It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of building a pipeline of potential clients. It requires plenty of strategy, time, and effort to connect with prospects and then keep them close so that they're ready to convert into buyers when it's time for your product launch.
To lighten this burden, think about connecting with groups of people rather than individuals...and if you do focus on individuals, focus your time on nurturing relationships with people who can extend the results of your efforts by bringing you into an even bigger group or community. I call this "focusing on faucets."
Once you turn a faucet on, you can walk away and it will keep delivering water. In this case, the drops of water are your potential clients. You don't have to retrieve and dump bucket after bucket of water into your tub to fill it. Identifying potential "faucet" relationships and turning them on adds a strategic and efficient layer to your client generation efforts.
Now that you understand the idea behind focusing on faucets, here are four areas to begin looking for those opportunities.
The businesses that are your customers can be strong lead faucets. Depending on the type of work they do, they may have a good understanding of your expertise and the audience you intend to reach.
For example, if you are a social media guru who has hired a web design company to build a new site for you, that same web design company may be an excellent source of business for you. The web design firm probably has other customers who are asking about online visibility, keyword optimization, social media integration, and other related areas that are in your wheelhouse but perhaps not theirs.
Complementary businesses are those that operate in a space that fits alongside what you do without competing with it. For example, here at Greenleaf Book Group, literary agents and publicists fall in this category.
When building out a list of opportunities in this category, stay focused on complementary businesses that serve the same core client as you do. Your faucet is only effective if it brings in the right type of client leads.
The notion of leaning on your competitors for referrals might make the hair on your neck stand up a bit, but hear me out on this one.
You have direct competitors, and you have complementary competitors. Your direct competitors are going after the same core client as you. Your complementary competitors provide similar services to you but pursue a different core client. They may be approached by a client who isn't right for them, but would be perfect for you - and you want to be the first person the competitor thinks of when they realize they need to make a referral.
Many of the public speakers I work with support each other in this way. A leadership speaker with a brand built around her military background may be asked to come into a company to do a keynote on working with the millennial generation. She knows this is not her area of expertise, so she will refer a complementary competitor--another speaker who specializes in exactly this type of content. The customer will be thrilled to have the vetting done for them, and the speaker she referred will most certainly return the favor when the opportunity arises.
Professional Organizations and Associations
Your future customers may be starting their search for a business partner with your industry's primary association. Beyond joining the association, consider getting involved at a deeper level so that you become part of that community versus just another member.
Speak at a conference, volunteer at an event, or write an article for their member newsletter. With professional organizations, you tend to get out what you put in, and a small investment of time can be enough to keep your name and unique value proposition front-of-mind when the association is called upon for a referral.
Of course, even a "faucet" relationship requires an investment of time to build and nurture. Whether it's grabbing a cup of coffee in person when you pass through town or sending them a Starbucks gift card to grab a cup on you in absentia, showing a commitment to the partnership and an interest in the person and their work will help to strengthen your relationship and bring a long-term stream of results.