Generating leads is an all-important task for businesses and especially so for solo traders, start-ups and smaller businesses. Too many businesses end up taking a haphazard approach to lead generation, so here are five simple strategies you can use to find quality leads for your business this year. 1. Start with a strategy So many people in business take a scattergun approach to lead generation, going for mass marketing to spread their message, without really knowing if the message is getting through to their target market. Start at the very beginning, and decide who you want to target, advises Peter Griffith, the Asia-Pacific director of training and consultancy firm for businesses, rogenSi. “Determine the look and feel of your ideal customer. Who are they, where do they live, work and play? Also, consider their habits and lifestyle, and think about what they buy and from which companies, how they shop, how they access information and how they make decisions. Also, think about their business and personal needs, and how you help fix these,” he says. The best lead generation technique depends on the company, their industry, the products/services they sell, who they want to sell them to, how they differentiate from competitors and the brand they want to promote, he says. Ask anyone even moderately tech savvy and they’ll tell you there are only two options – search engine optimisation and Google AdWords, he says. 2. Make your website work harder Your company website should be working hard to generate leads for your business, so make sure it’s up to date and has all the bells and whistles. This should be the central hub for all your marketing and lead generation, says Marnie Ashe, head of consulting for Reload Consulting. “Not only will this allow for greater tracking of where your leads come from, what makes them inquire and ultimately what makes them become a customer, but also provides a central point for inquiry, allowing your potential customers’ details to be fed into a marketing database for future use,” Ashe says. Increasing enquiries on your website can be easily achieved by making sure it’s easy to find your contact details, with a phone number on every page a good idea, and your contact page easily accessible from your navigation, she says. “Also, have an enquiry form on every page. The easier it is to enquire, the more chance you have of a prospect inquiring. But keep the enquiry form short and sweet, you can collect more information when you follow up.” Also, consider adding a live chat service to your website, which is like having a friendly sales consultant greet people and offer them live assistance about your service, and can cost around $10 a day. Check out Web Reception or Live Chat Monitoring, which both offer this service. 3. Get social One of the best things you can do for your personal brand and business is to take social media seriously. When done well, building and communicating with your network of followers will build loyalty and trust in your business, and ultimately build sales. A compelling and active LinkedIn profile can also work well to generate new leads, according to Joe Fox, marketing director of web development and digital marketing agency, Studio Culture. “There are so many opportunities that people are missing by simply not updating their LinkedIn profiles and networking with other business owners or potential customers on the platform,” he says. Catriona Pollard, director of Sydney’s CP Communications agrees, saying LinkedIn is without a doubt the best place for b2b lead generation. “A basic account on LinkedIn will allow you to build relationships and maintain contacts, as well as give you a lot of transparency into your extended professional network. You can generally contact your first degree and second degree connections using LinkedIn InMail, even if you don’t have their email address,” Pollard says. By upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, you can contact people outside of your network and gain further insights into who is viewing your profile, she says. “You can also directly target new leads using LinkedIn’s advanced search, which allows you to drill down and filter people by role type, company or industry, leading to high quality leads.” Facebook is another great tool. Melbourne business coach Maureen Pound suggests offering a free report on your Facebook business page to get people into your sales funnel. “Make sure that whatever you are offering is really useful and alleviates some sort of pain for your target market, such as ‘5 biggest mistakes people make when starting out in business’, or ‘how to get your baby sleeping through the night’, for example. There’s lots of software out there to help you do this, such as lead pages,” Pollard says. 4. Do the little things Understanding why and how you help people, and focusing on what problems you’re solving for them and how you solve them is paramount, says Frances Pratt, who explains sales to non-sales people. “Use this information to get your message out there. This should be the central thing you talk about in your advertising and promotions. Use this information to tell them about what you do and to ask questions when you’re meeting people,” Pratt, of Metisan says. Also, always ask for repeat business, she says. Once you’ve got something great for someone, ask if there’s something else you can help with. “It’s amazing once you have achieved something, how people will open up with more problems that they need help with.” Also, make sure you’re talking to the right people, who have the budget and power to spend with you. “So many business owners spent time on people who aren’t the decision maker, or aren’t willing to pay, which is a huge waste of time and energy,” she says. Businesses should shake their approach up a bit. Replicate what works 80% of the time using lead generation sources that have previously proven to lead sales. But 20% of the time, be inventive and try new lead sources, recommends Susanne Mather, executive director of Employment Office. “One example in the recruitment sales business is that 80% of the time, we source leads from recruitment advertising, calling businesses that are advertising for staff themselves. “But 20% of the time, we do things like take photos of the tent lists in the foyer of CBD high rise buildings and cold call them all. Or take photos of the logos on the sides of buildings and trucks when we’re out and about, and cold call these,” Mather says. 5. Get serious about content management It’s crucial to have a robust content management system as a place to conveniently store, manage and access both new leads and leads you’re revisiting, says Mather. Every team member at Employment Office starts the day with exactly 20 new leads entered in the CMS, which are sourced from a variety of channels, no excuses, she says. “It’s important for lead generation to be a carefully thought out part of the sales process, and it needs to be executed with consistency. “Investing in a program that really works for your business is something you will thank yourself for again and again, and has the capacity to repay the initial expense many times over.” Once you’ve got a great way to manage your leads, adopt the ‘find, wash, enter’ process, This refers to finding leads strategically and consistently, washing leads to make sure they’re not being approached by colleagues and entering those leads into a content management system so they are easily accessible and manageable, she says.
The big players of online retail appear to have it made. Look at international apparel sites such as netaporter.com or asos.com – they boast a swish product offer, sophisticated websites with impressive images, and hefty turnovers. Think of Australian sites, such as wine e-tailer vinomofo.com, or furniture site milandirect.com.au. They’ve got a distinct product offer, professional customer service, smooth delivery operations and engaged consumer communities. From the outside, the success of these companies may appear daunting to emulate. Even for well-established businesses, e-tail can still trigger challenges for management used to dealing in the bricks-and-mortar world. However, there is no need to lag behind your competitors when it comes to turning clicks into sales. If you set up a quality content management system, a niche product offer and well-oiled delivery operations, you are off to a good start. Ahead of the Fashion Exposed trade fair, launching in Melbourne this Sunday, August 25, SmartCompany spoke to presenters at the event on how to catch up with the leaders in the e-tail sphere. Simon Goodrich, co-founder of e-commerce platform provider Portable, and Jean-Claude Abouchar, chief executive officer of multi-brand fashion e-tail site The Grand Social, offer eight steps to get up and running. 1. Just do it Businesses doing well in traditional bricks-and-mortar retail may have resisted the online push for fear it could stretch their resources. “I think people feel a bit down being behind the boat in online retail,” says Goodrich. “But in the recent period there have been some really exciting methodologies and examples for people to use.” Goodrich says people can be “scared” to shift online, as they don’t know what platforms to employ, or what content to generate. “If you have a (physical) store, and you’re open, and you’ve got salespeople in there, people walk in,” says Goodrich. “You’ve got a lot of other items within that built environment that can assist you to make sales. “People think, my product or what I do might not work online, but I think they should go out there and test…there are lots of things people can be doing, it’s very exciting.” Abouchar says to simply “just get started”, and experiment. “Just get online with whatever you are trying to sell,” he says. “As soon as you learn about your customer and what works and doesn’t, then focus your energy, time and money into what is working rather than spend a year trying to get it perfect. “Just get live, that is the bottom line.” 2. Find the right platform Simple, effective content management systems are now easy to find, meaning you can have an e-tail shopfront up and running quickly. Goodrich says you need a CMS that you can easily update. “A lot of systems have been refined over the past few years to do basic things well,” he says. It shouldn’t be daunting. “There are a lot of out-of-the-box solutions. It comes down to how much people want to invest.” Goodrich says it is a myth that the e-tail shopfront has to be professionally graphic designed and complicated. “It doesn’t have to have a lot to it. It can just be images and an example of the business. “Have a system that captures emails, develops newsletters, and have some form of social media reach out. There is obviously Facebook, there’s Twitter, it just depends on which platform best suits your audience.” 3. Own your audience To generate sales, the best way is to build a loyal community around your business. Goodrich says to draw on the value of the people who engage with your business already – as they shouldn’t be separate to your online customers. “You have to get ownership over your customer base. People in the past might have sent out paper newsletters or even email newsletters, but they may not have been getting statistics on how people are using that information.” He says it is vital to use data collection tools to harness this feedback, so you can better tailor your content. “Define your company voice. You ask what magazines your customers read, what movies do they like, what holidays do they want? Once you can get an idea of who that person is, the content bit becomes a lot easier.” 4. Plan your logistics When Abouchar co-launched The Grand Social back in 2008, experimenting with warehouse and delivery logistics was a core challenge – one which the business continually refines. “No one was doing third-party fulfillment,” he says. “So we had to set it up ourselves.” The Grand Social offers multiple fashion brands on the one site, so initially products were coming in from countless sources. “What we needed to do in terms of the fulfillment and the supply chain solution was really complicated. No one wanted to touch it, it was in the too-hard basket. “For e-tail, there was a lack of options – Australia Post didn’t even have a system running.” He says they initially tried bringing all of the products ordered to a central place, before shipping items to a customer in a single package. They then moved to ‘drop ship model’, where the designers send the products directly to the buyer as the orders are processed. He says experimenting and refining your system can take time, but it is essential to work out the best way for quick and efficient delivery. Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Find a service niche Abouchar says once your store is up and running, think about what extra layers of service you can transfer from your bricks-and-mortar world to online. He says the “danger” is that it could become just an arm of your physical store, without the personal service. “You need to have the second layer of service. Anyone can sell stuff online, but think, how are we going to be different?” he says. “Customers will go where they get service and advice.” He says to draw on your customer data, tailor content, and personalise their experience to maximise engagement with the brand. Abouchar is an admirer of stitchfix.com, a US start-up which is taking service to the next level. “It is basically filling in a profile questionnaire about your personal style, and they send you a box of five different products that they’ve picked (based on the survey). “You keep what you want, and send back what you don’t, and over time the platform becomes smarter about what is good for you. It works out outfits for you. It’s a subscription-based model with a service layer, added on to the technology layer.” 6. Progress constantly, but mindfully It is tempting to try and be everything to every customer, and to panic that your competitors are more advanced in e-tail. However, Abouchar says to pick what is vital, do it well, and say no to the rest. He argues that there is “only so much time in the day”, especially juggling both a physical store with a new online enterprise. “It is about focus…about two years ago we decided to stop starting new things, and we said ‘let’s focus on doing a few things well’.” The Grand Social narrowed down its key objectives – a refresh of the homepage, tailoring the customer experience, upgrading warehouse and fulfillment distribution, and perfecting inventory management and barcoding. 8. Have patience Abouchar says people launching online may wonder why they are not getting instant results, but says to remember that just like a physical store, results can take time. “It takes just as long to build a business online as offline. People have expectations that they will open an online business and in a year or two they will be relaxing in the tropics…it is just as tough if not tougher as there are millions of people around the world to compete with. “Online is no different, it brings the same challenges as offline.” Simon Goodrich and Jean-Claude Abouchar will be presenting at Fashion Exposed Trade Fair in Melbourne, which begins Sunday, August 25. For seminar details visit www.fashionexposed.com.
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