How to set up a lead generator

Lead generationIn an ideal world business owners would have an effective lead-generator that delivered hot prospects daily.  Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds and it takes serious effort to get the attention of prospective customers and then convert them to sales.  However, having a means of identifying interested people is a great first step.

Time is usually a scarce resource so a system that can be semi-automated is a big plus.  You’ll need to put a bit of effort in at the front end, but once it’s up and running it can be kept going with minimum input.

The system is based on a four step process:

Step 1:  A great ethical bribe

If you haven’t heard this phrase before, it’s a knowledge document that shares information that your target audience will find of value.  To get this right you’ll need to know what their biggest challenges, problems, worries are and address them in this document.  It doesn’t have to be long, a couple of pages is enough.

The title is critical – it has to grab the attention and encourage people to click the download button.  Typical attention grabbers are:

27 ways to … (fix your reader’s biggest problems) e.g. 27 ways to get new clients in less than 30 days

3 mistakes that (type of people) make when (situation) e.g. 3 mistakes that web designers make when creating a home page

How to … (solve a problem) e.g.  How to slash your marketing costs and get phenomenal results

Your (subject) Checklist e.g. Your ultimate small business compliance checklist

To make this work you’ll need a data capture system, whether that’s a bespoke CRM system, such as Infusionsoft, or an online tool like MailChimp, AWeber, GetResponse or Constant Contact.  This means that people will only get the free download if they give you their name and email address.  This will build your marketing list of people who have shown an interest in your area of expertise.  They may not be ready to buy yet, but you’re now able to start building a relationship with them.

Step 2:  A blog on your website

Having a blog on your website gives you lots of opportunities to explore.  Every time you add content it updates your website making it more attractive to the search engines.  It provides you with a platform for:

  1. Sharing your expertise
  2. News about your business or industry
  3. Case studies
  4. Building a bank of answers to the questions people ask

For the purposes of the marketing plan let’s focus on sharing your expertise.  Your blog is where you show off what you know.  Some people tell me I’m mad to tell people how to do things as they think that they’ll do it themselves and won’t need me.  I disagree.  If people are going to do things themselves they’re probably not willing or able to pay me to apply my expertise so I’m losing nothing and helping people who need it.

Most people CAN do things that aren’t their core skills, but often don’t WANT to do them.  For instance, I can manage a spreadsheet and keep basic accounting records, but my interest in it is very low, although I know it’s important for my business.  I’d rather do something I like doing and pay someone else to look after the figures.  They can do it better, in less time and I can earn more during the time I WOULD have spent doing what I’m good at and enjoy!

So creating a blog post two or three times a month is important.  Focus on sharing what you know and helping people to learn how to do stuff that you may find easy, but others struggle with.

Step 3: Spreading the word on social media

I’m not talking about just posting to tell people you’ve just posted a blog with the link.  I’m talking about taking interesting soundbites from your blog to intrigue and get people curious to know more.  Four or five soundbites taken from each blog will build into a bank of posts that can be shared on Twitter, Facebook (your Page), LinkedIn (your profile’s status update and/or your company page), your Google+ page and more, if you wish.

To do this effectively (both time and cost-wise) you will need to sign up to a tool like Hootsuite that allows you to post scheduled messages in bulk.

If you repost the links to your previous blogs entries you’ll find they have a much longer life and keep bringing people back to your website for months and years after you posted them.  This means the value they hold keeps on delivering to more people and gradually spreads the word about your expertise.

Step 4: Delivering a newsletter with value

I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel so use your great value blogs to lead your newsletter.  Most people are not interested in what you’re doing, new clients you’ve got, the latest member of staff or even – dare I say it – your new product launch.  Newsletters should give the reader something they really want – and good value content that educates and enlightens means they’ll be much more likely to keep opening your newsletters when they delete or unsubscribe from the ones that are boring or irrelevant (to them).

By all means add to your latest offer, promotion or product information – but value first and people will be more willing to take a look at what you’re promoting.

The time investment

You’ll need to spend time developing your ethical bribe – but just once, then it’s done.

You’ll need to schedule time to blog each month, whether you write yourself or work with a professional writer, the ideas still need to come out of your head!  To write yourself, maybe a couple of hours; to work with a writer probably more like 30 minutes.

Extracting social media posts will get easier and easier as you get the knack of it and, using a scheduling tool, it should only take a few minutes each week (less than 3) to post the weeks updates.

The newsletter structure needs to be set up – maybe 30-45 minutes – and then the content updating monthly should not take more than 30 minutes.

This means that your initial time requirement is likely to be about 2-3 hours, then 2-3 hours a month.  Not bad for a system that keeps bringing more interested people into your marketing machine.

 

Your language affects your reputation

photo courtesy of David Tipton

photo courtesy of David Tipton

I’ve just read a book that was quite good, but the author used the word ‘discreetly’ from time to time – except that most of the time it was spelled ‘discretely’, which means something completely different*.  A couple of times it was spelt correctly, but it really irritated me and my mind went off along the track of ‘Why didn’t the editors pick it up?  Maybe she has self-published and didn’t bother to have it edited.’  Then I was looking for other errors (and I found quite a few) – it spoilt the book for me.

What has this got to do with you?

I know people who maintain that blogging is an ‘informal environment’ and that perfect English (or any other language) grammar, spelling and punctuation are not that important; it’s all about the content.  I disagree.

When your reader comes across a misspelling it’s likely to stop them reading.  A second or two is enough – they lose their train of thought and connection to your message.  In a book it’s annoying – but you’ve already paid for that so the publishing company has already got your money.  In copy that is part of your marketing it can be the difference between getting a new customer or not.

If your reader is looking for help in the area you specialise in – and finds your blog interesting ideally, you would hope they’ll get in touch.  If there are a few irritating errors they may think twice.  Errors on a website or marketing brochure can leave them wondering if the poor attention to detail is likely be replicated in the service offered.  The interesting fact about this is that it’s not always a conscious thought process, we get the subliminal message and, even if the content is interesting, something stops us pursuing it any further.

Different strokes for different folks

The style of language you use is important too.  This is where I make no excuses for referring back to that number one essential in any marketing plan – know your audience!

If you’re talking to company directors your language will be different to talking to sports professionals.  If you’re talking to holistic therapists your language will be different to that you use for communicating with owner/managers of small businesses.  This doesn’t mean you have to be inauthentic, but you do have to ‘talk their language’, not just by referencing things they relate to, but in style and tone too.

If you don’t know who your audience are it can be difficult to get this right.  Being too informal with a formal audience (or vice versa) can make them feel uncomfortable.  You don’t work with people that you don’t feel comfortable with – in the reader’s mind they see you as ‘not our type of company’; which is not the reputation you want to generate.

Getting it right

If you’re writing to promote your business then don’t start off stressing about your spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Start with an image in mind of your ideal client and write your message just for that one perfect customer.  When you’ve got the focus right things get easier.  When you’re happy with the content THEN proof read for stray apostrophes, typos, spelling errors, etc.  If you’re not great at English find someone who is picky about this and get them on board as your proof reader – even if you have to pay a fee for it, it’s worth it for the value in preserving your reputation.

*Discreet – careful, reliable, not likely to share information inappropriately, taking action in a way that doesn’t attract attention.

Discrete – separate or distinct from another.

7 email marketing tips

Email in a boxIf you’ve grown a healthy list of people who have an interest in what you’ve got to offer you’ll need to do something to build and maintain your relationship with them.  You might have them in your customer relationship management (CRM) system or they might have signed up with your online form and be held in a MailChimp, AWeber, Get Response, Constant Contact or similar online system.  Wherever they are – these tips apply!

Tip 1:              Don’t send out spammy sales pitches.  You hate getting them so why would anyone else take any notice of them.  It’s the quickest way of getting people to unsubscribe (and maybe getting your online system account suspended).  Offer value in every email.

Tip 2:              Create a good subject line – this is what gets people to open your message.  If it says something boring like ‘Acme Newsletter July 2014’ why would anyone except your Mum open it?  Be creative to intrigue your reader and use subject lines that get them to want to find out more.

Tip 3:              Personalise your opening.  Dear Jo is so much better than Dear Customer or, worse, Dear firstname.  If you’ve got people on your list you should know their name, using something generic says you’re spamming them.  If you have not managed to get people’s names during the sign up process, change your form NOW so you do in future, for now don’t use any salutation; it’s better than something generic.

Tip 4:              Start with value that’s relevant. We all get so much information to process these days that anything that doesn’t get attention quickly simply doesn’t get read.  If you know your audience well you can create something that will be relevant to them right in the first paragraph.  If you find it tough to do this then, at the very least, use that paragraph to get them engaged.  This might be talking about their problems and indicating that there is a solution coming.

Tip 5:              Don’t talk about yourself or your company.  You may be proud of the award you just won or the new staff you’ve hired, but your customers (and potential customers) aren’t really that interested.  They’re interested in what they’ll get and how you can improve their lives in some way, stay focused on what’s in it for them.

Tip 6:              Keep it short and simple (KISS).  Don’t fall into the trap of rambling on at length; remember how many emails your reader may have to get through, they don’t have time to read a lot.  Be considerate of their time and they’ll appreciate it.  A good marketing email should be able to get the message across in less than 250 words.  And, yes, I know that the American online marketers write much longer emails than that, but they are for a very specific market and bear in mind they go out in hundreds of thousands.  You’ll turn more people off than you engage with long content.  Stick to simple, plain English and your message will get through better.

Tip 7:              One message is not enough.  Some people are too busy when message 1 lands and simply never get around to reading it.  If you send a series of emails at intervals with the same subject, but different wording you’ll reinforce the message for those who read all the message and still reach those people who miss one or two.  I recommend a minimum of 3 messages, but 5 would be even better at 8-10 day intervals.

If you follow these tips you’ll be when on the way to really effective email campaigns.

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