The Key to Marketing is in Three Customers
Tom Stimson
May 21, 2021

Which one is always more important?

In my book Demand: How to Build a Smarter Sales Funnel So You Can Turn Down Better Business, the final chapter touches on marketing plans. The book follows the story of Sam, a successful salesperson who now wants to be a business owner. 

The chapter begins:

I am not going to tell you that you don’t need a marketing plan any more than I would dismiss a business plan. Both are important roadmaps. But if you travel with your head in a map, you will miss the sights, detours, and surprises that hide opportunity, fun, and fortune. 

  • Know your ideal customer
  • Help them believe in you
  • Offer frictionless engagement

Sam consults with clients to deliver memorable events. These clients put on events for various reasons, but the event experience has a specific purpose. Sam knows this. He is an expert at it. He innovates, adapts, he stretches budgets, and he never loses sight of what the buyer is trying to achieve.

Why should he spend time with any prospect that doesn’t appreciate that?

Throughout the book, I help Sam better understand his ideal customer. Like many entrepreneurs, he is more focused on revenue and volume rather than quantity and consistency, but he is coming around to the idea that he deserves better buyers.

What he is struggling with in this chapter is how marketing can help him focus on the right prospects. I explain:

Picture three lines outside the main door of a car dealer. Line one is labeled “I’d like to test drive several cars quickly.” Line two says, “I want to learn all the features and select the perfect car for me.” Line three says, “I am impatient and ready to buy.”

The close rates will vary. 80% of the people that choose line three will finish the deal today (maybe they will buy, maybe not). 25% in line two will find the deal that makes them happy and make a purchase. Optimistically, one out of one hundred in line one will decide to stick around and buy a car. 

“Sam, pretend you are a salesman at this dealer, which line do you want to be stationed at?”

His response is brilliant. “Line two of course.”


“Line two will have the highest margins and the happiest customers. They will refer business back to me. Sure, I may only sell four cars that day, but my commissions will be huge.”

Why not line three?

“These are more likely to be people that I cannot add any value to. They’ve done their research. They know their price. Without being able to sell add-ons, margins will be small, and I will just be a speed bump in their buying process. No referrals. No follow-on sales.”


Marketing is as intuitive as knowing what you personally want out of your business. If you are going to spend eight hours a day closing deals, who do you want to close them with, and what will you have at the end of the day? 

You have three types of prospects. One is shopping. Maybe you can educate them, maybe not. The second is ready to buy, but you have to match the deal they have in mind. The third is ready to buy, wants to buy from you, and trusts you to help them get the most for their money.  

Which of these three is worth your precious time to develop ideas, research solutions, and offer options? 

Marketing is how you attract more of your ideal clients, so you can rely less on non-ideal buyers. What would happen to car buyers in line 2 if you forced them to stand in line 1 or 3 instead? 

Your Marketing Plan is the systematic sorting of prospects into actions that identify what kind of buyer they might be and then moves them to the next step you want them to take.  Meet the buyer where they are.

  • Line one buyers need education. How can you deliver that without tying up valuable resources?
  • Line two want to uncover solutions they are not aware of yet. They want you to help them. What is your next step?
  • Line three wants to find a supplier. They have a good idea of what they want and are not inclined to be persuaded differently. How do you handle that deal?

Your Marketing Plan is designed to move your prospective buyers into a next step with the least amount of resistance and best results possible. 

Learn more about how to build a steady stream of ideal prospects. Demand: How to Build a Smarter Sales Funnel So You Can Turn Down Better Business is available in print or digital at

About Tom Stimson
Tom Stimson MBA, CTS is an authority on business and strategy for small- to medium-sized companies. He is an expert on project-based selling and a thought leader for innovative business processes.
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