Many small businesses struggle to maintain consistency in the critical area of lead generation. Lead generation works best for small businesses when it results in a steady stream of sales opportunities that can be developed into profitable sales.
There is little long-term value in engaging in price discounting just to win an order. In some instances, especially in recessionary times, small businesses end up winning sales at any cost. This is not sustainable. Larger corporates with deeper financial pockets could survive in the short-term but even they would struggle eventually.
It begs the question “Why do they do it?”
It happens because the people who own and run small businesses get themselves into situations where they become desperate to generate some cashflow. Sales at little or no margin will generate short-term cashflow (assuming their clients pay for purchases) but it leaves them vulnerable to a more serious financial crisis arising in the future.
Once small business owners find themselves in the position of needing immediate results from their lead generation activities, these activities usually take on a more aggressive tone. They need sales, they need sales leads and they need them now. As a direct consequence, there is a greater chance for prospects to be hassled, harried and manipulated into buying something.
This will not be a pleasant experience for these buyers. They are unlikely to demonstrate any long-term loyalty to their supplier and the likelihood of any substantial follow-on sales would appear limited.
For most small businesses, selling to existing clients is far more cost effective and profitable than selling to new clients. This means any lack of long-term client loyalty puts at risk this source of higher-margin sales.
If you can organise your lead generation activities to consistently generate a steady stream of sales opportunities, much of the aggression and manipulation will simply disappear. If you generate a steady stream of relevant sales leads, it is likely you will convert a good proportion into profitable clients without using manipulative sales techniques.
Furthermore, these clients will be more loyal to your products/services and more likely to make follow-on purchases. The life-time value of these clients will be far greater than clients who were hassled, harried and manipulated into buying from you.
How can you generate a steady stream of interested prospects? The solution is quite straightforward. You need to be communicating with your market(s) consistently and regularly. You need to demonstrate the actual value your products/services are delivering to your existing clients. This communication needs to occur week-in, week-out, without fail – even if you never hear anything back from your target market. Keep communicating valuable information and, eventually, your prospects will begin to engage.
I like to term this whole process “Attraction Marketing”. You are communicating everything about your knowledge, expertise, track-record and business philosophy. You are making it easy for prospects to approach you. You do this every time you post something on your website or on a social media site. For those interested enough to request your eZine, this will also provide details about how your existing clients are gaining by using your products/services.
Your objective is to be included on every prospect’s shortlist of possible suppliers when they start engaging directly with suppliers. Today’s reality is that your prospects want to be in control of the sales cycle. They want to talk to suppliers when it suits them, not when it suits the supplier.
As a result, your prospects will spend considerable time performing “desk research”, using the Internet to sift out unsuitable suppliers. They will arrive at an initial shortlist and you must be on that shortlist. If you fail to get on the shortlist, it is quite likely you may not even get to know that a sales opportunity even existed.
The challenge for small businesses is that this shortlist is constructed without any personal contact with any of the suppliers. This puts huge pressure on your online presence. Your website, social media posts and articles must convey enough about your business to persuade potential purchasers to include you on their initial shortlist.
What you should be saying online is “this is what we do, this is who we’ve done it for before and this is what they think of us”. You want to convey that you know what you are doing and take the trouble to look after all your clients.
Testimonials and success stories featuring your clients are key sales aids. Prospects are far more inclined to believe claims about your products/services if they come from one of your existing clients than if they come from you.
Focus on building your weekly communications with prospects and potential prospects. Give them valuable and useful information and start to attract them to your products/services.
- Embrace the concept of Attraction Marketing and proactively give your prospects plenty of valuable information about your products/services.
- Produce articles, regularly post material on a blog and invite prospects to subscribe to your regular eZine.