Archive for Marketing

How Often Should I Follow Up with Leads?

lost-leads-funnel

As marketing and sales folks, we are always on the look out for the latest and greatest ways to attract more leads. Lead generation is important, but the money to be made from generating leads is in the follow up. Most small business owners and sales people would be better off fixing their follow up before spending more money on lead generation.

Do You Stop Following Up Too Soon?

Most sales people, particularly those without a systematic follow up process, give up on prospects too soon.

According to a couple of studies (one by Sales & Marketing Executives Club of Los Angeles and another by SalesForce.com) over 90% of sales are made after the fourth call – here’s the breakdown:

  • 2% of sales close on the 1st call
  • 3% of sales close on the 2nd call
  • 4% of sales close on the 3rd call
  • 10% of sales close on the 4th call
  • 81% of sales close after the 5th call

However, most (>70%) salespeople stopped following up after the second call:

  • 48% quit after the 1st call
  • 24% quit after the 2nd call
  • 12% quit after the 3rd call
  • 6% quit after the 4th call
  • 10% quit after the 5th call

According to these studies, most of us don’t need to focus on generating tons of new leads, we need to focus on improving our follow up with the leads we have.

Stop Leads From Slipping Through Your Fingers

You may find it helpful to think of “nurturing your relationship” rather than just following up with your leads. Repeatedly sending “just checking in” emails or voice mails isn’t very effective. In order to differentiate yourself from your competition and stay top of mind with your prospects you will want to stay in touch by providing educational, helpful information that focuses on their needs. This approach of maintaining contact by providing long term value will lead to more meaningful sales discussions and closing more deals.

Mix Up Your Channels

Email is easy, but don’t be afraid to add other communication channels to the mix. Mix in the occasional phone call, direct mail piece, text message, or share something via social media – whichever makes sense for your target audience.

Automate As Much As Possible

Once you have mapped out your follow up process, automate it as much as possible. Automation can take many forms, from simply adding a reminder to you to-do list or calendar, to sending automated email, voice, or text broadcasts. Some systems will even help you respond with messages based upon actions taken by your prospect.

Our favorite sales and marketing automation tool is Infusionsoft, but there are many systems covering a wide range of features and budgets. If you would like to see an example of how automation software can help you, check out this demo.

Improve Your Marketing – Create a Better Offer

effective lead magnets for attracting prospects

In the last post I shared some general ideas for scoring quick marketing wins in 2014. In the next series of posts  I’d like to offer some specific things you can do to your marketing more effective so you can win more customers and increase your sales in the coming year.

Create a Compelling Lead Magnet

In order to get more customers, you need to attract more people to your business. Sounds simple, but how do you do that?

One of the more effective ways to attract people to your business and get them to enter your marketing hourglass is to provide the answers to the questions they are trying to answer. In order to do this effectively, you need a thorough understanding of your ideal customers buying process and the types of information they need to see and/or hear before they feel comfortable moving from one stage of their process to the next. While this is true for all businesses, it is particularly true for B2B companies.

As John Caples famously said, you need to enter the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind. When was the last time you think “I hope I can find a newsletter to subscribe to today!” was a conversation going on in the mind of your ideal prospect?

Unfortunately, “subscribe to our newsletter” is the strongest call to action on many small business websites. Offering a subscription to your newsletter probably isn’t going to be enough to entice someone to give you their contact information these days. Most buyers who haven’t come to Know, Like, and Trust you yet aren’t interested in your newsletter – they want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

You can create a compelling lead magnet by providing the information that answers the questions in their mind. Luckily, you already have a good idea of what your prospects want to know because you talk to prospects and strangers about your business almost every day. Think about your recent conversations (or look through the Sent folder in your email) – what are the topics or questions you answer over and over again. Use these questions to jog your memory:

  • What are some common mistakes you help people avoid?
  • When people work with your competitors, what frustrations do they experience?
  • What are your prospects trying to learn?

Packaging Your Offer

Once you decide upon the information you will share with your prospects, you need to decide how you will package that information. One common approach to delivering this information is in the form of a white paper or eBook. A word of caution, I’ve seen more than one business owner get so bogged down in creating the “perfect” eBook that they never get their lead magnet in place. If you find yourself continually pushing back the due date on your white paper or eBook, consider using a different medium to deliver your information. A simple email series or a series of short videos or audio recordings can be just as effective. Get something deployed quickly – you can always improve and repackage the information in the future.

Not just for online marketing

Although lead magnets are typically thought of as an internet play, a compelling lead magnet can be used for offline lead generation as well. This has been the essence of two step or direct response marketing for decades – provide something of value in exchange for the prospects contact information so you can continue to nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy.

Even if you don’t buy traditional advertising for your lead magnet, pretending you will can be a helpful exercise to determine how compelling your offer is to your target audience. Assuming you were thinking about buying your first home, would you be more likely to respond to an ad for a real estate agent’s newsletter or a free report about the “3 Mistakes First Time Homeowners Make and How to Avoid Them.”?

Once you have a compelling lead magnet you can use it in all of your lead generation activities. Here are a few examples:

  • Advertising – change your existing advertising to offer your valuable information
  • Networking – “give before you get” by offering your information to those who indicate interest
  • Referrals – encourage your referral partners to share your lead magnet with their networks

Your First Step to Measuring Success

Having a lead magnet and incorporating it into your lead generation activities provides another, important benefit – it makes your marketing measurable. Now that your lead generation activities ask prospects to take a specific action, you can measure how many of them actually do. Set things up correctly and you can even measure where your prospects come from so you can start to make better decisions about where to spend your marketing budget.

Start Today

Take a look at the lead magnets you have today from your prospects’ point of view. Are they compelling? Could they be better if you tweaked them a little?

If you don’t have any lead magnets yet, take out your calendar and set a deadline for creating one. Don’t get bogged down by making it a bigger project than it needs to be – get something in place so you can start testing and improving upon it on a regular basis.

Need a second pair of eyes to take a look at what you have? Feel free to contact me.

Evaluating Your Social Strategy With Forrester’s POST

Did you have a clear set of objectives before you started working on your small business social strategy? Probably not.

If you were an early adopter, you jumped right in. You found some things that worked and some that didn’t and adjusted accordingly.

Even if you were a little more cautious getting started (or are just getting started now) chances are you had some broad ideas of how you might best use social media, but you probably didn’t have specific objectives. At least, that seems to be the majority experience of the folks I talk to.

As social tools continue to become a part of our personal and business lives we continue to evaluate how they can help us accomplish our goals. We care less about social being cool; we care more about how it can help us be effective.

Several years ago, Josh Bernoff and the folks at Forrester were trying to help businesses figure out how to “do social the right way”. They created an acronym called POST which stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology. The POST method provides a common sense method for evaluating your current social strategy and identifying areas you can improve. Here is a quick overview of the POST method:

People - Don’t start a social strategy until you know what your audience need to know and where they turn for answers.

Objectives – Do you want to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology.

Strategy - What will be different after you’re done?

Technology – comes last. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide.

If you are unhappy with the results you have received to date from your social strategy, use the POST method to evaluate your current strategy and correct your course. You can learn more about the POST method on Forrester’s blog and from the book Groundswell.

Your Top 10 Marketing Prospect List

Do you have a Top 10 list of prospects you want to meet?

Most business owners and sales people have a list of people they would like to meet. Successful sales people tend to have that list written down so they can easily share it when networking with customers, colleagues, and prospects.

Small business marketers can also benefit from a top 10 list. A top 10 list for marketing looks a little different than one for sales. Rather than being a list of names, it is typically comprised of a role plus a need, want, or pain. A marketers top 10 list answers “Who do I want to reach?” or “Who do I want to find me?”. Here are a couple of examples:

  • CFOs of construction companies who need to get invoices sent out faster
  • Project managers who need a better way to collaborate with remote workers and outside consultants
  • Sales people who feel they are wasting their time at networking events

Armed with this list, marketers (or owners in their marketing role) can quickly answer questions like:

  • Should I advertise, if so where, and what should the ad say?
  • What should I write about on my blog?
  • Should I attend this networking event?
  • Will this webinar generate any leads?
  • Should I be active on social media? If so, what should I share via social media?

If you don’t have a top 10 list for marketing, I’d encourage you to create one and use it when answering questions similar to the ones listed above.

One more thing, there’s nothing magic about the number 10. You may only have a Top 3 list for marketing. The important thing is to have one and to use it to guide your marketing decisions.

5 Ways Marketing Automation Helps Close More Sales

marketing automation robotMarketing automation isn’t just for large corporations anymore. Many small businesses and professional service firms are adopting automation tools to help systematize their marketing efforts. In addition to helping marketers do more with less, these tools can also be a boon to the sales department (or the sales role for those of us who wear many hats). Here are 5 ways that small business owners and salespeople can use marketing automation to close more sales.

Lead Capture – Marketing automation tools can help you identify who is visiting your website in a couple of different ways. Most marketing automation tools will help you identify the company that is visiting your web site based upon the IP address of the visitor’s computer. This technique requires that the company has registered their IP address (vs. the IP address being registered to their internet service provider, i.e. AT&T).  Some marketing automation tools integrate with other databases like Data.com or LinkedIn to provide additional demographic information about the business – number of employees, industry, revenue size, etc.

Company information is interesting, but many small business owners and salespeople become frustrated because they don’t know who from that company visited their site, so they don’t know who they should be following up with. This is where lead capture forms come into play. Once a visitor fills in a form, the marketing automation tools can match up the visitor data it previously collected as anonymous visitor tracking data and match it up to the name provided from the lead capture form.

Lead Qualification – Another key feature of marketing automation tools is the ability to track the behavior of visitors on your site. Pages visited, visit duration, number of visits, registration form submission, file downloads are some of the behaviors marketing automation software can track.

Lead scoring allows you to assign a point value to each type of behavior so you can assign a higher score to someone who attended your webinar and a lower score to someone who only looked at your careers page. This helps small business salespeople identify which prospects are ready for a sales call and which ones still need to be nurtured.

Personalized Email Automation – many marketing automation tools also provide the ability to track individual sales rep emails. Sales driven nurturing programs are also a great feature of marketing automation tools. These programs allow you to continue nurturing leads but the email messages come from the sales rep. More importantly, the replies and notifications go directly to sales.

Lead Intelligence – in addition to the ability to look up company demographic information and the tracking and scoring features listed above, many marketing automation tools will integrate with CRM systems. Having this information centrally located in the CRM allows salespeople to frame their conversation based on the leads past behavior and experience with your company.

Automated Lead Alerts – Last, but not least, marketing automation systems will alert you items that need attention from sales. Rather than depending upon running and reviewing reports, many tools allow you to define your criteria and then will alert you by email, text message, etc. whenever those rules are triggered, giving you a better chance of connecting with a prospect when they are ready to buy.

Are you using marketing automation in your small business? Tell me what you like or don’t like about them in the comments below.

4 Social Media Metrics Small Businesses Should Track

social media metrics for small businessHow’s social media working for your small business? How do you track what’s working and what’s isn’t? There are lots of things you could track, but which social media metrics will give you actionable information that will help you grow your business? Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Most small business start of their social media measurement efforts by tracking audience size, i.e., Twitter followers, Facebook likes, LinkedIn connections, etc. Audience size can help you see if you are trending in the right direction, but by itself it doesn’t provide you with very much insight.

To add some context to audience size, many small businesses find it helpful to measure the level of engagement with their audience. Two common social media metrics that measure engagement are Click Rate and Interaction Rate.

Click rate is simply the number of clicks your posts/updates receive divided by your audience. Click rate can help you determine how useful your audience finds the information you are sharing.

You can also measure your Interaction Rate (Interactions / Audience). While click rate measures clicks on links that you share, interaction rate measures all interactions i.e., re-tweets, replies, shares, likes, comments, etc.

Small business marketers often use social media to promote their marketing content. If you use social media this way, you may also want to measure clicks per post and interactions per post. Use these metrics to identify content that resonates with your audience and create more content like it.

Of course, when looking at these metrics you need to consider who your audience is, what you are sharing, and the fit between the two. Having high engagement rates on content that is of little interest to your ideal customers is unlikely to help you meet your business goals.

One last quick note – when discussing metrics, small business owners often ask me what the “ideal” number is they should be shooting for as a goal. I don’t believe there is a set of benchmarks for small business social media marketing to date. Even if benchmarks did exist, I believe small business marketers should focus on the trends, and what they can learn from them, in their metrics rather than trying to target a specific number.

How Much Does Social Media Cost?

[Note - this post appeared in yesterday's newsletter as the main article. I don't usually repeat my newsletter articles here, but several people told me they found it helpful, so I thought I would share it with those who read my blog too]

Social media provides a lot of opportunities for small business marketers.

But let’s face it, none of us have the time and budget to do all of the things we would like to do, never mind all of the things the experts say we “need” to do. We have to prioritize and make choices. In order to make choices, we need know what things cost.

We don’t have to be accurate to the penny at this stage but we do want to make sure 1) we are comparing apples to apples and 2) we are not leaving out significant costs.

To meet these goals, make sure you consider these 5 areas when putting your numbers together:

1. Building and Programming
What do you need to build? Does your marketing campaign require a landing page or a Facebook tab? Do you need an autoresponder or other follow up mechanism? What do you need to build or buy to implement your plan?

2. Content Creation
Content plays a major role in today’s small business marketing (both online and offline). When creating your campaign budgets ask how much content needs to be created. Will the content need to be updated? If so, how often? Who will create and update the content? Do you have staff with the skills and time needed or is this something that makes sense to outsource?

3. Monitoring and Engaging
Social media is about conversations and your company needs to participate in those conversations. Consider how often the conversations on your different channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) need to be monitored for questions and comments. How often do they need to be updated? How often do you need to check for and delete spam? Who will perform these tasks?

4. Measuring Results
One of the advantages of online marketing is it gives us the ability to measure results. Measuring results, however, takes resources. Tools for monitoring and gathering analytics range from free (i.e. Google Analytics) to hundreds or thousands of dollars per month (i.e. Radian6). Don’t forget the cost of reviewing, reporting, analyzing the data collected as well as determining action plans based on the data collected.

5. Training and Support
What skills and knowledge to you and your staff need to possess or improve in order to make your social media marketing efforts successful?

I hope you find these questions helpful when creating budgets or discussing pricing with your solution providers.

P.S. – these same questions apply to your other marketing campaigns (not just social) as well.

Creating Social Media Strategies That Drive Business Results

Do you have a social media strategy for your business?

As small business owners are becoming more comfortable with social media, many want to know how to create strategies and plans to use social media tools to drive business results.

Many small business owners, and many of the consultants they hire, jump right to tactics without taking the overall business and marketing strategy into account.

Selecting tools that make publishing easier (i.e. Hootsuite and TweetDeck) and creating a schedule of who will post what, when, are important parts of your execution plan. However, the execution plan is not the same as a strategy. If the tactics you are executing are not rooted in a strategy, then these tools will only help you fail more efficiently.

Before you jump into selecting your tools and creating your publishing calendar, take a few minutes to consider these 3 questions:

1. What do you want to gain from your social media plan?

Have you defined what success will look like for your social media plan? Having a clearly defined business goal, whether it is building a community, driving traffic to your offline store, or enhancing your customer service, is the first step the first step to creating a successful social media plan.

2. What do you do or offer that people will want to talk about?

People will talk about and share things for their own reasons, not for yours. Do you know what your audience wants to talk about? Sometimes, they may want to talk about the features of the products and services that you offer; more often they want to talk about the benefits those product, services, or just knowing you, bring to their lives. If you want to be part of the conversation, talk about the things that interest your ideal customers.

3. How do you make money and how can social impact that?

Do you make money by selling products online? Do you have brick and mortar stores? Do you sell directly or through affiliates? Are you a consultant looking for long term engagements? The answers to these questions will make a difference in how you use social media in your business.

If you want to create a social media plan that drives business results, start by asking and answering these 3 questions.

Does Browser Size Affect Your Small Business Website?

Visitors to your website use all different types of devices. Mobile browsing is becoming more popular every day. Desktop monitors are getting larger, but does that mean they are displaying more of your site? Depending on how tech savvy your ideal customers are, the visible portion of the web page may much smaller than the screen resolution, because of all of the toolbars and widgets they use.

All of these factors make it difficult to determine the percentage of visitors for whom certain page elements (i.e. call to action buttons) fall beneath the fold or are hidden in a side bar that they have to scroll to see. So the friendly folks on the Google Analytics team created a visualization tool that lets you quickly determine which portions of your page are visible to which percentages of visitors.

To access the tool, go to In-Page Analytics in the content section of your analytics account. By clicking Browser Size, you can shade portions of the page that are below the fold. Click anywhere on the screen and you can see what percentage of visitors can see that part of your page.

The report shows data based on the page you are viewing. Play around with the picker to view data for “visitors to the site” or “Web users” and compare it to different benchmarks.

This tool started out as a Google lab (http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/. If you were using that lab, know that Google we will be retiring it in about one month.

Twitter Disables Automatic Updating of LinkedIn

Are you on LinkedIn? If so, you probably received and email last Friday announcing that because Twitter “recently evolved its strategy” and is changing the way Tweets appear in third-party applications, Tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn.

You can still share your LinkedIn updates on Twitter by checking the box with the Twitter icon, and click “Share.” This will publish your update to your LinkedIn connections and push it to your Twitter followers. This works just like it did before. The part that changed is automatically sharing updates you create on Twitter with your LinkedIn network.

Personally, I welcome this change. In my experience, automatic updates from Twitter raised the level of noise on LinkedIn while providing little, if any, value. I have heard some bloggers and commentators argue that the automatic update was a good way for them to keep their LinkedIn account alive and relevant. Well, activity doesn’t equal relevancy and we’ve all been to networking events where there is one person who walks up, interrupts, talks about themselves and leaves without asking how they may be able to help. I guess they are alive, but I haven’t seen this strategy be effective.

If you were using the automatic update feature that pushed your Tweets to LinkedIn, I hope that instead of looking for a new way to blast your message with minimal effort, you will take this opportunity to think about how you can be more effective in your communications with your different networks.