Everyone knows the Hollywood image of the old 49er setting out to find gold in California.
Long beard. Silly hat. Pick axe. Wrinkled old face. Maybe even a donkey with saddle bags.
Gold was what this prospector was after.
When companies talk about prospecting today, they’re talking about something totally different.
Or are they?
“The analogy really holds up, actually,” Gunner Technology CEO, Cody Swann, said. “We’re not looking for gold, but gold was business back in those days, and we definitely are prospecting for business today.”
Back then, the old miner would find a small lode – maybe even just some gold dust in a bank along side a stream.
He would would then walk far to the right (or left) and dig up another spot along the bank.
If he found more gold, he’d go father to the right (or left) and dig until he didn’t find any gold.
He’d mark this area with a pole.
He’d then do this exact same thing in the opposite direction and place a marker where he dug with no gold.
This started his boundary funnel.
After marking the outside boundaries, he would work his way up and in toward the mountain, creating an ever narrowing funnel until he found the mother lode.
It was a laborious process.
Dig. Shift through mud. Move a little bit. Do it again.
Over and over and over.
“Prospecting is still a grind,” Swann said. “We like to pretend that we’re more sophisticated, but not a whole lot has changed.”
Instead of poles, boundaries are marked with demographics.
Prospectors research the company’s strategy against ever expanding age ranges, for example, until they start seeing it’s ineffective.
“Are we signing up 40 year olds?” Swann said. “Well, let’s try 50 year olds. No? Mark the boundary.”
Boundaries could also be financial markers.
Prospectors need to tell the marketing team when the contacts start drying up.
“It’s very possible that, spending $10 a click is yielding profitable contacts,” Swann said. “But at $15 a click, the profits dry up. Mark the boundary.”
In the analogy, the dirt and mud is marketing and the mother lode is a new client or sale.
Prospecting is what sits between marketing and sales.
“At least that’s how we see it,” Swann said. “All companies do it differently, but we look at that mud as the bucket that marketing drops in our laps. It’s up to our prospectors to shift through it all and see if there’s any gold in there.”
In order to shift through the mud, the prospectors do research on the marketing contacts.
Usually, they won’t contact the prospect directly, but they’ll do a bit of background research.
Check out their company. Check out their title. Peek at their Facebook or LinkedIn page.
“There’s really two goals with prospecting,” Swann said. “The first is to move the contact into the right bucket. Maybe they’re a prospect, or a networking contact who can lead you to prospects. Or maybe they’re neither. Either way, the prospectors need to place the contact in the right bucket.
“At the same time, if the person is put into the networking or prospect bucket, we need the sales and or networking team to know a lot about them. Where did she go to school? How many kids does she have? Is she married? What’s her favorite wine?”
By the time sales or networking gets ahold of them, they should have a pretty good idea of what this person is like, so they have background on the person and can steer the conversations toward commonalities.
“In this respect, prospecting is the bridge between marketing/networking and sales,” Swann said. “And we all know how much easier life is with bridges.”