Steve Gordon | The 3 Orbits of Potential Customers

Marketing funnels are all the rage these days. They can be a way to turn prospects into customers on autopilot. But… there is a caveat.

Funnels don’t work for certain businesses. If you’re a professional services provider or offer a “complex” product or service, it’s definitely not a good fit. 

You need a different approach to your marketing. One that shows potential clients your expertise and experience. There is a marketing channel that accomplishes this that’s actually quite easy to do and readily available. All you have to do is talk…

I go in-depth on that channel and also talk about…

  • The 3 purchases that every client makes
  • Harnessing the power of the human voice in your marketing
  • Creating content that grabs attention
  • How to pre-sell your prospects
  • And more

Listen now…

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Steve Gordon: This episode of the Unstoppable CEO Podcast is sponsored by The Unstoppable Agency, our done for you marketing service. We work with consultants and agencies to help them build a podcast that generates and nurtures leads, stimulates referrals and establishes your reputation of preeminence in your market. To find out how it works and to find out if you might be a fit, visit


Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon and I’m really excited about this episode today. We don’t have a guest. I just wanted to take a little bit of time and share an idea with you that I think will be really impactful. 


So much is talked about these days around the idea of marketing funnels and you have to have a funnel and there’s software for it and there’s training for it and there’s very expensive online courses you can get and consultants you can hire to build you a funnel. And all of that’s great and it’s particularly good if you’re selling something that’s not very complex. But if you’re listening to this show, chances are you’re selling something that’s quite expensive and that is pretty complex and requires a high degree of trust on the part of your client when they make that buying decision. 


When Marketing Funnels Don’t Work


Today I want to talk about a different way to think about how you move people into your world. For a number of years now, I’ve just felt like the idea of the funnel doesn’t hold up very well and it doesn’t hold up because I’ve observed it with our clients who are selling high ticket services that you’ll get people that come into the funnel and they don’t follow that nice linear path. So today we’re going to talk about what structure you should be thinking about, what types of information you need to have at each level, and then how to actually get all of that done. So those are the big three things we’re going to cover today. So if you’re ready to go, hang on and we’re going to get right into it now.  


All right, so let’s talk about this traditional funnel and why it doesn’t work for our kinds of businesses. The most important reason is that the funnel assumes that prospects are going to move in a linear fashion, that you’re going to start them at the top of the funnel and they’re going to work their way down through different stages, and generally those stages are going to be associated with some specific actions that that particular prospect takes. And while that can work and sometimes does work in our kinds of businesses, more often what happens because we’re dealing with such a complex sale, someone will enter the funnel and they’ll go down three levels and then they’ll back up two, and then their priorities will change and they’ll go sideways for a while, maybe a month or six months or a year. Then the thing that you can solve for them becomes a high priority again and they’ll jump down directly into a sales conversation. 


The problem with all of that is it’s really, really difficult to figure out how to deal with people at each of those levels because they’re not going from one action to another action to another action in a very neat and predictable way. You’ve got to create a system that puts you in front of those prospects permanently essentially. You need to show up over time and over a long period of time and understand where they are in relation to you and in relation to making a buying decision so that you’re communicating the right information to them. I’ve just always found that the funnel really forces me into doing things in a way that don’t really align well with a high ticket and complex sales cycle. 


So what I’ve talked about for a number of years now is this idea of rather than a funnel, that you have orbits around you, that you’re sort of in the center of the little universe here and your prospects are orbiting around you at various distances away from you, away from the center. If you begin to think about it that way, you can begin to say to yourself okay, well I have certain prospects that are at that outer orbit, the furthest away. 


Prospects Orbiting Around You


Maybe they’re just beyond that outer orbit and they haven’t quite made contact with me yet and I want to attract them in. I want to sort of gravitationally pull them in to that first outer orbit. Most of the time they’re going to float around out there for a while. And so I need to be prepared to communicate with them in a way that’s going to keep them there, that I’m going to keep their attention because the name of the game is not only attracting the attention of your ideal clients, but it’s holding their attention over time as they move through the buying process. So at that first outer of level, that’s really where your lead generation happens. And for most companies, that’s really where you need to focus your referral attention.


The next level in from that is where you’ve got a prospect that’s in sort of the evaluation process. They’ve come into your world. They recognize that they have a problem. They may also recognize that you’ve got a solution to it, but for whatever reason they’re not quite ready yet. Either they don’t have enough information or it’s not a high enough priority yet, but they’re further down in the process. You’ve got to keep showing up so that you’re in the game when they finally make a decision. 


This is, I think, where an awful lot of people have a breakdown. One of the reasons that I think follow-up is so important, and we just released the Follow-up Formula book as I’m recording this, if you don’t have really solid both short term and long-term follow-up so that you’re set up to pretty automatically stay in front of prospects for a very long time, and I mean years, years, then you’re likely going to lose the game because somebody else can be willing to do it.


Now the great advantage of getting yourself in a position where you do have that sort of a system is that very few of your competitors will do it. Sometimes in smaller markets you might be the only one that’s there. You can create for yourself a little mini monopoly because you’re there longer than anyone else. So you’ve got this second rung in where at that level, you’ve got to continue educating them. I’m going to talk in a minute about what types of information to share at each of these levels because it’s important that you map what you’re sharing to where that potential client is in their thinking process. 


Then the third and the closest orbit is when they’re getting really close or maybe they’re at that stage of they’re ready to make a decision. So they know they have a problem, they know that you offer a solution that can solve that problem. Now they’re trying to decide who are we going to choose, who are we going to work with? If you’ve done the work properly at those outer two levels, you’ve probably eliminated all the competition. But even if you haven’t, there are specific types of information that you can share that can help eliminate all of the competition. 


So let’s now turn our attention to what types of content that we’ll share at each of these orbital levels around you. 


All right. So if we think about that prospect and what they need to know at that outer level to be attracted into our sort of gravitational pull, what do they need to know? Well, we need to be talking about the things that are on their mind right now. The problems that they’re really facing, both the ones that you directly impacted and the ones that are related to the things that you do. And we need to be talking about those problems in a way that makes them aware that hey, you could have a problem because they might not know yet. And we need to be talking about the really challenging consequences of those problems. So what will happen if they don’t do anything about it? If they let this lay dormant for a while, what happens? 


And at that very outer level, one of the best things that you can do as you communicate that is then set yourself up to have those ideas be easily spread. So one of the ways that we think, one of the easiest ways to do that is to use your podcast. And at that outer level, that’s where you’re going to be generating referrals, generating leads. And at the very outer level you can use a podcast in two ways. Number one, you can invite guests on and have interesting conversations that cover problems that both you address and that are very much relevant for your target client. Doesn’t have to be something that you solve.


Podcast Marketing – But Not the Way You Think


So if you look at our podcast, you’re listening now and we have guests on that address all sorts of problems related to our target clients because I want to attract people to me that are in that arena, that are entrepreneurs, that are consultants, that are agency owners, that are feeling the pain of running a small professional service business. And if all that I ever did was talk about the problems that they face related to what I do, I wouldn’t be able to get access to all of them because in some cases they’re not aware yet of the problem that they have that I can fix for them. But they may be aware of, and recently we had a guest on talking about building systems and scaling your business. Well, they may be feeling the pain of the business really kind of taking over their lives and they don’t have any freedom and free time.


So I can attract that person in. I can begin a relationship with them around that problem that they have. I don’t have to create that content. I can have someone else who’s expert in that come in and give me that content because I can interview them. And then, because I have now collaborated with this person, they’re going to send me everybody that they know because it’s in their interest to take that interview and promote it to everyone that they know. And that might be a lot of people. We’ve had people with big, big audiences share those. We’ve had people with small networks share. Either way, I don’t really care. I want those people and I want them to come because they have a relationship with that person and I want to be introduced to that group of people that that influencer knows and I want to be introduced as someone that has a relationship with that person because that’s going to take me further down the road. It’s going to increase my gravitational pull with the people that are in their network and in their audience. So that’s one of the ways that you can do it. 


Another way you can do it is to actually go out and be interviewed on other people’s podcasts and you can share your ideas then with the audience that they’ve rounded up. We’ve used both of those extensively. And so on that very outermost ring where you’re trying to reach people that are just a little bit beyond your gravitational pull, those are some of the easiest ways that you as an entrepreneur or as a business owner can get your message out there, can connect with people that don’t yet know who you are. And as my friend John Curry likes to say, there’s only two types of prospects, the ones you know and the ones you don’t know. And you’ve got to have a way to go after the ones that you don’t know and get them to know you and begin getting in relationships. So that’s at that outer level. 


Now let’s look one rung in from that. If we come one rung in from that, now this person is in your world and they’ve been consuming your content at that outer level. You’ve been educating them about the various problems that they have that you can solve and they’re listening, they’re paying attention. As you take them in a little bit further, you can use your podcast to share your world, view your ideas. If we want to get really meta with it, that’s what I’m doing right now with you. I’m sharing with you my worldview, why I believe in what we do and why we do the things that we do, why we believe it’s a superior solution. You have the opportunity to share those ideas and it’s far easier to do it in this format than to sit down and write it. 


I’ve worked with countless business owners who had fantastic ideas that create great impact in their marketplace, but they were not writers. Maybe you can relate. I started off that way, frankly. Early on in my career, I didn’t feel like I was a really great and confident writer and I decided that I needed to be. And when I decided I needed to be, I spent ten years developing that skill. So if you don’t want to go through all that, chances are you already know how to talk. You already know how to carry on a conversation. Very easy to partner with someone on your team and have a conversation with them about the way that you solve a particular problem for your clients. Very easy for you to get on and simply talk into a microphone like I’m doing today and record your ideas just with a simple outline. 


Pre-Selling Your Prospects


So that second rung in really becomes your way to pre-sell your prospects. Now that you’ve made contact with them, now you’re going to show them all of the great ideas that you have that can impact their world. And the best way to do that, the easiest way to do that, is to have solo episodes within your podcast. Because on those solo episodes, you’re able to communicate those ideas that sell you and that establish you as the preeminent authority in your market.


So then as we move further in, we’re attracting them closer to us. This is what we all want to do. We want to attract them close in and they get into that tightest little orbit around us. They’re very close to making a decision. We’ve gotten them educated and hopefully we’ve gotten them through the point that they’ve made the second critical buy. I’ve talked before about the three purchases that every client makes. The first purchase is they have to buy, that they have a problem and that you have a solution. And if they don’t buy into that idea, then you’re not really going to go anywhere quickly in the sales process.


The second buy is they have to buy you. They have to believe that you’re their guy or you’re their gal. And so in doing that, we eliminate all the competition. 


Then the third buy is the one where money actually changes hands. Of course we all pay attention to that one, but the other two are actually critically important and we tend to gloss over the activities that will create both of those.


So at this tightest ring in, this is where you have a really great opportunity to share experiences of your existing clients and the great successes that they’ve had from working with you. At this inner ring, you could do testimonials and you could do case studies, videos and things like that. But I will tell you that I have found over the years, most business owners really struggle to collect good testimonials. They really struggle to get people to sit down and record something like a video for them. 


The antidote to that, the thing that makes it so much easier is if you say to that client, look, we don’t have to get on camera. It’s not going to be real complicated. You don’t even have to wear pants. We’re going to do an audio interview. Why don’t you come and be on my podcast? And because they’re already likely a listener to your podcast and a fan of your podcast because they are a client of yours, they will happily come and sit down and talk about their experience and you can get a fantastic and long 20 or 30 minute case study out of them as you lead them through the transformation that occurred, that you delivered.


Where that works then with those prospects that are on that closest ring is now it’s like you’re holding up a mirror that they’re looking at and seeing themselves through the lens of this client and the client’s transformation. It gives them this really rich experience. So instead of reading a written testimonial that was maybe a paragraph or two long that just says how wonderful you are, they’re actually hearing in the client’s words. What could be more credible than that? They’re hearing the tone of voice, they’re hearing the authenticity, it’s confirming to them that they’re making the right decision by working with you. And these can be incredibly powerful in your marketing. And at that inner ring in, having that content there is extremely powerful.


So that’s how you map content to these various orbits. And again, I believe that that a podcast is one of the greatest ways to do this because in one marketing medium, you only have to master one type of marketing. You’re able to address all three of those levels.


Now the next thing we want to look at is how do we move people between levels? 


Creating Content That Holds Attention 


One of the beauties about thinking in terms of orbits is that it allows your clients to move up and down and continue to circulate around. And if you create content the way that I’ve laid it out here, where you’re using your podcast and you’ve got interviews that help you generate leads and create interesting content that hold attention, and you have solo episodes where you share your worldview and you have interviews with successful clients that demonstrate the transformation that you deliver, when you’re able to put all of those, what you end up with is you end up with content that as you send that out, you don’t have to know where anyone is at any particular time in their orbit because the content is going to work on them at the level that they’re at. And when you put those three types of content together, no matter what level they are at, it’s going to help you maintain attention and it’s going to take people from those outer levels and it’s going to increase your gravitational pull.


So if somebody’s on that very far outer level and they hear an interview with a client that’s a great case study and talks about a transformation, you may immediately then see that it speeds up the sales cycle with that person because they want that transformation now and they may jump all the way down. They may skip a level. You may have a prospect that goes all the way down, but then for whatever reason life happens, other priorities hit and they’ve got to back up a little bit. Well, because you’re publishing this content consistently over time and it’s interesting and varied content, now you’re holding their attention while they deal with whatever competing priority happened. Then you’re able to suck them right back in to the sales process when it’s time. So this works on so many different levels to accelerate the sales process.


Now beyond that, one of the big reasons that I’ve become such an advocate of having a podcast is that it allows your prospects to experience what it would be like to be in a conversation with you. They get to hear your voice. They get to hear that you’re trustworthy. They get to hear how you deal with conversations with other experts. As that’s happening, they begin to feel like they know you in a way that doesn’t happen through the written word. It’s a very powerful medium.


One of the reasons that you see these radio talk show hosts that have these daily radio shows where they’ve got these rabid followings is because they’ve built that strong bond through the power of the human voice with their audience. And your podcast gives you the ability to do that. 


What I want to leave you with today, the takeaways that I think are important here. Number one, abandon the idea of a funnel for high ticket complex sales. Your job is to slowly and methodically attract people to you. And set up a system so that they can move at their own pace and that you’re giving them the kind of that they need to make the leap when they’re ready. Your job then is to just put as many prospects as you can in orbit around you. Knowing that you’ve got a system that’s always delivering that content, that’s always moving them a little bit closer, that’s always bringing them towards the point of becoming a client.


The other thing I want you to take away today is that there’s a structure for doing that. There’s a structure for creating that content, and if you have a podcast, you’ve got a really, really easy way to show up and in a matter of an hour or two, maybe four tops a month, get all of your marketing done and be able to move on and focus on the other priorities in your world. Because the truth is for most business owners, you don’t want to become a master marketer. That’s not why you got into business. There are better uses of your time, but you’ve still got to get this message out and you’ve got to find a really efficient way to do that.


So I hope this has been helpful. I would love to have your feedback. Send me an email at I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. 


Until next time, stay unstoppable. 

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