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3 Questions to a Consistent Flow of Customers (Beware the Marketing Plumbers!)

Editor’s Note: We originally published this post by Dov Gordon in 2012. But after the success of his recent post on ending the feast or famine cycle to get consistent clients, this post was too important to hide in our archives. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did!

I’m opinionated.

Not about everything, mind you. Just where I’ve paid the price and earned the right to my opinions. Like about how to build a steady, consistent, predictable flow of amazing customers and clients.

I’ve paid my dues.

I know what it’s like to have so much to offer, and so few clients. I know what it’s like to work hard on marketing a project… and make just one sale. To sit facing someone you know you can help, but lack the words to help them see it.

I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning with a calling inside, desperate to get out. And to know that as hard as I work today, it will probably lead to the same disappointment as yesterday.

I know what it’s like to squeak by with just enough success to stay in the game. To see the omens telling you “Keep at it. Soon, soon, it will all come together.” To believe in your eventual success and vindication, but to also be paralyzed by self-doubt. To feel like a rocket, with boosters blazing and nowhere to go.

I also know what it’s like to have ‘figured it out’…

Not ‘all’ of it, of course. No one ever figures it ‘all’ out. But I’m fortunate in that I’ve figured out what it takes to create that consistent, predictable customer flow. Both for myself, and for my own clients.

Which is why you should listen to my opinions. Because I can help you shave a couple of years off your own learning curve.

The first thing you need to know is:

Beware the Marketing Plumbers

Imagine you approach Joe the plumber and you say “Joe, build me a house.” What’s he going to say?

“Umm, sorry. I don’t build houses. Get yourself an architect who’ll draft the blueprint. Then get a contractor who’ll put up the frame. Then I’ll give you the best plumbing in town. But I don’t build houses.”

Joe the plumber understands his role. He knows that he only brings a piece of the puzzle.

Unfortunately, the marketing plumbers out there are not so self-aware.

A marketing plumber is anyone who is an expert at a piece of the puzzle, but thinks he can build the whole house. They usually promote a tactic as if it were the full picture.

They’re the LinkedIn experts. And the Facebook experts. And the AdWords experts. And the SEO experts. And the networking experts. And the telemarketing experts. And the press release experts. You get the idea.

These are just a few of the dozens of methods you can use to get the attention of your ideal clients. And for each method, you have a long line of experts claiming that their tactic of choice is the one that everyone needs to be doing.

Hooey. And my proof? Your own experience is probably proof enough. If not, just talk to a few friends who’ve spent thousands of dollars with a marketing plumber and gotten very little return.

They’re good people and they mean well. It’s just that they don’t see what Joe the plumber sees: they only know a piece of the puzzle. And so they sell themselves as having it all.

What matters is not the tactic or method that you use. Each tactic is merely a way of getting in front of your ideal clients with a message what they will provoke them to respond.

Every method works sometimes and fails others. So the question isn’t “What tactic should I use?” The question you need to ask is “Why does any tactic work when it works and why does it fail when when it flops?”

The secret is simple: Every tactic is simply a method for putting your message in front of your ideal client. If your message correctly answers the three questions they’re asking themselves, they’ll want to talk to you. If not, they click and scuttle along.

3 Questions to a Consistent Customer Flow

The first question your prospects ask is “Should I pay attention to you? Is what you’re saying interesting to me?” They ask this about your ad. Your LinkedIn Groups post. Your tweet. Your Facebook status. You press release. Their question is always the same.

If they conclude that yes, what you’re saying is interesting, then they have a second question: “Can I trust you? Are you for real?”

Again, if they conclude that yes, they can trust you. Yes, you know what you’re talking about. They now have a third and final question:

“But can you help me? Do you understand my situation? What would you recommend for me?”

The good news is that once you understand what gets people to say “Yes!” to these three questions, all your marketing becomes much, much easier.

Getting a “Yes!” to Question #1: “Is it [your marketing] interesting to me?”

There are only two things your ideal clients are interested in. And if you’re talking about one of them in your marketing, regardless of the tactic you choose, you’ll get their interest.
The two things they are interested in are the same two things you and I are interested in. Because all of us are only interested in the following two things:

  1. Getting rid of a problem you have and don’t want and / or
  2. Creating a result that you want and don’t have.

If you’re marketing talks about a problem he has and doesn’t want, your ideal client will take notice and be interested. If it’s talking about a result, or a change he wants and doesn’t have, he’ll be interested. If you’re talking about anything else – like yourself, your credentials, your quality, your brilliance, etc. – he will click and scuttle away.

Getting a “Yes!” to Question #2: “Can I trust you?”

There are a number of ways to earn customer trust. Perhaps the most common is to give them a free or low priced taste.

This is very common on the Internet. But more people do this wrong than do it right.

What you give away MUST be an answer to the problem they have and don’t want and / or enable the result they want and don’t have. Otherwise you’ll quickly lose the attention you worked so hard to earn.

Getting a “Yes!” to Question #3: “But can you help me? Do you understand my situation? What do you recommend for me?”

These questions are often asked in a one on one consultation. You’ll only get a ‘Yes!’ here if your prospect feels that you really, deeply understand him.

The most common mistake I see people making here is moving too quickly to talk about your product or service. Your prospect will often drop a land mine – and the average marketer steps right on it.

Your prospect will ask questions like “How much is it?” Or “How do you work?” Or “Can you give me a proposal?”

The tricky thing is that they almost always ask these questions before they’re ready to hear your answer. They ask them before they have that feeling that “Wow, you really understand me. Finally, someone who can help me.”

To get a ‘Yes!’ to their third question you must resist – and NOT talk about your product or service – too soon!

The Good News, and the Bad

And there you have it. When you’ve worked out simple, clear answers to these three questions, pretty much any tactic will work for you. And if you haven’t, anything you do is a waste of time and money.

Can you hire this work out? My opinion? No. You may need help developing really good answers to these three questions. But if you try to hire someone to do it for you – as opposed to with you – you’ll be disappointed. I guarantee it.

The good news – it really is simple. Slow down long enough to do what I’ve advised you here and you’ll quickly have a steady, consistent, predictable flow of new customers and consistent client attraction. No matter what tactics you choose to use.

How have you generated a consistent flow of customers? Or, if you haven’t arrived there yet, which of these tactics is the best starting place for you? Let me know in the comments!

About Dov Gordon

Dov Gordon helps consultants, coaches and other experts to build a steady, consistent, predictable flow of their ideal clients.

25 thoughts on “3 Questions to a Consistent Flow of Customers (Beware the Marketing Plumbers!)

  1. Dov,

    Really great post because it attacks the heart of selling Online: The psychology of an Online sale. There are natural boundaries and obstacles to selling Online.

    When I address these issues I use the terms:


    Same concepts… Awesome stuff and I really like how you’ve laid this out.


  2. Interesting thought Marketing Plumbers. Given that there are so many people calling themselves marketers who know very little and others who know so much. It is a real challenge to move sometimes because of question 2 but 3 is POWERFUL but most people really don’t know because the promise and trust so often fail to be delivered once contact is made

    • Thank you, Roberta. Question 2 doesn’t need to be so hard to answer.

      Here’s something I’ve noticed: We need to separate the importance of what we offer from the other person’s appreciation for it’s importance.

      In other words, we often worry that our prospect won’t really understand what we can do for them. And we allow that worry to eat away at how we present what we do. But logically there’s no connection between your value and the other’s appreciation (or lack of appreciation) for your value.

      When you know you have something excellent, and you know you’re worthy of trust, simply being unafraid of how the other will judge you goes along way towards building trust.

      Am I making sense? It’s midnight here. 😉

      Dov Gordon

  3. Dov, your intro described me to a T! My question is this: how do you know when you’re on the right track and just need more patience and persistence, and how do you know when there really is something about your product, design, or approach that really needs to be changed for you to see success?

    • Hi Shayna,

      Good question. I can speak from my own experience and maybe it’ll help you.

      I’ve always had this inner knowing that I was on the right path. For me. It was never me filling someone else’s expectations. That’s why I could do things like ignore the advice of well meaning relatives. And persist. That’s one level of answer.

      Now, once you’re confident that you’re on the right path, it becomes “I know I’ll get there. I just don’t know how long it will take. Or how many side-roads I’ll need to travel before getting back to the main road.”

      For this, the second level, you must find someone who is already doing what you want to be doing. Someone who has mastered it and boiled down to a repeatable, teachable process which they follow themselves to get the results they get and you want.

      And when you find them, do everything they say, even if you don’t understand it. Most people who get this far turn around and treat their mentor’s advice like a buffet. Taking what makes them comfortable and ignoring what makes them squirm.

      There is a process for creating a consistent flow of customers. And if you are “winging it” you need to find and follow a process. Let your mistakes be the result of working to master a process instead of from lashing out here, there and everywhere hoping something will work.

      Did I answer your question? I could talk about this for an hour or more. So I hope I hit something useful for you. 😉

      Dov Gordon

      • That helps, thanks! I have a “gut feeling” as well, and the feedback I have gotten so far from my audience has been extremely positive. I’m listening to your teleseminar right now to learn more.

  4. Hi Dov,
    This is excellent advice, especially for anyone in network marketing, but any type of marketer can apply and take advantage of this. When I first started online I started as a network marketer and I met some successful people trying to explain others what methods they were using, but I can’t remember anyone explaining something that simply and easy to use as you do here in this post. Great job!

  5. I can really relate to the first part of this article, regarding working long and hard hours laying the groundwork for a service that I know a lot of people need, but it all hasn’t quite come together yet. But, I also have to resist the tendency to feel like I have to be the expert at so many things.

    Lately, I have tried to make a conscience effort, to narrow my focus, and even though I need to be good at a lot of task, to start thinking in terms of how I can team with experts when necessary, and delegate some of my tasks, so i can concentrate on others.

    Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the basics, and the three questions really are right at the core of marketing and sales success. I did a short stint as a car salesman a few years back. They put us through a lot of training in sales psychology, and I see a close correlation to exactly what we were trained to do. In nutshell, there was 1) discovery – asking questions to learn the customers needs and wants. 2) building rapport – getting the customer to know, like, and trust you. 3) Presenting the vehicle in a way that shows how the vehicle meets the needs and desires of the customer, and asking for the sale.

    • Hi Tom,

      I went through a muli-year phase where I also thought I had to be an expert in everything. I learned many new skills during that period, but it didn’t do much for business. 😉

      Glad you’re moving past it.


  6. Your post really rang true for me. When I first started my blog about a year and a half ago, I spent a lot of time listening to all the “gurus” and trying to figure out the perfect backlinking/Twitter/article writing, etc. strategy.

    Finally I realized that just because everyone else said these methods were great, didn’t mean they were great for me. Not only did they take a tremendous amount of time, but they didn’t give me the results I needed.

    Instead, I realized that for me guest posting made a lot more sense – I got more long -term readers, more views, and more links from a few guest posts than from all of the other methods combined. If you make sure your posts show you understand your customer, then they’ll want to check you out. And if they see your name everywhere they look, then that builds trust and authority as well.

  7. I love the term Marketing Plumbers. When I first started blogging I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. The more I read, the more confused I became. I have filtered my subscription lists and now have a select group.

    Thanks for the great content!

  8. Ok DOV, you won my heart with this one!

    Absolutely awesome post here. I couldn’t help but share it with all my community. And to top this, I am going to do a follow up post on this!

    For me, the most striking question was question #1 – Is it interesting to me?

    I think this is the ultimate test for every entrepreneur. I recently read on a post that says 40/40/20.

    40% of your marketing success is dependent on your audience
    40% of your marketing success is dependent on your message
    20% of your marketing success is dependent on your creativity [tactics]

    This is just another confirmation to why tactics alone isn’t the secret sauce despite how marketing plumbers may make it seem. You have to be absolutely sure you got the right message being delivered to the right audience. Without this, there is no sale!

    Thanks for sharing. AWESOME!

  9. Pingback: Better Marketing Advice « NerdlyPainter
  10. Dov Gordon
    this is fantastic unusual article that start up entrepreneur should know. in fact it is awesome. i need more on how to grow in this tight competitive marketing. thanks. woaw! great!

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