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When you look at a marketing funnel, it appears to be linear. The funnel depicts the customer journey as though one part comes naturally after the previous one.

Awareness, the first stage, should leave people open to future interactions. During the consideration phase, potential clients start comparing brands. Finally, prospects reach the conversion stage and complete the purchasing process.

However, the customer journey is far from linear. Potential clients might enter your funnel and stay in the awareness or consideration stages for days, months, or even years.

That's because you can't interest people in things they don't need. For example, why would a company buy sales software when it just switched providers a few months back? Unless your potential clients are ready, there's nothing you can do to force them over the finish line.

So, what do you do until they're set to convert?

Stay relevant. You must consistently invest in business development to keep clients in the marketing funnel.

Think of your potential clients as skittish deer. Maybe they aren't hungry at this moment, but that doesn't mean they'll never be hungry. Your hand, and your business, must be ready to stretch out the moment they need food.

Everyone has different needs at different times, and your potential clients might not need you right now. There's nothing you can do about that. Remaining relevant by investing in business development initiatives, however, is something you can control.

Just avoid these six "kisses of death" that undermine business development so you can ensure you stay top of mind even when potential clients aren't actively engaged in your marketing funnel.

1. You're inconsistent with projects

Suppose it's the beginning of the year and you've developed a robust marketing plan full of new initiatives. Let's say, too, that you produced one highly relevant podcast episode before realizing that it was too much of a headache and stopped production. Your audiences might want more, and they'll be disappointed when the next episode isn't released.

That undermines your ability to be taken seriously. After all, how are clients supposed to trust you if you can't maintain your own projects?

2. You're doing what everyone else is

The next kiss of death is when your business or agency looks and sounds like your competitors. For instance, during workshops at my company, most attendees will stand up and claim to be some version of a "full-service, integrated marketing agency."

A lot of businesses fall into the trap of sounding like everyone else. It's important to offer unique selling points and messaging to your target audience so that you do not echo everyone else in the market.

3. You aren't targeting your audience with specific content

If your content gives no impression of who you are and whom you're trying to reach, then it is probably generic. Potential clients might consider that kind of marketing messaging haphazard and unfocused.

Every piece of content should intentionally answer your target audience's questions or concerns. Trying to reach everyone means you won't be relevant to anyone.

4. You have too many niches

Many businesses and agencies tend to promote that they specialize in several niches. For example, an agency might advertise that it has extensive experience in the wellness, beauty, and pharmaceutical industries. By doing so, it risks creating broad content that doesn't effectively reach its target clients.

If you have fewer niches, on the other hand, you can focus your content and engage the right potential clients.

5. You think you need more clients than you actually do

Taking on too many clients decreases the amount of time that businesses and agencies can spend on accounts that drive consistent revenue. If you are targeting the right prospects (those with spend between 2% and 10% of your adjusted gross income) in your messaging, then you need only two to three new clients a year. Growing more than 25% a year strains your resources, so market to and bring on only the right clients.

6. You passively wait for new clients to find you

A lot of businesses are guilty of sitting and waiting for new clients to walk through the door.

Maybe you mostly rely on word-of-mouth to bring in a steady stream of business, or perhaps you already have a solid client base.

To stay relevant, you should switch up your tactics and try new strategies. That might involve revisiting your marketing plan every quarter or embracing a new campaign.

You don't want to lose the interest of potential clients that could improve your business by sticking with the status quo or doing nothing.

* * *

Think through the kisses of death in this article and ask yourself whether you're guilty of any of them. If you are, then you might need to shift your mindset to correct your course.

It could take some work to get back on track, but avoiding such downfalls will help your business or agency grow and change with the needs of your client base—and you'll keep potential clients in the marketing funnel.

More Resources on the Marketing Funnel and Business Development

How to Build a Content Marketing Funnel That Will Drive Sales

Today's Digital Marketing Funnel (and How to Optimize Your Conversions)

The Four Benchmarks of an Agency's Life Cycle—And How to Profit From Them

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Avoid These Six 'Kisses of Death' in Business Development to Keep Your Marketing Funnel Alive

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image of Drew McLellan

Drew McLellan is the CEO of Agency Management Institute, a company serving 250+ agencies to help the owners build profitable agencies that evolve and scale.

LinkedIn: Drew McLellan

Twitter: @DrewMcLellan