Sometimes you just have to prospect. While it’s true that networking, referrals, and other relationship-oriented marketing strategies are far superior ways to build a professional services business in the long run, the problem can lie in that word “long.” It takes time to build a network and generate referrals. If you’re a new business owner, you are tackling a new niche market or your pipeline has dried up, you may not feel as if you can wait for those budding relationships to mature.
The dictionary defines the verb prospect as “to search or explore (a region), as for gold.” When you prospect for clients, you explore your region—your town or your market niche—to locate the gold that may be buried right under your nose. It’s a good bet that there are prospective clients all around you. You just need to identify them and get in touch with them.
Launching a prospecting campaign can produce several useful results beyond the obvious one generating new clients. Prospecting will get you into action immediately. If you’re writing letters and making calls, you will feel proactive and productive instead of disheartened and stuck. The information you discover and contacts you make will suggest many new possibilities for marketing your services. And you’ll gain valuable experience in what works and what doesn’t when pitching your business.
Here are 25 ways to start building a prospect list and accelerate your marketing today.
In Your Office
1. Use advertising directories. Look up companies by category in directories such as the Yellow Pages or those published by your local Chamber of Commerce or other business groups.
2. Review membership directories. You can find both consumer and business prospects in the membership directory of any group you belong to. Don’t forget your alumni association.
3. License a compiled list. Services like InfoUSA or Dun and Bradstreet can provide you with targeted consumer or business lists for direct mail or telemarketing.
4. Explore “top company” lists. Publications such as Forbes, Fortune, and your local business journal regularly publish lists of the top companies in many industries.
5. Read the press. Make note of who is being quoted as an authority in your community or market niche. Compliment them on their ideas when you make contact.
6. Publish a print newsletter. Producing a complimentary newsletter gives you a persuasive reason to ask people for their contact information in any environment.
7. Launch a survey. Create a survey for your target market and offer to share the results with everyone who completes and returns it with their contact information.
8. Write a white paper. Researching a white paper on best practices in your field will give you an excuse to seek out prospects, interview them, and ask them to refer you to others.
9. Write for periodicals. Write letters to the editor, guest editorials, or articles aimed at your niche. Include in your signature or bio a mention of your newsletter, survey, white paper, etc. to encourage readers to make contact.
10. Add everyone who contacts you. Even those who sell their own services can be valuable prospects.
On the Web
11. Use the search engines. Search for companies in your target market and geographical area, e.g. “Portland hospital” or “Atlanta restaurant.”
12. Explore online directories. Use Jigsaw or Manta to find companies or contacts organized by category.
13. Subscribe to business directories. Hoover’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Thomas Register all offer online editions with some services complimentary and others for a fee.
14. Offer a bonus. To entice people who visit your site to subscribe or register, offer a complimentary ebook, audio recording, video, ecourse, or other exclusive content in return for their name and email.
15. Publish an ezine or blog. People who like what you have to say will forward it to others. Those people will come to your site or contact you to subscribe.
16. Publish articles online. Submit your articles to websites or ezines your prospects read. Your bio should offer readers a gift if they visit your site.
17. Post to blogs and message boards. Answer questions posted on sites aimed at your market niche. Include in your signature a mention of your complimentary bonus, ezine, or blog.
18. Ask people to opt in. Provide a way for people to subscribe or register on every page of your website and suggest that they do so in the signature of every email you send.
Out in the World
19. Find lists at the library. Libraries subscribe to business and membership directories you can’t afford, and librarians will help you find the kind of prospects you’re looking for.
20. Attend networking meetings. Focus on collecting business cards, not just handing them out. Pick up any flyers or brochures you see displayed; those people may be prospects, too.
21. Join a leads group. Meet regularly with a group of other business owners to share contacts, leads, and referrals. If you can’t find a group you like, start one.
22. Canvass on foot. Visit office buildings or industrial parks and collect information about the tenants. Pick up literature you see displayed or ask the receptionist for it.
23. Sponsor a contest. Ask people to enter a drawing for some valuable prizes or a competition where you will acknowledge the winners and publicize the results.
24. Exchange lists with a colleague. Trade contacts with someone who shares your market but isn’t a competitor. Or jointly sponsor a campaign using each other’s lists to promote you both.
25. Offer rewards for referrals. Affiliate programs, referral fees, and discounts on future services can all be incentives for people to pass along leads.
Prospecting will get you out of your own head and into the habit of talking to people, and that will naturally lead to getting to know them better. Every relationship has to start somewhere.
Place these names of contacts and companies in your CRM system….we Highly recommend Sales Nexus
Identify the source of the prospect (better for identifying who becomes a customer later).
Classify the records that matter for your business so you can generate segmented marketing lists.
Determine the best ways to market to these prospects: direct mail, phone calls, emails, etc.
Determine the matching content that is valued for each of the segmented lists.
Use e-Marketing for emails, newsletters or surveys so you can track response rates and refine your next marketing actions.
Determine what needs to be refined, what to stop and do more of what works based on your marketing metrics from CRM.
About Our Show Advisor: Bertrand McHenry spent 22 years developing his skills in outside sales. Starting out in the cell phone business, then to Pitney Bowes, Dictaphone Division, and finally in Medical Diagnostic Equipment Sales. His expertise became finding, training, and developing dynamic and record setting sales teams. A number of years ago he was introduced to the concept of “Referral Marketing” as a strategy for growing his business. It worked and he was hooked! At a conference Bertrand was presented with the Referral Institute opportunity and “I was intrigued so I began researching the company and its curriculum. It is actually the only company teaching Referral Marketing as a strategy to business owners and entrepreneurs around the world…so it didn’t take me long.” These days Bertrand is doing what he loves and what he does best…teach and train! “There is a lot of misunderstanding around the words “networking” and “referral marketing”. People make a lot of assumptions about those two words, and most of those assumptions are wrong! I can tell you without a doubt that Referral Marketing is the most powerful form of marketing there is. If we structure a referral marketing strategy and follow through week after week and just use the V.C.P relationship model…we can actually predict our income 6, 9, even 12 months out!” Most recently he has been quoted on yahoofinance.com, maimiherald.com, morningstar.com and USA Today featured him in an article on today’s economy calling him a “Trendsetter in the New Economy!” He is also a contributing author on Brian Tracy’s newest book titled “The Only Business Book You’ll Ever Need to Buy” due out in February 2012 Bertrand also hosted a radio show “Business Builders Radio” on CBS radio, Talk 650 AM. The radio show was dedicated to teaching the concepts of referral marketing and helping as many business owners as possible. Bertrand is fond of saying: “I love to teach business owners to Work Less, Play More, Make More Money, and Create Referrals for Life!”