5 Tips to Improve Your Small Business Lead Generation Pipeline
During the current pandemic, one of the themes we’ve been discussing on our Marketing Nice Guys webinars has been the drying up of the lead generation pipeline. With live events sidelined for at least the next several months and new demand for business products and services slowing due to either caution or simply the economic slowdown, marketing has been forced to shift, some turning the emphasis to existing customers and/or focusing more heavily on the best prospects. (For more on that watch our November webinar on “5 Marketing Skills You Should Hire For Today.”)
Yet, it would be a mistake in our view to give up on new demand generation. Despite the current trends, we’d argue that it’s actually a great time to invest the resources in improving your pipeline, especially for the time when business does open back up again. Here are 5 areas of improvement that we can see small-to-medium sized businesses (and some large companies) needing to pay attention to right now:
- More content development to acquire and convert customers.
When many businesses think of content, they often immediately turn to areas such as blogs or maybe videos that help brand the company in front of prospective customers. And, of course, we’d argue those pieces are certainly important. But that’s not the only kind of content that can prove useful. Any content development strategy should include all parts of the marketing funnel, including in the acquisition and conversion phases. Here are a few ideas in this area:
- Downloadable toolkits and whitepapers (primarily B2B but also B2C in some cases). Many businesses don’t take advantage of the resources and data they have may have at their disposal. And by not using that data, they are, in many ways, discounting their own expertise and insights, which have value in the marketplace. This is where creating content toolkits or easily downloadable whitepapers on core topic areas can pay off. Developing those assets/insights and putting them behind a well-designed form can let you know customer topic interest. And if properly connected to your marketing automation system/CRM, you can follow up with automated messages to those individuals, or trigger a follow-up sales call with that information readily available. After all, the download itself demonstrates interest in a relevant topic for which you provide a product or service.
- Testimonials and case studies (B2B or B2C). Testimonials and case studies show up at the crucial moment when prospective customers are considering whether to make a purchase. They provide that “social proof” that your solution worked, which can make the difference between someone on the fence and those moving forward with your product or service. We recommend producing several types of testimonials if you have the resources, including video and text. One thing you can also do for text-based testimonials: Ask for permission to use a customer photo, as it can help humanize the testimonial and let them know it’s a real person.
- Video product or service demos. Having pre-produced content that shows prospective customers how something actually works can be powerful in terms of them understanding the underlying value. For physical products, high-quality product videos can be especially effective here, although in some cases (for, say, services), you can use animated whiteboard videos. [Note: Marketing Nice Guys can certainly help you produce what you need in this area as well, if you don’t have resources in-house.]
- Asking for reviews. If you’re a local business, you should definitely get on Google My Business and begin asking current customers to review your products and services there. Other good options include sending current customers to the Yellow Pages or other directories, and of course, Yelp, which often is the biggest driver of potential leads depending on the business type. Getting additional volume is more important than, say, a five-star rating, in that many services such as Google will rank those in order with the most ratings and reviews. In addition to Google My Business reviews, it also doesn’t hurt to bolster your own site (from a SEO perspective) with your own product and services reviews on the website. With this, we suggest using Schema.org, structured data that can be read and pulled into search listings by Google.
- Improving automated or triggered emails.
Emails sent in response to subscriber actions (downloading content, subscribing to a newsletter, visiting a page, purchasing, etc.) or attending an offline/online event (webinar or conference), have been shown to be the most effective in terms of open rates, click-thru rates, and conversion. Yet, so few companies employ them well. That’s because it takes time to set up the “trigger” and segment audiences within your CRM or marketing automation platform. But investing in that today can pay off in the future. Consider the following stats for triggered messages:
- Opened at a 25% rate versus 14% for non-triggered
- Have a CTR of 13.5% versus 1.2% for non-triggered
- Have a conversion rate of 4.2% versus 3.9 percent for non-triggered
Here are a few ways you can set up triggered emails and texts within your marketing automation system:
- Welcome series: Welcoming people who are new to your list.
- Anniversary emails: Recording when you started a relationship with someone can be super helpful keeping your brand in front of them and having them re-up for your services. You can also send discounts or offers based on that.
- Alerts and reminders: For those companies that collect mobile numbers or have apps, this is a great way to keep customers engaged, by setting up offers and triggers based on account types or other subscriber information.
- Re-engagement series: Occasionally, you’ll have those on your list who haven’t engaged with your emails say, for the last year. In those cases, you’ll want to suppress any non-performing email accounts. But before you do, setting up a triggered email to re-engage those individuals (who haven’t opened after a particular period) can be helpful. The ones who open or respond can remain on your list, while those who don’t can be left off of regular emails, helping your emails to avoid becoming spam.
- Adding a Utility Bot (B2B or B2C)
As opposed to an information bot (when a bot suggests you subscribe to, say, a newsletter based on what you read), a utility bot is one that can push prospective customers further down the funnel toward becoming a lead. [see example below]. According to recent research, 47% of shoppers are open to buying items directly from a bot on a website. Further, 71% of people have indicated a willingness to use messaging app bots to get customer assistance. Many do it because they want their problem solved fast.
Whether you use bots on your website to generate leads, or help current or prospective customers answer questions really depends on your focus. But many companies don’t realize how inexpensive some of the solutions can be, particularly as Microsoft has opened its Azure platform and AI capabilities to developers. [At Marketing Nice Guys, we can help you implement solutions through our partnerships with various development companies.]
4. Testing account-based marketing (ABM) approaches (B2B)
Account-based marketing (ABM) has become quite the rage recently as technologies, particularly on the sales engagement side, have advanced rapidly in recent year. ABM focuses efforts and resources on targeted (usually high-value potential and existing) accounts within a market. It uses personalized messages to different individuals at those organizations to create both awareness and demand generation for a company’s products and services. That groundswell of interest can help push all the core stakeholders to move toward your common solution.
To accomplish this, smaller and midsize companies can do a lot through marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot or Marketo. If you have a midsize company, a lot of organizations struggle with alignment between sales and marketing. ABM helps alleviate that by creating a more unified approach to specific accounts. The key is to make sure to identify those target accounts well upfront and make sure to get with sales ahead of time in terms of tactics. One good approach here is to think about an ideal client that has been closed in the past and replicate those characteristics of need and challenges to identify a potential good fit. You can also pick target accounts based on industry or geography. From there, identify key members of, say, a buying committee and get the right content and offers in front of them and begin the process. You can also focus efforts on LinkedIn, which offers also advertising options for targeting individuals within certain organizations.
5. Making your phone number more visible.
This last suggestion may seem a bit obvious but you’d be surprised at the number of small-to-midsize companies that hide their contact information from prospective customers. When you think about it, the phone is the easiest method to reach someone to either answer a question, or sometimes even purchase a product or service.
Many websites don’t display phone numbers in the header or even the footer of the site, or don’t put the number on content downloads or other pieces that can help make it easier for customers to contact them. Finally, when you advertise, how about providing a number for people to contact you, especially those using a mobile device? For example, we often see companies focused on lead generation in search not employing the call extension for mobile. Or not, putting the phone number in text or display ad they produce, which can be even more effective in terms of driving a great lead.
The list above is hardly comprehensive in that there are so many aspects to driving a relevant lead. That said, we do hope the above has been helpful to steer your small-to-medium sized business into thinking about ways to improve your current lead generation processes. We wish you the best of luck in all your marketing endeavors!
If you’re interested in improving lead generation, our goal at Marketing Nice Guys is to help you excel. Learn more about our full-service Marketing Consulting or Marketing Help Desk support options. Contact us anytime.