There's absolutely no question about that.
In fact, even the most brilliantly designed digital lead generation and conversion system will fail miserably if the second step below isn't taken good care of, especially.
First, Be Smart About Lead Generation
As with anything else, you want to focus more of your resources towards the areas that are likely to yield the best returns for you. At the moment anyway (and I can't see this changing) the smart money is on generating most of your leads through digital means as this is much more efficient and cost effective (around 62% less expensive than generating leads through outbound methods).
There are many ways in which you can do this, some of the most popular are as follows:
- Organic SEO results
- PPC Advertising (such as Google Adwords)
- Content marketing (Whitepapers, e-Books, Guides)
- Social media marketing
- Local SEO/Google Places
It's really up to you to decide which of the above methods would fit your business best. To my mind, the most simple way to start with this is to do the following:
- Set up a Google Adwords campaign
- Use your Adwords Campaign to promote your e-Book, which you would give away for free in exchange for an email address
That way, you have a simple, effective and cost-effective automated lead generation system in place - it's working 24/7 for your business. In addition, you'll want to work on solid landing page design and focus on conversion rate optimisation to make sure you get the most out of your efforts.
However, there's nothing wrong with implementing some telemarketing to build up your lead funnel - in fact, you might be surprised by the results. Here's a guide on how you can get started with that.
Second, Have A Responsive Follow-up Process In Place
Now this part is super-important - there is absolutely no use in having a well optimised lead generation funnel in place if you aren't able to follow up effectively when needed. This is something that 'inbound only' proponents seem to forget - at some point, you are just going to have to get on the phone and talk with a prospective customer personally (see this post for more). The exception here would be if you were in a e-commerce only business.
However, if your sales process relies on a one-to-one engagement - like the majority of service businesses do - then you'll have to take care of this step.
It's also really important that you follow up quickly.
How quickly? Well a study by the Harvard Business Review showed that if you don't call back within an hour, the odds of your lead being converted can be reduced by over 70 times.
Even if you leave it more than an hour you are running the risk of your competitors stealing your new lead (remember, the chances are that multiple suppliers are being considered - not just you).
So, the point to remember here is simple, but very, very important - make sure that you have a process in place that allows you to call back a lead within an hour at the absolute maximum. To help achieve this, here are a couple of things to think about:
- Make sure that you get instant notifications every time a lead comes through your website/other avenues - email or SMS alerts work well here
- Look into hiring a freelancer that can be on hand to get back to leads when you are tied up with other aspects of running your business
If you take care of this step well, you'll begin to see much improved lead conversion rates instantly. If you don't, you'll be effectively wasting all of the time, effort and money invested in step one - it's just not worth ignoring this part; no more than one hour for follow up, ideally much quicker.
Third, Be Ready For The Long Haul
As much as we'd like to be able to convert every lead into a customer as soon as we talk to them, it just won't happen. In fact, only around 20% of the leads you talk to will even be in a position to make a purchase - the other 80% will take up to 2 years to re-enter the market.
So, you have to have a system in place that will look after such leads in order that they don't forget about you. Furthermore, companies - on average - lose between 40% and 80% of leads due to poor management - a lead nurturing process helps to solve this.
Normally, this is email-based and automated so that it's more efficient and less human error can sneak in. However, it really doesn't hurt to plan in the odd phone call - the personal touch works wonders. As far as the automated email side goes, you really need to have an autoresponder series in place that will keep your new leads engaged as they get closer to re-entering the market again.
A simple process would look something like this:
- One or two emails a month
- 'Touching base' type emails, possibly with links to relevant web pages
- The odd e-book or other content to peak interest
A more advanced process could look something like this:
- Multiple autoresponder series according to interest/various services
- Emails sent according to perceived user interest/online behaviour
- System can automatically move lead from one autoresponder series to another according to how the lead interacts with emails/website/other digital properties
However, all that you would need to do to begin with would be to get some good content together, head on over to MailChimp or Aweber and then set up a simple process as above. You can then adapt once you see what does and doesn't work.
Although modern day lead generation and conversion can be incredibly complex and daunting, if you take care of the above steps, you'll be covering the most important areas and you'll begin to experience substantial increases in sales. Just remember to:
- Generate most of your leads online, but still use direct methods when you can (or during quiet spells)
- Make sure you can get back to leads quickly, within an hour at most (or hire a freelancer who can when you are busy)
- Ensure that you are ready to nurture leads over the long term, up to two years in some cases (you can start off simple here, and then get more advanced as you go)
Here are the sources I've used to to arrive at the above:
Hinge Marketing: Hinge Online Marketing Study
Hubspot: Inbound Leads Cost Less
Harvard Business Review: The Short Life Of Online Sales Leads
Eloqua Grande Guides: Lead Nurturing
Yankee Group: Lead Management Study
Thanks for reading,
By Alan MacDougall
Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.
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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.