Timeline and path to winning clients

The next cohort of The Expertise Incubator begins Jan 13, 2020. If you’re interested, let me know.

• • •

The reader questions (two more perfectly-matched ones that appeared adjacent to each other in the spreadsheet where my post opt-in survey stores responses):

  1. “What’s a realistic timeline to winning a client”
  2. “What’s the path?”

The recommendation: You can’t eat the center of a Tootsie Pop first. You have to start with the hard candy exterior.

positioning services - Experiential marketing learning for independent consultants

The “Lead Generation Tootsie Pop” is our model here. The hard candy exterior is lead generation where you’re not in control. Referrals, luck, etc. The softy candy center is lead generation where inbound leads seek you out because of your valuable expertise.

If you don’t have an “unfair” advantage, moving from the outside to the inside of the Lead Generation Tootsie Pop takes about 3 years. That’s a realistic timeline, not to winning a client but to building the capacity to repeatedly and consistently win good clients in general through inbound marketing.

Fortunately, you can also generate leads at the outside of the Lead Generation Tootsie Pop. We all start there.

Unlike actual Tootsie Pops, the Lead Generation Tootsie Pop has 4 layers. As you move from the outside to the center, they are:

  1. Placement
  2. Education
  3. Service
  4. Point of View (PoV)

These layers are categories of lead generation methods.

Generally, you will move through those 4 layers in sequence from Placement to PoV as your business matures and your expertise becomes more robust and impactful.

Generally, Placement lead generation methods are more beginner-friendly, and PoV methods are highly advanced.

Here’s a rough definition of each category:

  1. Placement: Engineering a “right place + right time = generate a lead” scenario.
  2. Education: Facilitate a journey from question to answer, from problem to solution, from stranger to lead.
  3. Service: Serve the community you also sell your services to. Often this service is done for free.
  4. PoV: Help people make sense of the world, become empowered by seeing more lucidly, make overwhelming complexity less overwhelming, or feel connected to others who see the world in the same (perhaps minority) way.

Each category contains multiple lead generation methods, so movement through these 4 categories is a “choose your own adventure” game.

Here’s one version of that game that could work for you, starting from the outside but prioritizing swift progress towards that delicious soft candy inside:

  1. Build a habit of touching base with previous clients every 3 months. Ask them “How’s business?” or something more specific related to their needs. If what you do is optimization consulting, this will generate new opportunity. Not every time, but enough to make it worth it. This is a Placement lead generation method. You are placing yourself in front of people who already know and presumably trust you.
  2. Tweak your LinkedIn account to have a good profile and summary and then connect with people in your target market every day. $15/mo can automate this at a basic level for you, $99/mo can automate it in more sophisticated and robust ways. You are placing yourself in front of people, this time strangers who need to know about you.
  3. Find every question you can help answer in a public forum or private community and answer it to the best of your ability. Make sure your profile on the forum(s) has a clear positioning statement and a way to contact you. This is an Education lead generation method. When you’ve exhausted the backlog of questions, move on to…
  4. Do one or at most two of the following: start publishing 3x/week or more to an email list, build an information resource, or build a community of some kind. These all live at the intersection of the Education and Service categories.
  5. Use the above to build up enough energy for the quantum jump to PoV content, which you can distribute via speaking at events, podcasting, and other distribution channels. If you come into the game with a PoV, start with high trust velocity lead generation methods in the PoV category: https://airtable.com/shrAfezR6SN9jbWNr/tblijJ6VX4PNdmPsV?blocks=hide, but not at the expense of generating leads you need to keep the machine running while you build up an authoritative market position.

The caveats:

  • This all assumes you’ve specialized. If you’re not, start there. Specialization does two things: 1) makes systematic lead generation possible and 2) makes cultivating deep valuable expertise possible.
  • If what you do is change consulting, start with number 3 on the list above. The previous items on the list won’t effectively generate leads for change consulting.

Go deeper: This is a bit more of my thinking about the 4 categories of lead generation: https://my.mindnode.com/jvc9KyiR1BHqGqUKDQCWT9jyX9LJWELfGqsziTs9

Take action: Get light-duty help with your lead generation in my group coaching program. Get heavy-duty help via 1:1 coaching.

Two online experiential learning workshops this October: