Hey, it’s Pam Didner here. So happy to do another episode of 7 Min Marketing from Portland, Oregon.
About a month ago, Carter Hostelley, President of LeadTail, hosted a dinner for his friend, Ted Ruben, who came to Portland to emcee a marketing event at Intel. He invited me to be part of that dinner and asked me to share my thoughts on overall content marketing trends. Just an informal chat. It was a very intimate dinner gathering with 8-10 marketing professionals. We talked about marketing trends, shared personal stories or just whatever topics that happened to come up at that time. Delicious meals. Great wine. Excellent conversations. Just what a great dinner party should be!
It was fun to see Carter again as I haven’t seen him for almost 2 years. The last time I met him, he had just moved to Portland from San Francisco. I asked him how he’s been doing. He told me that he has been super-busy. It turns out that he’s been doing quite well in the past 2 years and has grown his agency to almost 20 people. Dang. Well-done, Carter. And very impressive. So I asked him what any consultant or small business owner would ask: “How do you find your customers and prospects?”
To my surprise. Carter told me that he doesn’t do typical outbound marketing. Ok, that’s intriguing, If you don’t do outbound marketing, how do you get your prospects? His answer was one word: “Community.”
Here is how he does it:
Rather than doing typical digital outbound, he spends his energy proactively to nurture and grow his community or ‘network’. His community consists of industry experts, professional colleagues, consultants, agency people, and influencers whom he considers friends. He hosts regular dinner get-togethers. He usually invites 8-12 people from his community to attend his dinner party. He carefully orchestrates the dinner party list by bringing 1-2 influencers or industry experts and 8-10 agencies, consultants, and brand marketing managers. The influencers or industry experts are the draw to get people to attend the party. Carter provides the influencers a platform to share their insights and thoughts as a way of stirring some interesting and intelligent conversations. Attendees get a chance to meet industry experts, enjoy the dinner, network with fellow marketers, and have wonderful conversations. #winwinwin
Here is one interesting observation: Carter’s target clients are start-ups and mid-size companies, not big enterprises. He regularly turns down enterprise clients, because it doesn’t fit his business model. So, I was puzzled why he invites major brand marketing managers to attend his dinner. Is he wasting his time and money? They are not even his client-base. There is no real pay-off . I asked him why he does that? He answer was one word again: “Community.”
It’s not about him anymore. It’s about the community. He doesn’t need to meet enterprise marketing managers, but his community members such as agency and consultant friends or even industry experts or influencers would love to talk to them. It’s about creating networking opportunities for his community, even though there is no direct benefit to him. I thought that’s very smart and thoughtful.
Carter’s approach of getting prospect is a long play. He proactively nurtures and expands his community and makes an effort to help his network whenever possible. Whenever they have questions or requests, Carter will do what he can. He doesn’t invite one person for one dinner. Over the years, the same person may attend several dinners. Throughout the courses of these dinners, Carter gets to know them well. And they get to know Carter and his community. Slowly, these people become his advocates. If they see opportunities that may fit Carter’s service offerings, they send prospects to Carter. In a way, his community and monthly dinners are his version of outbound marketing, but not focusing on digital outreach or relying on machine algorithms, but on human connections, which he calls the human algorithm. I thought that’s pretty cool.
I participated in his dinner in Portland and one more time in Silicon Valley. It is always fun just to know other fellow marketers whether they are on the client or agency side. Carter made an effort to introduce to me his community, I reciprocated by sharing my network with Carter and his community. That’s how referrals work, if you think about it.
Like Carter said, you just never know when and where your next lead will come from. It’s nice to network and build those human connections to foster the potential opportunities. Again, it’s not something you can do once and check off. You need to spend time nurturing and working on it, like any relationship. Carter has been doing dinner parties for years.
On the other hand, my approach for finding prospects is completely different than Carter’s. Although I don’t do paid marketing, I still do typical digital outbound marketing. I make sure that my website is optimized with the right keywords and content. Then, I create content on a regular basis to drive traffic to my website and to build my thought leadership presence. I also make an effort to speak at marketing conferences. In addition, I do virtual cold calls in which I reach out to potential prospects by sharing relevant content on LinkedIn. I also run email campaigns to my subscribers. I rely on SEO, content marketing, email, and virtual cold calls to find prospects, which is very typical of outbound and demand gen efforts.
By talking to Carter, I realize there is no one way to find your prospects. There are many ways and channels that you can use. The key is to understand what works for you and create a model that you can repeat.
Both of us agree that best way to get leads is through referrals. The best way to get referrals is to do a good job for your existing customers and be helpful to your past and existing customers and network. At the end of day, you just don’t know where your leads will come from.
If you have your own approach of building your prospect pipeline, please reach out and let me know.
Let’s keep sharing and learning from each other.