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.


The pros and cons of Newsletters

NewsletterThere are two ways to look at newsletters – whether they arrive in the post or, more likely, in your inbox – as the sender or as the receiver!

It’s interesting that people who complain about the amount of spam email and post they get still send out newsletters to their contact list without due consideration of whether the recipient will find it useful.  If you suspect that you may be guilty of this (even a little bit) it’s time to step back and see things from the receiver’s perspective.

Ask yourself some leading questions:

Does the subject line or main headline encourage people to open it?

‘Acme Widgets Newsletter August 2014′  isn’t exactly exciting – or enlightening; any people will delete this unopened.  To get attention and improve your chance of people opening your email or starting to read your publication you need something intriguing, engaging or something that people want to know about.  To make your newsletter successful and be consistently opened issue after issue you’ll want to develop the art of writing brilliant ‘Open me’ statements.

The one that just landed in my inbox – and made me open it had a subject line that said:

44% of businesses do NOT have a Social Media Policy or Guidelines

That was something I wanted to know more about, so I opened it!

NewslettersDoes it look fresh, attractive and interesting?

If, when people open your email or the envelope your newsletter has arrived in, it looks boring people make the assumption that the content is boring too.  Whilst I’m not suggesting a rebrand, even if you have a fairly conservative brand image, the layout or template you use can lift the look and feel of your publication.  Most of us are influenced by visual perceptions so how it looks it really important.

That doesn’t mean it should have every colour of the rainbow and feature lots of coloured boxes with information in, but it does, at least, need to look fresh and modern, not tired and old-fashioned.

Magnifying valueDoes it lead with value?

If your first article is all about you (or your business) and what you’ve been doing, then don’t expect to keep your reader’s attention for long.  Most of us are too busy to invest time in anything that doesn’t add value – so ensure that you open with your main article and give the reader what you’ve led them to expect in the subject line/headline.

Once you’ve delivered value people are usually open to other information such as promotions or offers.

Something to think about …

If people have signed up to your list voluntarily they’ve done so for a reason.  These days this is usually because you’ve offered them an ethical bribe – a document that provides them with information they’ve identified as useful.  You need to continue that if you are sending these same people a newsletter.  It’s likely that they’ll be interested in the same kind of information around allied subjects.  Your newsletter is about relationship management, and you’ll only build a strong relationship with your reader if you keep delivering what they want.

If you’ve put people on your list because you’ve met them networking, you should really get their permission first.  Giving you a business card does not constitute permission!  The problem with creating a list from random contacts is that their interest spectrum is likely to be vast.  If, for instance, you are an outsourced HR service, many of the contacts you may have met are sole traders and don’t have staff.  That means they are probably not going to be interested in your areas of expertise so your general newsletter is likely to be seen as spam.

However, if you create a specific newsletter for networking connections to share useful information that is a very different situation and can be a really valuable resource.

Is your newsletter short and punchy or long and tedious?

Long blogs are fine – in fact, the latest research indicates that people like longer blogs – but long newsletters are unlikely to get the same level of attention.  When we’re opening the post or checking our email most of us are in ‘skimming’ mode.  If we see something that interests or intrigues us, we’ll give it a quick once over, but it has to be good and easy to consume to keep our attention.  What’s your reaction when you receive something that looks lengthy?  At best – maybe ‘I’ll read this later’.  How often does it then disappear into the heap of things that might be vaguely interesting – to be completely forgotten?

If you’ve got lots of valuable information to share write a blog and then share the opening paragraph and link to it.  If your opener is good enough people will click through to read.

… and don’t forget …

You do need to provide a means for people to unsubscribe – and a way for you to ensure you don’t add them back to the list yourself when they’ve already taken themselves off it.

When you’ve created your newsletter – take a step out of your own shoes and ask yourself ‘if this landed in my inbox (or on my doormat) – would it attract me enough to open it and how would the content really add value for me?’

You know what the answer should be!


What makes a great newsletter?

This is very subjective – everyone has a different view of what they want in a newsletter, but we all get so many these days that those that are read consistently have to offer real value, consistently and repeatedly.

If you’re like me, you’ve signed up to various reports or giveaways at various times or given your card to people at networking meetings and now you’ve on their list. This means that you almost certainly get the occasional (or frequent) newsletter. If you’re not too busy and in a generous frame of mind you’ll probably read the first one you receive – but after that they simply get deleted if that first issue didn’t impress you with the value it provided.

You have a choice, you can find the newsletter’s ‘unsubscribe’ link and get off the list or you can just delete them as they come in. Most people I know delete rather than unsubscribe.

So what would get you to keep reading the newsletter, week after week, or month after month? For most of us it’s one of three things:

  • Valuable information that helps me in some way or makes me think about things that will move me forwards
  • Offers that are targeted to my specific needs/wants and offer excellent value
  • Entertainment
  • A typical reader does not want to know about you or your business’ progress; they want to know something that will help them to do something they can’t, or something that provides a solution for a problem. Information of value to the reader is right at the top of the list of things that keep people opening your newsletter. This means that you really need to know your readers very well indeed.

    I read about ten newsletters reliably – these are some of my favourites:

    Expert Gold by Gihan Perera Expertise about marketing online
    The Media Coach by Alan Stevens Great entertainment and lots of useful tips on media interviews, speaking and social media.
    Corporate Soul Tips by Molly Harvey Short tips that make you think about how you do business
    Nigel Risner’s weekly newsletter Always manages to come up with an unusual spin on everyday ‘stuff’.
    Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox Tells you when Jakob has written another fascinating article
    TGI Monday by Peter Thomson A short web-based weekly newsletter with a really clever viewpoint on how we behave – and how we could do better.

    Whilst these are not the only newsletters I read, they’re a good selection of widely varying formats and styles. There is no magic formula, just great value issue after issue. Are you up to the challenge?
    Sign up on the right and get your free reports, tips and information that will help you get your message across in writing.

    You can also find us on +44 (0) 1245 473296 or on Skype ‘lesleywriter’

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