When I think in terms of building a client base proactively, to me, that means deciding in advance, what type of clients do I want? What types of clients do I not want? And then really going about putting together the processes and strategies that are necessary to attract exactly that type of customer.
David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. Today, co-host Jay McFarland and I will be discussing the topic of growing your client base proactively. Welcome, Jay.
Jay: Hey, thank you for having me on. I’m super excited about today’s topic.
David: It’s great to have you here.
Jay: Yeah. And I know this is a big question for businesses. I’ve heard the phrase. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying” So growth is a constant thing that you have to be thinking about. How do you do that proactively?
Overcoming the Day to Day
David: It’s a great question because so often we get caught up in the day-to-day of what’s going on. Particularly in the early stages of a business, when you don’t have as much business as you need, it can be really scary. What a lot of people tend to do is they just sort of default to whatever it is that they think is going to bring in business. And they lose sight of the fact that if they aren’t proactive about it, you can really fall into bad patterns that can create problems and perpetuate a cycle where you’re not generating the revenue that you need to grow and scale.
Jay: Yeah, this is such important information because I think most people don’t start a business because they know how to grow a business. They start a business because I have a great recipe and I’m going to put it in a food truck. Or I’m an attorney even, and I’ve learned the law or a dentist or a doctor. Those people are not trained or taught how to grow their business. They’re taught how to do their craft. So this is outside of anything they’ve been taught.
David: It’s really funny because there was an electrician here earlier today at our house. He was taking care of some things. And we were having exactly this conversation. Because he used to work for another electrical firm. He decided to start his own business. And we started talking about “what they don’t teach you in electrical school” essentially. Right?
There’s More to Growing Your Client Base Proactively
I know how to do electrical work, but do I know how to find customers? Do I know how to find the right customers? Do I know how to handle the billing and do collections and hire and fire and do all the other things that become necessary when you have a business. It’s a whole different set of skills. But you’re right. And from the standpoint of our topic today, in terms of growing proactively, a lot of business owners really don’t know how to go about that. They don’t know how to do it, which is the reason we’re having this conversation today.
Jay: Yeah. It can be so daunting. So where do you start? I mean, you know, so many ideas, you got social media, you’ve got all of these different tools available to you. Where do you begin?
David: Well, I think for a lot of people, if you want to take a strategic approach, you want to think in terms of the types of clients, you actually want to have. The types of customers that you enjoy interacting with. By and large, these are going to be people who are pleasant to deal with. They’re people who have money and aren’t afraid to spend it. They’re people who appreciate the value you bring to the table. And a lot of times we don’t even think of that.
Taking Just Anybody
Again, particularly in the early stages, if somebody is willing to pay us for what we do, we’re like, “okay, great, I’ll take it!” And I think that can really be a mistake. Because it can lead us to establishing the type of client base that we might not want to interact with on an ongoing basis. So when I think in terms of building a client base proactively to me, that means deciding in advance, what types of clients do I want? What types of clients do I not want? And then really going about putting together the processes and strategies that are necessary to attract exactly that type of customer.
Jay: Yeah. I love that. So defining who your customer is. And how do you do that? I’m guessing some brainstorming? Taking a look at your current clientele, the customers that you really like working with compared to the ones that you really don’t like working with? Is that kind of the process?
David: Yeah. When you’ve got the benefit of having a customer base and you know which customers you like, and which ones you don’t. You know which ones are great to deal with and which ones aren’t. Then it does become a lot easier to do that. You say, okay, well I’ve found that if I’m selling business-to-business, for example, people in this particular industry seem to be more receptive. People with these particular titles within this type of industry seem to be more receptive. One of the things that we’ve talked about a lot in the print and promotional products industries, where we do a lot of work, is that purchasing people seem to be generally less fun to deal with than people who are in sales and marketing or business owners, that type of thing. Because they have different motivations. And this is something else that people don’t think about very often.
Motivating a Client Base to Buy
David: What is the motivation for the person to buy from me? A business owner is going to be likely to want to buy things that are going to help that person to grow the business. Whereas a purchasing agent is just going to say, “who can provide it the cheapest?”Who can deliver it the quickest? And are they already on my preferred vendor list? Because if they are, I’d rather not have to interact with somebody else.” So a lot of that goes into the mix as well. So identifying what types of customers, where are they located? Am I dealing with people in a geographic area? Am I dealing with people in particular niche industries? What is it? And at least starting to come up with an idea of the types of clients that you want to attract. Now, that doesn’t mean that’s all I’m going to take.
David: At some point, you, you may be able to get to that point. And the sooner the better really. But it’s not always possible right upfront. So you decide what types of clients you want. You target those people proactively. Whether it is through social media. However, you decide that you want to target them. For some people, if you’re selling to a particular niche industry, you can put together a list of various businesses that meet those criteria. Businesses of a particular size in a particular geographic area, in a particular niche. And you can target them that way. But the main thing is starting with that idea of “who would I ideally like to work with and who would I like to proactively leave to my competitors?” And that becomes a key as well. There are going to be clients that you’re better off leaving to your competitors. The types of clients who are not going to be as delightful to work with. The people who do not appreciate the value you bring to the table. You almost leave them as landmines <laugh> for competition to stumble across once you’ve identified them.
Next Steps to Growing Proactively
Jay: So I’ve identified my clientele. I know who I’m going to go after. What’s the next step once I absolutely know what type of customer I want?
David: Well, one of the first things that we really focus on is what I refer to as First Contact. What will my first contact with these prospects be? So in a situation if you’re selling B2B and you’ve decided on a particular market, you’ve decided on a particular type of prospect, then you ask yourself, “okay, what is my first contact going to be?” Is it going to be a cold call? Is it going to be a direct mailing? Am I just going to stop in? What am I going to do? Many times people don’t give this enough thought. There are businesses who have been in business forever. And they just basically say, “okay, well, we’re just going to pick up the phone and start smiling and dialing. We’re just going to do cold calls.
David: And they don’t realize that cold calls are not the only way to initiate first contact with people. So you really want to think through this. In our Total Market Domination course, we really focus on different types of first contact. Asking yourself, “okay, based on the audience that you want to attract, what is an ideal form of first contact? What will not just get you in touch with that person, but position you the way that you want to be positioned. And for most people, a cold call is not going to position you the way that you would ideally want to be positioned.
Positioning Yourself with Your Client Base
David: Because if you’re calling me on the phone, I may think, “okay, you have too much time on your hands if you’re cold calling me on the phone. Whereas if I find you… If I discover you and call you, and it’s my idea to buy from you, that’s better from your standpoint. Because you’re the expert and I’m coming to you as being the expert in what you do. That’s also better for me because my mindset is right. It’s not a situation where somebody is calling me and I’m on the defensive trying to figure out why are they calling me. And trying to come up with every excuse in the book, not to buy from them.
Jay: So what are some of those ideas? I love the idea of first contact. What are some of those ideas besides just the cold call?
David: Well, some of the things that we touched on. I mean, some people can initiate first contact through a direct mail piece. It could be lumpy mail. As I mentioned, we do a lot of stuff with people in the promotional products industry. If you were to send somebody, in the mail, a self-promotion item, that type of thing can get their attention. And so what we recommend in our Top Secrets of Customer Acquisition program — particularly for people in that industry — is that you send a promotional item in the mail with a cover letter. So let’s say, I’m going to send you a custom imprinted flashlight, and I’m trying to sell you promotional products. So I send you this flashlight and there’s a cover letter that goes with it. It’s in a shiny package and you have no idea it’s coming, right?
First Contact is Not Just Cold Calling
David: So you get this shiny package. It’s addressed to you and you tear it open. And there’s a nice high-quality flashlight in there. And it’s got a logo on it. You’re not paying attention to that yet, but you open up the letter, and the letter says, “Dear Jay, Please accept the enclosed flashlight as my commitment to you that I’m here to help shed light on your most pressing promotional issues. And whether you’re looking to highlight a new product launch or attract attention or spotlight a new campaign, I’m here to help take care of that for you. Give me a call, let me know you got this. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch within the next few days. Best regards David Blaise. Right? So I send that item. I send you that letter. Then at that point, it’s in your hands.
David: In the letter I said, “give me a call. Let me know you got this.” Well, you might do that. Or you might not, right? So if I figure “well, I’m going to sit back and wait for the phone call,” I might be setting myself up for failure. So one of the reasons I was saying in the cover letter, “give me a call, let me know you got this” is so that you would know that I’m probably going to be calling you if you don’t call me. Right? So then when I contact you, my second contact after that first contact is not, “Hi Jay, I sell promotional items. My second contact is, “Hey Jay, it’s David Blaise calling. Did you get the flashlight I sent you?
Jay: Mm. Right.
Building the Ideal Client Base
David: And it’s a whole different dynamic because you’re positioning yourself as the expert. You’re demonstrating what you do. And you’re doing it in a way that gets a person’s attention. It’s a gift of obligation. So among people of conscience, they’ll be likely to say, “yeah, thanks for the gift.” And they might be willing to give you a couple of minutes to talk to you about what you do.
Jay: And, and it’s memorable, right? So when you do place that call, you’ve done something unique that stands out. I really like that aspect of this idea.
David: And the idea of using a memory hook in the copy. “I’m sending you this flashlight to help shed light on your most pressing promotional issues. And whether you’re looking to spotlight a grand opening or new product launch, I’m here to help.” Whatever it is. It’s catchy. It’s a little play on words.
Using a Memory Hook
David: But it’s designed to create a memory hook. It gets people’s attention in a positive way. As opposed to a cold call, which, in a lot of cases is just not that positive.
Jay: Yeah. And how much does social media play into this? Is that a viable course of action?
David: It absolutely is. And I think one of the things that people fail to realize is that it’s not just about posting stuff, right? It’s about initiating conversations. If you think of your social media as your first contact. If you recognize that the goal of the first contact is to initiate a second contact. Get a response, right? Just like with the letter. I want to get a response. Or I want to be able to follow up with you intelligently. If you plan for that in advance, then your likelihood of success with it is going to be greatly increased.
Intelligent Repetition of Contact
Jay: Yeah. That’s very good. I’ve heard a lot over the years that a customer needs to see or hear from you five or six times before they actually act. Is that valid? And is there a way to reduce that number?
David: I remember reading, I think it was in the Guerrilla Marketing book by Jay Conrad Levinson, years ago. I remember reading — and I think he had the number at nine. You know, that people need to see or hear from you nine times before they’re going to be ready to buy. And I actually took that in the opposite direction. I thought, “well, if I’m reaching out, and if you need to hear from me nine times, I’m going to assume that you’re only going to pay attention to one out of three.
How Many Times Do I Need to Be in Touch?
David: So I’m thinking the number is 27. <laugh>
David: I need to be in front of you 27 times before you’re going to be ready to buy. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a fixed number for that. I mean, there could be somebody that you meet at a networking function. You have a conversation. They have a need for what you’re selling and end up buying it. That can happen in one call or two calls. So I don’t think it’s a fixed thing. But I think the basic idea of being in touch with people on a repetitive basis makes a whole lot of sense. But I also think one of the things that’s missing is the idea of what needs to happen in those contacts. And it’s not just a matter of “I’m in touch, I’m in touch, I’m in touch.” How can we further the conversation? How can I get you qualified in or out as quickly as possible upfront, right? Because there are people who will go to whatever, networking functions, that type of thing. They will interact with somebody for months at a time without ever finding out whether or not that person is qualified to buy from them. And that can be just an enormous waste of time.
Jay: Yeah. Ideally, screen out those people upfront so that you’re not wasting time and dollars on them. Focus on the people who are actually potential clients.
The Customer Acquisition Cycle
David: Exactly. So in our Top Secrets of Customer Acquisition program, we look at it as basically a cycle. And the cycle starts with targeting. What are the businesses that I want to approach? And then, who are the people? The hunting and gathering part. Who are the people within those businesses that I want to interact with? Then initiating first contact with those people. And the purpose of the first contact is to get to qualification and segmentation. So qualification, finding out, “do they have the need, the desire, the money, the budget, the willingness to spend?” And what level of qualification? Is this something that they may consider doing at some point in the future? Is this something they need right now? Are they just generally receptive to the idea or do they have to do something by, say, September. Right?
David: Because all of those things will tell you what level of qualification they’re in. And to get there, that intelligent repetition of contact that we were talking about earlier that has to happen in between. So we initiate first contact. We engage in intelligent repetition of contact for the purpose of getting them qualified in or out as quickly as possible. Then we find out which level of qualification they’re on. And that’s a different podcast.
Levels of Qualification
David: But basically we know that there are five different levels of qualification. And depending on where they are, that’s going to determine how I interact with them. If they’re ready to buy now, then obviously I’m going to provide them with options. I’m going to attempt to sell them. If they’ve got specific dates in mind, I’m going to get them scheduled. If they’re just generally receptive, then I might get involved with a drip campaign. Get them in touch with me on a regular basis. If they’re disqualified, if they’re unresponsive, I need to have plans for that as well. But once we know that there are a limited of options, it becomes a lot easier to know exactly where we need to go next.
Jay: Yeah. I love all of this. And then of course, for another time, once you get their attention, learning how to close them… Completely separate discussion. Correct?
David: Exactly. Yeah. Right. Overcoming objections, all the typical stuff that we tend to talk about in sales. That all comes into play. But a lot of people have trouble because they miss out on all the stuff we’re talking about. That needs to happen upfront in a way that will make them more likely to want to engage with you and do business with you in the first place.
What is Your Plan?
Jay: Yeah. I’m going to guess there’s a lot of small businesses out there that don’t even have a plan. You know, they’re just kind of haphazard and they get some word of mouth and that’s awesome. But beyond that, they really don’t have a specific action that they’re taking all the time.
David: Exactly. And when people don’t think in terms of first contact, if they’re just thinking in terms of cold calling, then it becomes that old analogy “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Qualifying Your Client Base
David: And so you have people, perhaps sales managers who might not have sold in a long time. And they just say, “well, just keep making phone calls.” And it may work. But there are things that could be working a whole lot better. And that could get their people on the phone with more qualified people a lot more quickly if they were just to think about it and take the time to do it. But just to get back real quickly to your question about social media,.if you recognize that this is a first contact that is designed to get you into a conversation where you can then get them qualified in or out as quickly as possible. If you recognize that there are steps to this, then you’re in much better shape.
One of the other things that we’ve been looking at more recently, and I’ve done a little bit of talking about this in recent podcasts. But it’s something that we’ve really been working on with our Inner Circle people. There are actually four different levels of communication when it comes to this type of thing. So social media is like the tip of the iceberg. If I post something on social media, everybody sees that. That’s a public conversation. And so public is the tip of the iceberg.
But then you want to move people through these stages. You go from public communication to protected communication. That might be in a Facebook group or something like that, where there’s only a limited number of people in there. Then you want to get to a private communication, which could be a one-on-one conversation or Skype, or messaging back and forth. And then you want to get to paid conversation. Which is only for your paying clients.
Public, Protected, Private & Paid
So once again, if you recognize that there are stages to this, then it’s not just like throwing spaghetti against the wall. I’m (not) just going to post stuff and hope I get business from it. It never happens that way, or almost never happens that way.
David: But when you’re strategic about it, and when you recognize that my goal — just as with a networking function when you walk into a networking function — the goal is not to just schmooze. The goal is to walk out with a prospect or to disqualify everybody in the room. So you know that you don’t have to go back there next month. Unless they’ve got a whole different group of people. Right. That’s the goal is to figure those things out.
Jay: Such great information and feedback. How do people find out more?
David: Okay, well, you can just go to our website TopSecrets.com. if like to join our Inner Circle, TopSecrets.com/ic. That’s where we engage in this discussion every month, inside the password-protected areas of our website. But yeah, start at topsecrets.com and if you have any questions, people can message me on Facebook or email. But that’d be a great place to start.
Jay: Yeah. Get working on that plan. Be specific about it.
David: Yeah. Just think about it. Just think in terms of who do I want to reach and what’s the best way that I can accomplish that? And once again, just real quickly, on first contact… Some people are like, “well, I don’t know that I want to send a gift. Do I really wanna spend five bucks or 10 bucks on somebody I don’t know? And the question is, well, do you want to spend three months of your life <laugh> pursuing somebody who’s not worth a $5 gift?
Are Good Prospects Worth It?
David: And if the answer is no, then you might be better off spending the five bucks and saving yourself three months.
Jay: I love that. David, it’s been a real pleasure.
David: Thank you, Jay. Appreciate it.
Ready to Grow Your Client Base Proactively?
If so, check out the five primary ways we help promotional product distributors grow:
- Just Getting Started? If you (or someone on your team) is just getting started in promotional products sales, learn how we can help.
- Need Clients Now? If you’re already grounded in the essentials of promotional product sales and just need to get clients now, click here.
- Want EQP/Preferential Pricing? Are you an established industry veteran doing a significant volume of sales? If so, click here to get End Quantity Pricing from many of the top supplier lines in the promo industry.
- Time to Hire Salespeople? If you want to hire others to grow your promo sales, click here.
- Ready to Dominate Your Market? If you’re serious about creating top-of-mind-awareness with the very best prospects in your market, schedule a one-on-one Strategy Session here.