Archive for lead nurturing

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Creating Marketing Follow Up Sequences

In marketing we spend a lot of time talking about lead generation. But the key to turning leads into business is in the follow up. Without a planned, consistently executed follow up system, a good portion of the time and money spent on generating leads will go to waste.

We often referred to the series of tasks that need to be completed as an Activity Series or a Follow Up Sequence. As more software companies create solutions to help manage and automate follow up, I’m sure you will hear different terms but they are basically the same.

One more quick note about software – there are plenty of powerful software tools to help you manage your follow up sequences but they are not mandatory. You can certainly manage it with a calendar, paper, and discipline. Even if you do buy software, you still need the discipline if you want to be successful.

A sample follow up series will generally include the following information:

  1. The start date for the follow up series. This may be when someone subscribes to your newsletter or when you meet them at a networking event.
  2. The step number in the sequence.
  3. Description of what needs to be done.
  4. When the step is to be done. This is typically expressed as either the number of days after the previous step in completed or some other event. How it is expressed depends somewhat on the complexity of your sequence. For example, you may try to contact someone be phone 3 times, and if all 3 fail, you need to decide what to do next.
  5. Due Date or completion date – typically computed by adding the number of days in #4 to the completion date of the previous task.
  6. Who is responsible for completion of the step. This can include people that you delegate tasks to (co-worker, virtual assistant, etc.), an automation system, or a fulfillment vendor.
  7. Tools and other resources needed to complete the step.

Whether you use software to automate your follow up sequences or not, I find it is helpful to map out your step before you add them to your system. Most folks that I work with like to do this on paper or using Excel (or your favorite spreadsheet software). If you do use Excel, there is a handy function named WORKDAY() that can help you map out your due dates. The Workday() function lets you add a number of days to a date and have it return the next workday. So if you have a step that should take place 3 days after a Wednesday, it will return the date for the following Monday instead of the Saturday. You also have the ability to define a range of holidays in order to exclude those dates as well.

You can download a sample Follow Up Sequence spreadsheet (Excel) that uses the WORKDAY() function here.

Lead generation is important, but if you want to grow your business you need to have a consistently executed follow up system that will turn interest into sales.