As a marketing consultant, I get the panic call frequently. A business owner has wrapped up a large project and is getting around to checking on other areas of the business only to discover the pipeline is anemic or empty. “We need to find business and we need to find it now” is the gist of the panic call. It’s the business equivalent of a trip to the emergency room.
I recommend three steps: rework old leads through direct mail and email; pick up the phone and start looking for referrals; and begin a process of lead generation so that you never find yourself in this dire of a position again. Two measures to stop the bleeding and a first step towards preventative medicine.
The reason for employing direct mail and email for touching the old leads is that you will be spending the bulk of your time on the phone looking for referrals. Get a post card or letter out the door with a plan to do an email follow-up in a week. The reason for selecting old leads as the target rather than going after new list is that they know who you are. They’ve talked to you or received information in the past or at one point raised their hand indicating an interest in your products and services.
The next step is to assemble a list of people who are likely to have a referral for you. This could be other business owners who serve the same market with complementary products and services, business professionals with whom you have relationships (maybe CPAs, bankers, attorneys, etc.) or this could be existing customers. Think about having something for them – a referral, referral fee, an offer of free services in return for their referral to you. When you have called all the people on this list, you can begin calling the contact from your old leads list.
The final step is to admit the mistake of not having a marketing process in place and fix it. Now is the time to put together a 12 month plan designed to bring new business in the door. No excuses. Scale it to fit your budget, but execute religiously so that your pipeline remains healthy a free from peaks and valleys. The Rule of Three applies to your ongoing marketing plan as well as the emergency measures. Plan to have a minimum of three activities each month designed to attract prospects and fill your pipeline.
Start a blog. To get ideas for blog posts make a list of the questions you are frequently asked by prospects. The answers to these questions will serve as great blog posts. Set a goal of one blog post a week as a minimum – but see if you can create a handful of posts in the first week so that the blog launches with more than one article. One way to do this is to assign one article per employee. Another way is to hire a writer, let them interview you and write the articles for you to edit. The blog articles, once posted, work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also improve your ranking in organic searches.
Look for speaking opportunities. In Duct Tape Marketing, we talk about the marketing hour glass that your prospects/customers progress through – Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. Speaking opportunities move you quickly through the first four stages. Someone who is interested in your products and services because they heard you speak, more often than not, is a highly qualified lead. Arrange for someone to record your presentation with a digital video recorder so that you can upload your presentation to your blog.
Clean up your mailing list and begin a monthly direct mail campaign. You might not be able to afford a list of thousands, but you can afford a list of dozens. Make the mailing memorable. This is best done by segmenting your list by industry. Why? Because language varies depending on the type of business you’re mailing to. Let’s say that you are successful with distributors, nonprofits and law firms. One group has a business to run. The next group has an organization to run. The last group has a practice to run. Language matters. You need to speak specifically to the recipient of your mailer.
Utilize LinkedIn and Facebook for targeted advertising on a budget. These platforms allow you to target your preferred prospect demographics and set up a daily click through budget. You determine who will see the ads and the amount of money you want to spend each day. You are limited as to the number of characters you can use in the ads – you must be short and sweet, but it is entirely affordable and, more important, highly targeted.
These are just a few ideas for dealing with your immediate pipeline crisis and taking the first steps to remedy future crises. All of these measures will serve as a strong foundation to build on as well as strengthen your visibility and improve your lead generation results going forward.
Are there other activities that you’ve used to strengthen your pipeline? Please share them in the comments section.