Your Prospects Aren’t Looking for You … and What You Can Do about It

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In my last article, I talked about the self-directed buyer. I described this type of person as someone who:

  1. Knows he has a particular need
  2. Can describe that need in terms of a solution
  3. Knows where to find someone who can solve it
  4. Is motivated to find someone

At whatever point this process breaks down for the person experiencing the problem, the decision to do nothing may wind up being his decision. Unlike the emergency or potentially life-threatening situation I described in my last article, web development, search marketing—or even advertising in general—is neither an emergency nor life-threatening to any of your prospective clients. Business owners do not walk into their shop and say to themselves, “Gee, business is down; I think I’ll phone ABC Interactive Web Agency and have them provide some search marketing for me.”

Does that mean no one is proactively searching for a solution? Of course not. But as Gemma pointed out in a previous comment:

There’s only so long I can sit around waiting for someone to click through 20-odd Google search pages, discover my website and have an epiphany that I am clearly some sort of web development demi-god and employ me immediately to build their site…

And Jason had this to say:

We’ll be happy to contact all your potential prospects while you’re waiting for them to find your cool video on YouTube.

So unless Jason calls them first, what most business owners will do is worry and fret and hope things will pick up … and do nothing. That’s because they don’t connect the dots and see marketing as the solution to their problem. If you’re under the delusion that they’ll call, they won’t. In fact, they’ll do the exact opposite—they’ll conclude that advertising is just another expense and stop doing it … “until things pick up again.” So what’s a poor freelancer to do? I’m glad you asked.

Superstar or Team Player?

In a recent TEDx talk, Mitch Joel said this:

When I sit down and work with brands and they talk to me about their web strategy and their mobile strategy, I think it’s a stupid strategy. I think they should be talking about their … strategy.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. There is no one single marketing strategy that will produce magical results. Every marketing method has inherent strengths and weaknesses. You should think of your marketing efforts as a team, where each one can shore up the weaknesses of the others and work together to bring about a win. The “inbound marketing only” either-or mindset is like relying on a single member of the team to bring home the win every time. And if you follow basketball, you know how well that’s worked out for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James’ departure.

I think that’s the point of the above quote. You ought to look at your overall marketing strategy, consider all the potential team members (both inbound and outbound) and pick the ones that will work best together to achieve the win. So where do you start?

Your 30 Day Marketing Challenge

Someone much wiser than me once gave me this advice. Pick three marketing activities to engage in: one that you will enjoy; one that terrifies you but will cause you to grow; and one that will land some clients right away. My list looked like this:


I love teaching, speaking and writing, so I got in touch with my local small business administration and taught web marketing courses to people who had just started a business. I made sure they knew there were plenty of follow-up articles on my website. I asked them to subscribe to my mailing list and sent out a quarterly, 4-color printed (how old school) newsletter … because it got more attention than just one more email in their already over-crowded inbox.

Of course, that was in the early Web 2.0 days. Today, I’d also be inviting them to ‘like’ me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to my blog.


I find it odd that I’d rather stand up and speak to a group of 50 total strangers than walk into a room with those same 50 people and have to “network.” To get past my trepidation, I joined a local small business networking group. I also looked into joining a local BNI chapter.

Keep in mind that there’s a vast difference between passively waiting for referrals and actively engaging in a process that will generate them. BNI is networking on steroids. Members don’t merely “show up”—they’re expected to show up with referrals for their fellow members.

Also, take a look at Georgina’s article, The Truth About Word-of-Mouth Referrals.

Land clients right away

Take a wild guess what I picked.

If you want to become proficient at cold-calling, I recommend Scott Channell’s How to Set Sales Appointments. If you sign up for his email newsletter, you’ll get tons of free advice and information (and script ideas) to more than get you started. His book/CD package is also reasonable and well worth it.

If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got. Here’s my challenge to you. Do your homework and be ready to implement your new marketing strategy in the next 30 days. Here are two excellent books that will help:

The Last Word … Really

Once final piece of advice. When I had my web business, I never got up the nerve to truly give cold-calling the chance it deserved. I had a decent client base in California, but when I moved out of state, I couldn’t get established fast enough, so I made the decision to shut down my business. Ironically, I landed in a job first doing, then teaching exactly what could have saved my business if I’d known what I know now.

That’s why I advised taking a part-time, temporary telemarketing job, if at all possible. It will literally force you to learn, and help you overcome your fear and reluctance. Sitting alone in your home office or dining room table, trying to work up the nerve—despite having listened to all the training materials on the planet and still wondering if you’re doing it right—is a tough place to be in.

I guess that’s why most of us choose to work for someone else.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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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. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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