Building the Sales Funnel
Few things are as important to any growing business as the continual creation of qualified leads. Ensuring an ongoing stream of these prospects entering the top of your sales funnel means that you have the laws of percentages working in your favour. Of course, you still must have:
- A competitive product or service
- A competent sales team to work the leads
- All the other support tools to move a lead from a suspect to a prospect to a paying customer
Assuming those items are in place, the lead generation task is at the top of the marketing list. Traditionally, this process has involved many outbound activities such as direct mail, advertising, networking and trade shows. While it is important that most companies continue to pay attention to these techniques, the Internet has opened a whole new world of customer communications. The role of these social and networking platforms has increased significantly over the past few years. Most of the early focus dealt with general branding, SEO, and customer interactions. Reviews, likes and shares were the goal of many online efforts. However, these social platforms are now being seen as powerful and cost-effective lead generators. In fact, a recent publication by HubSpot underlines the importance of this new prospecting tool. The company reports in its Inbound Marketing Annual Report that social media produces nearly double the qualified leads that are normally found with a similar investment in telemarketing, trade shows, direct mail or even PPC. While B2C marketers discovered this early with Facebook and Twitter, B2B marketers are now finding similar results with the established LinkedIn and the newer Google+. While there are virtually unlimited ways to use these platforms with surveys, contests, and freebies, here are four starting points where use of social platforms can generate leads for your business:
1. LinkedIn Groups. If you’re in one or more groups, you know these are designed to focus on subject areas and key topics. You can join new groups or start your own. If you are new to the process, start with established groups in your area of expertise and participate, while observing how the groups work. The email company Constant Contact was an early participant in LinkedIn groups and provides a steady stream of advice and good content as a participant. SmartCompany is an Australian website that is effective in using its LinkedIn contacts for lead generation and bringing new visitors to its site.
2. Twitter Chats. While most people initially saw Twitter as primarily a B2C platform, that perception has changed. Hollywood and the music industry both use the medium for promoting new films and music releases. However, the increasing power of the hashtag is being exploited by such businesses as Harvard Business Review to get news about subjects and articles in the marketplace of business owners with tweets.
3. Social Media Press Releases. The press release has come into a new era for marketing both businesses and consumers. One site that has successfully tapped into this niche is Help a Reporter Out. This site marries company experts with reporters needed specific information. Companies such as GM and Citibank are active in providing information in a number of areas of their niche and end up with customers seeing their names in print. This visibility is free and often creates leads from entirely new segments of the market.
4. Google+ Hangouts.It’s evident that Google did its research on LinkedIn and Yahoo groups before its release of Plus. They’ve gone an extra step by giving these networking points additional capabilities, all of which can generate leads. These include such varied things as:
- Offering contests and giveaways
- Conducting customer service sessions
- Allowing a form of customer test panels
- Facilitating interviews with corporate leaders and experts
The world of social media is just now testing the barriers of what is possible for effective lead generation. Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospects and just jump in using one of the platforms with which you’re comfortable.