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5 Reasons Why You Must Advertise

advertising

Image: brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Sending email is free, creating a Facebook page is free, Twitter outreach is free, cold-calling is free, publicity is free, referrals are free, and advertising costs money.

So why is it that even with all of these wonderfully low cost and free ways to promote your business I contend that you must make advertising one of your core lead generation tactics? (Actually one could argue if anything is free, but the items listed above don’t come with a direct cost.)

Advertising is in fact one of the marketing tactics that comes with an invoice. You must write a check to run ads or send direct mail, often before seeing any results. In my experience people shy away from advertising, not because of the cost, because they don’t know how to get results and they don’t understand the long-term residual effects. Think about it, if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?

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Installing a Selling System

weakest link

Image Credit: _-=Dreemreeper=-_ via Flickr

When asked to consult with a business, and challenged to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time, I always go to work on lead conversion first.

Lack of any asemblance of a systematic approach to selling is the biggest weakness for most small businesses. The focus of marketing is almost always on generating more leads. While leads are certainly important, the obsession with generating them consumes a significant amount of time and money.

Installing a sales system, one that everyone involved in selling in the organization operates, is the fastest way to improve overall marketing results. (I’m assuming you’ve also narrowly defined your ideal client, created a significant way to differentiate your business, and are consistently building trust through educational content.)

The end result with every business I’ve ever worked with was that we dramatically reduced the number of leads they were chasing (decreased expense) while also dramatically increasing the number leads they were converting to customers (increased revenue.) I’ve seen lead conversion rates go from 3% to over 50% when all of the parts of a total marketing system work together.

If you’re moving prospects logically through what I call the Marketing HourglassTM you will see that by the time they get serious about a buying decision they’ve already sold themselves. This approach almost makes selling a non issue and delivers stunningly high conversion rates.

Below are the essential ingredients needed to operate your lead conversion system

  • Discovery – You must have a planned response when a lead asks for more information. I know this sounds obvious, but few businesses do more than react. In order to move prospects you must have a call to action, education plan, and filter that helps qualify and direct leads to the next step. This is a significant step and one that can help you stop chasing the wrong leads while also giving your an opportunity to create a unique experience. Interrupt the norm for your industry here and you’ll help further cement how you’re different.
  • Presentation – Once a prospect determines they need to know more about your specific offerings, either by way of a demo or sales call, it’s important that you have a set way to present your organization. This is a point where many sales folks go out and try to answer the questions that prospects have. The problem with this approach is most prospects don’t know what questions they should have; so it’s really up to you to start adding value in the relationship by presenting what you know is useful, while also discovering their unique challenges. This is part scripted, part art, but it should be practiced consistently across the organization.
  • Nurturing – Depending upon the buying habits of your ideal customer or sales cycle for your particular industry, you will need a systematic approach for keeping leads that are starting an information seeking process warm as they move towards a buying decision. This is a place where technology can certainly help you make automated contacts via email or snail mail. Creating planned education events such as online seminars and peer-to-peer panel discussions is also another very effective way to nurture leads and continue to educate.
  • Transaction – For many in selling, the game ends when the customer says yes. Your lead conversion system must be created in a way that delivers the same experience once a prospect becomes a customer as was delivered throughout the courting period. The best way to do this is through a planned orientation process where you continue the educational approach by teaching the customer how to get the most from what they’ve agreed to buy. This can be through simple training video or a more elaborate new customer process, but this important step leads to a smooth transition from prospect to customer and often sets the tone for additional purchases and referrals.
  • Review - Your selling system won’t be complete until you create a process that allows you to measure and communicate the results your customers are experiencing. One of the best ways to do this is through some form of a planned results review process. By setting the expectation for this process up front you send a very strong signal that results matter, but you also get the opportunity to address issues that didn’t go as expected and collect client success stories and testimonials from your happiest clients.

5 Ways to Let Prospects Sample Your Brilliance

sample

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One of my favorite things to do is visit my local Whole Foods on a Saturday morning. On top of getting a kick out of the mix of people-watching, there’s also a pretty good chance I’m going to be able to put an entire meal together from all the suppliers and farmers on-site passing out samples of their products.

See, Whole Foods and just about every grocer I’ve ever visited, understands that every 4th or 5th person that tries Jim Bob’s Lavender Kissed Cantucci di Prato is going to buy several packages. In most cases, they are counting on these being people who have never done so before. The hope, of course, is that this taste will lead to a sale, which will lead to getting you hooked for life.

The key here is to lower the barrier to entry; by either making the offering free, or creating a lower risk way to try a version of the offering. Any business, including service businesses, can tap into the power of sampling with just a little bit of creativity.

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Small Batch, Hand Crafted Outbound Marketing Works

mailInbound marketing, or being found, has certainly become the way of marketing promotion these days because let’s face it, broadcasting or outbound marketing doesn’t work, right?

Well, done poorly -as most outbound marketing is, nothing works. If you take your time and create personalized campaigns that not only get the attention of the right prospects, but also offers value in exchange, then outbound marketing can be a very effective component of your overall tactical plan.

The secret to making an advertising or direct mail campaign work these days is to think small, think personal, think value, think follow-up. If you can’t plan and implement each of these steps then your campaign success will be limited.

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SlideRocket Set to Blast Into the Online Lead Generation Space

Sliderocket

SlideRocket is an online presentation editor positioned initially to take on the likes of PowerPoint and Keynote on the web. Today I think it took a giant leap forward.

I’ve always liked SlideRocket’s ease of use for design and find it easier to use than most desktop software. Over the last year or so the tool has continued, in my opinion, to improve by making it easier to add video, use presentations offline, and host online presentations that don’t require any download or plugin on the part of the attendee.

SlideRocket is also a great presentation asset manager because it allows you to share and collaborate on presentations with team members and even updates all your presentations and slides when you make a change to an asset such as a logo. Organizations that share or use common presentations for sales and demos should really appreciate that functionality.

This week SlideRocket announced additional features that also make it a powerful sales and lead generation tool.

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How to Automate a Lead Engagement System

landing pageTechnology has allowed us to move past the days when we simply drove a prospect to our website, captured their name and email address, and started them in a drip system in hopes that at some point they would click on a link in one of our emails and buy something.

Today’s lead generation system is a fully automated lead engagement system aimed at delivering the right information to the right person at the right time – and helping the sales team spot the perfect prospects ready for further engagement. By chaining together a series of web based applications you can create a system that engages, analyzes, and even gets pretty close to thinking about how to create better leads.

Below is an example of how a system like this might flow

  • Run a series of ads using Adwords and Facebook promoting a free downloadable eBook
  • Create seriously interactive and user friendly landing page forms with wufoo
  • Automatically test two versions of landing pages using a landing page tool like Unbounce or Google website Optimizer
  • Landing page success page includes Audio Acrobat audio recorded instructions on what to expect next
  • When prospect requests copy of free eBook Solve 360 CRM creates a record and sends email to Flowtown
  • Flowtown analyzes the social media activity associated with email and appends CRM record with social media data
  • Based on social media activity criteria Flowtown creates influencer alerts and tags records for segmentation
  • Segmentation information is sent to Constant Contact to enroll prospect in one of a series of email follow-up campaigns based on social media participation
  • Email series invites prospects back to a series of video landing pages using personalized URL technology from SendPepper that also creates a post card mailing with personalized data from the campaign
  • When a SendPepper pURL landing page is visited the Solve 360 CRM creates a task and the appropriate sales person receives a mobile alert to call the prospect

A system like this can be created by any size small business and gives you the kind of fire power that would make a salesperson at a Fortune 100 company giddy – as long as you also monitor every aspect using a tool like Google Analytics to help improve conversion at every step.

The entire process can be designed, monitored and tuned in such a way that it feels appropriate and elegant for each prospect that experiences it. While few things will ever replace person to person contact in the world of engagement a well designed lead engagement system is the front line tool that can help you create the know, like, and trust required to get that all important first meeting.

The Abusive Math of Cold Calling

If you are emotionally attached to cold calling, you might want to stop reading this post now.

mathAt a recent conference I heard Mahan Khalsa, co-author of Let’s Get Real of Let’s Not Play share the following statistics. (I don’t have the source of the data, but my experience tells me it’s pretty accurate.)

Cold calling results in about a 1-3% success rate for getting an initial appointment and it’s generally abusive to both parties. When that same call is made with a referral, the rate jumps up to 40% and even much higher when that referral comes from within the company.

The conclusion anyone should make from the gap in these two points is that you should never leave the office or get on the phone to call on a prospect without some form of a referral. In fact, if you’ve got a hot prospect, you should probably wait to find someone who can refer you or you might just waste any chance of getting in the door.

So, let’s do some simple math – if you have a list of 1000 names to cold call, you’re looking at getting 30 appointments as doing quite well (who knows if they are the right 30, but we can use this for conversation sake.) Now, let’s say you drill down and do enough research to find 250 prospects on that list that are very well suited to your business. Then you do further research using social media to locate information and contacts that would allow you to get referral introductions and recommendations to most on that pared down list. Experience tells me this approach is likely to turn up 75-100, well qualified prospects willing to discuss your ideas further.

Make fewer calls, get better results – that’s marketing math you can live with.

A referral into a prospect can come from one of three places, your current customers, your network, or a strategic partner. It’s important to mine all three of these groups as you build your prospect list.

A key aspect of this concept, of course, is that you are constantly developing a hot prospect list. In other words, a list of customers you would like to do business with. When you have this as your starting point you can target your referral sources for specific requests. When you go to a customer or strategic partner and ask if they know anyone on your list, it’s much easier for them to help.

Now, here’s where social technology can really be your friend. Once you have a prospect list, connect with them in social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. When you do this, not only will they tell you a lot about what’s important to them and what their challenges and opportunities are, they’ll probably show you who their peers, friends and network members are. They may actually identify for you the best way to get to referred into them.

Do this with your existing customers as well because it will make it easier to identify the ones that are influencers, who participates at a high level in social media, and who might be great candidate to refer you to your hot prospect list.

The last piece of this tactic is that you also have a plan to educate your referral sources. If you find that you are just one LinkedIn connection away from a hot prospect and you would like someone in your network to make an introduction, make sure that you take the time to teach them how and why to introduce you. This assures you don’t waste anyone’s time and your referral source including that of your referral source.

This approach obviously takes more time and planning. You must develop a prospect list, research using social media, and plan for referred introductions. The end result, however, is a success rate that any sales and marketing person would be envious of.

Image credit: stuartpilbrow

There Are No More Blind Dates

salesmanThe socially powered Web has become the tool of choice to find business and personal information about the people, products, services, and companies we are considering doing business with. Because people know they can do a quick bit of research and often discover additional information before making purchase decisions, it’s become a standard part of the process for both buyer and seller.

This creates tremendous opportunity while raising the bar for anyone that sells a product or service.

I’m presenting to a group of sales teams at a major technology conference later this summer and here’s what I plan to tell them.

There are no more blind dates. Your prospects can know more about you, your products, your company and your solutions than you with very little work. And the same holds true – you can and should know all about a prospect’s challenges, strategies, peers, and constraints before you ever pick up the phone to call them.

Social media and search have irreversibly merged the worlds of sales and marketing. Where the marketing message and the sales relationship building tactics begin and end is a moving target and you must adopt a new set of marketing related behaviors to thrive in this new order.

There are two distinct paths, find and be found, you must develop whether you are creating a marketing focused lead conversion system or you are a remote salesperson trying to become more effective and valuable to your customers. Many organizations are using new tools such as LinkedIn to find and connect with prospects, but they are missing the ability to go deep into the world of the prospect in order to understand their needs and priorities. Few sales organizations, however, understand that prospects are using the web to discover more and more about the individual making the sales call. After all, that may be the person they need to trust to ensure what was promised gets delivered.

Today’s marketing and sales teams must work together to master both.

Find

  • You must create and deploy simple listening routines
  • You must get very good at understanding how to network online
  • You must know more about the industry, company, prospect and challenges than your competitors
  • You must learn how to filter and aggregate the sea of information to turn it into context and value

Be Found

  • You must claim lots of digital real estate and profiles in your name and that of the company
  • You must start to produce your own expert content and engage your customers to do the same
  • You must connect with and be a connector for your customer community
  • You must own 10 of the first results in Google for your name

You must own and grow both of the above skill sets in order to be the most effective marketer or sales person. It’s no longer enough to have a great product or solution. Getting in front of the right prospect in an environment where you have credibility has become very difficult. Even if you manage to do so, the final decision to go with your solution may ride on what a prospect finds online just before they push the buy button.

Image credit: megananne