It’s Monday again, which means I have another goody from the mailbox for you!
To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue, simply email [email protected].
I’m happy to tackle the topics of business, marketing, selling, copywriting, life, whatever — if I think it’s relevant, I’ll answer it here.
Or, if you ever have a question about something I’ve written about before — such as we have today — feel free to drop a line for that, too.
Today, we’re tackling the “Dream 100” strategy for pursuing your best prospects — and specifically, how often to rotate the list.
Here’s the question…
I’m super keen to get started with the strategy you proposed of researching 100 good prospects and then multi-touching them over a period of time.
My with regards to this concept is how do you know when to move onto a new list of 100 prospects (or replace one-by-one), and when its time to get new prospects, what do you do with the people you had been working with who hadn’t said yes or no yet? Do you just stop contacting them and move onto the new people?
All the best,
I’m going to answer this in two parts…
First, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the strategy, I’ll do a quick recap of its origins, my use, and how you can use it to get on the radar of your very best ideal clients.
Then, I’ll answer more directly, for “when to move on” or how to rotate the list…
First, our recap!
For those who aren’t familiar, this is a strategy inspired both by David Ogilvy and by Chet Holmes (Chet’s book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, is one of the best books on selling ever written).
Basically, here’s how it breaks down:
- Create a list of your ideal best clients for your business. This should be no more than 100 total, because you want to focus on the best-of-the-best, the ones that if you had a lifetime client relationship with them, you wouldn’t need anyone else. Another reason not to choose more than 100 is because you want a sufficiently small number that you can make a really big impact with and impression on them. (The economics of this does assume a rather large price point or client lifetime value. I’ve used it for copywriting. Chet used it for selling magazine advertising. David Ogilvy used it for clients for his ad agency.)
- Get the contact information for the ideal person there. In general, the higher the ranking the better. You’re far better off being passed down the chain of command than up it, when it comes to selling. (Of course, you have to be comfortable talking to the top brass — or at least fake the confidence until it starts to come more naturally. Remember Dan Sullivan’s 4 C’s — it starts when you commit to taking an action, then muster the courage to act, then through acting and sometimes failing you develop competence, and only then do you get confidence to regularly apply that skill. Read more here.) For bigger teams with multiple stakeholders, you can also get the info for multiple contacts who you can reach out to in a coordinated way.
- Finally, start regularly, consistently, creatively, and thoughtfully reaching out to all the prospects on this list, focusing first on what you can do for them, not simply on trying to force them to do business with you. You can and should make it clear what you do, and that you believe they’d be a good fit. But focus on them, their problems and challenges, their desires, and how you can help them — NOT what you can get out of it.
The strategy here is to be a consistent presence in their life, even if they’re not yet a client. To continue giving them value. To be someone from whom they are continually getting value, even when they’re not returning it.
I haven’t regularly been applying this as I’m scaling back client work, but when I was it was POWERFUL…
I came up with a list of a couple dozen financial publishers who I knew hired freelancers. These were some of the top financial publishers in the business.
And I started to consistently reach out to the top people at these companies.
This was alongside my other client work. This was my business development activity, to keep the pipeline full.
But I never really sold myself. Sometimes I’d compliment them on a new promotion I’d seen. Sometimes I’d forward a news story that seemed relevant to their publications, that I thought might have some marketing relevance. Other times, I’d just drop a random note.
And that simple practice kept my calendar full, with more client work than I could handle.
It’s really a simple thing to apply — though most people will never do it.
Most people are too short-sighted. Most people won’t play the long game, to give the strategy the time it needs to really pay off.
David Ogilvy talked about how he used this to something like 40 out of the 50 ideal clients he’d listed. Chet Holmes had a similar success rate, on his list of 100, by continually developing relevant market education his sales team would share with the prospects on his list.
Sometimes it leads to work right away. Sometimes it takes a long time. But — short of you being a horrible fit for the clients you wish you were able to work with (and refusing to acknowledge this fact) — this strategy works. If there’s any chance that you’ll ever have a fit with the clients, this will eventually get you in the door.
So — the big question — when do you move on?
If you’re thinking about moving on from this list, my guess is you made the wrong list to begin with…
Again, the way this strategy is conceived is that if you get some portion of this list as clients, your business will be about as successful as it could possibly be without some kind of expansion of the offer, team, or some other circumstance where you grow beyond the 100 ideal clients.
If that’s the case, you simply need to make a new list of the ideal 100 clients for whatever this new incarnation of your business is.
Otherwise, maybe one of these issues is creating this desire to move on. But making a new list might not be your ideal solution.
Maybe you’re not getting traction with any clients because offer isn’t a match for the list.
If this is the case, you need to seriously look at the list, what you’re offering, and see if you can either rework or better position the offer to make it clear to your ideal prospects that you’re a good fit for them.
There could be a ton of different considerations — far too many to list here — but my thoughts go to price, deliverables, general “fit,” their actual need versus your desire to sell to them, and so on.
Are others selling a similar or complimentary product or service to them? What’s different about their offering versus yours? How can you make your offer more like what they’re already buying, as a way to get in the door?
When you have an offer that’s a fit and feels to the client like what they need, it’s more a matter of time than adjusting the list.
Or maybe your list is quickly shrinking because you got too many clients too quick, but they weren’t high enough lifetime value or you’re not making the most of the relationship.
Without a ton of specifics to go off of, I’m packing a lot into these possibilities.
But if you come up with a list of 100, and each is worth $1,000 to you, you will quickly exhaust that list if you’re good at closing deals.
But those don’t sound like ideal clients. An ideal client, to me, is potentially worth $500,000 or a lot more. A list of clients who’d be happy to pay me $500,000 for helping them make $10 million sounds much better than a list of clients whose value is capped at $1,000.
Maybe you don’t currently have a way to make your clients worth $500,000, but in that case, the problem isn’t in the list, again it’s in the offer. What can you do that creates scalable, repeatable, or long-term revenue that’s 10X or even 100X? Then, maybe change the list to be the ideal clients for that, but it starts there.
Or, if your service isn’t up to par so you’re churning clients faster than their value can add up, you need to see what you can do to create a service and result that clients are happy to come back for over and over again.
The only real reason I see to update the list is when there’s legitimate churn in the businesses…
I like working with well-established entrepreneurial companies, at least when it comes to the financial copywriting.
Entrepreneurial, because it tends to be founders who really have direct response running through their blood, because they grew the business from nothing based on being able to spend $1 on advertising, and making sure they got $1 or more back, with a new customer in tow. When you get to the second-generation leadership team and beyond, suddenly you’re dealing with MBAs, managers, investors, and other stakeholders who don’t “get” direct response.
I mostly work with the established companies, because they’re the ones with the lists big enough to pay my fees. I’m happy to work with smaller companies, but I have to see a clear reason to go their way, such as rapid list growth or a pattern of really effective advertising spending.
There aren’t very many at the top of this category, especially when you contain it within the financial publishing industry. Sometimes, the leadership moves on. The founder retires, or passes away, or sells the company, or steps down. After that, they’d likely move off my list pretty quickly. Even if I wasn’t working with or communicating with them, the culture that revolved around them will likely change to favor me less, in short order. Or, if a newer company really starts to make waves, that may put them on the list.
But in general, if you pick your list right and you have a good offer, you don’t need to shift the list very much at all.
Rather, focus on what value you can give them next, how you can creatively bring yourself back on their radar, how you can better serve their needs.
That’s a much better use of your time, talent, and energy than figuring out how to churn the list to the next and the next and the next.
In the words of Boardroom’s founder, Marty Edelston, “Life is long.” You should figure out who you can align yourself with for the long haul, and really dedicate to making each of those relationships all they can be.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,