by Cory Koch

Here is a dilemma that many of us create for ourselves: “I have been collecting marketing ideas… and I have a file cabinet full! I also have a pile of promising leads I’ve accumulated. And I know it’s important to stay in front of my clients, so I do a lot of networking, but then I just end up with more names in my pile. How do I prioritize all this?”

If you’re in this dilemma, you may have lost sight of an important truth. The way to win the marketing game is not by collecting the most leads; it’s by making the most sales. Marketing can increase your lead number, which is great. But if you are not following up on the leads you gather, you are throwing away your time and money.

Marketing strategies like speaking in public, writing articles, attending promotional events, networking, and advertising can give you visibility and credibility. But the point is much more than being seen. You’re not doing all those things just so people will know who you are and what you do, it’s so they will do business with you.

If someone has already expressed interest in doing business, call them. Do it now. Memorize this rule — following up on hot, or even warm, client leads is always more important than marketing for more visibility.

Here is a method to see where you need to focus your marketing vs. selling efforts, which I call the MVS Cycle. Think of the marketing and sales process as a trickle of water that begins when you fill your pipeline with leads. The pipeline empties into your follow-up pool, into which you are continually diving.

Your intent should be to move the leads further along in the system, to make a presentation of some kind, by phone or in person, and finally to close the sale.

What are your obstacles in this cycle? Is it filling the pipeline to begin with? Or is the pipeline completely full, but you haven’t been following up? Perhaps you have been following up, but do not seem to be getting to the presentation stage. Maybe you are making presentations but not closing the sale. Wherever you seem to be hung up is the area that needs more effort.

When you have promising leads you aren’t contacting, the follow-up stage is clearly where you are stuck. Take that pile of leads and sort them into three categories: prospective clients, suspect contacts, and to-be-determined (TBD). Now sort the prospective clients into hot, warm, and cold. Stop there and follow up with all the hot and warm leads.

If you still require more marketing after following up with all those leads, then go to your contacts with whom you can network and sort them into two groups. The first will be people, such as we at Whittaker Associates, who can lead you directly to prospective clients. The second are people who can lead you to other marketing opportunities.

You should now have three groups left: cold client leads, people who can lead you to marketing opportunities, and TBD. Now is the time to decide whether you need to do something new to market your area at all. Look at what you have been doing thus far to get all the hot and warm leads you already have. Maybe you just need to continue on the same way.

If that’s true, put those cold leads aside; you’ll have more hot and warm leads in no time. If you need a different tactic to get better leads than those you have, explore one of the new marketing possibilities in your TBD pile, or one of the ideas stashed away in that file cabinet. Throw away the clutter and keep focused on moving on with the task at hand.