Lead Gen

You Know You Want It – But What is Lead Generation?

4-454x222If you’re in business, then you need leads. But what exactly is a lead? Well, that can mean different things depending upon your goals and objectives.As a marketer, my goal is to help businesses grow, but to do that, we need to clearly define the goals and objectives for obtaining that growth. Very often this leads to planning strategies and implementing campaigns for lead generation. Lead generation therefore needs to be defined: are you trying to get your brand name out into the marketplace, are you looking to increase engagement, or are you looking to get information? Before you launch your next campaign, I’ve outlined below various types of leads to help you to better define the term based on your goals and objectives:

Brand Exposure

A lead can be that moment where a potential customer comes into contact with your brand. We often don’t consider a page view, click, impression, or a page visit to be a lead as they may not equal instant sales, but they are a type of lead as they are indicators that let you know that you’ve reached people who are looking for what you’re selling. Depending on the platform, you may be able to track these individuals or engage them again. The important thing here is you’ve left an impression on them, and they now know you exist, potentially contacting you in the future – this is a lead.

Relationship Engagement

A follow or share on social media, a discussion in a LinkedIn group, or a new contact/connection on LinkedIn are all types of business development and engagement with you and a potential lead to form a relationship. Even though this may not result in an instant sale, there is now a relationship and conversation happening that wasn’t there before- this is a lead.

Information Exchange

Tracking individuals’ actions and identity via a content marketing tool or offering a free download in exchange for their information via an online form are perhaps two of the most direct ways of generating a lead. Although this approach has all the trappings of a “real lead” because you have lead information, until you determine if the “lead” is legitimate and actually make contact with the individual, this too might not instantly result in a sale.

Although there may not be immediate and direct revenue associated with these different types of leads, don’t write them off, as there is value in placing your brand in the customer’s mind so that when they are ready to purchase, you’ve made that impression they can refer back to.

What do you define as a lead? Does a lead have to result in instant revenue? Do you set objections and goals for your lead generation campaigns? If not, why not? I look forward to discussing your terms for lead generation.

Client Referrals: Don’t Ask… Don’t Get

Many SMB owners describe client referrals as one of the hardest things they have to do. No matter if they receive client emails thanking them for their service and singing their praises, very few see that feedback as marketing opportunities to ask their clients for referrals.

With November drawing to a close this week, I can’t think of a better time to set up face-to-face meetings with your existing clients to wish them well for the holidays, discuss their plans for the new year, and ask them for a referral.

I am not suggesting in any way that we substitute client referrals with other lead generation tools such as social media, landing pages, online marketing, QR code campaigns, etc., but there is no better lead than a “warm” lead or “endorsed” lead from an existing client.

Although many business owners feel comfortable asking their clients for a testimonial, when it comes to referrals they seem to steer clear.  I’m not sure if it’s that they are shy or just afraid of the client reaction, but referrals are not only a fantastic source for lead generation, they are “free” and therefore should be included in every marketing strategy.

Here are a few tips I’d like to share with you to help you approach your clients and get the business referrals you deserve:

  • Book a face-to-face meeting with your client. People will always be more likely to do something for someone else if the person is standing right in front of them. Although it is acceptable to ask for referrals by email or phone if you’re in a situation where a face-to-face is not possible, you will have greater success when meeting in person.
  • Use the upcoming holidays as an opportunity to set up this face-to-face.
  • Make it a more casual setting – since it is holiday time, a lunch offer would be nice with the idea to thank them for their business and also to connect on plans for the new year.
  • During your holiday lunch or coffee, and after you have discussed their business needs, be as sincere and direct as you can be and say something such as, “I’m really glad that you’re pleased with my work. I’m always looking for referrals and wonder if you know anyone else who might be interested in _______ (what you do).” If they do offer names, take them down and ask the person if they mind if you contact the people directly or if they would prefer to pass your information along to them yourself.
  • Another approach might be to add: “May I leave a few of my business cards with you in case someone comes to mind?” Leaving extra business cards with a person makes it easier for them to pass your name and contact information to someone else.
  • Keep this meeting upbeat and never ask for a referral when presenting your client with their invoice.

It does take some effort and possibly courage to approach your clients for referrals, but the effort promises great rewards.

How have you asked for referrals? Do you have any approaches you would add to this list?

Google AdWords Made Simple

Today’s economy is challenging for many businesses, but it’s an even bigger challenge for the SMB owner, who is forced to use increasingly smaller marketing budgets to increase brand recognition and drive sales through lead generation tactics.  One such lead gen tactic is Google AdWords. You’ve seen those ads that appear on the side of the page every time you search for something on Google. Businesses bid for this online advertising through Google AdWords. All you have to do is create an ad, and choose specific search keywords which you would like to target, and, voila! Your ads might appear on Google, next to the search results. The idea is that people interested in your product/service can simply click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about your company.

Sounds simple, right? Well, from a conceptual standpoint, it is. In practice, however, we have found that for many of our small business clients, using Google AdWords is more of a science.  Finding the “right” balance of key words, with the words used in the ad, together with the right bid amount takes many, many hours of ad monitoring, key word adjustment, ads revisions, as well as working to increase ad click-through rates and daily budgets.

Google AdWords is generally thought of as an ideal advertising “add-on” for small businesses with limited budgets, but even if you know what you’re doing, depending on your industry and keywords, it can be an expensive venture, and therefore needs to be closely monitored (in fact, hourly monitoring is best!).

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned about Google Adwords for small business that I’d recommend to any small business considering investing in this advertising program.

  1. Before you create your ad, spend some time reviewing your web analytics to see what terms people are using to find you online at this point. Google Analytics offers this type of information.
  2. In combination with the keyword tool Google Ad Words provides, create a list of targeted keywords (narrow these down to focus on a specific service/product and your targeted audience).
  3. Create two very targeted ads. Always create two ads, so you can see which one is doing better, and simply replace it as the campaign evolves.
  4. Decide on your maximum monthly budget (I suggest being able to spend at least $100 a month).
  5. Direct the ad to link to a specific page on your site. Or, if you have the budget, create a landing page on your site specifically for this ad. For services, this page needs to have the ability to capture lead gen via a form or download. For products, this page needs to have a special offer.
  6. Launch the campaign, and monitor it hourly. Keep a close eye not just on your cost-per-click (CPC), and the Average CPC (how much you are paying on average per click), but also the first page bid estimate (which tells you how much you need to spend to be on the first page).  These three areas will help you to decide which terms you may want to pause, and which ones you might want to increase your bid rate on.
  7. You’ll need to make sure that you have metrics on your website to track the number of people that are actually coming to the linked page via Google.
  8. Run the ad campaign for a month (if funds permit), and generate a report at the end of each week to capture the CPC, which key terms did well, increase in traffic to your site via the ad, how many leads were generated (or products sold), and note if there is a pattern emerging. For example, you might notice that there are lots of clicks on Thursday and Friday mornings, and it tapers off over the weekend, and early in the week.  You can then decide to put more money towards your CPC on Thursday and Fridays.

I have tried to capture the basics to help create and launch your Google AdWord campaign, but it’s worth noting that this tool has a huge number of functions. There are other options to consider, including impression vs. clicks; how to increase your quality score; what is the advantage of display networks vs. search; what are filters and ad extensions; and how should you determine your campaign settings and so much more.

With such a deep online advertising tool with a multitude of variables you can see why, if used correctly, Google AdWords has the potential to increase your ROI. It does, however, require considerable thought, time and effort to make it work for your business.

Have you used Google AdWords in your small business?  If so, have you found it helpful?  Has it increased your ROI? Do you have any questions about how to set up a Google AdWords campaign? Please share your questions and comments below.

Steps to Making Your Online Campaign a Success

A large part of marketing these days involves developing some type of online marketing strategy. Online marketing can mean something as simple as using Google AdWords, or placing an ad on LinkedIn or Facebook, to generating an ad to be placed on a trade publication website.

The goal of online marketing is no different than that of any other advertisement: to increase brand awareness and find potential customers, in order to increase revenue and growth.

The huge advantage of online campaigns is that they are digital, and you can improve and adjust them throughout a campaign to help you achieve your objectives.  The other advantage of online marketing is that you have the ability to easily track and measure your campaigns by the day, hour, or even minute (if you really wanted to).

Generating leads and customers not increasing site traffic are indications of success and by tracking and measuring the success of your campaign, you can determine if your objectives are being met, and if not, you can adjust your campaign to meet them.

One example of how quickly you can react to an online campaign is to run an advertisement on a trade publication’s site, make note of the click through rate, use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your site and referral sources, and finally, to look at the conversion rate of traffic to leads.  If you see that there is a low click through rate, you might need to rethink your ad. But if you find you have a high click through rate, and high traffic, but see no leads being generated, then something is happening on your site that stopped a potential customer from becoming a lead. This might mean you need to make a change not to the advertisement, but to the mechanism that was designed to convert the traffic into leads.

Before you start planning your next online campaign, determine if you have the time and resources to properly monitor its development and success.  You might want to consult with a marketing agency, which can provide you with the insights and expertise necessary to make your campaign a success.

Over the past 20 years of marketing for small and mid-sized businesses, I’ve developed a number of questions that you should take under consideration before launching any online campaign:

  1. Clearly outline the goals and objectives of your campaign (e.g. increase leads by 5%, 10%).
  2. Identify which publication the ad should appear in (target the campaign to the audience).
  3. Clearly outline the time your campaign will run (1 day only, 1 week, etc.).
  4. Create an incentive offer, whether that is free product or service; leads increase depending on incentives.
  5. Put a tracking mechanism in place. That way, you can measure the results and make improvements to your marketing strategy as you go.
  6. An ideal tracking mechanism is Google Analytics. It is free to use, and is one of the most powerful online analytics tools available today. (It tracks much more than website traffic, as displayed in my example).
  7. Before the campaign launches, offer your campaign offer to existing clients.
  8. Post in your social networks the day you launch the campaign.
  9. Track your campaign by the hour, day, minute, etc.
  10. If you are not seeing the results you want, look at the flow of the campaign. Are there any ‘sticky’ places? See if you can make any adjustments to get your campaign ‘unstuck’.

Online marketing can generate the leads you are looking for, but you need to consider not just the message you’re sending, but also how you have planned to convert the message into a lead gen tool.

Do you have any questions on Internet marketing? What has been your most successful online marketing campaign? Or have you had any negative experiences with online marketing that have helped you to re-strategize your methods for future online campaigns? Feel free to share your questions and stories in the comments below.

Lead Gen – Asking The Right Questions

In a perfect world, our marketing and sales efforts would produce our desired revenue growth. But as many small and mid-sized businesses know, the challenge is not just deciding on the right lead generation activities to drive enough qualified leads, but also to increase the productivity of your sales team, and to improve your visibility to your target audience.

Like many business owners, you might understand the need to make changes to your marketing and sales processes, but aren’t quite sure what needs to be fixed or how to fix it. You want increased sales and increased brand exposure – but how do you get there, and where do you start?

The answer to fixing your sales processes lies in asking yourself the right questions.  “Leave no stone unturned,” as it is said, because the more you ask, the more you answer, and the better your business becomes.

As the owner of a marketing agency, with almost 20 years of marketing experience focusing on small and mid-sized businesses, I’d like to share with you a few questions that you should consider, in order to generate the right leads, increase your productivity and improve your visibility, to help get you to where you want to be. The questions do not have simple answers, and will require some time and consultation with your sales and marketing team.

If you need some more clarification on any of these questions, or help in deciding what to do with your answers, consult with a marketing agency you trust to find more specific advice on how to generate your desired results.

  1. What market segments do you target, and why (e.g. Small businesses)?
  2. Which specific businesses do you tend to approach (e.g. bakeries, daycares)?
  3. How much do you know about them? (What is important to them?)
  4. Who are your competitors, and how well do you know them?
  5. How do you fare compared to your competition? (Do they have more staff? How do your prices compare? Do you serve different regions? etc.)
  6. How are your current lead generation tactics performing?
  7. How can your current lead generation tactics be improved?
  8. How effective is the current sales process in educating prospective clients, and optimizing close rates?
  9. What marketing and sales tools are currently in place, and how can they be improved?
  10. Are there additional marketing and sales tools that should be developed?
  11. Is the required marketing and sales technology in place to support the lead generation, sales and post sales activities?
  12. What are the technologies that should be put into place?

Can you see how asking yourself these questions might help your business to strategize more efficiently? Are there any questions that you didn’t understand – or are there any questions that you ask yourself, when strategizing a new lead gen, that you think ought to have been included in this list? Please let me know in the comments below.