Today, I posted a rant on LinkedIn because I was getting frustrated with the number of connection requests that only amount to spam. The vast majority of people who attempt to connect with me have one of five things in common:
- Some freelance network (e.g., Fiverr, Upwork, etc);
- Some lead generation type of business;
- Some virtual assistant or outsourcing service;
- Some LinkedIn-related marketing service;
- Some “High-Ticket” closer or other B.S.
I understand that it's part of doing outreach. But there are better ways to do that than attempting to connect with someone only to spam their DMs less than a few hours later.
Many of these are automated, too, which is worse.
Some are oblivious “drive-by” spammers who don't care about relationships. For example, I accepted a connection request. I get spammed. So I removed the connection and deleted the DM. But they kept following up, oblivious to the fact that I removed them.
They don't care if you unfriend them. Because once you're connected with someone and they send you one direct message, they have access to your DM box in perpetuity, unless you block them.
They would be a lot more productive if they funnelized their approach.
Sure, they can use Sales Navigator and InMail credits to pitch me. I tend to read those — either for the education or the opportunity.
But rather than spam me, use disingenuous ways to access me, or hit me over the head with a pitch, a better way is to turn their attempt to sell me into a funnel that takes me through each step of the relationship.
There are myriad ways to funnelize your outreach approach, too. It's good old multistep-marketing taught by top marketers like Dan Kennedy.
Now, I understand that this is part of doing outreach. Personally, I hate doing outreach. I'm a fan of positioning, not prospecting. I prefer to attract clients to me and not me chasing them.
Chasing clients hints of desperation, conscious or not. It's the “ketchup stain” principle. It creates antagonism and puts you in a weaker position.
I prefer a “permission marketing” approach, a la Seth Godin.
Traditional marketing is a form of interruption marketing. It's a competition to win people’s attention. Whether it's email spam or social media DM spam, it's unwanted, interruptive, dismissable, and even repulsive.
Permission marketing focuses on creating a relationship instead of making a sale. It's a graduated process that takes place over time. Sometimes, it can be short. Other times, long.
Funnelizing your marketing focuses on demand generation and lead nurturing. And the best way to generate leads is to attract them. Once you do, it's easier to get to know your client, educate them, ask questions, and of course, make an offer. It's also easier to retain them.
The typical sales funnel has 5-7 phases, depending on the industry and who you ask. There are many variations. But the one I prefer is this:
- Purchase (or Conversion)
The remaining two are Loyalty (repeat sales) and Advocacy (referral sales). But for the sake of brevity, let's stick with the first five.
Creating awareness is where your content attracts search engine traffic, natural backlinks, social media shares, brand mentions, and so forth. It's not limited to your website. It can include your social media networks, public relations, even paid ad campaigns.
The goal of creating awareness is to drive qualified users to your website, social media profile or page, email list, etc so they can enter your funnel. In short, you want them to raise their hand and show interest — or create it.
By providing content, you're taking them from being interested in what you say to being interested in what you offer. You educate your qualified leads about your business, your services, and the types of problems you help solve.
You can do this via a newsletter, or it can be dripped over time through an autoresponder series or multipart course. Some people I know “spoonfeed” their otherwise long salesletter through multiple, easier-to-digest emails.
Obviously, this is where you make an offer of some kind. You're moving from educational content to transactional. But it's still educational to a great degree as you want to provide enough information to help them make a decision.
You can start sales conversations, engage with prospective clients about their situations, answer questions they might have, offer comparisons with competing alternatives, provide different purchasing options, and so on.
Selling is not a single event. It's about solving problems and creating relationships. Whether you're a dentist or a doctor, an engineer or an accountant, a consultant or a coach, you're also a salesperson. Like it or not.
The best salespeople are advisors.
If a competing solution best solves the client's problem, tell them. It's in your best interest to do so. Good-fit clients come not just from problems you can solve but also from the relationships you can nourish. Your best clients can even come from non-clients.
Relationships are more important than transactions.
Finally, keep this in mind.
Funnels can be long or short. They can take place within a matter of days or over a period of years. It depends on the industry, the length of the sales cycle, the complexity of the problem, and the urgency.
But if you've positioned yourself well, chances are clients are already aware, interested, and considering your services before entering your funnel.
In either case, just be cognizant of:
- What are the various steps in your funnel;
- What's your user's stage of awareness at each step;
- What each step does to take the user to the next stage;
- And how each step performs and can be improved.
You might have one, two, three, or more funnels. One client, a dermatologist, has 40 landing pages, where each one is a funnel or an entrance into one.
But if you don't have any, just start with one. If you've been in business for a while, you already have one right now, whether you're aware of it or not.
So map out the journey your clients go through, from awareness to purchase, and understand what they get at each step and how they get to the next one. Then tweak it.
In short, magnetize, funnelize, and optimize.