I'm sure you've heard analogies comparing winning clients with dating and relationships before.
Probably they've gone something along the lines of “short term, one night stand pickup stuff is bad, long term lovey dovey courtship and relationship building is good”. In fact I've probably said something similar myself.
It's only part of the story though.
The truth is that sometimes short term pickup style marketing is EXACTLY what you need, and long term courtship will kill you.
You see, there's a huge difference between what I sometimes call “one to many” businesses and “one to few”.
One to many businesses are where you tend to have a lot of clients on the go at any given time, and each client only makes up a small amount of your income. Many coaches run this sort of business, often serving 20 or more clients in parallel.
With one to few businesses it's the opposite. You have a small number of clients with each one making up a significant proportion of your income. Consultants would be a good example of this sort of business, rarely having more that one or two client projects running in parallel.
And of course, there are many shades of grey in between. My own business is a bit of a mix. I have a whole bunch of buyers of my online products like Momentum Club, a handful of coaching clients and the odd consulting or training client. It's rare that any individual client makes up more than 10% of my income in a year though – so I'm relatively close to the one to many end of the scale.
One of the big determinants of whether you're one to many or one to few is the number of potential clients you have. If you work with small businesses you have a target market of hundreds of thousands. Work with large corporates and it's a few hundred.
And here's the thing. Bad old “one night stand” marketing is often exactly what's needed for one to many businesses.
I don't mean that in the sense of love 'em and leave 'em. I mean it in the sense of how you go about getting your partners in the first place.
Let's look at the two extremes. With long term courtship and relationship building you're looking for that one special person. You've got a mental picture of your absolute perfect mate. When you find that person you go about courting them and them alone, you don't look at anyone else. You see if anyone you know knows them and can introduce you. You maybe send them flowers or chocolates. You find out what they like, where they like to go out to…
Actually, it's beginning to sound a bit like stalking, but you see what I mean. You invest time and effort and use a whole variety of different approaches to try to hook up with that one special person.
Why? Because they're worth it. You're looking for a relationship for life.
Going for one night stands and short term relationships is very different. You know it's not going to last so you can't afford to spend a ton of time courting just one person. You leave your options open. You pick a method that's going to get you in contact with as many potential hook-ups as possible and you see who you click with. Or at least that's what I've been told ;)
It's very similar when you're trying to win clients.
The standard advice says you've got to court your clients, build long term relationships. And that's great when you're in a one to few business.
With one to many it's not so wise. If your income from a typical client is a few hundred or a few thousand pounds or dollars you can't really afford to spend a fortune in time and money trying to win them. You need more of a production line going on, generating regular leads.
The same applies in reverse. Sadly I've seen many professionals who target a small number of corporates fall for the internet marketing “do a blog, do facebook ads, drive traffic to a squeeze page” type approach. Great for one to many. Not necessarily going to get you in the door with a senior exec at GE or British Telecom.
There are many variants on these themes. Dan Kennedy popularised the “ascension model” which is essentially a system of marketing one to many to build up a big base of clients for an entry level product (like a paid newsletter or membership site). You then focus your marketing efforts for higher level services on those clients, a certain percentage of whom will “ascend” to group or 1-1 coaching or consulting projects.
So there are many ways to mix and match. But what's key is to understand what model you're in, and use the right dating approach for that model.