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 right social media for your business

Social media wears many hats – the secret is knowing which ‘outfits’ to wear them with!  Let’s take a look at the biggest platforms and examine how they work – for relationships, business, job hunting and more.

Facebook is VERY social and chatty and people share their personal stuff on their personal accounts.  Some people share their most intimate information and others are much more circumspect and share only the surface information.  To some extent this depends on who you’ve accepted as friends and how you want to be perceived by those people.

I use my personal account for social stuff mostly, chatting with friends and family.  However, I do post the occasional business post, usually when there’s some freebies available.  My connections are a mix of friends, family, business connections (I was on Facebook before Pages were invented) and some people I don’t know as I believe in random connections, you don’t know who knows who!  That means that I am careful what I post and don’t get into very personal conversations online.

As Facebook owns Instagram anything you upload to Instagram is easy to share in your Facebook stream too.

Facebook Pages are different and are perfect for business that sell directly to the consumer.  The craft community find that Facebook is a great arena for their products as people are always looking for unusual gifts for their nearest and dearest.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a Facebook Page if you are a business that sells to other businesses.  It’s an ideal place to host a community and get involved with your clients, answer questions and be the fount of all information on your products and services.  It personalises your business and lets you engage directly with your customers (and potential customers).

However, don’t try selling at people on your Facebook Page.  Now and again an offer or promotion works well, but if all you do is say ‘buy this, buy that’ your audience won’t engage at all.

Sharing tips, testimonials (let other people say how good you are) and special deals exclusively for your Facebook community will help your Page to come to life.

LinkedIn is much more business-oriented, but it depends on whether you are using it:

  • To promote your business
  • To search for a new job
  • As an employee

Your profile will need writing differently depending on which purpose you choose.  If you’re promoting your business then your profile will need optimising for the keywords you want to be found by and the content in your summary and your current and previous roles needs to focused on presenting your skills effectively.

If you’re job hunting your profile will need optimising for the roles you are searching for and your current and previous roles will need presenting in a way that attracts a potential employer.

As an employee you’ll be walking the tightrope between promoting your current employer and yourself.

Engagement on LinkedIn is more about sharing good quality content and engaging in groups where your target audience are active

Twitter is more instant and random – think of it as joining up the dots between large numbers of people so you extend your reach.  If you share lots of high value content you’ll find people start to rate you as an expert and will recommend you to others they’re connected to.

What’s high value content?  Tips, advice and ‘how to’ information.  Obviously, there is a limit to how much you can say in 140 characters (aim for 115 so there’s room for retweets and comments), but always include a link to the longer version of your tweets, whether that’s a blog on your website (or someone else’s) or a page on your website with relevant information.  I often tweet links to my Treasure Chest and free Video Tutorial so people can get access to lots of good quality free stuff.

Don’t broadcast only; be generous share tweets you like and links to good blogs by retweeting, mention people, aim to be helpful and connect people up where you can.

 

Google+ is more of an information sharing platform.  People tend to write longer content and it tends to be a place where people form communities around common interests.  It’s less businessy than LinkedIn, but not as personal as Facebook.  The ability to post to a select circle of people makes it useful for sharing information with specific groups of people.

One of the big attractions of Google+ is the Hangouts, a video conferencing/chat facility that lets several people have online video discussions in real time.  Think how that might work for your business!  What could you do with a regular hangout to engage existing clients, potential customers and advocates?

Pinterest is often discounted as being a bit of fun and not a business platform.  Think again, the stats say that sales from Pinterest users produce nearly double the per head income!

The success of your Pinterest account is based on whether you have your boards organised so it’s easy for people to find what you’re offering.  Whilst creative titles for boards are fun, they don’t help when someone types in what they’re looking for and your board name is too obscure for it to show up in their search.

Use the 500 character text allowance to market whatever you pin.  Another tip is to ensure all your own product/service images appear on your own website and pin from your website rather than uploading.  That way you get lots of links back to your website

YouTube is not only owned by Google, which gives it loads of brownie points, but it is second only to Google as a search engine.  When people want to know how to do things they often type it into YouTube to get instructions.

If you’re into video and can produce reasonable short videos having a YouTube channel is a must.  Videos don’t have to be long, nor do they have to feature you personally.

If you hate standing in front of the camera create a slide presentation and narrate it with appropriate music – but beware of death by PowerPoint!  Use lots of images and only enough words on screen for people to get the message.

There are more and more companies offering sensible prices for short videos too now.

A word of warning

Don’t try to be everything to everybody on all these platforms.  Think about your ideal customers or clients, where are they most likely to be active – that’s where you need to be focused.  Get really good at a couple rather than skimming the surface on all of them.

 

How good is your marketing hub?

Marketing hubMarketing spans many activities from audience research, product or service development right through to sales.  However, when most people talk about ‘marketing’ they’re talking about the promotional part of the process.  This is the bit where you are trying to ensure as many people as possible know what you can deliver for them and are excited enough about it to want to get in touch with you.

This part of the marketing mix can include blogging, social media, direct mail campaigns, lumpy mail, promotional flyers, exhibitions, networking, pop up banners, brochures, business cards, newsletters, list building and so much more.  However, there is one thing that sits at the centre of all this – your website.

If your website isn’t ‘sticky’ (attractive with a compelling message) all the other activities can be a waste of time and money.  In today’s world we’re conditioned to check people out online and, for most people, that’s the company website.

So you’ve paid a designer to create an attractive marketing flyer, you’ve paid a copywriter to write a powerful message, you’ve paid the printer to print a few hundred and you may even have paid someone to distribute them for you or invested in a mailing campaign.  Now what?

If you happen to be very lucky you may find that one or two people are actually looking for exactly what you are offering and are on the phone right away (you did include your phone number on the marketing flyer, or course).  Quite a large percentage of the recipients will file the card into the nearest bin!  Some people will think ‘that might be useful sometime’ and file it in a marketing file.  The rest will be mildly curious and want to find out a bit more about you and your company; these people will look online and most will go to your website (which, of course, was also on the flyer, wasn’t it?)

This is where you win or lose.

If the majority of people arrive on your website, look at it for a few seconds and leave again all that money you’ve invested in your marketing flyer have been wasted.  If they stay on the site, sign up for your free report (so they’re on your list and you can continue to market to them), read your blog, look at a few other pages and like what they see, it doesn’t mean they will get in touch and buy today – but they’ll be open to listening to you some more in future and may become a customer down the line when they need what you have to offer.  The stats say that, on average, you have to ask people at least 5 times to buy before they actually say ‘yes’.

So how good is your website at getting people to stay on it?

Check out your analytics to find out how long people stay and make sure there’s a means of capturing their email address for future marketing mailouts.  If your bounce rate is more than 50% you need to start work on making your marketing hub much more attractive.  The problem could be the layout, the colours, the message, the number of options people have, the titles on the menu tabs, the headline (or lack of it) – or many other things.

Remember, everything points at your website – your business card, social media profiles, all your marketing material – it really is the hub around which everything else revolves.  Make sure you’ve got it right.

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