Love the One You're With
According to my friends at the reference desk of the Reading, Massachusetts public library, there are more than 1.9 million professional farmers in the United States today. Interestingly, this same source couldn't find a single person in the nation categorized as a "professional hunter."
Frankly, this doesn't surprise me. Despite having slept through much of Mr. Schweitzer's 10th grade social studies class, I did learn that the people who grow food for a living are considered more anthropologically advanced than the hunter/gatherers of the world. And so it makes sense that in a highly developed country such as this, hunting as a career option has all but vanished.
What is surprising however, is that in the world of Western business, hunting - not farming - remains the dominant strategy for growing a company.
Cold calling; direct mail; email blasts; and most newspaper, TV and radio advertising represent hunting strategies. You come to work in the morning, look for your target, aim your weapon, and if you're good, you're eating by lunch time. This is the way most companies bring in business.
Farming strategies on the other hand - approaches that seek to grow the business by developing existing relationships - are considered optional add-ons by many companies. These tactics include things like electronic newsletters; loyalty, referral and feedback programs; customer events; and other proactive communications to the house list.
Although hunting has its advantages (results tend to come faster and are generally easier to measure), for my money, farming is a much better way to live.
The bottom line: My point here is not to suggest that you fire your sales team and cancel your advertising. The great news is that these two approaches - farming and hunting - are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, the two approaches complement each other well (e.g. a customer who already gets your E-Newsletter is much more likely to accept your telemarketing call).
I am recommending however, that you take it from me and Mr. Schweitzer and pay less attention to hunting strangers, and more attention to nurturing relationships with the people you already know. I'll be in study hall if you need me.
Michael J. Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of Blue Penguin Development, Inc., (www.BluePenguinDevelopment.com) a Boston area consulting firm that helps clients increase sales by showing them how to market to their existing relationships, and that specializes in the development of electronic newsletters. He is the author of the E-Book, E-Newsletters That Work (www.ENewsletterBook.com).