Column from Florida Trend's Business Coach
Do you know where your prospects are? One thing is for sure -- they’re not hiding. Offline and online, if you don’t know where your prospects are hanging out, your chances of connecting with them will drop like a rock.
Of course you can just show up everywhere your target audience is likely to be. But you really don’t have the time or money for that. Connecting with prospects requires you to create a presence on their turf so don’t be tempted to cast a wide net.
Before focusing on the best channels and venues for “meeting” potential buyers, make sure that you’ve locked down the profile of your company’s ideal prospects and customers. Then do a little research to find out where they go online, what meetings they attend, and who they turn to for answers to the problems they need solved.
Think like your prospects. Put a face on your audience -- go where they go, see what your prospects see. Get there by asking the people you know that fit your profile.
Do more than find out where your prospects get information and find the solutions they need. What keywords do they use to search? What websites, blogs, social media sites, and forums do they visit often? What magazines and newsletters do they subscribe to? What associations or organizations do they belong to? What experts and sources do they trust?
Now, segment your target audience according to where they are in the marketing and sales cycle.
Strangers. These are people who need to know about you -- yet, they don’t even recognize that your company exists. There is absolutely no connection between you and them. Don’t waste your time cold calling these people or sending them unsolicited mail. Strangers do not want to be sold to -- they’re looking for information and solutions to their problems. Help them find you by writing articles for or advertising in the top publications they read and on the websites they visit. Share valuable insights on the blogs prospects visit and speak at events they attend. Always weave your message into whatever you do with "strangers", but no obvious selling.
Affiliations. Who are you connected to or who can you connect with to help? The prospects you meet through affiliations are still strangers, but the common bond warms them up to your message. Become active in organizations you already belong to or need to join -- that includes participating in their online discussion groups. Figure out how to leverage existing relationships and create new affiliations. Look for other companies that share your target market but don’t directly compete with you. Get the experts and editors in your field to interview you and write about your company. Strategic relationships can be powerful -- think about companies that can roll your offering into theirs or promote your business in some way as a partner. Of course this is usually a two-way street and depends on how much value you bring these partners.
Familiarity. There are prospects who are familiar with you, but do not have a lot of information about your company. If prospects don’t know much about you, the chances are that they’ll never consider what your company can do for them. Maybe you just met at a networking event or they downloaded a white paper from your website. Or, you had business dealings with them long ago, but they know nothing about your current products or services and how you can help them today. This is similar to the difference between a friend and an acquaintance. They’re happy to talk with you but don’t actually know too much about you. While you have their attention, consider what can you do to provide meaningful information to these prospects -- but no hard sales techniques please. Can you offer them a taste of what you do in any way?
Experience. Once prospects have had a taste of what it’s like to do business with your company, the possibility of a sale goes up significantly. An experience tied directly to your solution through a demo, free workshop offer, or webinar are effective and persuasive approaches. Maybe a prospect heard you speak at a conference or watched a video on your website. Seeing first hand how you can help prospects in a meaningful way places them in the picture. That allows a prospective customer to more easily understand the direct impact and value your solution brings to them. These are the tools and activities that close sales.
Recognizing the four types of prospects is key to driving revenue. Develop strategies and tactics designed to attract ideal prospects and get the conversation going for each.
It’s a web-centric world out there and that might be the only place your company needs to be, but probably not. Until you define your perfect prospect and learn how they like to receive information and what kind of experiences they respond to, you don’t really know.
Fishing in the right ponds is critical. Be a presence only where prospects hang out.
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com