Ok, this is going to be a long one, so if you don’t have a solid 15-20 minutes to read this puppy… Bookmark this page and come back later because you won’t want to miss these golden nuggets! This post is mostly aimed at B2B and professional/home service-based businesses.
Marketing agencies can only do so much for your business. Oftentimes, they can send you leads galore, way more than you could ever handle…
But if you don’t know what to do with a lead once you’ve captured their information, then you never really see any results from your marketing. You need to make sure you have a solid sales process in place before you even think about spending money on digital marketing and advertising.
So, you may be wondering, “Why would an internet marketing consultant tell me that marketing doesn’t work?” It’s a good laugh at least, right?
But I’m serious, it doesn’t work, unless you already have a solid sales process in place or are willing to invest in your people to create a sales process will work hand-in-hand with your digital marketing and advertising strategy.
What happens a lot of times, is that I’ll end up sending a client a bunch of leads, but they won’t have any sort of follow-up process in place to actually close these leads. This would lead to an awkward meeting at the end of the month where I’m explaining how I sent them X amount of leads, but they barely brought in any new business.
Now, here’s the REAL problem: They don’t understand how the lead is coming into the sales funnel, and they either aren’t salespeople themselves or they hand off the phone calls to an untrained receptionist that doesn’t know the first thing about sales.
If you really want internet marketing to work for your business, especially in the B2B and professional services world where you need to nurture a lead over a long period of time before being able to close them… Then you need to make sure you not only invest time and money in your marketing team, but you also invest time and money in your sales team.
I’m going to give you some B2B and professional services marketing tips and tricks, and even some sales tips on how to convert your leads into sales. There’s a lot of moving pieces that go into a successful marketing plan so let’s get right into it…
INTRODUCTION TO INTERNET MARKETING
Internet marketing is difficult. There’s a lot to manage.
It’s easy to overlook things or drop the ball. Way too easy…
The complexity and sheer amount of work involved with multi-channel marketing explains something we need to be honest about… Most B2B digital marketing sucks.
Hey, go check it out for yourself. You’ll find clunky, out-dated website designs, vague or highly technical messaging that doesn’t communicate value, generic images and derivative, boring content.
Business owners run the gamut from confused to complacent. If you have marketing that (sort of) works, you’re afraid to take risks in new channels.
This is a problem — but like all problems — it is also a phenomenal opportunity for you and your business.
It can feel like getting your business to stand out from the competition is a monumental task… How does a SaaS company with many competitors in the same niche distinguish themselves and their services? How does a plumber differentiate himself when he provides the same services as every other plumber in the world?
Well, with the right strategies and tactics, it is more than doable. Why? Because — for the most part — your competition isn’t the New England Patriots. It’s the 8-8 local high school team…
Here are some vitally important marketing strategies and tactics that many businesses continue to overlook. Get these right and you’ll create a big gap between you and your competition…
MAINTAIN A MODERN, UPDATED WEBSITE
Websites remain the focal point of any organization’s online presence, but many business owners fail to realize something: A five year old website is old. It’s not optimal or efficient.
A 10 year old website is ancient. The first impression an old, out-dated website gives is that you’re out of business or that you’re not doing well enough to afford to update it. You might not see it that way, but your customers do and that’s ALL that matters.
Today, there is no excuse for letting your website design lapse in digital senility. Conversion-tested templates are affordable and quick to get up and running. These templates are also easier to maintain and update, so you can keep up with changes in user experience and technology.
Today’s design elements lean more towards mobile users, with a lot of imagery, intuitive navigation, and easy scrolling. If your website hasn’t changed since the iPhone 4, you’re putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage.
CRAFT YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION
Even a beautiful website won’t save you if you don’t know how to properly communicate your value proposition.
For most companies, lack of a clear value proposition is the most common mistake, and one that leaves them stuck in the back of the competitive pack.
Your value proposition is — literally — the reason you put forth that explains why someone should choose you over your competition. It clarifies exactly how you solve a problem your prospective clients have. It’s the core of your offer and the very reason someone would be persuaded to spend money on your services.
One of the lamest statements business owners ever make is, “We don’t have any competition.” Well… Of course you do. In the internet age, there’s ALWAYS another choice, remember that.
It’s up to you to compare yourself to your competition and develop content that’s explicit about why you’re a better choice.
Here’s an easy process you can follow to make sure you are clearly communicating your value proposition on your website:
Check your website and see if you’re answering the “What’s in it for me?” question. (Try this with minimal scrolling or having to read for more than 5-10 seconds.)
State or imply why people should choose YOU over your competition.
Check your analytics data for the top 10-20 entry pages on your website. Make sure all those pages communicate your core value proposition.
When you identify a clear advantage you have over the competition and effectively communicate it in all your marketing material, you’ll create the biggest competitive advantage possible.
If you don’t do this, you’ll just be a commodity hoping to get chosen from the pack at random. You don’t want to be the generic brand, do you?
DEVELOP BRANDED IMAGES AND VIDEOS
Another way to break away from the competitive pack is to effectively use imagery and videos in your marketing.
The web is increasingly visual-focused. Images and videos are easier to consume and much faster at conveying ideas. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and few people surfing online will read a thousand words. (I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this.)
Yet this opportunity goes to waste. Instead of creating information-carrying images and hero shots that help communicate value, websites waste space using cheap stock photos. I see this all too often in the B2B space, and even in professional service businesses as well.
The ROI on a thirty-second video — that introduces your business and makes the case for your value proposition — is overlooked and underestimated by the majority of business owners. Videos on site cause more traffic to engage with your site AND you can use these videos to advertise on Facebook and YouTube which are the most under-priced advertising platforms right now.
Then aside from video, businesses labor through long explanations of complex topics instead of using infographics, which again will engage your traffic more than text any day of the week.
The bottom line is effective imagery and video are great marketing assets to invest in. If you can get ahead of the visual content trend, you’ll have a big competitive advantage.
TEST AND MODIFY YOUR MARKETING
Marketing is not a one shot and you’re done discipline. Automation only comes once you have gone through the trial and error to find out what actually works in your industry. You can take mulligans — and lots of them, if needed.
Yet most businesses set-up their initial designs and campaigns, then close their eyes and cross their fingers and toes…
They make far-fetched assumptions, but then they forget they were assumptions in the first place and act like they have to force their initial idea to work.
Marketing data won’t tell you what to do. But it can tell you the results of what you did and give you ideas on how to make different parts of your marketing strategy stronger.
It’s rare to come up with a winning campaign right from the start. It’s almost downright impossible, even if you’ve been doing it for 15 years. You need to test and tweak your materials and campaigns, then you will be able to compare the results and make educated decisions on how to move forward with the next campaign.
Eventually, you’ll find that sweet spot where you’re finding the right audience with the right message. You may make drastic changes in your testing, but often it’s just a few words, a changed image, or a variation in the ad layout that makes all the difference.
So why don’t business make more modifications to their marketing in response to their data? To put it simply, it’s lack of time and expertise that are the big problems. It takes a trained eye to assess data and create an action plan based on it.
Learn how to interpret data or hire a consultant like me to help you with it. When you dial in your campaigns, you’ll dust the competition that’s waiting for things to go their way with no effort. Don’t let that be you, listen to your data or get someone to listen to it for you.
GIVE YOUR CAMPAIGN TIME
Here is thee saddest mistake in home services and B2B marketing…
A company spends months developing materials and starts running a campaign — but it’s tough. The results just don’t come in right away, and a lot of sleep is lost because of that fact…
The business owner gets nervous. They start to see the entire effort as a sunk cost. They start thinking to themselves, “How much more can we put into this without a return?”
But there is GOOD data coming in. The plan is heading in the right direction… Until… The business owner panics and says, “We have to get out of here and stop the bleeding.”
They pull out just as the corner was about to be turned, and the worst part is most of these companies forget about their failures and try all over again a year later.. Fail again, and keep on repeating this vicious cycle over and over again. So what’s the problem?
They didn’t set proper expectations. Marketing campaigns can take months to develop, both to gain exposure and to gather enough data to start testing assumptions. You must allow for this time — from the beginning — or you’ll pull out before you can get a return on your investment.
More often than not, you don’t know about the competition that makes this mistake — because they disappear without gaining market share…
MANAGE YOUR REPUTATION
I was recently at a networking event with a bunch of small business owners and the conversations turned to online reviews…
“I hate Yelp,” said a restaurant owner. “People just go on there to complain and carry on. Half of what they say makes no sense.”
“I hear ya,” said a chiropractor. “A few idiot clients hit me with bad reviews on Health Grades, and all of a sudden my appointments are down 30%.”
“And what about Google?” said a carpet cleaner. “My company’s Google listing got hit with some 1-star bombs from morons, and they’re the first thing you see when I show up in search. I can’t tell you how much I hate online reviews!”
I wish I’d had a hanky to wipe their tears away…
Here is a fact for you: online reviews are here to stay, period. Furthermore, you need to realize that review platforms aren’t really there to please you as the business owner; their audience is the consumer. And consumers like reviews a great deal. They use them to decide on products and services every day.
You can either be like the business owners I met (stuck in the back of the pack), complaining about how their “moronic” clients are hurting them, or you can take control of the situation and start managing your reputation.
Businesses with strong customer service and great products and services welcome customer reviews. Part of their content marketing strategy is making an active effort to gain new reviews from happy clients. They look at negative reviews as feedback and a chance to improve their services.
Most of all, they realize that consumer-created content in the form of reviews is the newest form of word of mouth, and they make great efforts to get those reviews working in their favor. They start by making sure the products or services they deliver are top-notch, realizing every client has the power to create online reviews in response to their work.
The way of beating the competition here is clear. 5 stars look a lot better than 1 star, and if you have more reviews than your competitors, then your prospective customers look at you as the best in your space, even if the competition is bigger than you!
Reviews are the most over-looked opportunity in the B2B and home services space, and taking the time to formulate a strategy for consistently generating reviews can be one of the most profitable things you ever do for your business.
STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Ever notice how some businesses seem to always be in the right place at the right time? When an online platform becomes popular with the masses, they’ve already established themselves. How do they do it?
To be competitive today, it pays to put your ear to the ground. You have to be on the watch for trends, and when you see something that is a fit for how you want to craft your message, you need to jump on it, FAST!
A few years ago, Snapchat seemed like another trend for 13 year olds. Today it has over 190 million active users.
Facebook video ads are — today — effective and cheap. The bandwagon hasn’t taken off just yet in the “big business world” so this is a great opportunity for you and your business.
But once big corporations figure this out, prices will elevate and it will be harder and harder for you to get your content in front of your audience.
Beating the competition implies staying ahead of them. Keep your eye out for the next big thing!
Look At Marketing As An Investment
Most businesses look at marketing as a cost. They put it in with expenses like buying a truck or renting office space.
But marketing is not an expense. It’s an investment which you should carefully plan expected returns. In other words, marketing should make you more money than you put in. If you could put in a buck and get two back, you’d put in as many dollars as the opportunity would allow for, right?
Looking at marketing as a cost is not the right mindset for competitive marketing. To beat the competition, you have to spend what is necessary, and that is different for each individual business. It depends on your vertical and your competition, as well as your overall business goals. How much do you want to make? How big do you really want to be? How fast do you want to grow?
To be competitive, you must look at marketing as an investment. Plan your budget based on what’s necessary to compete, and modify it as needed. There is no one “cost” to marketing. You get out of it what you put in, period.
Your competition’s marketing sucks, but it’s not because they don’t care, and if they’re still spending money, then you know it’s working even with sub-par strategies.
Keeping up with technology and trends is tough. Crafting an effective, crisp value proposition requires insight and effort. Gauging time-frames and investments take patience and planning.
But taking these steps is the difference maker. It separates you from the pack and gets prospects thinking:
These guys look better. They can solve my problem. This will be worth it.
Today you either separate yourself from the pack, or you disappear into it. Which one will it be?
Well, with some education on how to turn your leads into sales… you’ll be just fine! And that’s exactly what I have for you next…
HOW TO TURN YOUR LEADS INTO SALES
Okay, so you can do all of the greatest marketing, lead generation and advertising possible, but this isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t have a great sales process to back it up. I have a few tips for you here that will help you turn your leads into paying customers…
First, let me tell you what made me want to write this whole post out for you in the first place… I promise it’s relevant!
A buddy of mine sent me an email recently about how he was working on his landscape design and he had called and filled out forms for surveyors, soil graders, landscapers, etc. and the vast majority of them all had the same issues…
They don’t answer the phone or call back promptly.
They never even respond to the lead form on their website.
They don’t show up on time for their estimates.
Getting a quote back can take weeks.
I have heard this story to many times, and I’ve had it happen to me personally as well. I do everything possibly for my clients to drive them leads through their door, but they still struggle because they never put a solid sales process in place that is effective at closing online leads.
Too many times I have run into the very same problems described above and it’s just unacceptable if you want to grow your business.
Law firms and other professional services use the term “intake process” for how they deal with potential clients, moving them from initial contact to consultation to billable client.
Follow these steps to develop a sales process for your business so that you can finally consistently turn your leads into paying customers…
In this day and age, when someone takes the time out of their day to reach out to your business, they are considered to be a hot lead.
They are the ones that are actively looking for businesses like yours. But they can go cold quick if you don’t do anything about it…
If you need the business, you don’t have the luxury of waiting days or weeks to get back to a lead who filled out a contact form on your website. 24 hours is the max, and right away is obviously the best.
The same goes for a lead who leaves you a voicemail. Say you get back to a lead in a week and they still need the service…
You’ve already sent a message to them that you are slow to respond and you just don’t respect their time. Being slow to respond to your leads will either cause you to lose the lead or — if you still get the business — start things off on the complete wrong foot.
Instead, you should do this:
Be active on your phone and email. Get back to leads quickly even if all you can do is acknowledge them and schedule a time to get into the details.
On your email form, autoresponder, and voicemail, note the amount of time you take to respond, such as “We’ll get back to you within 24 hours.” And make certain that you actually honor that statement.
Schedule time during the early evenings to respond to leads.
Hire some GOOD help. If you’re too busy during the work day and don’t want to take time after hours to get the job done… Then consider using a call service or building an internal sales team. Just make sure they are properly trained.
Work On Your Phone Skills
You may be a landscaper, a software engineer, or a lawyer by trade. But if you own your business, you also have another job: salesperson.
When it comes to dealing with leads, this means you need to work on your phone skills.
Here’s a few tips:
Answer by saying your business name and asking how you can help. Just answering “hello” is totally unprofessional.
Get the lead’s name and use it in your conversation. Write it down so you don’t forget it. You sound friendly and considerate when you use a person’s name.
Speak with an enthusiastic tone. Tone of voice matters more than you think. Many contractors sound like they don’t want the business because of their disinterested, flat tone. Put some energy behind that voicebox of yours!
Use descriptive, visual words when you speak. When describing how a job might be done, paint a picture in the lead’s mind with specific, descriptive language.
Prepare and use qualifying questions. Have a few key questions ready that will help you qualify the lead. If they are hot, make sure to secure the next steps.
Avoid negotiations. One sign of a poor lead is someone who starts trying to low-ball on price right from the start. If they are a fit, negotiate final details in person.
Reaffirm everything. Repeat details and make sure you’re both on the same page.
Let the lead hang-up first. Often a last second question will pop up. Give the lead the chance to ask before the call ends, and don’t leave them thinking you just hung up on them.
Next is just a short section we need to talk about before moving forward…
Respect People’s Time
We’ve all been there. Waiting for the doctor’s office. Waiting for the cable guy. Waiting for the contractor to show up during their 4 hour window, only to have them show up 4 hours late…
Don’t make people wait. It’s not just a solid business practice, it’s basic consideration.
Ask For The Business
We’ve all seen awkward romance scenes in movies where we know the girl likes the guy, but the guy just can’t summon the courage to ask her out. We’re in the audience thinking, “Just ask her dude, she’s into you!”
Something similar happens on a lot of sales calls. Everything seems to be in place, but the client has a slight hesitation.
You can overcome that by being direct. Ask them for the business with a statement like: “So this sounds good, does next Wednesday work for you, Mr. Prospect?” This statement makes it clear that you’re ready to move forward.
A kid selling candy bars for a school fundraiser recently knocked on my door. His pitch was:
Hi, I’m selling $1 candy bars to support our High School jazz band trip. How many would you like?
I cleaned him out.
There is one last point to cover here.
Let’s acknowledge that there are a few businesses — who need the work — who intentionally blow off leads. Yes, some are sloppy, but those guys don’t stay in business for long…
What happens more often is business owners get busy and start fumbling new leads. During these times lead generation may seem easy. You might not feel the need to do much marketing. It’s easy to become complacent…
Then… The slow times come around and you’d KILL for more leads. In fact, times can get so lean that you can’t even afford to market! Now you’re waiting it out hoping you’re in a position for the next busy season.
If this sounds familiar, here’s a suggestion: Try to keep your marketing, lead generation, and intake process consistent. In busy times, keep working new leads to build up your pipeline. That way when things start to slow down and the competition who didn’t answer their calls aren’t working, you’ll still have more jobs lined up.
Create a strategy to capture and nurture leads during the slow times so you’re filling your schedule up when the hiring starts. This way you won’t be fighting it out with all the low-ballers and aggressive newcomers doing backflips to make a name for themselves.
Never take a valuable lead for granted. If you do, sooner or later, you are going to regret it.