I can’t help it.
I think I’ve said this before. And I’m sure I’ll say it again.
I originally started Breakthrough Marketing Secrets as a way to talk to BUSINESS OWNERS about the world’s most effective direct response marketing strategies.
But what’s that saying?
“You can run, but you can’t hide…”
Invariably, I ended up occasionally writing about copywriting. Probably because it’s been most of how I’ve made my living for the last decade or so. It’s the audience where I have the most “fame.”
So little by little, my list has come to be dominated by COPYWRITERS.
How do I know?
Simple: when I put “copywriters” in the subject line of an email, more people open my emails faster than when the subject line doesn’t say “copywriters.”
Another hint: when it comes to Mailbox Monday, the questions I get are almost invariably from copywriters, wanting to know about copywriting.
That’s the case today, too.
We’re going to talk about lead generation.
Specifically, for copywriters. The lesson also applies to consultants, and other independent professionals. And heck, it can be adapted and applied to all kinds of businesses — if you actually put some thought into it.
But it’s written first and foremost as a response to the copywriter who asked the question.
And remember: this week is a special “cleaning out the mailbox” week.
Normally, I answer these questions on Monday. But the queue of questions has grown so long, I’m making it an everyday thing this week. And, maybe next…
To have your question added to the queue, simply email Roy@RoyFurr.com.
On to today’s question…
My single-most pressing marketing or business need right now is finding qualified leads. Outbound? Inbound? I’ve got lots of ideas, none of them convincing enough to commit to.
And so I am sorta stuck with my copy hackers and my inbound.org listings, as well as a really mediocre LinkedIn presence as the only poles I have in the water, so to speak.
Thanks for asking,
One of the projects I’m working on right now is all about lead generation…
In fact, lead generation is such an important aspect of ANY business, that I’m beginning to believe it’s THE MOST VALUABLE THING any kind of marketing professional can get good at.
Yes, there will always be room in the upper echelons of direct response — where Titans play — for the A-list copywriter who can squeeze cash out of a cold audience with a can’t-put-it-down piece of direct response sales copy.
And yet, it’s very few businesses that actually conduct business this way.
Many are plenty happy to simply land a lead. Especially when they have a whole lot of margin, and a whole lot of profit in each sale. They have some kind of selling mechanism in place once they get a lead, to close the deal. The most sophisticated, a combo of marketing, positioning, and sales (including live sales people). The least sophisticated but still successful, usually at least a sales rep who picks up the phone, and may occasionally respond to emails and voice mail.
Many of these businesses have no clue what a copywriter or direct response marketing is. But they know what a sales lead is, and they want ‘em — en masse.
More leads, please!
And if you’re the kind of rainmaker who can show up and bring that steady stream of new leads through the door, you’re a miracle worker. You’re a shaman — a medicine man (or woman)! The gods listen to you — because you are special.
I guess this is a diversion from actually answering the question, but it’s an important point.
Lead generation is — by far — the most widely-valued skill in marketing and selling.
I can try to cover some fundamentals here, but it’s worth ongoing study.
That said, let me actually directly answer the question.
First, do you have a leads problem, or a conversion problem, or a lifetime value problem?
This applies no matter what you’re generating leads for.
Most businesses default to wanting more, more, and then even more leads. More customers equals more sales and more profits. Or so they think.
The same applies to copywriters.
It’s quite possible to find ONE CLIENT and make a fortune. Don’t believe me? Ask Porter Stansberry, who landed a copywriting gig with an Agora division, went on form his own division, and now runs a multi-multi-million-dollar financial publishing outfit with a broader circulation than The Wall Street Journal. That started with ONE lead.
90% of my income over my first two and a half years as a “freelancer” came from just two clients. I spent about a year with most of my income coming from one client. Then the next year and a half with all but a pittance coming from another. In neither case was I “exclusive” but both represented the lion’s share of my income for when I was working with them.
The worst part of a client relationship is the beginning.
It’s exciting to close your first deals (at least early in your career). But then you have to get up to speed with the client and their offers. You have to figure out how they work, and how that fits with you. You may need to learn an entirely new industry.
All of that actually decreases your ability to get results.
For the first few years of freelancing, I found that I didn’t hit my stride with a client until project two or three. Sure, I might have an early winner. But invariably it was a couple projects in before I was creating my biggest winners.
Experience has allowed me to shortcut a lot of that today. But for most folks, this is illustrative.
You’re usually better off with less leads.
But if that’s the case, how do you make a good living?
Well, you need to pick those leads carefully. You need to find businesses who value what you do at a high enough level that they’re willing to pay well. You need to find opportunities to make more money from fewer clients. You need to identify clients where you can work with them on an ongoing basis for even more income.
If you had the choice between working with 10 clients who each had a lifetime value with you of $10,000, or one client whose lifetime value was $200,000, which would you choose?
In this case, you’d care far less about “more leads” and far more about “the right leads.”
Warren Buffett famously teaches investors the “20 Punch” rule. Imagine if, in investing, you were given a punch card that allowed only 20 punches. Every financial decision you made used up one punch. You might waste a couple at the beginning — but you’d quickly start to exercise extreme discretion in what decisions you made. This can also apply to clients.
One more thing, before I get more tactical. Another argument against “more leads.” Many businesses — including copywriting and consulting businesses — spread themselves too thin.
Let’s imagine another scenario — this one, a “gun to the head” scenario, a la Gary Halbert and John Carlton. Let’s imagine you had a gun to your head, and if you didn’t sell me something that you knew I was a qualified prospect for within the next 90 days, that gun would go off and kill you.
If you needed to close the deal, would you rather…
— Reach out to me and 1,000 other people like me with one touch, hoping that I’d respond based on that? Or…
— Really focus your time, effort, and resources on getting to know me, building a relationship, helping me refine my buying criteria in your favor, and trying to get me to “sign the line that is dotted”?
Wild guess, you’d spend more time, effort, and energy on less people (in this case, one) so that you had a much bigger chance of closing the deal.
This is called a conversion problem. You can focus on more leads, or you can focus on better conversions. You need SOME leads for conversions, but you don’t need ALL THE LEADS. You just need a good number that are QUALIFIED.
Okay, onto the tactical lead generation tidbits…
First, early in your career, you should BE WHERE THEY ARE. More and more, I’m convinced of the power of meeting potential clients in person. By actually going to the events that potential clients will be at (and preferably, becoming a “regular”), you have a disproportionate chance of closing a bunch of business there.
This isn’t quite “outbound” lead generation, but it’s the closest thing you can do to outbound in terms of going out and getting clients, without making yourself too available.
Second, INBOUND IS BETTER THAN OUTBOUND, but you have to be careful. That is, it’s better to have clients come to you, for all kinds of reasons. Better positioning, higher fees, more opportunity for takeaway selling, and so on.
The trick is this CAN (but doesn’t have to) take time. Leads usually don’t come simply by hanging out your shingle. If those days ever existed, they’re long gone now. You have to go above and beyond, and establish AUTHORITY positioning. This means publishing, creating a media presence for yourself, writing books, and everything you see the “gurus” doing. Gurus usually aren’t gurus because they’re particularly smart, or one step ahead of everyone else. It’s because they do these grunt work things that make people see them.
The shortcut to this is to build a LEAD FUNNEL. Find a way to target your very best leads. Preferably NOT in a place where you’ll be seen alongside every other yahoo willing to sell the same commoditized services as you at 1/10th the price. Use paid advertising or similar to drive traffic to some kind of authority-establishing tool. Books, webinars, etc., can work. Get them to raise their hand and request that. Build into that mechanism a way for them to again raise their hand, and ask to finally connect with you (via an application process). A certain number of those applications will turn into real leads. There’s a TON to learn about this approach that wouldn’t really fit in 10 essays like this, but here’s the brass tacks… When you do this, it’s a numbers game. Figure out how much you have to spend to get one project, and optimize it so there’s good margin in there. Then, don’t be meek with spending.
Finally, to get traction, there’s nothing wrong with OUTBOUND DONE RIGHT. Pick 20-50 ideal copywriting clients for you. Identify who they are. Why are they a fit for what you do? For me, when I did this years ago, it was financial publishers using long-form sales copy. Find out a good contact for every company on that list. And slowly, through time, make yourself known to these people, and try to build a relationship of contribution. Invariably everyone I know who has done this and focused on it through time has created a steady stream of business for themselves. You won’t get them all right away. In fact, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get every single one on the list. But if you really work this small group, you will eventually get at least one go with most of them, and this strategy can really keep you busy for a very long time.
Again, this is just scratching the surface…
One more takeaway thought. When it comes to lead generation, you probably won’t find one thing that consistently delivers more leads than you can handle. That’s doable, but rare.
What you’re more likely to find is a bunch of different methods that will consistently or sporadically drip good leads to you. So a dozen things might deliver a dozen leads a year. For most copywriters working with clients on in-depth projects, that’s all they can handle.
The most important thing is to do something. That will always get you more leads than doing nothing, sitting around, hoping.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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