I freely admit it. That’s a terrible title but it does explain quite nicely what we’re covering in this “big audacious” blog post. And rather than write a series of smaller articles and then publish them periodically for weeks. I reckoned it would be more useful to create one large reference article you could immediately access and benefit from. No waiting. So let’s get started.
At ~2,500 words this article will take you about 13 mins to read. Enjoy!
=== Here’s What We’re Covering
* Lead Generation
* Landing Pages
* Lead Magnets
* Email Automation
* Sales Funnels
* Social Media Traffic Generation
=== Why Do All This?
In business there are multiple dimensions you can affect to increase sales and revenue. One of the more obvious dimensions is NEW CUSTOMER COUNT. If you get more customers you make more money. Simple right?
The problem though is that all customers start off as leads. And it’s impractical to scale up lead generation without having some way of evaluating them because TIME doesn’t scale, and all leads are not created equal.
Let me give you an example:
=== Mary’s Story
Mary is a freelance graphic designer and loves helping small businesses develop their brand imagery. She works from home and her only form of marketing is b2b networking. Mary’s a member of 3 local groups and a couple of online groups. She also uses social media … and when I say “use,” I mean browse because she hasn’t really figured out how to use social media to sell yet. [Stay tuned, I cover that later in this article!]
When Mary lands a new customer project, it typically takes her 2-3 days to complete. She does accept smaller jobs from time to time, but as with most solopreneurs, Mary struggles to balance her weekly workload with other activities like networking and office admin tasks.
Mary is frustrated with the time networking takes her. She attends events – that’s a couple of hours invested. She does her best to not be pushy and tries to find people who might be interested in her services. Likely candidates are offered the obligatory “let’s connect for a coffee in the next couple of weeks” pitch. Most accept. The onus is on Mary to follow up – more time.
Over the next few days Mary spends even more time playing email and telephone tag trying to re-connect with the people she met. Scheduling a coffee meeting is time consuming. She sets up a few and some people she gives up on. She begrudgingly enters the appointments into her calendar because most of the meetings are in the morning and that’s her “prime productivity time.” But she understands it’s a coffee meeting, and coffee tends to be a morning thing for most people.
Over the next few weeks Mary is able to finally meet most of the people for coffee. As with all things there are a few ‘no shows’ and Mary is angry at the time wasted because there was no way to know how flakey this person truly was. The people she does meet, many are tire-kickers and “cheap as chips” and balk at Mary’s [very reasonable] rates. Mary is professional and graceful and suggest an online DIY service provider and moves on. If she’s lucky, after many hours invested, she will secure a new customer.
Now let’s do some basic math. Mary invests 2-3 hours at each networking event. She spends a couple of extra hours setting up the meetings. She attends the meetings – 1.5hrs per meeting. Let’s say she sets up 10 per month (which probably means she attended 2-3 networking events to get that many leads.)
Altogether Mary “invested” 6 hours networking + 2 hours scheduling + 15 hours in coffee meetings … that’s 23 hours (per month) to close one new customer!
I hope Mary factored in the ‘dark hours’ to her pricing … At $15/hr (about min. wage in North America) that’s an extra $345. If we use $60/hr for Mary’s time [not unreasonable for sure!] that’s $1,380 to acquire a new customer.
And that’s the key … CUSTOMER ACQUISITION COST (CAC)
How much does it cost you to acquire each new customer? Do you know?
Of course, you need to understand the lifetime value (LTV) of your customer to decide if your CAC is fair, but that’s unique to your business. Mary, for example, is able to get multiple projects from a customer once they’re onboard so she can defray her CAC accordingly.
If you sell a “one and you’re done” service solution … your LTV is often the same as your 1st project! So you’d better be darned certain your CAC is inline.
=== Mary’s Problem
Mary wants to grow her business but she can’t. Why? Because the time it takes her to acquire a new customer is eating up all her “free” time. She has no more time capacity. If Mary could convert the ~23hrs she spends (getting a new customer) into billable time, that would add thousands of extra dollars in revenue to her bottom line each month!
But how can Mary streamline her customer acquisition? How can she figure out which lead will become a winner and which is a loser? Currently she’s investing the same time and treating them all equally. She needs a new approach, she needs a system that will scale, she needs to use a sales and marketing automation sales funnel.
=== What’s a Sales Funnel?
Simply put, a sales funnel is a series of processes (manual and automated) that come together to mimic the organic sales process of a “real person” without the time overhead required. [And without the follow up failure so common to many.]
A sales funnel attracts leads into the start of the process (the funnel opening) and through a variety of interactions (using automation technology) moves the prospect from cold lead to warm lead and ideally to buyer. All without you getting involved … until it’s time.
Study after study has proven when you follow up flawlessly with every prospect and move them through a carefully scripted and psychologically structured series of messages (educational, information and sales oriented,) you weed out the time-wasters leaving only the best leads for business growth.
=== What Tech Do You Need?
Mary was sold. She began researching what technology was needed to implement her own marketing automation sales funnel.
Mary discovered she needed the following:
* A Landing Page – a place where prospects would go to get her free gift (her lead magnet) in exchange for their email address. Mary had a wordpress press blog so she figured she could simply add a page to her site!
* A Lead Magnet – Mary figured out a lead magnet (LM) was nothing more than something valuable she could offer her prospects. She figured out the LM needed to be digital so leads could opt-in and have it delivered via email.
* An Opt-in Form – some code that displays a form on a webpage that when filled (and submitted) would send the lead’s email into her email autoresponder system. Mary wondered about this part … maybe she’d need to hire a programmer? Turns out many autoresponders will generate the code for you and you simply have to cut-n-paste it into your landing page!
* An Email Autoresponder – a software program that captures email addresses and then delivers email messages in a scheduled fashion without any intervention required.
“That’s all?” Mary thought. Then she remembered a saying her business coach once told her,
“Mary, ‘The Tools Don’t Make The Master!’ and psychology beats technology every time.”
Mary realized she needed the messages, the emails to load into the email autoresponder.
=== What To Say and When To Say It
Mary had written sales emails before but this was different. She needed a sequence. How many was “a sequence” she thought?
In the past her sales emails were long and involved and results were typical. 99% of the people ignored her message, unsubscribed or worse yet, filed a spam complaint damaging her online reputation and email delivery.
Writing a series of emails was going to be a challenge she thought. Time for more research.
=== How Many Follow-ups Does It Take to Close a Sale?
After many hours she discovered the typical follow-up series contained between 5 and 10 email messages. Granted email wasn’t quite as impactful as face to face, but email had zero cost of delivery and unlike face to face, was entirely scalable.
Here’s what Mary learned:
* 2% close on the 1st follow-up
* 3% close on or after the 2nd follow-up
* 4% close on or after the 3rd follow-up (ironically this is where most follow-up processes stop)
* 10% close on or after the 4th follow-up
Mary figured that after 4 follow-ups she would only close around 19% of the leads meaning over 81% of sales close after the 5th follow-up.
=== Horror of Horrors!
Mary had a moment. She realized she’d been doing it all wrong. Writing (manually) to various leads over the years had actually been harming her business.
Mary realized if she wrote to the lead 4 times or less (which was quite common,) she was in fact handing the customer to her competition!
It’s a bit like playing the slot machines in a casino. You know the scenario, you walk up to a machine and throw in your coin. Pull the lever and whammo! You win the jackpot. Why? Because for the last few hours some poor soul had been sitting their “feeding the machine” … The you came along and “hit the jackpot.”
That’s what happens when you email a lead 4 times or less. You’re feeding the machine ready for the next person to come along and close them on the next pitch.
Mary finally understood the power and need for a sequence of 5 or more messages!
=== Putting It Altogether
A few weeks had passed since Mary figured out she needed to scale her lead processing ability with marketing automation and a sales funnel sequence.
Since then she’d diligently pulled all the tech together. Putting the opt-in form onto her blog wasn’t too tricky but she felt better asking her webmaster to help out.
Mary had given a great deal of thought to her lead magnet – what to give away for an email address? She’d looked at her blog to see what content was most popular and it turned out the post outlining ‘How to choose a graphic designer’ was tops. Mary took the post, added extra resources (giving more value) and produced a PDF report she would give away in exchange for an email.
Mary registered for and setup an autoresponder and created a delivery schedule. With the bulk of her time spent figuring out and writing her email sales funnel sequence.
But now it was done. All tech in place. Lead magnet produced and all the emails loaded into the autoresponder. Mary had even chosen a memorable page name so it would be easy for her to give out the URL if someone asked.
But now she wondered about promotion.
=== Getting Traffic and Promoting Your Lead Magnet
Mary remembered she had a networking event soon and was excited because her strategy for these events had changed. No longer was she going to spend time trying to find people she could meet for a coffee, no, now she was going to find people who would like her free special report: How to choose a graphic designer!
Her entire approach to networking had shifted from get to give. Not that Mary was doing anything wrong before, but as so many like Mary experience, networking is not a natural act and “asking” or “pitching” is awkward. Offering a free gift is easy as Mary found out.
But Mary wanted to leverage her time more and decided online was the place to do this. Mary was part of a few social media channels and participated in a variety of online groups and forums too. The problem was most of these forums were for other graphic designers! Not the target market that Mary wanted.
Fortunately the solution was easy, Mary went looking for groups that did represent her ideal customer (local small business owners) and began to carefully engage with the community. At first she answered questions and over time found opportunities to offer her free special report. This approach yielded good results but Mary wanted more.
=== Automating Your Social Media Promotion
Mary was getting good feedback from people about her free special report so she decided to ‘up her game’ and promote it more. This time she decided to leverage social media marketing automation.
She’d dabbled with BufferApp and Hoosuite but she’d heard great things about MeetEdgar because it recycled content. This would mean she could invest time writing a mixture of social media posts, create a schedule and then let it run. It would randomly post the social media updates and then start over again in a different order. This was perfect she thought, one and done.
Mary figured she would create 100 different variants and updates all targeting the content offered in her free special report. She would then include a call to action and link to the download page.
Mary wrote her updates in a simple text editor and used the bulk upload feature in MeetEdgar to save time. Once her posts were loaded into their respective categories and tied to a timeslot for posting, she started the queue. MeetEdgar did the rest.
=== The End
That wraps up my big audacious blog post and the story of Mary. Granted she’s fictional but Mary is like so many of us. She’s trying to do work she’s proud of and trying to grow her business. But like many of us she’s running into time constraints and other limiting conditions.
The good news is everything in this article is true, and it’s easy enough to implement – even if you’re not technically inclined. Hey, even Mary had her webmaster help out a little.
Mary’s system was simple. She needed to take back her time and stop trading it for “coffee meetings” … until it was the right time. Until a lead made it far enough along the sales funnel to be worth the most valuable asset we all have: TIME.
Mary’s system of marketing switched from GET to GIVE when she began offering a free special report answering the most pressing question her ideal customer would ask. She then used technology to follow up flawlessly and educate, inform and ultimate sell them on her services.
Mary took back her time and began to enjoy networking again because now she wasn’t pitching or pestering anymore. Add in the automated social media marketing and Mary’s local presence and lead list grew even more.
Business was good.
=== Now What?
I encourage you to put your own systems in place. Your business will grow because of it. Start small. Do your research or if you prefer, get some help. Here’s my current special offer.
If you have comments about this article, leave them below and remember sharing is caring so please share this article with your friends and colleagues if you believe it will help them.