Lead generation is a vital component in all businesses. Without leads there can be no sales. Without sales there can be no business. Remember, nothing happens until somebody sells something.
It is, therefore, rather scary to learn that the majority of small businesses struggle with their lead generation activities. Many find it hard to generate a steady stream of leads and this manifests itself as a series of peaks and troughs in the business. At times there are enough leads and at other times, a distinct lack of opportunity.
Some businesses find it hard to generate enough leads because of how much time and cash it takes. In these businesses, lead generation is performed in a patchy manner. Marketing campaigns are initiated either when there is some funding available or when the senior management team allocate some time to marketing (usually when sales volume take a dip).
This manifests itself in the form of a feast-then-famine cycle in the business. This cycle is common in small businesses and is caused by stop/start marketing. It commonly occurs like this. Firstly, the owner(s) decide that more sales are needed. A marketing campaign is initiated which identifies some potential purchasers. These prospects are engaged and progressed through the sales cycle. As the small business will be even more anxious to secure sales revenue, the handling these existing prospects takes on a higher priority than finding even more prospects. As a result, lead generation activities wind down and eventually stop.
Everyone is so busy trying to convert these active prospects into clients that the lack of new leads entering the sales process is overlooked. As the last of the active prospects are turned into clients, there is a realisation that the sales pipeline is, once again, inadequate. As a result, there is another big push on marketing to generate some new prospects.
And the cycle starts again.
If you stand back and look at the business, you will see peaks of activity followed by periods of inactivity. Firstly, there is a peak of marketing to generate short-term sales opportunities. This is followed by a peak of selling to progress these prospects towards being clients. If appropriate, this will be followed by a peak of activity supplying and installing the purchased product and training staff. As this peak disappears the next peak of activity is, once again, marketing.
Small business owners should strive for a different model, one which can sustained week in and week out. What this means in reality is that the lead generation model must be relatively low-cost so that it can be sustained even when there is a down turn in revenues.
As we’ve seen, there is little value in having low-cost marketing activities that consume lots of management time. Therefore, a further requisite is that your marketing campaigns require only modest amounts of manpower to drive them forward. This means your marketing campaigns can be sustained when everyone is at their busiest.
As you develop your marketing strategy, keep in mind the lead generation process must never stop despite all the other distractions and constraints that arise.
You will have to automate as much as possible. This will markedly reduce (or even remove) the demands on key personnel to marketing activities which distract them from other tasks within the business.
You must make your marketing “website-centric”. Your website becomes the hub of all your marketing activity and every marketing campaign aims to drive people to your website. Your website should be comprehensive enough to answer the most common questions that prospective buyers will be asking themselves. It should be structured to deliver good, valuable information that helps move interested prospects towards the point they will make a purchase, request a quotation or actively engage with you.
How you structure your website will depend on your range of products/services. It is now common to see lots of articles, electronic brochures, existing client “success stories” and a blog. Client success stories are the most powerful because they tell the story of your client’s experience buying, installing and running your product or using your service.
The website might also contain short videos showing your product in action at some of your clients’ locations.
With a comprehensive website as the hub of your marketing activity all that is left for your marketing campaign to achieve is getting your prospects to visit your website. This should be much easier than trying to organise a sales meeting with them or persuading them to buy directly from the email.
- Devise marketing plans that can be automated to minimise the demands on the time of key personnel.
- Add new content to your website every week so that returning visitors always find new and interesting material.
- Maintain your lead generation activities no matter how busy you are. There is always a way to handle more leads but a lack of sales opportunities can be disastrous.