Category Archives: Lead generation

Why you should re-invent yourself this winter and other thoughts about common sense

This week I was reminded of a great quote from Voltaire: ‘Common sense is not so common’. I like this quote because you can read it in two different ways,

  1. Most people lack common sense
  2. Finding agreement on the right sense is not common

I choose to read it as the latter and I feel that Brexit is a very good example of it. Talking to people about current events, as I do, I came to realise that there are many ways in which we read the situation. Whilst some believe the economic market will suffer a decline in the short-medium term, others think it will only affect companies trading with Europe. I even heard that some people feel that if we stay positive there is no reason why there will be a recession at all.  Go figure, as no one really knows any of these views could be right, so it becomes a matter of the not so common sense.

So, why do I think you should consider re-inventing yourself this winter?

Here are two good reasons:

  1. According to Harvard Business Review jumping from the maturity stage of one business to the growth stage of the next—is what separates high performers from those whose time at the top is all too brief.
  2. As Matthew S. Olson and Derek van Bever demonstrate in their book Stall Points, ,once a company runs up against a major stall in its growth, it has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering.

Both are good reasons because whether you would like to be a high performer business or ensure that your business does recover from an economic downturn in the New Year, you should consider re-inventing yourself this winter.

How do you go about re-inventing your business model?

There are numerous books and articles out there for you to explore but essentially you need to consider two things first:

  • Are you going to come up with a completely new product?
  • Are you going to consider taking your exiting products to new markets?

The answer is very much down to your current business model, your market and the make-up of your company. Whichever way you choose to go, you need to consider two important factors:

  1. Developing new business can take time to mature, anything between 6-12 months.
  2. The longer you leave it the more competition you will have

This is why I recommend that you look into this urgently to make sure that you can start widening your options and developing your sales pipeline. We have recently developed a new lead generation system which we believe can support this process well. In September we run a workshop to share our new system and got some great feedback. Click here to find out more.

 

 

Why you should consider new markets now

You might think that this is a fairly obvious thing to do if you are in business but market research I carried out last year proved that most established companies get most of their business from existing business and referrals; in fact the average was 70% of new sales.

There are many reasons why you should not consider new markets, here are just a few:

  1. Referrals and repeat business work are much more profitable
  2. The conversion rate is much higher
  3. New markets can be risky and expensive to explore

I agree with all of the above and would go as far as saying that if your business does not get at least 50% of its new sales from referrals and repeat business, something must be wrong. There is no denying that when you call a prospect who was referred to you, it’s a much nicer conversation which does not require you to get out of your comfort zone.

So why should you explore new markets this autumn?

I believe that generally, your business always needs to be moving forward because standing still is not an option. But at the moment there is a very pressing reason to consider exploring new markets because whatever you think of Brexit, it will affect the UK market greatly. This may well mean that many companies will have less money to spend and will therefore cut back on purchasing, affecting the rate of your repeat business. This might also mean that by default, you will therefore need to work with more companies in order to preserve your sales revenue.

You might still wonder why this means that you need to explore new markets and you will be right because new business can come from two main sources:

  • Working with more companies in your existing market
  • Working with more companies in new markets

Both will work and both will require you to go out looking for new business you don’t already deal with. Whichever way you choose to go, you need to consider two important factors:

  1. Developing new business can take time to mature, anything between 6-12 months.
  2. The longer you leave it the more competition you will have

This is why I recommend that you look into this urgently to make sure that you can start widening your options and developing your sales pipeline. We have recently developed a new lead generation system which we believe can support this process well. Click here to find out more.

Becoming a clairvoyant, or how to grow your pipeline in a predictable way?

You may have heard of the Maslow Hierarchy which shows how our needs as humans develop as we become more established and comfortable.  In the middle of the said hierarchy, just above food and shelter, sits security which most of us see as key to our lives. We can spend some time arguing about whether we can ever truly be secure, but I wanted to discuss one of the key elements of your business security: your pipeline.

Regardless as to whether you run your own business or the sales team within a bigger company, developing your pipeline is key to both your security and growth:

  • Without a pipeline, you will struggle to forecast the future of your sales which affects all major business decisions
  • Pipeline development helps you tackle your growth strategy, from immediate to further opportunities, existing and new markets

Despite its importance, many of us treat our pipeline development rather carelessly, leaving most of it to faith. Typical approaches include:

  • Relying solely on repeat business and referrals
  • Frantically looking for leads only when levels of sales have reduced dramatically
  • Running a variety of lead generation tactics without focus or strategy
  • Trying to convert any business that comes your way

This approach will either leave you with a small pipeline covering only immediate opportunities or a very large one full of long-term possibilities and pies in the sky. If you wanted to truly use your pipeline as a tool for growth and development, you need to have one which includes long term suspects which are being nurtured and developed into mature prospects, which will turn into customers. To achieve this, you will need to establish three things:

  1. Have a good understanding of your target markets
  2. Create continuous, relevant communications to create interest
  3. Follow up with your suspects and prospects continuously

Follow this, and you will end up with a funnel shaped pipeline like this one which is aimed at creating new opportunities in your desired markets and developing them into sales. You may already be doing this or a part of this but now is a good time to review your process and ask yourself if you and your team are getting it right. Economic uncertainty, like that which we are currently facing, can change market conditions, meaning you end up with less repeat business and referrals so make sure you are developing a strong pipeline to tackle it.

As always, we are happy to help and discuss your individual circumstances so get in touch.

Have you got a plan B?

I have recently found myself in need of plan B since the last quarter has not gone as well as expected. Whilst the first two quarters of 2018 were very successful for us, we found quarter three to be slow. There are many factors that may have affected this but identifying these did not change the fact that I needed an alternative plan and I did not have one.

To aid my thinking, I put plan B into Google in the hope that some helpful plans might come up, only to discover that Plan B is actually an English hip hop recording artist from the 80’s. I looked further and found lots of advice on how to construct your business plan including doing your market research, checking out your competition, getting your financial information right etc. But nothing about constructing a plan B; I guess it might not be such a priority in business planning.

You’ll be happy to know that after some careful research, I did find interesting advice. Here are a few examples:

  • The hip voice:

Don’t expect things to go to plan and you will always be ready to shift your plan is the main advice from David Kadavy of the Mission Podcast. According to David, ‘Things almost never go according to plan—and that’s okay.’ The solution, according to David, is to ‘remember things won’t go as planned. You can make it part of the plan to not have a plan.’

Whilst I agree that not sticking to your plan at any cost is a good idea, I found this approach a little too relaxed and acknowledging my anxious composition I looked for alternative, more ‘old school’ types of advice:

  • The sensible voice:

The Dummies Blog seems to deliver on this front and suggests considering three areas of change in your business focus:

  1. Redefine your product by re-assessing your product concept and the benefit it brings to your target market. This process could mean that you bring out a new product to attract a new market or make some shifts which will help you target your current market better.
  2. Move your business to another dimension or location. This could mean that you move your showroom to another area or make it easier for people to approach your business on-line depending on your specific circumstances.
  3. Revamp your operation and processes through considering whether you need new equipment, skills or staff. To me this area of focus must first and foremost include an assessment of your sales process, lead generation and conversion rate. This is because without new sales, your business growth will be threatened.

Whether like me, you found your business has slowed down recently or you were getting nervous reading that 77% of SME’s are not ready for Brexit, I think we all agree there is a change afoot early next year. If there was ever a good time to construct a plan B, it’s now.  Check out how we might be able to help your lead generation and sales strategy refocus here or get in touch to discuss further.

 

 

Quality over quantity, top tips to building your new business database

Good old Emil Zola must have seen a glimpse of the future when he said, ’If I cannot overwhelm you with my quality, I will overwhelm you with my quantity.’  I am not entirely sure what he meant by it but these days we see plenty of examples of people trying to impress us with their quantity, rather than quality.

2018 has seen the data debate take to centre stage through the introduction of GDPR, which was introduced to stop the unauthorised use of personal data. There was much talk about the change it would bring beforehand, but we hear very little of it now. Dare I say that not much has changed in terms of B2B e-mail in my in-box. Even so, assuming that, like me, you think that communicating to a smaller but engaged audience is better, you might want to consider how you build this database in the first place.

Let’s consider some different methods to building your database:

Method Advantages Disadvantages
Buying a data list -Providing a solid start

-Allowing you to communicate with the right industries and decision makers

– The data is very cold which affects the speed of conversion

-Very niche markets can be hard to identify

Using your own client and contact list -Building on your existing industry knowledge

-Communications will be better received as it’s a familiar audience

– Much of the data might be out of date

-The list may not be very strategic in terms of new and target markets

-GDPR compliance is questionable

Using Social Media platforms to build your following -This is potentially a very engaged audience as they have connected with you

 

-Using this data outside of the specific platform can be difficult

-Many contacts will not appreciate a direct approach

Using digital funnels or landing pages to attract interested parties -As this method is based on targeting people who searched for your product or service it has the potential to provide you with highly qualified leads -Because this method is so specific it can be very slow in terms of building a database

 

Once more we have concluded that there is no one winner and no silver bullet. My advice would be to use a variety, if not all, of the above methods to communicate with your target audiences. The important thing is to create an overarching strategy which governs your marketing and lead generation system thus making it focused and tailored to your business.

This means that you have a specific process in which your funnel works, which involves several activities happening at the same time. Such a system will ensure that you are seen in front of the right audience at a volume and frequency that allows you to develop a substantial pipeline based on your new business conversion rate.

If it sounds interesting, check out  our system here or give me a call to discuss your requirements.

 

 

The truth about making a choice and why would you want to skin a cat anyway?

Many animal lovers hate the saying ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’ but if you actually check its origin you might be even more disturbed. According to Edward Brumley, Buddhist, Vegan and Atheist, ‘The phrase is just a more recent rendition of an older proverb that was expressed in many different ways, in which various animals were killed in diverse and sundry creative fashions. The earliest known version was recorded in 1678 in the second edition of John Ray’s collection of English proverbs, in which he gives it as “There are more ways to kill a dog than hanging… ‘

Let’s move on swiftly but stick with the idea that there is more than one way to achieve your goal. This notion is worth keeping in mind when it comes to your marketing even if it often looks like you have to choose. Well, let me break it to you gently, you don’t have to. To make things clearer, here are the main two choices you have when you consider your marketing strategy:

  • Outbound marketing: This term is used to describe pre-meditated activities you undertake to approach your target markets directly. These activities include tactics such as e-mail marketing, advertising and telemarketing.
  • Inbound Marketing: This term is used to describe the tools you create to help people approach your business when they are interested in your product and service. These tools include your website, referral marketing, content marketing and so on.

In addition, most marketing methods could be divided into the following categories:

  • Offline marketing which can be seen as old school by some, includes methods such as direct mail, leafleting, telemarketing and telesales
  • Online marketing which some will describe as all the rage, includes methods such as e-mail marketing, SEO, Social Media and ad words

Many companies feel they have to choose between the different options. This is sometimes the case due to budget limitations or the marketing company they work with. In my opinion, the choice needs to be down to the various target markets you are after. Here are a few examples to clarify what I mean:

  1. If your target market is stay at home mums who like to shop locally, you may choose to place targeted adverts in Facebook and use local groups. In this case, you will be utilising an inbound digital marketing campaign
  2. If you are targeting Estate Agents in Cardiff, you may choose a direct mail campaign which is followed up by telemarketing. In which case, you will be utilising outbound offline marketing campaign

Now, I am always for being as specific as you can when it comes to your target market. If you can narrow it down to people who only come out when it rains on a Sunday, that is great. However, our reality is made up of a very wide choice in nearly every walk of life, which means that even if you are specific, you still need to consider more than one approach to reach more people. By this, I mean that you need to adopt marketing campaigns that reach out to your contacts using a number of platforms. If you can e-mail, connect on LinkedIn and telephone them all in one campaign, you increase your chances of getting through to more people. Of course, you can choose to place some strategic Blogs alongside Ad Words and landing pages instead.  The point is that the choice is yours and should be based solely on your growth targets and marketing strategy.

As always, I am happy to discuss your specific questions further. In the meantime, you might find it useful to check out how our lead generation system works.

Lead nurturing is not a waste of time, here is why…

Cast your mind back to that magical time when you first met your partner or someone you had a loving relationship with. Now, relationships are not all about commitment but it is normally an important part of it. With that in mind, do you think you would have talked to your partner about getting married or having children on your first date? If you did, could you blame them for running to the hills?

I am sure most of you would have stayed well off the subject before you had established a relationship and got to know your partner better. So, why is it that in business so many people expect relationships to be formed within a few phone calls? I know some people think work and personal life are best kept separated, but to follow the words of my old manager at Yell, ‘a relationship is a relationship is a relationship…’

Many companies I come across divide into three categories:

  1. They don’t do any marketing or lead generation of any form and get all their work from existing business and referrals
  2. They tick boxes, do a bit of this and a bit of that but generally don’t keep to any lead generation activities for long
  3. They have a sales person, or a sales team and they delegate all things to do with leads to them

I am not about to criticise any of the above as I believe companies should do what works best for them but I think it’s important to remember that lead nurturing does not normally fall into any of the above. In other words, it is rarely done properly or at all. There are three key reasons to this:

  1. Many of us fear rejection or are worried that we may appear desperate. We therefore consider keeping in touch with prospects and leads, degrading and unpleasant.
  2. Sometimes people think that if someone is going to make a positive decision, they have to do it quickly, so if they have not done so, they are not buying.
  3. We are all very busy, so there are always more important and urgent things to do on our ‘to do’ list

Lead nurturing is indeed one of those essential but non-urgent activities that we don’t do enough of and it is a real shame. Here are a few reasons why:

  • According to DISC profile, only 15% of people make decisions quickly, which means that keeping in touch is definitely worth it
  • Many people like to see you working for their business and really appreciate your reminders and calls
  • The bigger the deal and the organisation, the longer it takes to make a decision so getting to know everyone involved and understanding the process is definitely beneficial

So, next time you come across a lead and they don’t buy from you within 60 seconds, don’t give up, keep in touch and make sure you are clear on their buying process. This way you can support it in the most appropriate way for them and you are much more likely to convert the sale.

In addition, if you have no time to do this yourself, outsource it and have someone else do the donkey work.  Here is how we can help.

 

Lead nurturing – what is it and where does it fit in your sales process?

The American philosopher Deepak Chopra once said: ‘It takes a little bit of mindfulness and a little bit of attention to others to be a good listener, which helps cultivate emotional nurturing and engagement…’  Without wishing to go too deep, I think it’s a great quote which demonstrates relationship creation very well.

I know many of you will be wondering what all of this has to do with lead generation. Well, as generating leads is a key part of sales, building relationships is part and parcel of it. In our business we meet many clients who would like to find a shortcut which will bypass all of the relationship stuff and get them straight to a sale. I am sorry to say that in all the years I have been selling, I am yet to find this type of shortcut. I am afraid that if you want to develop new business, you need to put in the time for creating a relationship first. This is particularly true when it comes to B2B high value sales.

So now that we have all agreed that relationship creation is essential to a successful sale, let’s spend some time talking about lead nurturing;

  1. What is it then? It’s an overall term covering the numerous times you will need to follow up in order to turn a suspect into a prospect and then a client
  2. Why is it important? I have written before about buying styles and how they affect decision making. It transpires that only 15% of the population can make decisions fast, which means that you have to follow up a lot before you get an answer. If you are doing it right, you will be nurturing the relationship in the process, thus making a sale more likely.
  3. Where does it fit in your sales process? A business colleague of mine once told me that in his opinion, in between an enquiry coming in and a sale being made, a whole desert exists… I could not agree more, so, lead nurturing fits all the way through from when the lead is generated, to when a sale is made.
  4. Who should be charged with nurturing leads? Normally this is done by your sales function, be it you or your team. In my opinion, long term lead nurturing is better off being assigned to a skilled telemarketing team either in-house or outsourced. This will free up sales to deal with hot opportunities whilst ensuring that leads are not forgotten.

I hope you found this helpful. If you are one of those people who understand better through pictures, check out this infographic. You can also check out our lead nurturing service here. Do get in touch if you wish to discuss this further.

Lead generation: Six B2B tools to consider

I love this quote from author CS Lewis: ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream’. Still, sometimes the reason for setting new goals and dreams is out of hands. GDPR is one of these situations; making sure your business is compliant is an absolute pain in the backside, but it forces you to review many key processes in your business which is never a bad thing.

Going through this joy myself in the past few weeks has made me consider lead generation methods we use in the business, for clients and ourselves. This lead me to some research for different ideas that fitted well with our lead generation system and new ways of using current methods. As my much-appreciated readers, I am sharing my thinking with you in the form of the top tools to use in B2B marketing à la Your Business Development Team:

  • Offline methods:
  1. Direct Mail: Or lumpy mail in marketing speak, is making a come back in post GDPR marketing as it is one of the methods you can use with prospect companies as long as they have not asked you to stop. In these days of e-mail, a letter has become a bit of a novelty and you can use to your advantage.

How to use it: I would suggest using it in conjunction with other campaigns; using a variety of platforms ensures that you are appealing to all of your prospects. Due to cost, it is probably worth making a long-term plan so that you are designing multi-use materials and printing in bulk where possible.

  1. Networking/ referral partners: Referrals are by far the best way to gain new business. Firstly, you start the relationship much further ahead, knowing your prospect requires your services. More importantly, your conversion rate is likely to be much higher with referrals as the trust is there from the start.

How to use it: This would very much depend on the stage of your business, how much time you have and your personal preference. There are many versions of networking groups out there to suit everyone. If your business is new, you tend to network more. Mature businesses tend to settle into referral affiliations with their clients and suppliers. I think any arrangements is fine as long as you are benefiting from this key tool.

  • Online methods:
  1. LinkedIn: Many of my younger colleagues dismiss LinkedIn as it seems very corporate in comparison with hipper Social Media channels. In my opinion, it is the most relevant Social Media tool to use for B2B as people who use it expect to talk and read about business topics. It is also the best place to connect and find your prospects’ most up to date details.

How to use it:  The three key elements on LinkedIn are:

  • Create a decent profile
  • Constantly grow your following
  • Represent your business through posts and article sharing

If you have not used it before, I strongly recommend having some training on it as it will improve what you can get out of it.

  1. Content Marketing: This is a tool which is relevant to a number of marketing platforms such as Social Media, E-mail Marketing and your website. Many businesses already use Content Marketing Though GDPR enforces the importance of getting it right. This is because it focuses you on your expertise and how to best share them with clients and prospects thus attracting interested parties the right way.

How to use it: Content Marketing is a good way to grow brand awareness, but it is not a quick win. For it to work, it needs consistency and time so create a monthly plan including Blogs, posts and e-mail campaigns and stick to it. Make sure you consider how you use e-mail marketing in the light of GDPR, ensuring you are compliant. Note that the digital space allows you to use many and varied tools so get some advice from a good digital agency.

  1. Landing Pages: This is not a new tool but I think it takes centre stage in list-creation post GDPR allowing you to reach prospects who have already expressed an interest in your product. So, what is it? The definition of it according to Unbounce is: ‘a standalone web page, created specifically for the purposes of a marketing or advertising campaign. These pages are designed with a single focused objective – known as a ‘Call to Action’.

How to use it: To use Landing Pages effectively you need to be specific and to do this you must understand your market well. I would suggest creating pages for specific campaigns and specific target markets. To work well, these need to form a part of a well thought out marketing strategy. Although there is plenty of free and helpful software for creating Landing Pages, it might be useful to use a digital agency to help you create them, at least initially.

I hope you found this useful for your post GDPR consideration. Whatever you do, don’t forget to follow up which is where the sixth top lead generation tool comes into play, the telephone…

Always happy to support your thinking so get in touch if you think we might be able to help.

The lead generation funnel, how does it work?

I recently came across a great quote from the author Samuel Johnson: ‘Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance’.  This is true of many things but it’s particularly important with lead generation work. This is because successful lead generation involves a meticulous process and takes a lot of patience and resilience to see it through to results.

You might say that it is therefore not for everyone and you will be right. I have written before about the level of confidence you need to have in your product to engage in lead generation. This Blog is, however, written for people who want to run successful lead generation campaigns in their businesses.

Having spoken to a few people about this recently, I realised that the word funnel is misleading because it suggests that anyone that comes into your lead generation funnel will inevitably become a customer.  Even if we allow for an unlimited amount of time to pass, the reality is that some will fall out, which is actually the point of the qualifying process. However you choose to picture the process, it is key to understand how it works in your business.  If you don’t, you could get caught in a fruitless search for the magic method which is both costly and pointless.  Here are the key stages of a lead generation processes:

  1. Generating interest through sending out communications appealing to your target markets’ problems and needs. This can be done with a variety of marketing tools, including Social Media, e-mail marketing, advertising, buying data lists and so on. This stage is also known as identifying suspects.
  2. Identifying specific interest within the group of suspects through making direct contact. This is often done by e-mail or telephone follow up. This stage is also known as identifying leads and can take a while to move on to the next stage.
  3. Developing further knowledge of the leads identified to understand their problem and circumstances. This can be done via a telephone or face to face appointment. This is a key stage as a sale will not happen if there isn’t sufficient desire to change. This stage is also known as identifying prospects or opportunities.
  4. Providing a solution and closing the sale. Whilst this sounds very straight forward, it can take time to get a result and often your proposal is just the beginning of a lengthy follow up process. Still, if you managed to uncover some pain in the previous stage, you should be able to use it to press on.  This stage is also known as creating customers or getting paid 😊

I hope this helps in terms of your campaign plan. Here is what’s also important to remember:

  1. Your initial communications need to be tailored and specific to attract the right leads.
  2. It is vital to follow up with every interest shown in stage 2 as it is key to building up a relationship and moving you forward.
  3. The more you speak with your prospects, the more you have an opportunity to understand their problem. This in turn will provide you with the opportunity to provide the best solution and make a sale.
  4. This is not a quick process normally, it requires lots of follow up as well as kissing some frogs. The clearer you are on your goals, budget and the length of time required, the better.

Your Business Development Team can help you with stages 1 & 2 as well as continuous follow up to support your efforts. Read more about it here and give us a call to find out more.