Prospecting vs.Marketing

looking for new clients vs building an audience: know the difference!

In a small business where you are the marketer, the prospector, the closer, and the account manager, it can feel like going out and getting new customers, "getting the word out," and building an audience are all the same things. But there is some nuance, and it's important to know the difference.

What is the difference between prospecting for new clients, and marketing to a new audience?

Let me answer this question by telling you a short story that I won't forget. Several years ago, when I was still working as a Senior Marketing Manager in Los Angeles for a tech company, I was sent to a conference here in San Francisco to learn more about employing marketing automations to increase our teams efficiencies in lead generation.

This particular panel discussion had a VP of Marketing, and a VP of Sales. The VP of Marketing looked at the crowd and said, "Marketing, listen up. You work for sales, not the other way around."

So let's start this discussion by noting that good marketing always supports prospecting efforts. That's it's job. But that does not mean that marketing efforts are going to work the same as prospecting efforts.

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One-to-one vs One-to-Many.

The way I like to think about the main difference between prospecting and marketing is "one-to-one" as opposed to "one-to-many."

Prospecting efforts generally involve someone from your business working to maintain that relationship with one-to-one touches, that ultimately result in a sale of your product or service. 

Prospecting efforts can include: cultivating relationships with leads, attending networking meetings or conferences to build out your network, consistently checking in with leads or potential customers by sending new and valuable research, warming customers throughout their buying cycle by helping to educate them around their pain points, finding out what your customer needs, taking sales calls, presenting offers, closing deals, etc. 

Marketing efforts generally involve speaking to many people in your audience all at one time. We like to think of this as laying out ways for your prospects to get to know you before they start that one-to-one relationship with you. 

Marketing efforts can include: building a strong foundation for your brand through a strategy, creating assets like logo or graphics that appeal to the right customers, helping them understand what you offer and your business's style through your website (or any video on that website), consistently offering value by sharing solutions, advice, or helpful tips via email marketing, sharing your expertise or sharing your knowledge through blogs, demonstrating what it's like to work with you through case studies, making it easier to discover your website through SEO, getting to know you better by hosting events or webinars, etc.

What happens when your marketing efforts and your prospecting efforts are working in sync?

Hopefully you've heard of the marketing and sales funnel. If you haven't you can imagine a typical funnel you might have in your kitchen. Marketing typically represents the efforts towards the top of the funnel — drawing customers into the knowledge your business has to share and helping them get to know you better as they move through their buying decision.

Sales would be toward the bottom of that funnel, especially if you are a consulting shop or have higher end service offers where your clients are going to want to build a relationship with you before purchasing from you (coaches, PR professionals, event agencies, digital advertising agencies, photographers, graphic designers, etc). It's likely that your clients are going to want to talk with you or meet with you before deciding that you're the best fit for them.

So, I'm needing to close business, how can marketing help me?

Running a small business ourselves, we know all too well that there are times when you want to be in prospecting mode. Prospecting will be the thing that helps draw clients from prospectives to actual "client." 

But great marketing efforts over the long haul of your business will have impacts on your sales efforts. Great marketing will shorten your sales cycles or help to raise your close rates. By drawing in more of the right people and helping them to understand your key differentiators, your sales team will not have to reach as far and wide to close their deals.

So, what prospecting efforts are you taking on this next week? What marketing efforts are you committing to? How are you making sure they connect?


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