’m definitely going to hunt more aggressively this season and the coming year. Thats my new year resolution. A new paying customer a day keeps the hunger away.

    • Your blog is actually farming Caroline; and great at that. You may have missed what John was aiming at. Farming is more long term, but requires less effort, and usually has less obstacles.

      Think about your blog and the relationships you build with your readers. Over time, many of your readers could become customers. You need to hunt (cold call, mail outs) while your blog readers build that long term trusting relationship with you; which you can begin to harvest — “when they are ready”.

      We have many resellers of our specialist hosting services. Most have started out as partners in different projects we were involved with. I spent time sharing marketing ideas with them (including the advantages of passive income from website hosting) over many months. Now we are in a long term business relationship which is a win-win for us both. Definitely farming.

      Your 30 Day eBusiness eCourse goes to an Error 404 page.

      @John: well written as usual. We all need to hunt for the first few years; but 90% farming is where the long term business results are.

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