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What's keeping your customers up at night?

What's keeping your customers up at night?

August 26, 2010

The Absolute, Most Important Things You Need to Know to Find Your Hungry Fish

If you've heard me speak or read any of my books or newsletters already, you probably know about 'hungry fish.'

That's my way of describing your sales prospects, the people who have a need for what you're selling. Other people may refer to them as prospects or leads, but they're really all the same thing. The secret is to have a systematic method for identifying people you want to try to sell to, capturing their contact information, and then working the list.

I like the fish metaphor because I think it really illustrates where so many businesspeople go wrong in this process. Most marketing campaigns I see are more like a skinny worm randomly thrown out into the water on the end of the string. The fisherman ' if you can call him that in this case ' spends a whole lot of time waiting, wastes a whole lot of bait, and comes home at the end of the day with an empty boat.


But let's really run with the fishing analogy here ' you don't go to a lake to catch a marlin. You don't go out on the ocean to catch bass. Fishermen ' successful fishermen, that is - spend a lot of time thinking about the type of fish they want to catch, what bait they need to do that, and what the fish's habits are, and then plan accordingly.

And once a fish takes the bait, the fisherman doesn't just leave the fish dangling on the hook. They work the line, gently reeling the fish in. Even then the work isn't done ' I'll spare you the gory details but suffice to say there's a whole lot more that has to happen before that fish winds up on the fisherman's plate.

It's the same way with marketing. Lead generation is all about identifying your prospects and getting to know them as intimately as possible so you know where to find them and how to capture their information. But that's not the end - once that information is in your possession, you have to keep the conversation going.


What makes them hungry?

The first step is figuring out the type of person you're trying to reach. think about their demographics, like age, where they live, gender, family size, education level, income, and transportation habits. Here's an example from an insurance broker we know: 'My prospects are 65 years old, live in Florida, are Caucasian, married, and retired white collar, drive Toyota Camrys and have no current income and savings of $1.2 million.'

Then consider their psychographics, which are their attitudes, interests and opinions. Be specific: 'My prospects are afraid of running out of money. They trust their accountants, are driven to save, and willing to live with less because they were raised by parents who had lived through the Great Depression.'

Next, consider their hunger ' what is it that these people need? Not just a want - something deeper, something they will pursue. 'My prospects need to feel safe, they want to avoid risk, they want to be respected and cared for.'

Why is this important? Because the more you know about your prospects, the easier it will be for you to find them.

Direct mail marketing guru Dennis Sullivan told a great story about this in of our audio conferences. Dennis once worked for one of the leading direct mail marketing publishers in the world.

One of their products was an alternative health newsletter. Now, alternative health is a topic that appeals to all sorts of different people ' young, old, wealthy, not so wealthy, living in all different parts of the world. The demographics in this case weren't much of a help in figuring out how to reach these hungry fish.

But when they looked at the psychographics, a common thread emerged: these people were skeptical of authority, and didn't trust the information that came from the government or the mainstream media. Instead, they relied on more underground and alternative sources for their information.

Once Dennis and his team realized this, they moved quickly. They identified The Drudge Report as one of the leading alternative news sources, and placed banner ads on their Web site. It turned out to be one of their most successful campaigns ever, and the publication still relies on it heavily.


Who has influence?

It's also important to realize that the decision makers are not your only target ' you also want to capture the people who influence the decisions. Business-to-business salespeople know this - you never want to end up calling on a purchasing agent. Why?

Because even though he's the one who has to sign the order, he doesn't care what type of product he ends up buying because he doesn't use it every day to do his job. He's not going to listen to you ' but he will likely listen to the end users in other departments who specifically request that he purchase your product. In this case, those end users are your target, even though they won't buy directly from you.

Here's another example. In residential real estate, the agent is an important gatekeeper. If you're selling residential construction services, landscaping, mortgages, etc., you're not selling your product directly to real estate agents. But agents can refer people to you, people who clearly have a need for a mortgage, an addition, or other home improvements. Those are your hungry fish. In these cases it's worth it to invest some time and money developing a relationship with the agent.

Once successful contractor I know did this by setting up a business Facebook page for his business. He invited area real estate agents to become 'fans' and offered $10 Starbucks gift cards for the first 200 fans who signed up. Once they signed up, they were unlikely to leave the list, and he could keep them informed of special promotions or other news related to his business. So for a small amount of money, he set up a mechanism to help him build relationships with critical gatekeepers AND created a source that will continue to bring him great leads for years to come.

Of course, your current customers are also a great source of referrals. This technique has been successfully used since the dawn of time, but I'm always amazed at how few businesses put it to work for them. One great example of a winning referral campaign was at the Association of Healthcare Executives.

They wanted to boost their membership rolls, so they developed a campaign to incent current members to recruit new members for them and promoted it through direct mail, their Web site and their blog. Members earned points for each referral they made that went on to join. They could redeem those points for prizes. The prizes weren't anything fancy ' I think the most popular one was a plain white polo shirt ' but it worked. After one year, they had 10 times more members than they had before the campaign.


How to convert leads into sales

Ok, so you know who your hungry fish are, you know their demographics and psychographics and you know the best places to reach them. You run a great promotion and you get a bunch of great leads. Now what?

Let's switch metaphors now: instead of fishing, let's talk about funnels. A funnel is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. It allows you to get a large quantity of stuff into a small opening without making a big mess. By creating a funnel for your leads, you can bring in a large quantity and gradually narrow the opening to let only the best ones through.

You narrow the funnel through a series of steps. Think about the steps carefully beforehand ' you want to know exactly what you're asking the prospect to do at each step. In the audio conference, Dennis said how, at his former employer, this was summed up in the catchphrase, 'No dead ends.' They were constantly thinking not only about how they were going to capture leads, but also what they were going to do with them once they got them.

It's important that the first step is very simple ' maybe just providing a name and email address for a prize drawing, or to receive a free issue of a publication. Asking for too much in the first step will scare people away ' they're not invested enough yet to take the time.

But once a person says 'yes' once, it's easier to get them to say 'yes' again. So in the second step of the funnel, ask for more information. Ak for their phone number, address, and something specific to your niche (what their top financial challenge is, for instance). 80 percent of people will provide this information when they're asked in the second step ' but they wouldn't have given it if you asked at the beginning.

Once you've gotten them to this point, they are ready for conversion ' get them to say yes to the main offer. If you've worked the funnel well, it should be easy. The key is to continue to follow-up with interested leads and stay connected. You want to establish a relationship and develop trust between you and your hungry fish. Remember, people don't buy based on the product alone, they buy from a person ' even if they only 'met' the person online or through the mail.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President