An entrepreneur will spend a great deal of his/her time on a very critical marketing function; sales and business development. For a business to flourish, this is simply an inevitable ongoing task that demands a lot of energy, dedication, and follow-up. Most importantly, though, successful business development requires a well thought-out plan with strategies, objectives, and tactics.
The goal is to continuously source quality leads, categorize those into prospects, and then convert them to customers, clients, and ultimately to advocates. What is of essence here is that you have a very clear picture of your “ideal” customer, as you won’t possibly be able to consider everyone as a lead and put them through the cycle described below.
A Lead is simply any person or organization that could benefit from your product or service. This is of course very broad and includes basically everybody, which is why you need to zoom in on a specific segment of the market. Let’s say you are in the business of selling spectacles (optical glasses). In that sense, everybody, including your neighbor would be a lead, as eventually every human above the age of 40 will need some sort of vision correction. Any mass-marketing program, such as direct e-mails (don’t forget the opt-in/ opt-out process) to let people know that you’re in this business, works great.
If your neighbor turns out to be, for example, far-sighted, she becomes a Prospect. She has now a vested interest in what you sell. The next step is to qualify that prospect. So if your neighbor typically wears trendy designer clothes but you sell conservative frames, or she is in love with the idea of refractive surgery, that would disqualify her as a prospect.
Assuming your products match your neighbor’s lifestyle and she is not too crazy about a surgical procedure, you will now engage her in a discussion about how often she changes spectacles, when she had the last vision exam, and when she’s planning to purchase a new set. You are now “developing business”, or “prepping” the sale. If you find out that the prospect had just changed spectacles and usually keeps a set for two years, you plug her into your marketing program and make a note to follow up again in 18 months or so. What you don’t want to do is lose touch until then. You need to stay in constant contact throughout this period so that when the time comes to change those spectacles, the only option she will consider is you (you are now practicing direct marketing).
Two years later your neighbor might tell you that it has become time to change the prescription lenses, and that she thought a new frame is being considered as well. She visits your store the next week, picks a set, and you just acquired a Customer.
A Customer is a person who does business with you, but also with others. So there is no particular level of loyalty involved. However, if she likes your service and from now on only visits your shop, congratulations, your neighbor is now a client.
A Client is someone who purchases a given type of service or product exclusively from you, and only you. This requires intense relations marketing to make sure you nurture and maintain this relationship. The easiest sale is to a client, so it’s in your best interest to keep that person as a client.
The ultimate business relationship is when your client becomes an Advocate, someone who not only buys strictly from you, but goes out of his/ her way to refer your shop to friends and peers. That advocate is now your most effective source for new business opportunities. Therefore, it is an absolute must that you have a program in place that rewards this person for his efforts to generate business for you. In this case, Relations Marketing and perhaps a Loyalty Reward Program are your most powerful tools to maintain this relationship which is a valuable asset to your retail operation.
In conclusion, here’s a good exercise for you to carry out; go through your list of business (and personal) contacts and divide them into leads, prospects, customers, clients, and advocates. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by how many clients and even advocates you have built up over the past years and who you can capitalize on to grow your business stronger and stronger.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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