If you’re answering calls, replying to emails and notes, responding to invitations, and receiving referrals and leads, it probably feels like you’re taking a lot of action to market your business. But it may be that a good deal of what you’re engaged in is actually RE-action.


Waiting to hear from the right prospects is nowhere near as productive as proactively taking steps to seek them out. And a stream of incoming communications can take up time and energy, but doesn’t always lead to closed sales.

Consider these suggestions for getting out of reaction mode and becoming more proactive in your marketing.

Reactive: Accept referrals and leads as they happen to come to you.
Proactive: Identify likely referral partners and build relationships with them.

Any sort of networking usually produces leads and referrals, but when they’re unsuitable, they just take up your time. An interior designer I know joined a networking group and started receiving referrals from other members. But none of them were appropriate for her high-end business. She not only had to spend time responding to these off-target prospects, she also had to find tactful ways of explaining to her networking buddies that she served only wealthier clients.

Instead of just getting to know more people, make sure they’re the right people. Intentionally seek out folks who are in contact with your ideal clients on a regular basis, then let them know how your business can help those clients. Targeted networking will turn into targeted referrals.

Reactive: Accept invitations to networking groups and business meetings as they come to you.
Proactive: Seek out the people, groups, and events most likely to lead to your ideal clients.

Where you meet people will influence who you have a chance to meet. My interior designer acquaintance joined that networking group just because someone invited her; she knew nothing about it before joining. When it turned out to not be a good fit, she got smart and began looking for better places to network.

By asking others with a high-end clientele about their networking habits, she discovered a leads group of professionals serving wealthy clients. The group included a financial planner, personal banker, insurance broker, estate attorney, real estate agent, residential architect, and a landscaper. By joining this group, she was in regular contact with people who not only knew clients in the right income bracket, they also were likely to know exactly when they might need design help.

Reactive: Respond to the prospects you’ve met or heard from most recently.
Proactive: Follow up consistently with your best prospects.

Especially when you get busy, it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing only what’s in front of you. People you just met, and calls or emails you’ve recently received, can consume all your attention. But what about the prospects you met last month, or who you talked to a couple of weeks ago? Instead of using a “last in; first out” approach, prioritize your follow-up.

A client of mine with an executive coaching practice felt like he was drowning in possibilities. Then he decided to concentrate his follow-up efforts on just five companies who met all his criteria: he knew they needed his services, matched his industry experience, and could afford to pay. Instead of being pulled in a dozen directions, his focused follow-up quickly led to a contract.

Reactive: Try out the “flavor of the month” as your new marketing approach.
Proactive: Decide on a practical, realistic marketing plan and employ it consistently.

Being overly reactive isn’t always about responding to communications. Sometimes it’s about responding to ideas. When someone suggests an exciting new way you might get more clients, it’s natural to feel drawn to it. But before reacting to suggestions like these, pause and consider whether this new approach will produce better results than what you already have planned.

What will it cost in time and money to change direction? What momentum or opportunities might you lose by not completing what you’ve begun? What would you have to let go of in order to make good use of a new approach? If you’ve already put considerable effort into your existing marketing strategy, why throw it out the window now just because someone suggests another approach “might” be better?

Reactive: Start your day by responding to emails, phone calls, incoming mail, and social networking posts.
Proactive: Begin each day by working on your own highest priority.

This one change in how you spend your time can make a dramatic difference in the results you’re able to produce. Instead of beginning your day by seeing who has contacted you; start by deciding who you want to contact. Tackle your marketing outreach or other important marketing projects first thing in the morning, before checking email, voice mail, Facebook, or Twitter. By making marketing the first thing you do, you’ll also make sure it gets done.

Remember, whenever you react to others, you are usually helping them achieve their goals. But when you proactively set your own agenda, you are most likely working toward yours.

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