If you have an online business, prospecting is not only essential for your growth, it is also vital for your survival. Prospecting helps you find customers. And with customers come sales to fuel your cash flow and profits.
What Is Prospecting?
Prospecting is the act or actions you make to find a prospect to sell your products and services.
Here are four strategies you can perform to prospect for new customers online. In essence they answer “who, what, where and when” for your marketing campaign.
#1 Focus On Your Target Audience
Find out the attributes of your target customer and focus your prospecting on this target audience. These attributes can involve certain types of demographics and psychographics.
It’s not enough to say your customer is a certain gender, age group and income bracket. You’ll be more successful when you also know the type of lifestyle and purchase decision making behaviors your customers have in common to identify prospects you should target.
Create a target list of prospects that meet your customer attributes. The better the quality of this list as it relates to the attribute of your target audience, the more likely you can convert your prospects into customers.
There are four sources from which you can build your target list.
- Referrals. Ask your customers to refer prospects to you. Referrals are often the easiest prospects to convert into customers. You can build trust and credibility early on because your prospect knows your customer who referred you to them.
- Network. Look for prospects among the people you connect with on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus and other online networks.
- Website Visitors. Website visitors can be a rich source of prospects for your business. If you have an email opt-in form on your website then you have a list of prospects who visited your website.
- If you do not have an opt-in form then make this a priority.
- Purchased Lists. Purchase a list of emails for online prospects. Buying a list of email addresses for prospects that fit your target audience attributes is a good way to fill your pipeline of prospective customers.
#2 Create a Compelling Message
The quality of your message can be the difference between a prospect ignoring you to a prospect who contacts you to buy your product or service. Your message communicates what you want to say to your prospect to persuade them to buy from you.
There are three things to consider about your message. These are to:
- Get your prospect to open your message
- Inspire your prospect to read your message
- Compel your prospect to respond to your message.
If your message fails in any of these three things, then you will most likely fail to close a sale.
Have you ever wondered why and how email scammers are so successful? When you really think about it many scammers are selling something you don’t always need or want. Yet somehow they are able to get you to open, read and respond to their message.
Jill Konrath, a sales strategist, summarizes this phenomena well in her blog entitled “What Online Scammers Know About Sales Prospecting That We Don't.” She says scammers know the right words to capture your attention and build curiosity. She says words that build curiosity can be strong enough to prompt prospects to take action even when they know it is a scam.
You can build curiosity in your messages. You can do this in your email subject lines, email or voice mail messages, sales presentations and conversations with your prospects. The key is to identify the things your audience will be curious about. When it comes to evoking curiosity in your audience, the golden rule is to NOT give away the answer. Force your prospect to read and respond to your message to find out the answer.
#3 Reach Your Target Audience with PPC, Retargeting Advertising and Email
Online advertising costs money. And your expense goes up by the type of ad you purchase and the audience you target with this ad. That’s why focusing on your target audience and creating a compelling message is so important.
One way to prospect for customers online is through Pay-per-click search engine ads. PPC is a type of search engine marketing in which you place your display ad or just a few words on search engine pages. You can set a defined budget and pay only when a visitor clicks on your ad which takes them to your website.
The key is to select the keyword(s) that will attract your target audience. To optimize your results you should also install a conversion tracking system on your landing pages.
You can maximize your return on advertising by investing in retargeting. This is a strategy that enables you to bring prospects that visit your website and learn about your products and services but do not buy to revisit your website to purchase from you.
Retargeting involves technology that allows you to keep track of people who visit your website and display your ad to them when they visit other websites. When they click on your ad they come back to your site.
According to an article that Online Media Daily published in 2012, businesses in certain industries can achieve up to a 147% higher conversion rate when combining prospecting with retargeting. The results were part of a study by DataXu, a pioneer in real-time multi-variate decision systems for advertising. The results show that advertisers can create more leads with online prospecting and close sales by retargeting those leads. The key is to have a greater number of quality leads so you can optimize your spending on marketing.
Email is a third method to reach your target audience. Send your audience a series of emails that make them curious to read and respond. Make sure you include links in your email that take your prospect to your landing page and/or order page to close the sale.
#4 Execute Your Campaign When Your Prospects Will Most Likely Buy
Timing can affect your outcome. That’s why it is good to know the best times your prospects are most likely able to read and respond to your promotion – whether it be an ad or an email.
DataXu found that prospects had higher response rates to online ads during different time periods. Yet these differ by industry. They found that response rates for automotive and fashion were highest for online ads served between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm Monday and Tuesday, whereas response rates were highest for outdoor, news, sports and shopping content between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm from Tuesday through Saturday.
Sending your prospect your message at the same time other businesses are doing so may dilute your earning potential. If you have a seasonal product your response rates will likely be higher just prior to or during the season than any time after the season ends.
When it comes to email the highest performance occurs at times you may least expect, according to a study by Experian in 2012. The study shows that the best time and day to mail varies by industry. Yet across all brands and industries the results show:
- Emails sent on weekends have the highest open rates, transaction rates and revenue per email. However, weekends are when much fewer emails are sent compared to weekdays.
- For weekdays, Monday has the highest revenue per email, but Friday has a higher click rate.
- The highest response rates no matter what day occur with emails sent out between 8:00 pm and 4:00 am. This time period has the lowest percent of email volume, so your audience has more time to spend on your message.
It's best for you to conduct a test to find the optimum day(s) and time period that give your brand the highest response rates.
Prospecting is a continuous activity. Start with practical goals to prospect. And monitor your activities and results to improve your performance.
Set a goal for how many prospects you need in your pipeline to generate the sales you need. If you need one sale each day and your conversion rate is 1%, then you need to have a minimum of 500 prospects each business week. Unlike the “physical world” if which sale persons need to be in the office, online sales can happen 24/7. So you can achieve more if you plan right.