Online Lead Generation Basics for Small Business Owners

The web offers excellent opportunities for marketing and promotion, but the competition is fierce. How can you generate leads in such a competitive environment with little or no previous experience? Let’s start with the basics first. Discover the 3 steps which you need to take and how to do this properly.

1. Content Is Key

The big question is how to attract visitors to your website and make them willing to seek further interaction with your business. You have most probably guessed to answer: high-quality content which is optimized for the search engines.

What kind of content? The content for lead generation should be designed to target prospective customers who are at the first two phases of the buying cycle and possibly in the third one. This means that your content should be focused on creating a necessity for your product (phase 1), on educating consumers about it (phase 2) and on helping them compare different options (phase 3).

What type of content is best? Articles and blog posts are still fundamental for online lead generation. However, you will also benefit from using high-quality video. Tests have shown that it can lead to an increase of over 30% in signups. Photos are important, especially if you are presenting a physical product.

Don’t forget to use the social media for promoting your content. Cover the major ones, Facebook and Twitter, and ones which are popular with your target audience.

2. An Irresistible Offer

The goal is simple – to make them an offer they cannot refuse. There are various options, depending on the type of product or service which you offer. These include free gifts, access to valuable content, free trials and discounts.

Study your target market well to get a precise idea of what makes them click. You can also check what your competitors are doing and try to beat their offer. It pays off to use psychological triggers such as a limited time offer which helps you create a sense of urgency.

Devote a sufficient amount of time to creating your call to action. Use attractive keywords and make them big. Make sure that the CTA stands out among the rest of the content on your website.

3. Signup with No Hassle

Ask for less and you will get more. This is the rule of thumb to follow when creating signup forms for online lead generation. In most cases, a name and an email should be perfectly sufficient for the purposes of a small business. If you want more information, you can get it once you establish a more personal contact with the prospect. If the signup form is used for creating an account on your website, it is best to make the sign-in with an email and password. By eliminating the step necessary for creating a username, you will reduce the rate of abandonment even further.

Another essential thing is to avoid giving users multiple options when they are about to sign up. This can lead to confusion and will increase the risk of them leaving. Make things straightforward.

Generating leads online requires hard work and dedication. Get started now.

For Small Business, Marketing Or Lead Generation – Which is Better?

THERE BOTH THE SAME I HEAR YOU SAY!

Making the mistake of thinking they are the same thing can be a costly experience. Let’s break it down to the two separate areas and lets see if we can find some differences.

1. Marketing: Usually something you have to pay for that is never guaranteed to get a return on your money.

2. Lead generation: Free or cheap methods to promote your business that may take nothing more than your time and the willingness to think out side the square!

I’m surprised at the amount of small business owners I have met who pay for marketing purely for marketing sake. What I mean is, they know they have to put the word out there about their business so they take a regular spot in the local newspaper or tv guide, come up with new sales pitches week after week and then sit back and pray that customers will come flocking in.

Don’t get me wrong this can be a very effective method as a way to brand yourself, keep your business name in people’s heads until they are ready to buy and occasionally stimulate new business, but the main problem I find is that when you ask the small business owner how much return are they getting on their marketing expenses, and they usually wouldn’t have a clue! They are spending money on marketing that they really don’t know if it is working or not!

Lets look at marketing types. Flyers, business cards, websites, newspaper ads, tv ads etc. These and any other marketing types ONLY become lead generators if someone is compelled to pick up the phone and call you, email you, or hop in their car and drive to your business to purchase your product or service!

Until this occurs then it is purely marketing! If it is not driving customers to purchase or enter your follow on marketing system (you do have a follow on marketing system dont you?) then it is “money generating” for someone else but not lead generating for you.

Business cards are a great example of a marketing tool that usually isn’t a lead generation tool. Someone asks you what you do you hand them your business card that has you pretty logo on it, your name with six different titles under it to look impressive and your contact details. They may be impressed with your logo or how many titles you have to your name and look you up, but in most cases the card will go in their back pocket, probably through the wash later that day never to be seen again!

You need to point out to the potential new customer that if they or someone they know, are interested in your product or service then on the back of the card are the details of how they can get something “special” if they call, email etc. You have to drive that customer to take action and generate that lead! In most small businesses the greatest lead generator is a satisfied customer that is more than happy to tell anyone and everyone about their experience with your business.

Most small businesses have sales systems, external marketing strategies, but very few have referral systems or strategies. Spending a little money on a referral program or reward system for customers that refer business is money much better spent. The customer takes ownership of your business if they are getting something in return, and the business they refer comes pre-sold on your products or services, much easier to get the sale!

The point is make sure no matter what form of marketing, advertising or lead generation campaigns you do, you have to come up with some way of getting the potential customer to take action. Every person that calls, emails or drops in to your business. Ask them how they heard about you so you can at least measure if your marketing budget is going to good use. It may surprise you to see the results!

9 Reasons Small Business Marketing Stinks – And What You Can Do to Avoid Smelling Rotten

It has no strategy

I see so many small businesses who just basically throw darts at the board with their marketing and advertising with no rhyme or reason. What little marketing planning they do centers around advertising. But usually this is poorly planned. They take no thought in who their target market is, how best to reach them, where to reach them, when to reach them, or how to appeal to them and spur them to action IF they reach them. Did you notice that was a big if? Most of the small business ads I see really don’t get break through and grab the prospect’s attention. The other big problem is they are scattershot. There is an ad here, and ad there, they are done infrequently, and the target is poorly defined.

Don’t use a shotgun approach to advertising! Use a laser targeted pinpoint approach. This does not mean you only target one area or shoot using one gun (pardon the violent metaphor). It means you aim carefully at your chosen target and fire from multiple positions (PR, advertising, promotions, social media, etc.).

It has the mindset that advertising and promotion (or sales) is marketing

These are but one aspect of the marketing mix. FYI, if you don’t already know, the marketing mix consists of the 4 Ps- Product, Price, Promotion, and Place (where the product or service is sold or distributed). While promotion is a large part of the marketing mix it is not the only one and usually not the most important one. But it is the fun or glamorous side of marketing so it gets a lot of attention. Still, many fail to realize that there is a lot more to promotion than advertising or sales. Those are only aspects of the promotional mix. I will talk more about the rest of the promotional mix in future articles.

Get a big picture view of marketing and start with the basics first- your positioning and targeting strategies based on your product or service and ideal customers (market place) and let that direct your pricing, promotion, and distribution strategies.

Its copy cat or “me too” marketing

Many small businesses copy the same old garbage everyone else is using and you get the same bad results. Even if the marketing is good for one business, it may not be good for your business. First, you are not the same business so your goals and objectives, target audience, capabilities, etc. are not the same. Second, it does nothing to distinguish you from them. Why would a prospect buy from you if you are no different than your competition?

Give them some compelling reasons to do so by demonstrating that you have something your competitor does not. Be different by design.

It is practiced by the uninformed

Small business people are good at their craft. They are great plumbers, doctors, lawyers, store owners, beauticians, chefs, dry cleaners, accountants, etc. But most don’t know anything about marketing- and don’t have the time or patience to learn. And that’s ok. It would cost them more to learn and do it themselves than it would to pay someone competent to do it for them. I don’t want to fix my own broken pipes, draw up own estate plan, prescribe my own course of medical treatment, or cut my own hair. I’m no good at it. But these folks are. That’s why I pay them to do it for me. If this situation describes you and you agree with me, you can skip the rest of this article and call me now!

If you still insist on doing it yourself, then learn the basics of marketing and start with understanding your marketplace, finding a profitable niche, and defining your product or service to serve that niche. If you do this right, you will either find yourself with no true competition or you will stand out head and shoulders above them.

Small businesses think they can market like the big boys

The problem is small businesses don’t have the money to market like the big boys. The big boys can run branding campaigns and hire expensive Ad firms to design and produce visually entertaining and stimulating masterpieces that make you almost drool for that new iPhone or Cadillac STS (or is that just a guy thing?) But c’mon, how many of you have not licked your lips when you’re watching those Hardee’s Thick Burger commercials? J And they can run their ads repeatedly. These are meant to build brand awareness and reinforce brand perceptions as much (and usually more) as they are to create brand preference and create a desire to take action.

But most of you can’t afford this kind of service. You can’t afford to run image only ads. Your ads have to work hard to create awareness and generate sales or leads. So you have to market wisely and make every dollar spent be an investment that will produce a measurable return. This means finding your niche, creating products and services to fill that niche, crafting your identity to appeal to that niche and targeting that specific niche with your well crafted, well planned, and well timed promotions and advertisements. And these ads have to have a call to action to spur a visit to your store, your website, or generate a phone call. Do anything else and you risk losing money and ultimately failure in business.

It is too disjointed

They are trying random things not really knowing why or they are dabbling in marketing with no real goal, process, or system. As a result their marketing strategy and tactics are not connected to each other and working together in harmony. In fact, they might even be working against each other. Here is a case in point, suppose you are a professional with deep expertise in your field- medicine, dentistry or law for examples- and you are trying to appeal to a wealthy target audience by offering a specialized service. But you are doing it by running a price discount or coupon promotion! The tactics are out of line with the target audience and do not support the core marketing strategy.

Your marketing tactics have to be connected to (indeed lead by) your marketing strategy and your marketing messages need to be integrated so that your website is consistent with your brochures or press kit, which is consistent with your social media profiles and business listings, which is consistent with you elevator speech, with is consistent with your business card, and so on. Tactics must be aligned with strategies and support your goals. Every piece of marketing communication must be integrated with your brand and marketing strategies to be consistent and produce desired results.

It is not built around a complete system

Most small businesses have no system in place for marketing. There is no plan for properly evaluating the marketplace and finding profitable niches. There is no system to help position or reposition their products or services to serve those niches. This is especially devastating when the marketplace rapidly changes. There is no system for promotional campaigns and activities. A coupon tactic is tried one month, a sales promotion another, maybe some print ads are tried another. But there is also no monitoring and measuring plan in place to know what is really working, if anything, and for making changes to the plan as needed. All of these systems must be put into place and used regularly or no real progress will be made. Perhaps you could get away with this in boom times, but not in bust times like we have recently been experiencing and not in the foreseeable future.

Put systems in place that will give you a goal to know where you are going and direction to know how to get there. Then continually work your systems and monitor your progress to make sure you are on track. If not, make some course corrections (change your tactics) to see if that works. However, if you make repeated course corrections and nothing works, it’s time to either call for professional help or change your strategy- or both.

There is no follow up

Many small businesses, particularly B2b firms, have leads that go un-nurtured and un-converted. Not because they were bad leads but because they didn’t follow up with them. Chances are, if the lead was not ready to buy right then or at least have a sales person talk or visit with him right then, the lead was pushed to the back burner- where it withered up and died. Or the consumer that visited the store once, or even purchased once, never returned and was never contacted with any type of follow up marketing.

If your business relies on generating leads for you or your sales staff to turn into clients/customers, then you need to have an automated follow up system in place. You need a system to capture their contact information to send them follow up emails and newsletters and contact them by phone or in person to keep in touch with them and nurture them through the sales cycle. You need a system to get to know them and their needs so you can send them selectively targeted promotions that will cut through the clutter and make them pay attention.

It is not automated

This leads me to a related point- much of the follow up marketing tactics are not automated where they can be automated. This makes it time consuming. Pretty soon business owners get so busy following up there is not enough time for doing and managing the rest of the business. Business owners in this situation probably are not taking the time to measure the results of their marketing so they do not know what, if any, results it produces. This leads to frustration, anxiety and wondering if marketing is really helping their business at all. They start questioning their time and effort spent on marketing and pretty soon they are doing no marketing at all. Which virtually guarantees their business will not grow- and makes it highly probably that it will not survive for very long.

So spend some time now setting up systems and processes that can be automated and save yourself time and stress- and money- later. There are many good CRM and auto-responder software programs available to help with this, some simple and reasonably priced, and some sophisticated, which the price reflects. I would suggest checking out AWeber or Campaigner- which I personally use- for simple, affordable auto-responder options and use either Excel or Access if you already have Microsoft Office for a simple CRM solution. You also might try some free or very low cost solutions such as Sugar CRM or ZOHO. For a more robust option I have heard people rave about Act! and I know many people love it. Others don’t so do your home work before purchasing anything. For lead management and nurturing you might also try salesforce.com or geunius.com. There is one combination auto-responder and CRM solution that I have used in the past that is very good at automating and managing the follow up process and has other applications as well-but it is not cheap- called Infusionsoft.This might be a good solution for you if you generate lots of leads and need to rely on an automated process to reduce your time spent following up and to make sure that leads are actually followed-up with and nurtured. You can get more resources for marketing by visiting the resource page on my website.

3 HOT Tips To Improve Your Ads/Flyers and Letters for Small Business Growth

One of the areas that you can dramatically improve the number of leads to your small business is through effective advertising.

Right now I’ll take you through 3 HOT tips on how you can bring in more money and customers.

Here are three things you can do to improve your prospecting letters.

1. Use a benefit orientated headline, not your business name.

The biggest mistake most small businesses make is using their business name as the headline for their advertisements.

Your prospective customer isn’t interested in your business name, they want to know what you will do for them. So tell them in the headline.

A case in point is the weight loss market.

If you’d like to lose weight which headline would appeal to you more…?

“Naughton Services” (business name headline) or…

“Lose 5kgs in 7 weeks” (benefit headline)

Obviously the second headline would appeal more.

Make sure you use benefit headlines for all of your marketing pieces.

2. Take a ‘Point of YOU’ approach.

Print out each of your letters/ad/flyers and take a red pen and circle the words I, We, or Our in your letter/ad/flyer.

Now rewrite your letter using the words YOU or YOUR.

Why?

Your prospective customer doesn’t care about you. They are interested in themselves and they want you to tell them how buying from you will benefit them.

So don’t tell them about you in your ads/flyers and letters. They don’t care! Appeal to their self-interest by telling them how they will get value for money, and how they will benefit.

For example…

“I will talk about the 5 key areas that I feel are important in health”
“You will learn the 5 key important areas that will dramatically improve your health”

A general rule of thumb for any marketing piece is that for every ‘I’ or ‘We’ there should be 5 ‘You’ or ‘Your’s.

3. Ask the reader to ACT NOW!

At the end of all of your marketing pieces make sure you ask the reader to take action.

Specifically tell them to ‘pick up the phone’ or ‘visit our website’ or ‘visit our shop’.

It seems really strange to point this fact out. Yet so many businesses simply forget to tell the reader what they need to do to buy from them. And if you aren’t telling them, you’re losing sales.

Your customers are ‘silently begging to be led’ so tell them how to contact you or what they need to do to buy from you. It makes a HUGE difference. Try it and see for yourself.

These three guidelines you have just read, can immediately improve the results you’re getting from your marketing.

Try them, and see if they improve your business growth.

Copyright © 2005 by Casey Gollan. All Rights Reserved