BUILDING A SALES FUNNEL FOR EFFECTIVE MARKETING
One of the biggest challenges when you are a small business targeting other businesses is making sure that you are known within your local area, that you have a good pool of warm prospects ready to work with you, as well as having time to actually service your clients.
One of the most important marketing tactics you can put into place is to start by designing and building an effective sales funnel that is always full and that you have the tools and systems to move people through the funnel as quickly and effectively as possible.
A sales funnel is a system of communications and processes.
Your offer brings people into your funnel, turning them into warm leads. Things like delivering a free consultation, health check or “how to” guide makes them eager to work with you.
At that stage you have a hot prospect. A proposal or meeting turns them into a qualified buyer.
Once you close the sale and deliver a great service, having a system to have them become advocates of you is the catalyst to them becoming raving fans.
Raving fans then deliver you more warm leads, that help you grow your business and decreases the time you need to spend on trying to contact cold suspects.
Start by defining your target market
Your marketing will be more successful if you are targeting your ideal target market. It’s tempting – particularly when you are starting out or in quieter periods – to try and target everyone. The problem with that is a lot of your marketing will be wasted. It’s important to understand not just their attributes (e.g. industry, business size, location, decision maker) but also what characteristics they have. What are their sensitivities? Following that you can develop specific marketing messages for each market.
This will help you get a better idea of how to communicate to them and also what channels might be best to reach them.
Where to start
For effective targeting of prospects you can’t avoid picking up the phone. Nothing works as well despite all the technology now available to reach people. What makes prospecting a lot more effective is making sure you are prepared before you make a call.
• Have list of prospects that you’ve sourced at your fingertips that you know fit your ideal client profile.
• Have a script or call guide for what you are going to say when you pick up the phone.
• Have communications already prepared that you will send them as an initial introduction, to warm them from a cold prospect to a warm lead.
• Have a script or call guide for a follow up call.
• Be clear on how you will conduct an initial meeting and what outcomes they can expect.
• Have a process for ongoing communication.
Finding your prospects
First you need to get clear on where you will find your ideal prospects. Some suggestions include:
• Using LinkedIn to search for prospects that fit your target profile – you can search by name, position, location and size of business.
• Use Google to search specifically for businesses in your local area.
• Access your local business chamber web site or directory.
• Ask your current clients for potential prospects they know of.
• Read your local newspaper – target businesses who might be advertising for a service you provide on an outsourced basis or are featured in the local paper.
• Use local business directory websites such as True Local.
Make sure you can be found online
Before you get started it’s a good idea to make sure you have a basic digital footprint online. You may already have a website via your franchisor, but it’s important to build a profile beyond that.
Sixty per cent of business to business purchases are already decided before they contact you. That’s because they often will do their research online before picking up the phone or sending an enquiry.
Setting up a complete and comprehensive LinkedIn profile as well as creating a local Google places listing will make sure you can be found online helping build trust with prospects.
Approaching potential new clients who you don’t have a relationship with can seem overwhelming. Make sure you are well prepared before you pick up the phone or send that initial email. That includes a basic call script, email copy, materials to send, follow up call scripts and email copy.
A good approach might be:
Step 1 – an initial cold call to find out who the decision maker is, and to obtain their contact details.
Step 2 – A structured email introducing yourself, offering something (e.g. a one hour consultation) and some further information (e.g. a capabilities statement, including client testimonials and case study).
Step 3 – A follow up email or call to arrange a meeting, including suggested meeting times and location.
Step 4 – A structured meeting that you’ve prepared for by researching the client.
Step 5 – A process to follow up and thank your prospect for their time. Add them to your database, connect with them on LinkedIn, and put a note in your diary to contact them in another 90 days.
Often your franchisor will have suggested call scripts, email text and supporting marketing or communications materials to send to clients so take advantage of those materials.
No doesn’t always mean no
It’s a reality in business that you will face the word “no”. The way to view it is that “no” is just one fifth of a “yes”. It can mean:
“No not right now but I’d like to talk to someone later”.
“No for me, but I do know someone who needs your help”.
Staying in touch regularly increases your effectiveness, and all it costs you is your time.
The best time to get a referral from a client is when they have expressed how happy they are with you. This is where following up with clients every 90 days helps. That’s your opportunity to check in and perhaps source a testimonial.
Once a client has expressed how happy they are, ask them if they would be ok with it if you used their comment as a testimonial. Make it easy for them and send a follow up email with their comments in text for them to edit or approve. You will easily get testimonials following that process.
You can also then follow up thanking them for their testimonial and asking them for referrals. This can feel a bit awkward. However, offering some praise yourself initially makes it easier. We often overlook our family and friends as a source for referrals. People who love you
and respect you, want to see you do well so don’t forget to let them know what you do and the sort of clients you work for.
Other ways to maximise success
A disciplined approach to building and maintaining your sales funnel will build the foundation for effective marketing. However, there are many other ways to help generate warm leads. These include:
If you get the chance to speak at an event, take it! You might volunteer to be a participant at an event that gets you in front people, you might ask questions of a speaker at another event or offer to share your expertise as a guest speaker. However you approach it, it’s a great way of building trust with potential new clients.
Tap into social media
With over 80 per cent of professionals using LinkedIn a LinkedIn profile is a must. Connect with any clients or potential referrals partners you know. If you are a keen social networker you might also use twitter to connect with influencers, journalists, professional bodies etc that might be a key contact to reach your target market.
Maximise any opportunities to network offline
Social networking is great but nothing beats face to face. Research local networking groups in your area for opportunities to attend events
These might include:
• Local business chamber
• Local business women’s networking group
• Local school, church or sporting group
Write helpful articles or blog posts. Submit them to your local paper, include them in your email newsletters and distribute via social networks.
Show up to events
Events can be a great way to meet potential prospects or channel partners. You can hold your own, exhibit at a trade event or sponsor an event.
Look into events such as:
• Local Business Expo
• Local Chamber meetings
• Local fundraisers
These can all help raise your profile locally and generate new contacts who could be potential clients or referrals.
Develop relationships with channel partners
Build relationships with other businesses who you do not compete with but who may target similar clients. These might include:
• Your local business banker
• Your local MP
• IT support providers
• Financial planners
• Business coaches and consultants
• Recruitment consultants
• Virtual Assistants
All of these may have databases that you could extend a relevant offer to or provide articles to.
Use email marketing
Consistent email marketing is still a great brand builder and keeps you top of mind with clients and prospects. Use and customise any email newsletters that are already created for you via your franchisor or create your own email marketing program.
Get yourself in the press
If you are an articulate and savvy business owner consider tapping into any PR opportunities. Contribute articles to local papers, or let them know of any events you might be involved with.
Entering local business awards is also a great way to achieve press coverage.
Keep nurturing prospects and customers
Make sure you are constantly nurturing your prospects and customers. This is where your database and a good email marketing system are critical. It makes it effortless for you to stay in touch and keep your brand top of mind. For key customers make sure you diarise a regular phone catch up, face to face meeting and perhaps once a year take them to lunch.
Keep learning from your customers, what challenges are they facing, what can you help with, what can you learn from them? Finally, bring a relentless mindset to your marketing. Have a good system that means that you are consistently building your sales funnel and your local profile and you will have a consistent flow of new business.
Michelle Gamble is the Chief Angel of Marketing Angels a national marketing agency working with small to medium clients in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Marketing Angels has worked with many franchise organisations helping build their brands, attract franchisees and build effective local area marketing programs. For more information:
Phone: 1300 858 311