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The Changing Face of Lead Generation

I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few years professing the virtues of what I’ve been calling the lead generation trio made up of some combination or advertising, public relations and referrals.

GoDakshin via Flickr

The idea behind the trio concept is to acknowledge the need to spread your lead generation activities out and diversify them in a manner that allows prospects to experience your brand in different variations and from entirely different points of view.

The components of the lead generation trio are dependent upon one another to work. They support and compliment each other and the sum the effort is definitely greater than the parts.

Lead generation in general has changed dramatically over the last few years as traditional broadcast or outbound methods have grown increasingly ineffective.

This doesn’t mean, however, that marketers are left without proactive methods for generating leads.

The fundamental idea of the blended lead generation approach is still valid, but when choosing members of a lead generation trio, business owners must now take into the account the shifting online and social landscape.

While I still contend that advertising is a primary lead driver when employed correctly, I further believe that SEO, or the ability to be found, and social media, or the ability to create direct engagement, have become primary lead drivers and must be included in any discussion concerned with rounding out the new lead generation trio.

In fact, you could easily make the case that referrals have become a member of the social media family and that public relations is now a subset of SEO. I know this point of view won’t sit well with some PR practitioners, but here’s how I now see the major lead generation activities

Advertising – this includes online ads, offline ads, direct mail, pay per click and the all-important elements of ad testing, conversion and tracking.

I believe every business that focuses on promoting content using advertising tools and incorporates landing pages, including mobile landing pages, into their conversion process can still generate leads in a quasi outbound manner.

The thing that advertising has going for it that no other form of lead generation can match is control. This is the one vehicle that allows you to select who gets your message and when.

SEO – The area of SEO is really much bigger than page and search optimization. I use this term to incorporate the production and use of keyword rich content and the acquisition of links in ways that make it easy for prospects to find your business when they search globally, locally and mobily (I know that’s not a word, but perhaps it should be these days.)

Using this broader description of SEO makes it easy to incorporate a great deal of today’s public relations activity, a great deal of which is designed to create content, links and direct prospect contact under the banner of SEO.

Social media – I’ve been saying this for some time now, but social media behavior and tactics have simply become baked into marketing in general, and of late I’ve seen this behavior mature to the point where it’s become a stable aspect of the lead generation trio.

I know many people still cringe at the idea of social and sales being mentioned in the same sentence, but social platforms have now become such an integral part of content discovery and sharing that it is nearly impossible to effectively generate leads via any form of advertising without the integration of social and most forms of successful SEO now rely on social platforms as well.

In a way social media has become the ultimate referral vehicle. Throw ratings and reviews into the social mix and you’ve pretty much round out the new face of lead generation.

So, if you still view SEO as the art of search engine manipulation or social media as a tactic still struggling to produce ROI, think again. Advertising, SEO and social media are now the foundational elements of a solid lead generation program and like so many things that are meant to go together – you can’t have one without the others.

Give to Get Appointments

One of the surest ways to build the trust required to do business these days is to be able to demonstrate your willingness to give, to add value, before you ever ask for anything in return.

Certainly you’ve seen this dynamic play out in the act of referrals. You’ve probably also seen or felt the impact of this mentality in the offering of free white papers, how to seminars and evaluation sessions.

But what about in a lead generation environment where you’re trying to create awareness and land an appointments? What about using this thinking in situations where you are essentially trying to get the attention of a prospect that doesn’t yet know you exist? Can the give first mentality be used to open doors and create enough trust to get you invited to tell your full story?

Here’s a simple campaign that I’ve seen do just that.

  • Acquire a highly targeted mailing list from Hoovers, InfoUSA or Jigsaw.
  • Send an email and postcard to a small number, say 100, using variable data printing on the postcard to display the prospect’s name big and bold.
  • In the email use the prospect’s name only in the subject line.
  • In the body of the email and for the postcard copy simply state that you have a few ideas on how they could get x (x = more clients, better return, few errors, more done, etc – it’s what you sell) – don’t add anything else about you or your solution, just keep it to that one line and add a link to a personalized landing page (using a pURL) from a service like SendPepper. (there are lots of services that can accomplish this, but I really like the features from SendPepper)
  • The personalized link and page features the name of the prospect and provides five or six of your best recommendations or tips. Don’t hold back, give them some really good information and advice. The content of this page can be segmented for different variables, but for the most part the actual content will be generic, but still valuable with a personalized feel driven by the pURL technology.
  • If you’re using an integrated tool like SendPepper, you’ll get notification when someone visits their page and you can then follow-up with even more great information and a call to action, such as an appointment, evaluation or presentation of more customized ideas.

A couple things to note:
This works at a far higher rate than simple bulk mailing because of the personalization and because you’re offering something of value that is easy for them to consume and simple to understand.

Too often we try to spell out multiple offers in hopes that something will stick – keep your message dead simple and intriguing and you’ll get far more response.

Keep the batches small so you’ll have plenty of time to follow-up immediately and analyze what’s working and what’s not. Most services allow some amount of split testing as well.

More Cheese, Less Whiskers

Marketing podcast with Dean Jackson (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Karl Palutke via Flickr

The human brain is very similar to that of the mouse. That’s why so much research is conducted using mice. Much like our brain, the mouse is wired for pretty much two things – get cheese, avoid cat.

When we attempt to sell something to a prospect we look very much like the cat, no matter what our intentions. Buyers are wired to view sellers as cats and even the greatest deal in the world may go unnoticed because of our whiskers are showing.

The job of the marketer is to offer cheese and build trust, not in a manipulative way, but in a way that allows the buyer to put down their guard long enough to understand that you do indeed have something that will benefit.

This approach takes a change in mind shift, but it can color the way you approach marketing entirely.

It requires you to have the client’s best interest first and foremost in mind. It requires you develop the ultimate customer experience first. It requires you to create ways for them to experience results without risk. It requires you to develop ways to show them how they can make money before they ever have to spend money.

See, everyone in every company has permission to bring money in, but generally only a select few have permission to spend money. In fact, some organizations have people that feel it’s their job to shield the boss from anyone trying to sell them something.

So, how can you position your product as a way to make money, not spend money?

In this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I visit with copywriter and information marketer extraordinaire, Dean Jackson. Jackson is one of the most sought out marketers in the real estate world and is well-known for his “more cheese, less whiskers” take on lead generation.

In this episode he outlines several case studies in which he applies the customer’s best interest approach and produces incredible results where the sales only approach had failed miserably.

Let me add for emphasis, while I’m suggesting that the shift in thinking that Jackson presents is a powerful way to approach lead generation and conversion, it will only work if you have a product or service that truly does provide massive value – otherwise your cheese is just bait and switch.

Listen to this recording and Jackson’s simple approach several times. Don’t let the simplicity escape you, this is one of the most profound marketing lessons you’ll ever get, precisely because it is so simple.

Go to work on creating the ultimate customer experience, make your business whisker free and start generating greater results from your lead generation efforts.

You can hear Dean talk about it in even greater depth on the ILoveMarketing podcast.

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or

7 Insanely Useful Ways to Search Twitter for Marketing

This article originally appeared on American Express OPEN Forum and is one of the most retweeted articles I’ve ever written so I thought I would share it with you here.

7 Insanely Useful Ways to Search Twitter for Marketing

As a marketing tool Twitter gets much more interesting and useful when you can filter out 99% of the junk that doesn’t apply to your objectives and focus on the stuff that matters.

The basic search.twitter.com functionality is fine for searching things that are being said about your search terms. The advanced search function offers more ways to slice and dice the stream, but still leaves some room for improvement as it only searches what’s being said and where. From a marketing standpoint who is saying it might be more useful.

Now that the search engines are all pretty geeked up over real time search you can create some very powerful searches and alerts combining Google and Twitter.

1) Target by occupation

Let’s say you have a business that sells an awesome service to attorneys. A simple search on Twitter will turn up thousands of mentions of the word attorney, but many of them will be from people talking about this or that attorney or the need to hire or not hire one. That’s probably not very helpful for your purposes.

However, if you cruise over to Google and use a handful of operators from the Google shortcut library (more on that here) you can create a search that plows through Twitter and gives you a list of all the users that have the word “attorney” in their title (username and/or real name) – Click on this search phrase and see what happens – intitle:”attorney * on twitter” site:twitter.com – what you’ll find is a handy list of attorneys of one sort or another on Twitter.

Without getting too technical, this search basically asks Google to look in the title attribute of profile pages on Twitter – obviously you can use any word to replicate this. The * tells Google to find the words “attorney on Twitter” without regard to order or other words – “on Twitter” appears in the title of every profile page so we need that term to make sure we search profile pages only.

2) Target by bio

In some cases searching through the optional biographical information can be more helpful than the username or real name fields. Maybe you’re looking for a very specific term or some of the folks you are targeting only reference their profession in their bio.

Google search to the rescue here again. This time add the intext attribute, the word bio and our key phrase to search bios – So a search for web designers would look like this – intext:”bio * web designer” site:twitter.com. When you look at this list you might notice that none of the people on the list would have been found by searching in their title, as in the first tip, for web designer. Try it both ways to test for best results.

3) Target by location

Location search by itself is simple using the Twitter advanced search tool – if you want a list of people in Austin you would use this in Twitter – near:”Austin, TX” within:25mi and Twitter would use the location field to show you Austin Tweeters.

But . . . let’s say you wanted to target salons in Austin or maybe the whole of Texas – it’s back to Google to mix and match – (intitle:”salon * on twitter” OR intext:”bio * salon”) intext:”location * TX” site:twitter.com – we search the title, bio and location to get a very targeted list of Salons in Texas on Twitter. Note the OR function for multiple queries.

4) New sign ups

Another handy thing about using any of the searches above is that you can also use the exact operators to create Google Alerts. By going to Google and putting in your search string as described above you’ll get everything they have now, but by setting up an alert you’ll get an email or RSS alert when a new attorney (or whatever you’re targeting) joins Twitter – I can think of some powerful ways to reach out to that new person just trying to find some new friends!

5) Keep up on your industry

Some of the best information shared on Twitter comes in the form of shared links. In other words people tweet out good stuff they find and point people to it using a link. I love to use a filtered Twitter search to further wade through research on entire industries, but reduce the noise by only following tweets that have links in them and eliminating retweets that are essentially duplicates – “small business” OR entrepreneur OR “start up” filter:links – this gets that job done and produces an RSS feed if I want to send it to Google Reader. Don’t forget the “quotation marks” around two or more word phrases or you will get every mention of small and business.

6) Competitive eavesdropping

Lots of people set up basic searches to listen to what their competitors are saying and what others are saying about the competition. I would suggest you take it one step further and create and follow a search that also includes what the conversation they are having with the folks they communicate with – not just what people are saying about them, but to them and vice versa – from:comcastcares OR to:comcastcares.

7) Trending photos

Photos have become very big on Twitter and the real time nature of the tool means photos show up there before they show up most anywhere. If you want to find an image related to a hot trend, or anything for that matter, simply put the search phase you have in mind follow by one of the more well known Twitter image uploading services such as TwitPic and you’ll get nothing but images. So, your search on Twitter might be – olympics twitpic OR ow.ly (You can add more photosharing sites to expand the search).

There, Twitter just go way more interesting didn’t it?

7 Steps to Creating a Winning Coaching, Consulting or Service Business

WinningLots of folks are joining the ranks of “business owner” as a career path these days. Some by design and some, unfortunately, because they have little choice. Many of these business owners are choosing to open up coaching, consulting and service businesses in part because it’s so darn easy to do. The barrier to entry is sometimes little more than printing up some business cards.

Now, I’m not suggesting that people who start these kinds of business don’t have incredible experience and expertise to offer, far from it. But, because it is so easy to start a business offering consulting, it’s more important than ever that you find a way to differentiate your coaching and consulting business so prospects can understand your unique experience and expertise.

The following seven steps offer a road map for creating a winning practice.

1) Turn your service into a product - selling services is a little like selling air. By making your offerings more productlike you can create something tangible while your competitors continue to offer solutions driven, customer centric services. Give your services a name – install your solution – offer a set deliverable, with set outcomes at a set price and watch how easy it becomes to explain and sell. The other advantage of a packaged program offering with a set price is that it allows you to rise above the hourly wage. When you sell your time you are capped and compared, when you sell a product or program, you are free to sell the value of the program without regard for the cost that goes into making it. As you become more effective at delivering your program you create the greatest path for getting paid on value delivered rather than hours input.

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The Well Lit Path

lit pathThe other day I was conducting an educational workshop for folks interested in becoming Duct Tape Marketing Coaches. At one point I talked about presenting workshops as the primary way that coaches acquired customers and that it was an essential success factor for prospective coaches to consider.

One of the attendees then asked that, “if speaking for leads was the tactic that worked, why bother doing anything else?” And this, I fear, is at the heart of what trips some small business marketers up.

Lead generation, nurturing and conversion is a game of trust and momentum building and no matter the actual environment in which a customer is acquired, the path taken to getting them is usually lit with many other marketing related lights. In my example above, while it’s true customers often make the decision to hire a Duct Tape coach when they attend a marketing workshop, the decision process started perhaps, because the prospect had heard of Duct Tape Marketing, read about the workshop in the local paper, had a friend invite them to the workshop, and read testimonials and success stories on the coach’s web site. So, in effect, the workshop was merely confirmation that this individual might be someone that could help.

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