How marketing can turn a prospect into a customer.

A good way to think about marketing is to consider it a four-stage process that goes from Prospect to Customer.  Each stage has a program of marketing activities that move a prospect along the path to a sale.Prospect to Customer Process

Attract activities make a broad audience of possible prospective customers aware of the selling organization and promote its Capture activities.

Attract activities include advertising, brochures, industry events, public speaking, published articles, press mentions, mailings, etc.

Capture activities increase a prospect’s knowledge of the selling organization through a value-added relationship and tie directly to Convert activities.  Capture activities typically are educational or research-focused, are offered by invitation only, and deliver real and unique value.

Capture activities usually involve regular meetings, such as webinars or seminars, for prospective buyers to meet with their peers in other organizations, including current clients and outside experts. The selling organization’s sales executives administer and facilitate sessions to be sure  they go  well, to get input  from customers and prospects that is fed back to other departments, and to identify the most likely next customers in order to “follow them home” and for whom to commence Capture activity.

Capture activities are ongoing and provide an institutionally supported forum to hold and develop relationships with qualified prospects. Capture activities are aimed exclusively at qualified prospects unlike Attract activities which are aimed at broader audiences in hopes of appealing to the few qualified prospects that may be among them.

Capture activities are more like Retain activities that enhance existing relationships with clients but instead with qualified prospects. The theory being that if you treat a qualified prospect like a client soon they will become one. Invest in Capture activities exclusively with those in organizations you know you want to have as customers.  The yield on such investments tends to be high and the input and feedback from listening to and interacting directly with clients and targeted prospects is invaluable.

Convert activities are sales efforts such as prospect visits, demonstrations, in-person meetings, reference checks, proposals, and lead tracking.  The most important selling tool in this stage is a Point-of-View Sales Deck and associated script that present the important business problem that the selling organization solves, why it is hard to solve, what the best have done to solve it, alternative paths forward, and how the selling organization can best help (see: Five Steps to a Sale).

Retain activities support and cultivate the relationship that burgeons when value is delivered with the objective to cultivate a long-term, value-added relationship that ideally extends and expands without end.  In addition to a program of periodic mailings, conversations and client events, clients are often invited to participate in Capture events to assist in influencing prospects perception of the firm and its work.

The bottom line is that Attract activities keep people busy but are far less likely to be productive than Capture activities which take a lot of high-end and focused effort but are worth every penny.

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