Archive for lead generation

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.

How to Automate Your Follow Up

robots

In the last post I mentioned that capturing leads and following up is the blocking and tackling of marketing. The last post covered capturing leads, so lets talk about following up. We tend to focus on ways to generate new leads (networking, advertising, etc.), but without proper follow up, those activities are a waste of time and money.

Some studies show that while it takes an average of 5 sales calls or contacts to close a deal, most salespeople quit following up after one or two calls. Are you leaving money on the table because your follow up activities are falling through the cracks?

Two Broad Categories of Follow Up 

Some of the people you meet, either in person or virtually, will have an immediate need for your products and services. Most of them, particularly in the B2B world, will not have an immediate need, but over time a need will arise or they will know someone who has a need for what you do. To accomodate this fact, you will typically have a short term follow up sequence to address those with an immediate need and a long term nurturing sequence to help you stay top of mind until a need arises. There are several strategies for achieving this, I’ll outline two of the more popular ones below.

The first strategy is to follow up with a short series of emails (3 or 4) and then present an offer to see if the contact is ready for a sales conversation. Depending on your business the offer may be for a free consultation, a demonstration, a free trial, etc. If the contact does not respond to the offer, they are put into a long term nurturing campaign – for most businesses this means they are added to the newsletter list.

A second popular strategy is to have a longer series of emails, but to space their deliverary dates out by using a Fibonacci Sequence. A Fibonacci Sequence is a series of numbers where the next number in the series is determined by adding the two numbers preceding it in the sequence. For a series of 8 follow up messages, your Fibonacci Sequence may look like this:

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34

Using this sequence you would send out a message on days 1, 2, and 3, then you would wait until day 5 to send the next one, etc. By communicating more frequently at the beginning of the relationship you have a better chance of achieving top of mind status and you also have a better chance of connecting with your hot prospects are ready to buy. The sequence automatically adjusts for those who are not ready to buy now, but who you want to stay in touch with over time.

Tracking and Testing

While there are all kinds fo benchmarks and rules of thumb you can use to get started, you best course of action is to get started and use your analytics to review what is happing, form hypotheses about how to improve your results, run tests and see what happens. If the latest marketing book tells you to have a sequence of 5 emails and all of your leads stop reading after the third message, you need to try something different.

Automated Doesn’t Have to Mean Canned

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that all of your follow up has to be canned email messages.

Some CRM systems will help you accomplish this via the creation of actions sets or task series. These are a series of follow up actions that you define that you can later assign to a contact in a single step. For example, lets pretend after you meet someone at  networking event you like to follow up by:

  • Sending a handwritten note
  • Emailing them a helpful article
  • Introducing them to someone on LinkedIn
  • Calling them on the phone to see how the introduction went

Many CRM systems will allow you to create these task, bundle them as a unit, and give them a name, i.e. “Networking Follow Up”. Once created, these bundles can be assigned to a contact record, saving you time and making sure all steps are followed every time.

These systems also let you specify how much time should pass between each task so you can send the thank you note the same day, the article 7 days later, etc. (or use your Fibonacci Sequence from above). Depending on the task to be performed, the system can either perform the step automatically (send an email) or it can create a task or appointment and assign it to the appropriate person on your team. Sophisticated systems like Infusionsoft can also send text messages, recorded voice messages, and send lists to fulfillment houses.

Get Started Today

Because there are so many ways you can follow up, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to create the perfect 37 step follow up sequence before you launch – don’t fall into that trap. Start with one message and have a goal for that message – an action you want the reader to take. After you create that message (or dig it out of your email Sent folder) ask yourself 1) If they do what I ask, what do I want to happen next? and 2) if they don’t do what I ask, what then? Use the answers to these questions to craft your next messages and then rinse, lather, repeat.

Components of a Lead Capture System

old crate trap

In the last post I shared some ideas for creating a compelling lead magnet and the role the lead magnet plays in your overall marketing system. One of the main roles the lead magnet plays is to attract people looking for a specific type of solution and to get them into your marketing hourglass. Doing so allows you to begin building Know, Like, and Trust with them by sharing your educational and trust building content.

In order to be able to provide useful content over time, we need gain the permission as well as the contact information of the people you wish to engage. As I mentioned in the previous post, you are asking people to “buy” something from us using the currency of their contact information. This is one of the reasons for emphasizing the idea of creating content that is compelling from the prospects point of view. That’s the only way you can create something with enough value to convince them to buy.

Once you create a compelling lead magnet you want to begin capturing information about your leads in a consistent, systematic process. You need a lead capture system.

Main components of a Lead Capture System

Your lead capture system can be as simple or complex as makes sense for your business. Here are some of the typical components you will find in a small business lead capture system.

Your List or Database - Your main repository of contact information. Many small businesses maintain their list in their custoemr relationship management system (CRM), email service provider (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) or in the contacts section of their email program.

Because there are many ways to capture leads it is very easy to end up with several different lists. Try to avoid this. The more lists you have, the more complicated your system becomes, and opportunities are more likely to fall through the cracks. Rather than keeping seperate lists, maintain one master list but capture enough data so that you can slice and dice the list when you want to communicate with a subset of your list. For example, if you generate leads at tradeshows, don’t keep a seperate list for each tradeshow. Rather, add a field to your main list that will allow you to record which tradeshow you were attending when you met your prospect.

Data Collection Form – can also in several varieties –  website forms, a clipboard by the cash register, or the fishbowl at your tradeshow booth. Most CRMs and email service providers give you the ability to create a data collection form and add it to your website. One someone fills out one of these forms, their contact information is automatically added to your database, saving you the time of manually entering the information.

Landing Page – when the data collection form lives on the web, it is typically either a) embedded on a page on your website or b) part of a dedicated landing page. Landing pages, sometimes called squeeze pages, typically help boost your conversion rate (the number of people who fill out the form) because they remove all distractions and focus on one task – getting the visitor to complete the form.

Autoresponder - Once someone completes the form we need to respond – to provide the information we promised and to begin nurturing the relationship. You could do this manually, but in todays world people expect to get their response right away. One way to provide this information is by using a tool called an autoresponder – which does what its name implies.

While most email service providers and CRMs include an autoresponder tool, you will find they differ in their feature sets. For example, some tools will allow you to send different follow up messages depending upon how an individual got on your list (i.e. which form they filled out). Others give you more control of when your messages are sent (i.e. send my messages only on week  days).

Using your System Online and Offline

Part of having a system is processing data in a consistent manner. Most of us will still meet people “offline”, in person at networking events, etc. Make sure to include these folks in your lead capture system. Most email systems provide a mechanism for adding contacts manually, or, you can just go to your website and enter them yourself. Make sure to set expectations so your contacts know why they are suddenly getting follow up messages.

If you have a store or an office where people walk in, make sure you have a system in place to capture their information and get them on your list as well.

 

 

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.

Start 2014 With a Marketing Win

score a marketing win

It’s the start of a new year – how big is your checklist of marketing tasks to accomplish this year?

It’s easy to create a long list of things you would like to do. The problem is, once we create our list we often become overwhelmed and paralyzed. Or we get so wrapped up in the busy work we create for ourselves we never get to the part that brings in money.

In order to get your marketing efforts off to a solid start this year, I recommend picking one item that will produce a “win” for your business and get to work on that one item right away.

How do you find a quick win? If you are like most small business owners, you have two untapped or underutilized sources of business – 1) your existing customer base and 2) your list.

Your Customer Base

In the hunt for new sources of revenue, it is easy to forget that we should be marketing to our existing customers. These are the folks who already know, like, and trust you. If you’ve had success attracting people who fit your ideal customer profile, then you already have a base of customers who value what you bring to the table and are not “price shoppers”. Finding new ways to help them achieve their goals will not only help you grow your sales, but you’ll be doing work that you enjoy at the same time.

If you are not sure what to offer your existing customers then you are probably overdue for a conversation with them. Make that your “big win” goal for January – take out your calendar and make appointments with your top customers. Make the agenda of those meetings to listen to your customers’ goals and aspirations. Once they finished (and not before) spend some time thinking about how you can help them achieve those goals – either by offering one of your solutions or introducing them to someone in your network who can help them.

Your List

If you’ve been in business for any period of time, you have a list. We already talked about your list of existing customers, so now let’s talk about your contacts, leads, prospects, referral sources, etc.

While everyone has a list, many small business owner’s lists have one or more of the following challenges:

  • Their list isn’t organized
  • Their list is dormant
  • Their list is not segmented

The Unorganized List

By unorganized, I mean that the contact information for the people on your list is not in one central place. It is  scattered about in your email inbox, on notes jotted down on paper, and in the stack of cards on your desk. The biggest problem with an unorganized list is that it makes it difficult to follow up on a consistent basis. The tendency is to follow up with those contacts we consider to be “hot leads” – someone we think we can sell something to in the very near future. In B2B sales, many of the people we meet may not need our services right now, but chances are they will sometime in the future (or will run into someone else who needs what we sell). Without consistent follow up, sales and referrals often fall through the cracks. Consistent follow up without an organized list very difficult, if not impossible.

The Dormant List

Without regular follow up, your list becomes dormant and loses its value to your business. Once you lose top of mind status (or if you never had it), your messages become just more junk in the recipient’s inbox. If they forget who you are, what you do, or why they should care, they will see your messages as spam. Technically, they are not spam you say. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception of the recipient.

In addition to regular communication, keeping your list clean by removing those who are no longer interested is also essential to your marketing success.

The Unsegmented List

Segmenting is simply dividing your list into categories. Lists can be segmented in a variety of ways including geography, business size, industry, or interest.

The problem with an unsegmented list is that it forces you to talk to everyone on your list the same way. This reduces the effectiveness of your marketing messages because you generally end up talking about:

  1. What’s important to you rather than what is important to them. OR
  2. Things that are not relevant to the recipient. For example, have you ever received an offer to become a customer when you already are one? A personal example – I recently received an invitation to a free lunch meeting being held 1,000 miles away. With a segmented list, the company that invited me could have excluded me from the invitation or, realizing it didn’t make sense for me to attend, offer to send me the information being shared at the lunch.

Use the information in your list to create segments that allow you to communicate in a way that is relevant to the recipients of your marketing messages.

Using Your List to Get a Win

A word of caution, it is easy to get bogged down trying to “perfect” your list before you start doing anything. Don’t fall in this trap!

The theme of this post is how to get a quick win. The best way to get a quick win with your list is to start with a marketing objective in mind. Creating a spreadsheet or database to organize your contacts is not a marketing objective. Following up with the 10 people you met at yesterday’s networking event is – the spreadsheet or database is a tool to help you meet that objective. In order to get the quick win, get those 10 people on your list and contact them today. During your follow up, make notes about those things that will help you continue to follow up in a way that is relevant to them. When you get back to your office, add those notes to your list, so you will be able to create segments for future messages.

If you have a list, but it is at risk of becoming dormant, score your quick win by reaching out and determining if the contacts on your list still have an interest in what you do. A simple email or phone call to ask “Are you still interested in tax preparation services?” or “Are you still interested in [insert your service]?” will let you know who you should follow up with and who you should remove from your list.

If you have a list that can use segmenting, don’t start by trying to think of all of the segments you could have. Score your win by coming up with an offer or marketing message you want to send and then determine how to segment your list to make that offer as relevant as possible. For example, if you want to offer an in person seminar, can you identify the people on your list who are within a reasonable travelling distance?  Can you quickly send a “for customers” only offer? If you have to collect data to update your list, first send the messages you can and then set goals for collecting and sending messages as you go. For example, set a goal of sending out 10 new messages every week rather than trying to update your complete list before sending out the first message.

Wrapping Up

I hope that gives you some ideas for scoring some quick marketing wins in 2014. If you have any questions or tips you would like to share, leave a comment below or drop us a line.

Lead Generation – Recycling Cold Leads

recycle logo

Lead generation is a key component of every small business marketing system. It can also be one of your most expensive marketing activities. Re-engaging your cold leads can be an effective way to stretch your lead generation budget.

We’ve all had contacts who we thought were “hot leads” or at least interested in our products and services who, for one reason or another, just faded away. We never received a “No”, they just seemed to disappear.

Sometimes they disappear early in the process, i.e. someone who requests additional information from your website but then never replies to any of the follow up messages you send.

More frustrating is the situation where you get to the point where you make a sales presentation, only then to have your contact seemingly fall off the face of the earth.

Or we may have leads that come in from our website. When this happens, most companies will:

  1. Do nothing. They will wait for the prospect to call them
  2. Contact the prospect the same day, or shortly thereafter, and try to engage in a phone conversation
  3. Add the prospect to an email follow up sequence or drip marketing campaign

If nothing happens after the initial follow up activities,  businesses will often dump the contacts into their newsletter list, add them to a future call list, or just decide to “close the file” on that particular contact.

That means that most businesses, particularly those who sell more complex and/or expensive products and services, tend to have a good sized group of these “stale contacts” in their database. So the question becomes, “What should we do with these cold leads?”.

Restarting the Conversation

A better question may be, “What can we do to get the conversation started again?”. Most B2B and service businesses won’t benefit from just blasting new offers or discounts to their inactive leads. Chances are the potential customer didn’t feel comfortable enough to risks abandoning the status quo, so we need to start a two way conversation so we can learn what they need to see and/or hear to help them move to the next step of their buying process.

From a systems point of view, the first thing we need to be able to identify these contacts. This is usually done by applying a tag (or label or category) to the contact record, allowing you to identify and create a list of these contacts.

If you are using marketing automation software like Infusionsoft, you can set up your follow up sequence to apply this tag automatically when a contact completes your follow up sequence without satisfying any of the goals you have defined (i.e. scheduled an appointment). The action of applying the tag can then automatically fire off your “cold contacts” follow up sequence.

If you keep your contacts in Outlook, Google Contacts, or a CRM, you should still be able to identify your stale contacts by using categories, labels, or groups. The key here is to have well defined procedures in place that everyone follows so that none of your contacts fall through the cracks.

Once you have your contacts properly categorized, you can either fire off a follow up sequence automatically (as mentioned above) or periodically generate a list of people to follow up with based on your categories.

Once you have solved the technical issue of identifying your stale contacts, the next step is figuring out how to restart the conversation. This step seems to stump small business marketers more than the technical issues mentioned above. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

Change the Channel

While email may be the most convenient way for use to send a message, it may not be your prospect’s preferred method of communication. Sending everything via email doesn’t do much to help you stand out either. If your previous communications have all been via email and you’re not getting any response, try sending a hand written note  or a piece of lumpy mail, or picking up the phone.

Send An Invite

Chances are you are attending a social or educational event that your prospects would benefit from attending as well – why not invite them to attend the event with you. So many of these events today take place online, so it is easier to invite your out of town prospects than ever before.

Make An Introduction

You can also add value to your relationships by making introductions to other people your prospects would benefit from meeting. During your early sales conversations, you probably learned about several challenges your prospect is facing that fall outside of the solutions you offer. You can begin to solidify your position as the person they turn to when they have a need by connecting them to members of your network who can help them address those challenges.

Send More Personalized Messages

The more interaction you have with your prospects, the more information you have to personalize and tailor the messages that you send to them. You are more likely to restart a conversation by sharing or referencing things they care about, rather than just blasting more self promoting content to them.

Are They Interested in Something Else?

From the buyers point of view, a big part of the sales and marketing process is defining their needs. While they may have  discovered they don’t need the product that initially drew them to you, they may have other challenges that you can help them with – make sure they know how else you may be able to help.

Those are just a few ways you can try to restart conversations with your stale leads. If you have other examples you’d like to share, drop me a note in the comment section below.

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How Marketing Automation Saves You Time and Money

money in hourglass

Most small businesses have a limited marketing staff. In fact, many small businesses don’t have a marketing person, they have a marketing role, which is filled by someone (often the owner) who also wears several different hats in the business. Because of this, time is a precious resource.

This means the marketing role needs to quality leads in the least amount of time possible. It also means that systems must be in place to make sure those leads do not fall through the cracks as we switch between roles.

Marketing automation allows you to remove the manual work out of crafting each individual message (i.e. email or letter); rather, you can create a multi-stage campaign that will nurture new leads that come into your system over a period of weeks or months.

Marketing automation can also help you save time in your sales role. Two challenges that all small business sales people face are 1) chasing down leads who aren’t ready to buy yet, and 2) consistently following up so those leads remember us when they are ready. Marketing automation can help your on both counts – by automating follow up activities as well as providing clues, based on their actions, about when a lead is ready for a sales conversation.

Chasing leads is often a function of being in the wrong role at the wrong time. By wrong time, I mean relative to where the buyer is in their buying process. Attempting to have a sales conversation before a prospect is ready is frustrating for both the salesperson and the prospect. Jumping into our sales role too early causes prospects to resist, while not engaging in a sales conversation when prospects are ready leads to missed opportunities.

Marketing automation also helps you save time in your sales role by using these behavioral indicators to let you know what you should be talking about when you do have a sales conversation. Most businesses offer a variety of products and services to prospective customers. Marketing automation tools can provide insight into the problem(s) a prospect is trying to solve, and the products and services that can help them solve that problem, based on how they interacted with your marketing messages.

For example, if you sell business software and you see know that a prospect spent most of their time interacting with your marketing related to inventory management but ignored your content related to payroll processing, you would be prepared to speak about what is important to them and figure out what additional information they need to make a decision more quickly than if you went into the conversation “cold”.

Marketing automation is not a silver bullet. As I’ve mentioned here before, you need to have a marketing system before you can automate it. When properly implemented, marketing automation can save you time and help you close more deals and close them faster.

P.S. – There are many marketing automation solutions available. My favorite for small businesses is Infusionsoft. You can view a demo of Infusionsoft here, or feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss how it might help your business.

How to Get More Business From Fewer Leads

people in funnel

Most small business owners and salespeople that I work with are pretty good at closing the deal once they get in front of the right people. What they struggle with is getting in front of enough of the “right people”.

In marketingspeak, we refer to the process of attracting the right people as lead generation. When most people think of lead generation (or leads), they naturally picture a sales funnel – that diagram that seems to show how if you just pour more people into the top of the funnel, more customers will trickle out of the bottom. This viewing of marketing as just a numbers game leads to a lot of frustration and wasted marketing budgets.

People Not Leads

It is important to remember that we don’t want leads. What we really want are customers, people who buy from us regularly. And we don’t want just any customers; we want profitable customers. Profitable customers who refer us to other profitable customers like them.

Borrowing from Stephen Covey, we need to start with our Ideal Customer in Mind. We need to take the time to understand which customers we are best able to serve. Who are the customers who appreciate the value we bring to the table? Which types of projects are your most profitable? Which ones suck the life out of you and your staff? If you are having trouble defining your ideal customer, start with this question – who do you not want to work with?

Understand Their Buying Process

Once you can identify what your ideal customers look like, you can begin to research their buying process – the stages they go through when making a purchasing decision and the information they need to move from one stage in their process to the next.

Once you understand how your ideal customer makes purchasing decisions you can begin to examine your existing marketing content to make sure that you have content that educates and builds trust for each stage in their buying process. By having relevant content in each stage, you increase your chances of attracting ideal customers no matter which stage they are in. You also increase your chances that they will stay with you as they continue along the process until they are ready to make their purchase.

Fewer Leads, More Conversions, Bigger Deals

Armed with a narrowly defined target audience and a thorough understanding of that audiences buying process, you are now ready to build effective lead generation campaigns. When you do, you will probably notice that the “marketing math” of the sales funnel gets turned on it’s head. It is very common for business with effective lead generation campaigns to see a decrease in the number of leads they receive. However, these leads are typically much more qualified leading to higher conversion rates and higher sales figures.

The next time you work on your lead generation system, remind yourself that leads are people and work to attract the type of people with whom you want to have a long term working relationship.

Inbound Marketing Makes Cold Calling Easier

cold calling is hardCold calling is hard work and very few people like to do it. One reason people don’t like it  is that it is hard to get the conversation started – both with the gate keeper and the prospect. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of calling up a stranger and immediately asking for something – time and attention in order to try to sell. Small businesses that embrace inbound marketing can use the assets they develop during that process to make cold calling easier by changing the conversation from one of asking to one of offering something of value.

At the risk of oversimplifying, inbound marketing consists of two major steps; 1) create information that is valuable to my ideal prospects  and 2) doing everything I can to make sure that my ideal customers will find that information when they are looking for solutions to the problems I help them solve.

Step #1, creating valuable information, typically includes some marketers refer to as a lead magnet (or bait piece). Lead magnets are often whitepapers or eBooks but can be case studies, webinars, books, ROI calculators, top 10 lists, etc.  The information contained in the lead magnet must not only be of value to your prospects, the value must be perceived to be high enough to justify “purchasing” it with their contact information.

One of the drawbacks of inbound marketing is that it takes time to see results in the form of leads. Small businesses can jump start those efforts by having their sales team offer the lead magnet to the people on their prospecting list. Now they have a simple, more comfortable way to start a conversation – “I have a free eBook that outlines the 3 questions CEOs of companies like yours wished they had asked before spending money on XYZ, is that something you would be interested in seeing?”.

It also makes the initial conversation with the gate keeper less adversarial – “I have a free eBook that outlines the 3 questions CEOs of companies like yours wished they had asked before spending money on XYZ that I wanted to send over to Bob. He he the best person to send that to or do you think I should also send it to someone else? Great, which email address should I use? ” .

This approach also make following up less awkward. Rather than “just checking in” you get to ask what they liked, what they thought about X, is that an issue they are facing, and would they like to see more information or additional case studies, etc. In other words, you have a natural way to start having a sales conversation.

Smart marketers will seek out feedback from sales about these follow up conversations so they can produce additional marketing content that helps further engage existing prospects as well as attracting new leads.

Inbound marketing tactics are powerful tools for small business. You can make them more powerful by combining them with traditional outbound tactics like cold calling, networking, and direct mail.

Characteristics of Effective Lead Magnets

effective lead magnets for attracting prospectsCreating effective lead magnets, offers that attract leads and get them to submit their contact information, are a staple of modern marketing. Lead magnets go by many names – bait pieces, opt-ins, sign up forms, subscriptions, free trials, etc. No matter what you call them, there are certain fundamentals that will help you increase your odds of getting people to trade their contact information for your offer. Here are some of the characteristics that effective lead magnets share:

A quick note, for purposes of this post, “lead magnet” refers to the form (or page) that a visitor interacts with when they view your offer.

The Offer - this is thing of value that you are trying to convince someone to “purchase” by exchanging their contact information. Reread that last sentence – it’s not free, it’s a purchase. Your “thing” can be a special report, an eBook, access to a free trial, etc. In order to be effective, your offer must be perceived as being valuable by prospects who meet your ideal customer profile who are in the early stages of their buying process. That statement implies that you developed an ideal customer profile and have taken the time to understand the process they go through when making a purchase – both prerequisites to publishing a lead magnet.

Call to Action - your lead magnet should contain single, clear, concise, and easy to complete call to action. The call to action is usually stated in the headline and the text of the button on the web form. While “submit” is a commonly seen button label, it is not an effective call to action. Rather than asking visitors to bend to your will, try to answer the question “what do I get?”. Answers like “Get your free report”, “Get instant access”, or “Watch Your Free Video” tend to be more effective calls to action.

“Easy to complete” includes limiting the amount of information you ask for as part of the exchange. Do you really need the fax number from a first time visitor? Is your free report worth the answering the 12 questions (all required) you are requesting as your purchase price?

Sets Expectations for follow up - Letting people know up front how often you plan to contact them and what you will be contacting them about will help 1) reduce fears related what you will be doing with their contact information and 2) reduce the risk that you follow up messages will be flagged as spam by the recipient. Setting expectations about the next step(s) in your marketing and sales processes is always a good idea.

Captures both demographic and psychographic information

Most lead magnets ask for demographic information (location, industry, company size, etc.) as part of the exchange for a lead magnet. Collecting demographic information can help you determine how well visitors match your ideal customer profile and where they are in their buying process.

Lead magnets can also help you capture psychographic information – information that indicates how your visitors think, what they value, and their interests. Psychographic information can be gathered explicitly through questions on your forms. They can also be gathered by recording behaviors that a a visitor exhibits, i.e., they downloaded a certain white paper, or attended a webinar on a specific subject.

Balancing data gathering with “easy to complete”

How do we gather all of this demographic and psychographic information without creating opt-in forms that violate our principle of keeping forms short and easy to complete? By having a system for steadily observing, collecting, and recording this information over time. Marketers like to call this progressive profiling.

Using progressive profiling, you may only ask for a name and email address during the initial exchange. In subsequent offers you ask for additional information such as title, geographic location, industry, etc. Your follow up email messages can provide choices that help you determine the interests of your prospect. While progressive profiling is often associated with marketing automation software, you can apply this strategy with strong listening skills and a good customer database.

Work to build these characteristics into your lead magnets and start converting more visitors into leads.