Your business, no matter what profession you’re in, rises and falls on numbers. Numbers permeate everything you do and think about. What are my sales and gross profits? How many deals do I need to close to increase revenue? How many clients do I have right now? It’s all a numbers game.
The numbers boil down to marketing and business development—generating leads and filling your sales pipeline. So, what is a lead? In simplest terms, it’s someone who is interested in your services. A lead can be a referral from a colleague, an inquiry from your website, a referral from a current or former client and so forth. The more leads you generate, the more potential clients you create. While there is no magic bullet when it comes to generating leads, there are proven strategies and practices that will maximize the return on your marketing efforts.
Marketing success comes with time and patience. Your leads will grow over time, in small, incremental steps. Keep in mind that marketing is not a singular activity—just sending out press releases or posting on Facebook. Instead, it is a combination of multiple activities, what marketing professionals call the marketing mix. You’ll need to experiment a bit to see what mix works best for you.
As you prepare to ramp up your marketing, be sure the goals you set for yourself and others are both realistic and achievable. Break your marketing goals into incremental segments, concentrating on one or two strategies at a time, and you’ll see results soon enough. Forget about being perfect, which can cause you to be paralyzed by inaction. Create the best material you can right now and focus on learning and improving over time.
To help you get started with your new or revitalized marketing efforts, here are four action items you can start working on right now.
Action Item #1: Track and measure
Understand where your leads come from and discover your biggest revenue generators
- Create a simple tick sheet/checklist. Track the sources of your leads in a tick sheet or checklist made in Excel or Word, or even on an informal pen-and-paper chart. List all of the methods you use to attract leads, such as cold-calling, your website and email. Each time a lead contacts you, be sure to ask, “How did you hear about us?” and tally their answer in your checklist. You can also ask more specific questions, like what keywords they used if they searched for you online.
- Analyze the data. At least once per quarter, take some time to review and analyze the information you’ve collected about your referral sources. You’ll probably be surprised to learn where your leads and revenue are really coming from. Consider not just the source of your leads in general, but also where the leads who convert to clients are coming from. For instance, your website may produce fewer leads overall, but leads from the website might be much more likely to convert to clients. Use the data to determine your biggest lead and revenue generators and focus your marketing efforts there.
Action Item #2: Cultivate relationships
Create and reinvigorate relationships to increase prospects and potential referral sources
- Create a list of prospects. Make a list of potential referral sources, former clients, colleagues and anyone else who may help generate leads. If you’re struggling with ideas for who to put on the list, scan your LinkedIn contacts for inspiration. In that process, you may also discover people who have changed companies since you last communicated; use that as a conversation opener and reconnect with them.
- Customize your approach. Do a quick online search for each of your prospects for clues about the best way to make your approach. Look for things like the charities and organizations they support, changes at their company or any upcoming industry events where you might be able to meet them in a relaxed environment. These can be great launching points for conversation and make your approach more personal.
- Break it down. Set realistic goals. Don’t be afraid to start small—three prospect calls or 15 minutes of marketing activity a week is better than none at all. And don’t forget the importance of follow-up. The people who continually follow up are the ones who close the business. If you tell a prospect you’re going to follow up in two weeks, by all means do so! For prospects who appear to be on the brink of saying yes, simply ask, “What will it take to get your business?”
- When you interact with clients and prospects, let them do 80 percent of the talking. Almost always, they’ll come out of the conversation more satisfied and impressed by you. Make listening your competitive advantage.
Action Item #3: Spiff up your credentials
Present your value to potential clients in a clear and compelling way
- Identify what you’re going to say. This begins with an understanding of your market—think from a client’s perspective. How do they perceive what you do? Does it match what you want people to know about you? If you specialize in a particular niche, be sure to make that clear in all of your promotional materials.
- Streamline your message. Craft three key takeaway messages that are important for people to remember and include them in all of your marketing. Remove information that is TBU—true but useless—such as, “We utilize technology” or, “We have highly qualified professionals”. Everyone uses technology in business these days, and who wouldn’t say they work with high-quality people? Instead, talk about why you utilize technology and why you have highly qualified professionals.
- Incorporate your message everywhere. Ensure your carefully crafted message is highlighted in your LinkedIn bio, your firm’s website and even in biographical information in materials and websites of professional organizations you belong to. One very important place to do this is the tagline directly under your name on your LinkedIn profile. This defines very quickly what you do, and it is used in online searches, so it is critical that it describes you precisely and accurately.
Action Item #4: Increase your visibility
Use content marketing to establish your expertise in the industry
- Share your knowledge. One of the big concepts in the business world right now is content marketing: producing informative and valuable articles, presentations, social media and blog posts to increase your visibility and create top-of-mind awareness among prospects. What knowledge can you share? Begin by brainstorming some general topics that you can speak to with authority.
- Choose your vehicles. Here you have many choices: digital media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and your website, and traditional media, such as newspapers, trade publications and newsletters. Start by focusing on one or two of these options that make the most sense for your company.
- Create your idea. Content ideas can come from a variety of places: the “sitting-in-traffic” insights that come to you when your mind is wandering; pieces of industry news that invoke a question; lessons learned from a recent success; or things happening in your office that indicate a trend. Can you turn these ideas into a forecast piece or a “10 tips” blog post? Your content doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. It just needs to be compelling and relevant to your target market.
- Declutter your content. When you prepare your content, think in terms of bite-sized pieces that are easy for your busy prospects to understand. Most people, especially when reading online, scan the page and look for important points. Keep your words to a minimum and, whenever possible, use an image or infographic to replace words.
- Get it out the door. Set realistic goals on how to share your content, even if it’s just one LinkedIn or blog post a week to start with. You’ll magnify your results when you consistently produce content over a period of time, and that comes by reaching your production goals week after week and month after month. Also remember that you can repurpose your material to get more mileage out of it. A blog post can easily become an article in a trade publication, or a handful of articles can turn into a presentation.
Marketing isn’t easy—but it’s necessary, and it’s worth it. Be consistent. Be patient. Track what works and adjust as needed. In time, you’ll find that all the hard work pays off with a burgeoning portfolio of prospects and new clients.