Want More Customers? Know the Ones You Have

Your initial reaction is, I know my customers. What the heck are you talking about? Before you get too defensive consider how many referrals you get from your existing accounts. Especially the ones you consider to be your top 10%. OK, got the number in your head? Is it as many as you would like to get? No, then keep reading; I have something that will help you.

We all need additional customers to grow our businesses, and we all agree referrals from happy existing customers is an inexpensive way to do that. Yet, only about 25 – 30% of small businesses say they have a formal process to make it happen. Why is that? It’s usually because they don’t really know what their competitive advantage is, or how to communicate it to their prospects. The best way to do find out is to ask your existing customers 6 key questions. One caution: if you want really honest answers, have a third party do this. Even really good customers will tend to tell you what they think you want to hear.

      1. What made you decide to buy from us in the first place? This will give you a great baseline and help you understand how effective your advertising, messaging, and lead conversion processes are working. You will also find out about how your company culture is perceived.
      2. What’s one thing we do better than other companies you do business with? This is the question that will be hardest to get specifics. But, you will need specifics to uncover what separates you from the competition – your differentiator. Look for words and phrases that come up over and over again. Even if they might appear to be minor to you. What your customers value most about you should become part of your core marketing message.
      3. What’s one thing we could do to create an even better experience for you? What you are looking for here is when your customers can point out an innovation you haven’t considered. This may require a little prodding and pushing, but what you get could be golden.
      4. Do you refer us to others, and if you do, why? This is the ultimate test of satisfaction. A positive truthful answer means that your customer likes the product/service you offer. If they don’t refer you, then you need to know why not. That could lead you to more areas needing improvement. And when you really get things right, you get Real testimonials like this. Nicole’s personal review for The ultimate kudos!

      1. What search terms would you ‘Google’ to find a business like ours? If you want to become successful at being found online, you need to know all you can about what terms and phrases your customers enter in the search bar when looking for companies like yours. Those are very likely to be what your prospects are also entering. Do not optimize your web site around what you ‘think’ they are looking for, but what they are actually looking for.
      2. What other companies do you do business with and love to refer? When you start making a list of these companies you will soon have a good list to target as strategic partners. These are companies that don’t compete with you but sell to the same type of companies you do. They can become great partners in exchanging information and leads.

Once you have answers to these questions you are ready to develop a core marketing message that highlights what differentiates you from your competitors. And, it came from your very best source – you existing top customers. What could be better than that?


making mistakes

7 Small Business Web Site Blunders

Very early in my career I learned that key phrase all good managers teach – “Never assume”. You know the drill. They write the phrase on a whiteboard or flip chart and divide the word “assume” into three words. The point is to never make assumptions about what your prospect knows, or what you think you know about your prospect. Actually, it’s very good advice. It’s amazing how often we all (including me) violate this when it comes to our web sites.

Here are the assumptions – costly blunders – that I see most frequently.

  1. Assume prospects know how to find your site. Don’t assume they remember your web address and will type it in correctly if they do remember it. Especially if your company name has an unusual spelling or uses hyphens. Make sure that you own all the various spellings and variations for your domain name and redirect those to your site. Of course, you also want to be sure that you optimize your site for all of your keywords.
  2. Assume prospects will give you lots of personal information. Don’t post a registration form asking for the name of their favorite pet or the color of the car they drive. All you want to do is begin to educate them on your products and services. You only need their name and email to do that. Most people will go elsewhere if you ask for a lot of unnecessary info.
  3. Assume they know where to click. Make it easy for them to take a next step. Don’t get too cute. Make your call-to-action button big and obvious. For good SEO make your link descriptive of what you want them to know, or where you want them to go. Don’t make them work too hard or you will lose them.
  4. Assume your visitors know what you sell. I see this way too often. Make it really clear on every page what your business is about. If your business name doesn’t make it clear then add something in your header making it clear. People won’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. They’ll just go back to the search results page.
  5. Assume they know how to get to your home page. Some, not all, will know to click on your logo. Either give them a home button on the top navigation bar or on your side bar navigation.
  6. Assume they know where they are on your site. Not everyone will start on your home page, especially depending on what they entered into the search bar. Give them a clear and meaningful tab on the navigation bar or use breadcrumb navigation. Breadcrumb navigation is where you see a single line right below the header showing a sequence of pages that led from the home page to the page you are on.
  7. Assume that they will return to you site. Even those that really like your site won’t always remember how to get back to it. They need a good reason to give you their email address. Don’t just ask for them to sign up for your newsletter, give them something of value for free as an incentive. How many times do people fill out the form on your contact us page? That’s what I thought – hardly ever. They need a compelling reason to allow you to stay in touch with them. Make sure you give it to them or you most likely won’t see them on your site again.

Don’t let these assumptions make it harder for your site visitors to learn about your company. Make it as easy as possible for them to begin the process of becoming a valued customer. As John Jantsch says, they need to know, like, and trust you before they are ready to buy.

Oh, and one more thing – go to the top of this page and subscribe to my blog. Please. If you really want to make my day, leave a comment below. Thanks.


Why Do You Network? Leads, Referrals, Strategic Partners?

A recent discussion thread on one of my LinkedIn groups posed a question that ended up being more interesting than I thought it would be. “What’s the single most important thing to remember about networking?” Now some of you ‘techies’ might be thinking about a different kind of networking, but this was directed toward personal networking. Normally I’ll pass over looking at a question like this, but there were already 13 comments in less than a week. Thinking I might find something interesting I took a look.

There were the usual comments about relationship building and so forth. One comment said to make sure you smile because it communicates your karma…your energy level. Well, I think it’s always a good idea to smile; but, I’m not really sure if it communicates my karma. Most of the time I’m really not sure what my karma is.

There were a couple comments that were more interesting. Like the one that suggested to be more strategic in planning before going to a networking opportunity. Learn all you can about who will be attending (not always possible), research the sponsoring firms, meet the event host, and be prepared with resources to share. Those were some pretty good suggestions.

Anyway, this got me thinking about networking; and, wondering what you readers might have to say about it. A good friend of mine who is a prolific networker says something very simple after getting to know someone. He simply says, “How can I help you?” That simple phrase has led him on some incredible networking journeys. One was getting an introduction to someone who is “just a bank teller” that eventually led to meeting a couple of very high-level corporate executives.

My question to you dear readers is simply this – What is most helpful to you in your networking? Comment below and share the wealth of knowledge that you all have.


6 Happy Hops to LeadGen Success

I know, the title won’t be as clever after this Easter weekend; but let me have a little fun will ya? Oh, and happy Resurrection Sunday to all those who celebrate that event this weekend.

OK, back to the business at hand. Lead Generation. How hard do you work to get leads? Pretty darn hard I would guess. I don’t actually know any company where leads overflow all on their own. Let’s assume you all work very hard to get leads, and you want to make sure you convert as many as possible into sales. No brainer, right? So, what’s your process for doing that – converting leads to sales? Don’t have one, or at least one that’s real effective? Answer these 6 questions and get that process in place.

  • Do you send the requested information immediately? Immediately, like right away? Do have electronic versions you can send via email or let them download from your web site? Do you keep sufficient supplies of printed material on hand, or have the ability to print on demand? Can you get the request to the right person as soon as it comes in?
  • Do you have a database in place to capture those inquiries? Do you have people or outside services to enter the data quickly?
  • Do you have a process to evaluate leads before sending to sales? Statistically over 75% of all leads are not “sales ready”, and sales people will usually let them fall through the cracks eventually. Do you have a process in place to prevent that? Do have agreement with sales management as to what qualifies as a sales ready lead?
  • What is your process to distribute sales ready leads? Sales ready should equal “hot”. How do you get them into the proper sales hands quickly? Can they gain access over the internet? Does your lead system integrate with your contact management or email systems?
  • Do you have a lead nurturing process? That should take care of the 75% of inquiries that are not sales ready. Does your marketing program include a process using email, fax, mail, and phone to keep in touch with those prospects and feed them educational material until they’re ready to talk to sales?
  • Do you have the proper measurement and tracking systems in place? Do you know which lead generation campaigns deliver the highest sales results? Can you determine your cost per lead, cost per qualified lead, and cost per sale? Can you track which nurturing tactics worked best? Most importantly, can you show the big boss how all of this gives him increased market share and sales?

Develop the programs and systems to provide the answers to these questions and you’ll be well on your way to growing your business. Have I left anything out? What has your experience been with lead generation and follow up?


80% of Buyers Experience Problems in Purchase Process

Before you read any further, read the heading again. Our tendency is to say, “Oh that’s not me, I’m a professionally trained salesperson.” Really? Successful salespeople generally have a very high confidence level. It’s one of the reasons for their success; but, beware when you become over-confident. If you’ve been selling for any length of time, you have fallen into the 80% at one point or another.

The 80% number comes from a survey done by RainToday of over 200 buyers of professional services. You may not sell professional services, but the results are applicable to all salespeople. And, worth reviewing. Taking a look at the selling process from the buyer’s perspective can always be beneficial – even if we may not like what it says about us.

Most Common and Highest Impact Problems

This is the most interesting and helpful chart from their survey. The ranking is by most frequently encountered problems, but the highest impact on gaining new business is also very relevant. When you look at the combination you can get some sense of where to invest your time in correcting problem areas. Resist the urge to think that you don’t need to improve somewhere. If you really aren’t sure which problems pertain to you, have someone go on a call or presentation with you and give you honest feedback. Here’s the chart, followed by six tips to get you back on the path to closing deals.

6 Steps on the Path to Closing More Deals

  1. Listen. This one might seem very obvious (a no duh issue), but with the high percentage it is much too frequently a problem. It is clearly a problem that buyers still see too often, and it is costing you deals. Take a good, hard look at your listening skills.
  2. Ask Questions to Understand Needs. It’s not surprising that both listening and understanding needs head the list. You can’t do one without the other. Do your homework before your appointment in order to craft targeted and relevant questions, then listen to their answers – listen very carefully. It will help you immensely with the next step.
  3. Craft Compelling Solutions. It is virtually impossible to get this one right without the first 2 steps. With 63% of buyers stating they would be much more likely to consider a purchase given an improvement in this area, you would be crazy not to work on improving this. But, don’t forget #1 and #2 first.
  4. Keep Your Commitments. Don’t be late with anything. The buyer looks at the sales process as a test run of what they can expect when they become your client. Being late for anything is not the standard you want to communicate to a potential buyer.
  5. Be Careful With Past Examples of Your Work. This rates low as a problem, but ranked as the highest impact. There is no doubt that past examples can be helpful and demonstrate your experience and expertise. Make sure that they are relevant to the existing situation you are dealing with. Don’t just throw out a big name to impress the buyer. It’s best if your example is in the same industry.
  6. Watch Your Level of Enthusiasm. This seems to be a “goldilocks” conundrum. Too much and you’re in trouble, not enough and you might not get the deal. The impact levels are high for both, so you need to pay close attention to how your prospect is reacting to you. There is no magic formula for this one. Pay careful attention to the attitudes and the body language of the buyer and adjust your level of enthusiasm accordingly.

Improvement in any one of these areas could make a big difference. Identify your most glaring and start working on that one today.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think? What has your experience been in these areas? Do have some good examples that we could learn from? Leave your comments below.


Do You Use Social Sharing Buttons?

Perhaps my first question should be, do you know what those social buttons are and why should you use them? OK, so that was really two questions. Most bloggers are told to put them somewhere on their pages when they first start blogging. That way, we are told, your readers can share your wisdom easily with others. At this point I have lost count as to how many buttons one would have if they showed them all. The other problem is that only people with way too much time know what they all represent. So, I found it interesting when Pingdom recently surveyed the Technorati Top 100 blogs to discover which of those little buggers really get used.

Social Share Button Usage on Top 100 Blogs

What’s most interesting is after the top 4 options there is a dramatic drop off. That seems to beg the question – do we really need the dozens and dozens of options that are currently available? By “we” I’m really speaking to the blogger community and their readers. It would seem that the “general share option” is sufficient to cover the many dozens of lesser known communities. Indeed, 58 of the top 100 include the general share option; with 19 having that as their only option.

Another interesting finding was that 6 of the top 100 don’t have any sharing option. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says? Do they have so many readers that they don’t feel the sharing option is necessary?

What’s Up With Google Buzz?google-buzz

You may have noticed that Google Buzz only shows up on 6 of the top 100. That might seem surprising since Google has made a large push in promoting Buzz; and, in trying to address the early complaints. However, Google has not yet released an official button to use for Buzz. Others have jumped in and designed their own buttons, button Google hasn’t. Of course Twitter has never released an official button either, and that doesn’t seem to hinder them.

Google Buzz Buttons

What has been your experience with using these buttons? Do you use them, and if you do, which ones? I be particularly interested in hearing from those that use some of the lesser known buttons/communities. What do you get from those that you don’t get from the highly used ones like Twitter and Facebook?

Google Buzz was shut down by Google and is now no longer operational.  If you had a GBuzz account, you’re still able to access your content via a folder on Google Drive.

For more information about getting your content you can go here.

marketing university

Inbound Marketing University – Learn to Grow Your Business

marketing universityHave you been meaning to learn more about growing your business using internet tools? Not really sure where to begin? Does it sometimes (always?) seem overwhelming? Well, fear no more. Inbound Marketing University is the place for you. Learn what you want, where you want, when your want.

I came across Inbound Marketing University (IMU) about a year ago. Having dabbled with internet marketing tactics for a number of years I was looking for something more structured and comprehensive to learn more. Along came IMU and I knew I had found what I was searching for.

Inbound Marketing University

One of the best things I can say about this program, beside the fact it is f-r-e-e, is that both novices and more advanced people can learn a great deal. The sessions start out with some of the basics and get progressively more advanced as you work through them. They are taught by some of the smartest people you will find in each of the subject categories. At the end of the entire series of sessions you can take a test and become an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional – check out the badge in the sidebar to the right.

What are some of the topics you will learn about? I thought you would never ask. Below is the current list of sessions, but there will be possible additions as needed. (IMU started with 10 sessions and have since expanded to this list)

Inbound Marketing Classes

  1. How to Blog Effectively for Business
  2. SEO Crash Course to Get Found
  3. Social Media & Building Community
  4. Successful Business Uses for Facebook & LinkedIn
  5. Viral Marketing and World Wide Raves
  6. Advanced SEO Tactics: Beyond Keyword Research
  7. Calls to Action & Landing Page Best Practices
  8. Inbound Lead Nurturing
  9. Successful Email Marketing
  10. PR for Inbound Marketing
  11. Twitter for Business
  12. Advanced Marketing Analytics
  13. Passion-inspired Video & Other Creative Content
  14. Social Media for Big Business
  15. Internet Marketing Comprehensive Review
  16. Midway Inbound Marketing Review

You don’t have to take the classes in order. Feel free to use them to fill in any gaps you may have in your personal  knowledge, or take them all and become certified. The choice is yours

The classes are ready and waiting for you at Integrated LeadGen Results (my business site – just a little self-promotion; but, hey, the classes are free). Please be sure and pass this on to your friends, co-workers, Tweeple (Twitter friends, learn more in Session 11), clients, prospects… really anyone can benefit from learning about these topics. You probably don’t want to pass this on to your competitors, but hopefully you already knew that.

Have fun learning all you can and let me know how you like the classes.

readers questions

Question for My Subscribers and Visitors

Most of you have noticed, and some have commented, that I haven’t been posting as frequently on this blog. I feel strongly that I owe all of you an explanation. I would also like you to have a say in how, or if, this blog continues. So please do read this post and comment.

As I have stated in the past, I made a decision to launch my own business helping small businesses with their marketing efforts. Since most small, and some medium, size businesses don’t have their own marketing people in house there is a large demand for what amounts to virtual marketing departments for those companies. I also chose to align myself with Duct Tape Marketing and I became an authorized coach. Both decisions have turned out to be very good decisions.

As a result I have not had the time to devote to this blog that I once had. Here are my options as I see them, but please feel free to suggest your own if you think I’ve missed something.

  1. I can continue posting to this blog on a very sporadic basis whenever I have time. Which obviously isn’t often.
  2. I can move this blog over to my new company website, Integrated LeadGen Results, and you can move your subscription as well. This option would be important if you would like to refer back to old posts from time-to-time.
  3. I can simply abandon this blog and allow it to simply float among the other internet garbage that no one maintains, and you can move your subscription to my new site.
  4. I could sell this blog for the SEO juice that it has built up over time. Actually this is a joke, I just wanted to see if anyone reads this far.
  5. You really couldn’t care less and only read this blog when you’re bored stiff. So why are still reading? Never mind, don’t answer that and you don’t need to comment unless I’ve struck a nerve.

So there you have it. Those are my options as I see them. But, since you have been faithful readers I would sincerely like to know what you think. I know it is an effort to leave comments and most people don’t like to do that, however I am truly interested in what you think.