I’ve been traveling a lot lately. And, while this is good for the vagabond’s soul, it’s not good for recording videos.
So instead of continuing to treat you to niche case studies (those are coming, though), I’m getting back to my roots and writing. I’m going to classify this, like all of my other recent posts, as “business of freelancing.” But it’s really a bit of an interlude, since it’s not a logical continuation of my last post, which was about how to conduct market research to identify niches.
For today’s post, let’s assume that you’ve either found a niche, or else are just flailing around as a generalist, and you’re doing some prospecting. I want to talk about prospecting — specifically, one great way not to do it.
What is Prospecting?
Perhaps before we go barreling too far down the road to business acquisition anti-pattern, I should define what I mean by prospecting.
I’m not talking about going out and looking for oil or whatever, and I don’t really have a formal, official definition. Instead, I’ll explain what this means to me so that you understand what, exactly, I’m talking about for the rest of the post.
- Marketing is the process by which you create awareness of your offering.
- Sales is the process of maneuvering leads (ideally, ones brought about through your marketing), through your sales process and to customers.
Clever readers may notice a gap here.
What if I don’t really have any marketing to speak of, and my phone isn’t ringing with inbound business? How do I get leads into my sales process?
The various hustling you do to address this situation, dear reader, is known as prospecting. (Please don’t confuse this with marketing.)
A Prospecting Example
If I were in your shoes, interested in learning about business concepts, I’d want a concrete example. So, in true Golden Rule spirit, let me offer that.
My business, Hit Subscribe, is a specific kind of marketing partner. We help dev tools companies make engineers aware of their offerings (usually via blog posts). These days, I’m doing 2-3 sales calls per week, and here are the ways those come about:
- Inbound leads through word of mouth. Current customers refer people they know, or customer contacts switch companies and bring us along for the ride. This is an instance of marketing.
- People reach out because they read a guest post of mine somewhere or saw a talk. This is another instance of marketing — specifically content marketing.
- I hang out places where our customers hang out, introduce myself, and forge relationships. This is prospecting.
In the loosest sense, I think of marketing as strategies to facilitate passive (from your vantage point) awareness. If Hit Subscribe impresses a customer into a referral, or someone reads a blog post I wrote and reaches out, we’re expending no specific effort to reach this person.
But prospecting is active and tailored. You’re identifying and targeting possible customers.
And because you’re initiating the relationship, you need to exercise a lot more care in how you do this. Which brings me to the meat of the post.