Are You Wasting 90% of Your Prospecting Efforts?

Light Bulb - Prospecting EffortsDid you know that only 10% of the energy used by an incandescent light bulb produces light? The other 90% is given off as heat.

Seems like a lot of wasted energy, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s no different when it comes to prospecting for clients. Most of the time energy freelancers put into a promotional effort is wasted.

It usually goes something like this: You send out hundreds of letters, make dozens of cold calls or go to a handful of networking events, only to end up with just one or two golden nuggets — the few prospective clients that have an immediate need for your services.

It’s true that those few “hot prospects” are ultimately what we’re all looking for. But, too often, the difference between just “getting by” and earning an executive-level income as a freelance professional lies in what you do with prospects who are NOT ready to hire you.

The “Not Today” Crowd

Take, for instance, a direct mail campaign. Or maybe a cold-calling effort. If you’re lucky (and with the right list, call to action, copy or script), you might get 5 out of 100 people to respond. From that select group, maybe a single prospect will become a client within a few days or weeks.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the other 4 who responded don’t need or want you. Assuming there’s a good fit, they might just not have a current need. Or maybe they don’t have the budget to hire you at that moment.

That’s why I call these prospects the “not today” group.

But here’s where many freelancers drop the ball. Instead of trying to nurture these high-probability prospects (the 4 who expressed interest but couldn’t hire you at the time), most folks just forget about them.

Sure, they might attempt a follow-up call here and there. But many such calls take the wrong approach. They go something like this: “Hi, Jim. Pat Jones here. Calling to see if you have any projects I can help you with.

That comes across as desperation more than anything else. Plus, most marketing professionals today don’t have time to field these “do you have work for me” calls.

The Right Way to Stay in Touch

What very few freelancers ever do — and what you should attempt if you want to boost your income — is to start a meaningful dialogue with this “not today” group … regardless of their timing to hire you.

In other words, you should work diligently to nurture these people over the long haul. Not with calls to see if they have a project for you. But with carefully timed, value-added information.

Think about it. These people have expressed interest. They’ve responded to your call to action. Most of them are qualified to do business with you. You’ve probably even had some honest dialogue.

In other words, you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting. Now you just need to stay top of mind (without being a pest). That way, the next time they need a freelancer in your profession, you’re the first person they think of!

Not staying in touch in a meaningful way is wasteful. And crazy! In my case, more than 25% of my income every year comes as a direct result of my nurturing efforts.

These are companies that I’ve contacted in the past. But at the time, they didn’t have a need or a budget. Yet my steady, value-added contact helped me stay memorable until conditions were right to hire me.

So, how can you strategically nurture this “not today” group? Here are some practical ideas:

  • #1: Ask permission to add them to your newsletter distribution list. A highly targeted email newsletter with valuable, insightful and practical content gets read. It builds credibility. It positions you as an expert in your field and as someone with great ideas. Better yet, it helps keep you top of mind with hundreds of potential prospects.

    But don’t just stop there…

  • #2: Send an occasional email with relevant news. Have a new service offering? A new capability? An impressive case study of how you helped a similar company solve a pressing problem? Thought of another way you can help the prospect? Send him or her a quick email every couple of months. Be brief, but be personal.

    And if you really want to set yourself apart…

  • #3: Stay in touch by mailing relevant articles. Personally, this is my favorite way to become memorable. While I use the other 2 strategies above, I love to send my clients and prospects articles I think they’ll find interesting and useful, based on what I know about them and their businesses.

And if you really want to make an impact, send the actual cutout (or printout) of the article via postal mail with a Post-it note attached to it. On that note, write a simple message. Something like, “Hi, Jill. Thought you’d find this article interesting. Take care! Ed Gandia.” And make sure to include your business card.

Be genuine in your approach. And again, always be personable without coming across as a stalker. Also, don’t send everyone the same article. Make sure what you send is relevant to each prospect, based on what you know about them.

Regardless of your income goals, a prospect-nurturing program should be a key component of your marketing process. It will enable you to get more out of every dollar and every minute you spend promoting your services.

There’s just no reason to let all that valuable “prospecting energy” go to waste.

image in this post: Grant MacDonald