I’ve talked in the past about the value of emphasizing content marketing over high-volume cold calling, but in that same post, I also recommended that you consider creating a “prospect wish list” that includes potential clients that you will proactively pursue. These are the companies that you would really like to work with, that are particularly rich sources of new work, or that have some unique quality that make them inclined to hire you. They are companies that you will research and monitor, and try to contact on a regular basis.
Who is a candidate for this list? Organizations that meet one or more of the following criteria are a good start:
Companies that are leaders in your target industry.
Starting at the top may be tough if you haven’t yet established a reputation in that industry, or if you are a smaller firm, but the potential payoff of working with an industry leader is so significant that it’s worth the effort. Plus, knowing more about these industry leaders will enhance your understanding of their market, even if you never actually land them as a client. Don’t have a target industry? You really should, but that’s a topic for another post.
Companies that are likely to have projects in the near future.
Distinct from prospects that have actual, defined projects you are already pursuing, these are organizations that are likely to have projects in the future as a result of facility expansions, new products, additional funding, etc.
Companies where you already have good contact information.
One of the first things you will have to do for most of the companies you add to your wish list is to track down the identities and contact information of the people with the authority to hire you. In many cases, this is a significant undertaking, so if you already have good visibility into an organization, they may deserve a place on the list.
Companies that are working with your weaker competitors.
If they are a client of your competitor, then you know that they’re buying what you’re selling. And if that competitor is falling apart, or if you can otherwise demonstrate that your offerings are superior? That sounds like a good candidate for the list.
Companies that are geographically compatible.
If you work nationally or internationally, and there are companies in your target industry that are located in your own city, you may want to consider them for the list even if they are smaller than your typical client. The cost and convenience benefits may make up for the smaller size, and the fact that you are local may give you an edge on your competition.
How many prospects should be on your wish list? That depends on the resources you have available for the ongoing monitoring and outreach efforts that are required to effectively work the list. If you are a sole proprietor or firm principal doing marketing on a part-time basis, then 20-30 prospects may be plenty. If you are a full-time marketing person then that number might be quite a bit higher.
The key is to not make the list so large that it becomes impossible to keep up with. Making regular, meaningful contact with a smaller group is more valuable than having an impressive list filled with prospects you haven’t contacted in a year. That old saying “it’s not the size of the ship, it’s the motion of the ocean” is as applicable here as it is in other, less marketing-related, situations.
In future posts, I’ll talk about tools you can use to manage and track your prospect wish list, and some ideas for staying in touch with prospects. In the meantime, be thinking about who should be a part of your list.