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Suspects and Prospects in the Marketing Pipeline

Making consistent use of your marketing pipeline has to be a paramount focus if you are to succeed as a memoir professional.

When people contact you as a result of your general outreach, they enter your pipeline. Some people who enter your pipeline only want general info while others are ready to hire help for their memoir project. In a nutshell, these are your suspects and prospects.

Suspects are far from ready to buy. Let’s look at three different sorts of suspects.

  1. Some suspects come to you wanting information about the feasibility of a memoir project and about you as a professional. They aren’t ready to buy–but perhaps they will be someday. A second level of outreach is targeted to them: a newsletter is a good way to keep alive your connection with them, to remind them that you will be there when they’re ready, to reiterate your products/services, and to establish that you are, indeed, whom they are looking for. It’s important to have clear, concise response materials and an efficient “keep in touch” system for suspects to help them become prospects.
  2. Some suspects will never become prospects. They also want information but not to be better able to decide on which of your products or services to purchase–no! they want free info in order to do the work (or just think about doing it!) on their own. Here’s a “red flag” to identify these non-paying non-prospects: they call repeatedly with “just one more question”–seeming like potential clients, they use your time and energy and keep you from your real work. (As a general rule, two, possibly three, phone or e-mail contacts are more than enough for a suspect to either make a purchase or decide against purchasing. When you indulge a suspect in more contacts than that, you’re doing free coaching. If your work is a business not a hobby, you cannot afford to do this. There may well be clients whom you want to be generous with, people whose stories really resonate with you, people whose projects are exciting and creative for you–save your generosity for them. Don’t squander it on strangers whose projects aren’t exciting to you and who will never become clients at all.)
  3. Another group of suspects is those who either cannot afford your products/services or they cannot make the emotional commitment to their project which a purchase implies. You cannot change these factors. Only they can do so. You must take care to be economical with your contact time at the suspect stage. You need a lot of suspects if you’re going to have enough clients–because most suspects will never become paying clients. You can easily impoverish yourself (and possibly destroy your company) by devoting too much time too soon to individual suspects. Instead, keep your marketing focus on mass contact. Develop generic materials that will speed your response to larger numbers of suspects. And give those who will become prospects, then clients, the opportunities to identify themselves.

A prospect is someone who is willing and ready to be convinced to make a purchase. One way to tell if people are prospects is if they are willing to give you their names, addresses, and phone numbers. If an inquirer won’t do this, s/he is a suspect not a prospect.

  1. Prospects may have once been suspects who are now ready to move on to the next stage in the pipeline. Your continued, effective outreach has persuaded them to buy in!
  2. Other prospects come right into the pipeline ready to make a purchase. They have seen your outreach material and feel they do not need any more persuasion. (This is marketing heaven!)

To reach the people who are ready to be prospects, you use the same media as for suspects–with this difference: add a call to action. Your upcoming income event such as a workshop registration deadline, a “sale” on existing products, or a direct invitation to become a paying client provides the moment of decision for this prospect. (By the way, some prospects will drift away just because you never pop the sales question: “are you ready to buy?” You can be sure someone else will reap the benefit of the work you have put in to get these errant prospects ready to purchase–someone who is willing to ask them to buy!)

All businesses thrive or fail on their ability to attract suspects and prospects who become paying customers. Keep tabs on your numbers of each and where these people are in your pipeline. It will help you to assess whether the outreach you generate is effective. Is it producing numbers that will lead you to good times or to poverty? Dismal numbers ought to prompt you to take immediate marketing action.

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