Ever feel like your prospects are playing hard to get? You’re not crazy. Prospects are harder to reach these days -- well, at least through traditional means. Think about it. Twenty or twenty five years ago people looking to make a purchase had to interact with possible suppliers in order to do their research and make informed decisions.
Perhaps they would:
- contact several companies and ask them to send information
- attend a tradeshow to visit booths, have conversations, and collect information
- go to the yellow pages to look up businesses then contact them for information
- attend local networking events and purposefully ask around to get introductions to companies that could help them
- read a trade magazine then submit a postcard requesting information from some of the advertisers
- respond to advertisements they heard on radio, saw on TV, in newspapers or magazines
- ask friends and colleagues for recommendations
This list may have you wishing for the old days -- when most techniques employed by the prospect resulted in a known lead for the marketer. What else do you notice about this list? The first 6 strategies are gradually (or not so gradually) being used less often by prospects, while the last on on the list, asking friends and colleagues, is still a very common technique. It’s also the one that allows the prospect to “hide” the most from the marketer.
This is no coincidence. Have you heard the saying “people don’t like to be sold to, they like to buy?” Don’t we prefer to be in control of any situation, when the opportunity is there? So it shouldn’t be a surprise to extend this idea to “people don’t want to be found, they want to find you.” This is the paradigm shift in marketing that is now quite mature and undeniable.
So what should you do about it?
- Reframe your problem. The more you focus on “finding the best prospects,” the more your marketing will fall into the trap of chasing people who don’t want to be found. When you do find (i.e., corner) them, will it really be the victory you sought? Flip your problem upside down and think more about getting found than finding.
- Nurture your network. As mentioned above, your prospects will still (and perhaps always?) tap into their connections to find resources and help. Social media tools give them new or enhanced ways to do that, so you will be well served to keep your relationships active online and off.
- Learn to articulate the challenges your ideal clients face. Prospective buyers have problems or challenges to which you have solutions. Stand out from your competitors by being the one business that clearly understands, and whose marketing message clearly communicates those challenges. When your readers and listeners say “yes, that’s me, that’s my problem!” your competition will fade into the background in that visitor’s mind.
- Create content (articles, podcasts, whitepapers, videos) on a regular schedule. This can feel overwhelming. You may think you don’t have enough to say. When you start to list all the ways that your ideal prospects may be searching for help, and the multiple vehicles for getting that information out there, you’ll realize the topics, and permutations thereof, are endless. Start by making a list of what they might type into a search engine to research help.
- Capitalize on their visit with a juicy offer to meet or talk with you. Many marketers will tell you that a next step is to create some form of opt-in offer -- like an eBook, worksheet, video series, etc. While creating this item (lead magnet, bait, premium content, or whatever term you want to use) is key to nurturing that fragile relationship with a brand new visitor to your site, you may not be in a position to crank out a quality piece this weekend. While you get the wheels turning on that effort, be sure to first make it easy and attractive for someone who is ready to talk to contact you.
- Dive into creating that anchor material that your visitor will gladly “pay for” with their name and email address. This is a big topic that requires more time and space than I offer here, but these questions will help you pick a topic: What are the most common initial (i.e., small) problems with which your ideal clients struggle? What misconception needs to be cleared up so they can get on track for success or resolution? What process or path do they need to follow that will yield a better result? What questions should prospects ask, or process should they use, to help them make an informed purchase decision? What pitfalls are they in danger of encountering?
Indeed, your prospects are trying to avoid you. But it might make you feel better to recognize that “it’s not you, it’s them.” They’re just exercising a natural desire to be in control. Prior to the internet, web, and social media, options for them to control the process were limited. Now, they can more than ever. Your marketing will succeed to the degree that you embrace that reality.
Business Strategist Andy McClure helps independent professionals and small business owners get a more consistent flow of new clients. www.sherpabusinessdevelopement.com