Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, June 20, 2013
Lead generation is critical for all entrepreneurs. And once you master it, your business will thrive.
To help you with lead generation, below I have answered the most common questions entrepreneurs. However, let me start with some definitions.
Your "leads" are simply your pool of prospective buyers who might be interested in your product or service.
For physical stores, your lead list can be residents in a certain zip code or a list of shoppers with certain demographic characteristics. For online or virtual businesses, your lead list is often defined as the list of prospects that subscribe or "opt-in" to your email list or otherwise contact you so you have their contact information.
Whether online or in a physical store, communicating with your lead list is a primary marketing strategy for generating new and repeat customers. A general rule in marketing is: the bigger your list of leads, the more opportunities you have to generate new clients and sales. This is why lead generation is so important. Sound lead generation tactics grow your lead list. Great lead generation strategies grow your list with prospects that are most likely to buy.
Below are answers to the most common lead generation questions I get:
1. How Do I Create a Lead List?
There are many ways to start building your lead list. The easiest is to put an opt-in box on pages of your website where visitors can register their email addresses - typically in exchange for content or freebies. Most websites offer free guides, e-books, tools or a newsletter.
You can also offer free samples of a one-time discount coupon. Make sure the freebies are enticing. Once the website visitor opts-in to receive the freebie, he or she now becomes part of your email list.
2. Does My Target Audience Matter?
Yes. Know your niche and determine the people you want to target. This important element should be clear to you from the beginning. You will likely fail if you do not understand what type of customer best appreciates your product or service.
Once you truly know your target audience, you can do a better job of "talking" to them on your website. For example, you will use different verbiage to convince a 20 year old, single, suburban woman to buy your product than you would to convince a 60 year old, married, rural man to buy it, since each has different wants and needs.
3. How Will My Audience Find Me?
In order for your prospective customers to find you, you should be promoting your website in places where your targeted audience already frequents. For example. Let's say your business sells electronic gadgets. If so, make sure customers find you on other websites that discuss electronic gadgets. You can advertise on these sites or submit guest blog posts and articles to them. You can do the same with social networking groups that discuss this topic. In many cases you can also pay the other websites to send an email promoting your company to all their subscribers.
Likewise there are other tactics to reach these customers such a direct mail, door hangers, radio spots of TV ads. Naturally, you must align your strategy to your specific product or service, and to your budget.
4. What Should I Put On My Site To Attract Visitors To Opt-In Or Buy From Me?
Content is key. When your visitors find your site helpful and informative, it will be easier for you to get them to opt-in or buy. They will see you as the expert and be hungry for more information from you. The key is to provide quality content that gives solutions to your audience's problems.
Also, the more quality content you have on your website, the more other websites will link to you and thus drive new visitors. Likewise, these links will boost your search engine rankings, so you'll get more organic search traffic.
5. How Do I Maximize Social Media In Getting More Opt-Ins?
Most of your customers are using social networking sites (event if you're in the B2B space). Build your reputation as an expert in your niche when you are creating your social media presence. Become the "guru" of your circle of influence and continuously expand that sphere of influence.
Even brick and mortar businesses have a huge opportunity to build genuine, trustworthy relationships with clients and prospects on social networking sites. Offer tips, publish sales offers, share today's menu, teach a skill, publish testimonials and so forth. These steps create opportunities to get followers and convert sales.
It's All About The Relationship
A growing email and/or lead list is crucial for business growth, especially for businesses that operate online. You can publish a website or open an online store and HOPE that customers come. Or you can build top-notch content and opt-in system that allow you to communicate and build relationships with your prospective customers.
It's a common phrase that "people do business with people they know, like, and trust." Using social networks and content generation strategies (like newsletters and quality emails) you can develop strong bonds with people who you will never meet in person.
The strategies detailed herein will deliver prospects to your business that are interested, ready, and able to buy your products and services. It will take some time to implement these strategies, so get started now!
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 17, 2013
Holding constant for socioeconomic factors, the typical entrepreneur makes less money, works more hours and suffers more work-related stress than their employed counterparts.
And when we combine these statistics with those that show a very low percentage of businesses ever attaining meaningful profitability, it is remarkable that people ever even dream to be entrepreneurs and start businesses at all.
But start them they do!
Quite possibly the most amazing and inspiring number in all of American business is 550,000.
That is the approximate number of new businesses that are started in American each and every year.
Now these opposing statistics beg the question, “Why?”
Why would 550,000 people - who statistically are far better educated and wealthier than the population as a whole - engage in behavior that on the surface clearly seems contrary to their self-interest and dare I say, delusional?
Well, on the cynical side, many of these brave folks probably think the odds of economic success are greater than they really are.
And even if they know the odds, they think that they don’t apply to them.
On the slightly less cynical but still not totally inspiring side, one could argue that businesses are started out of boredom - out of the need for that “action rush” that in the realm of business often only an entrepreneurial endeavor can truly provide.
Inspirationally, many believe like I do that entrepreneurship is the greatest force for positive change in the world today, and they start and grow businesses to be positive change agents, on levels big and small.
They start restaurants to create and share beautiful food, service, and atmosphere.
They open day care facilities to provide quality, spirited child care for working families.
They start creative agencies - graphic design, publish relation, web development firms, and the like to leverage their business and creative talent to its most effective end.
And they start drug development and medical device companies to help people live longer, healthier lives.
And thousands of types and forms and sizes of business in between, led by entrepreneurs with aspirations big and small, driven by motivations both pedestrian and soaring.
But at the heart of all of their reasons for starting businesses, at least of the ones that survive, is that often begrudged but really most inspiring motivation of them all.
They start businesses to make a lot of money.
Now the key word in that sentence is make - as in bringing into existence through creativity, effort, and as often as not more than a little serendipity and luck, something that did not exist beforehand.
Now often, for the entrepreneur and those that back them, the touching of this money often takes many years, even decades, of under-paid, hard, and often thankless work, before a cash windfall in the form of a business sale or a public offering.
But that is a story for another day.
For now, find those entrepreneurs and businesses that can truly make money, encourage and back them, and you and the world will get to a better place.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, June 16, 2013
Astute entrepreneurs and marketers understand that as much as 80% of their revenues come from repeat customers. Because once you transform a prospective customer into an actual customer and then give them a great experience, getting that customer to buy again is much easier. In fact, many times the next sale will be initiated by the customer; you won't have to do anything.
So the best way to get more sales from repeat customers is to get more first-time customers (and then really satisfy them of course).
For instance, if your initial sale to a customer is $40, but the average customer will purchase four more times within the first year, then a new customer is actually worth $200 in the first year. Much more than the initial $40! So, clearly, you want to attract as many new customers as possible (and take care of them so they keep purchasing from you).
To help you achieve this I have detailed below three key tips for attracting new customers.
New Customer Strategy #1: Give Them a Deal
Some companies go as far as to lose money on their first sale (known as a loss-leader), knowing they'll make it back with an immediate upsell, monthly service plan, or future sales. Your goal is NOT to make as much money as you can on the first sale. It's to make a first sale!
But of course, it's better if the first sale naturally leads to selling your next item or service. For example, I know a pressure washing company who will clean your house's exterior at cost the first time. But then it upsells 80% of these customers to their "twice yearly" plan -- this is where it derives massive profits.
Restaurants offer specials, phone companies offer you deals if you switch providers, etc. - I'm sure you've seen this. You need to give customers a powerful offer either in the form of a low price or incredible value for their money. When you do, they'll be much more likely to buy from you.
You've also probably seen coupon offers and deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon offering $20 massages and other great deals all the time. This works in getting tons of new customers. However, be careful. A lot of businesses have reported "The Groupon Effect," in which they will post a special, get a herd of penny-pinchers in the door that take advantage of the offer and then disappear to find the next deal at whoever's cheapest tomorrow. In other words, it can attract the wrong crowd and may not produce repeat business-which is the whole point of making a first sale.
So use these special offers carefully. One idea is to use direct mail. Doing so allows you to target the specific customers you want with your special offer; the ones who are most likely to keep buying from you.
New Customer Strategy #2: Incentivize Your Sales Force
If you have a sales force, give them great incentives to close new sales. Particularly in the case where you know you have significant lifetime customer value (i.e., customers will purchase from you many more times in the future), be more generous with your commissions.
In fact, I've heard of companies giving 100% commissions to salespeople who secure new customers. While the company clearly loses money in the short term, such a strategy really motivates the sales team to get new customers. And over time, the company's revenues and profits grow much faster since they have so many new customers that keep buying from it.
New Customer Strategy #3: Give Them an Experience
Think about how much money people spend on vacations, sports, dining, and entertainment. What do these all have in common? They're experiences that people want and for which they are willing to pay.
Try positioning your service as a personal experience. It's one thing to offer a massage, it's another to offer a "spa experience" with music, lights, nails, and a free facial.
You can also plan and offer group experiences like luncheons, parties, open houses, or tours. Or find a way to piggyback on existing events going on in your community, like parades, festivals, expos, etc.
These will take a little creativity, but remember that people are naturally drawn to fun times. Make it memorable and do it a few times per year.
Look to Zappos.com for inspiration. Even though it sells a commodity (shoes), the company provides a great experience through exceptional customer service. For many other businesses, providing a great experience is much easier than this.
New Customer Strategy #4: Give Them Information
Every business needs to educate its customers, whether you charge for that education or not. I love it when my mechanic, Vinny, explains to me my car's problem, what caused it, how to fix it, and what it will cost. Sometimes we even go through options together, and I couldn't make a decision on the right one without getting the facts first.
Providing education demonstrates that you're an expert, increases your trust, and gives you higher credibility in the customers' mind. It also gives you an easy segue into showing the benefits of what you're offering and how it will help.
Some lead generation methods tie in very well with education. For example, if you're trying to get blog posts ranked in the search engines, you'll need to write articles on topics of interest to your readers; like how to do something, the pros and cons of different products or services, etc. These posts will show your expertise and educate the reader.
You can do the same with videos. Simple, informative videos can get the attention and interest of prospective customers. End each video with a special offer or a "call to action" that encourages the prospect to contact you.
To summarize, figure out how you can give new customers a great deal, an experience, and the information they need. And consider giving better incentives to your sales team. Use these 4 tips to get new customers. And then once you secure them, deliver high quality products and/or services. When you do, you'll start building a strong book of repeat business that helps your sales and profits soar!
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Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, June 13, 2013
In the United States, there are many laws that protect investors. One of them prohibits entrepreneurs from mass-marketing investments in their businesses. For example, you can't solicit investors on your website nor via social media sites like Facebook.
However, if you set up a crowdfunding campaign, you can (and should) market that campaign and drive traffic to it using social media.
This article will help you do just that.
A Little Knowledge Will Strengthen Your Efforts
You can't use social media websites without understanding how the different ones work. Here are four of the biggest:
- Twitter. This platform offers short broadcasts or tweets, and members actively seek the latest news in real-time. The network has more than 500 million users.
- Facebook. This forum reaches 995 million active users, making it the largest social network. Members have vested interests in making connections with family members, people with similar interests, high school or college classmates, or people committed to certain social or environmental issues.
- Pinterest. This rapidly growing network features pinboards where members can organize recipes, tips, photographs and other materials such as blogs and how-to videos.
- LinkedIn. This network concentrates on business and professional people, and businesses need to maintain active profiles on this network to demonstrate to investors and donors that you're legitimate.
Benefits of Building Network Connections
You should try to build a group of supporters before starting your crowdfunding campaign. Support need not always be financial because favorably disposed members could recommend your project to their friends and associates. Fans love to take part, so you should listen to what they say and adopt suggestions to foster loyalty. Basically, you're looking for your advocates and cheerleaders. Find them and connect with them on the social networks.
Set up Your Crowdfunding Project
There are many crowdfunding platforms (e.g., Kickstarter, IndieGogo, etc.) where you can set up your crowdfunding project.
Importantly, when you do, make your project pitch clear and concise, so people "get" it right away. Also, in the ideal case, you pull on people emotionally, so they really want to see you succeed. The key is to try to bond with people, which you can effectively do via a video you create showing why people should fund you and your venture.
But also keep it real. Show funders how you will spend the money and over what period of time.
Start the Conversation About Your Project
Once your crowdfunding project is set up, use your social media presence to promote it. Post out to your network to tell them to visit your crowdfunding page and to tell others about it.
Also, feel free to go beyond social media. You can use email, creative Youtube videos, a blog, and/or discussion forums to boost your efforts.
Crowdfunding is a great new way to raise funding for your business. However, once you set up your crowdfunding page, don't expect people to just show up and fund you. Rather, you need to market your crowdfunding project. And social media is a great way to do just that!
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 10, 2013
GREAT businesses find the balance between:
a) Making the right changes at the right time and
b) Having the discipline to “keep on keeping on” and just doing more of what is working.
Note well that b) is particularly hard to maintain when the tasks and activities that ARE working become repetitive and lack in excitement and drama.
So how do executives find this balance - between being creative and just keeping their heads down and plowing forward?
Well, luckily in the past few years a large and impressive business literature has sprung up that codifies best practices of how to find this all-important balance.
It can best be summarized by the phrase “immersion plus spaced repetition” and goes like this:
1. Everything, of course, begins with ideas, with the best ones arising from a series of introspective strategic planning and goal-setting sessions that clarify objectives and the obstacles standing in the way of their accomplishment.
This immersive process - done at least annually but at the best companies quarterly - both defines what needs to be done and inspires all to take on the hard work of getting it done.
The value of inspiration cannot be underestimated – Thomas Edison famously said that “genius was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration” but that 1% “spark” is uber-critical in propelling an organization through the first threshold of change.
2. But, as anyone that attended an exciting or invigorating conference or strategic planning session can attest (and as I am sure Mr. Edison reflected on often during long nights at the lab), inspiration fades over time.
Even worse, when the inspiration is not followed through on, cynicism can set in and actually leave an organization worse off than if the planning sessions were never done in the first place!
So how to avoid this distressing fate?
3. Well, by keeping the ideas, goals, and objectives of the planning session alive through their regular review and adjustment.
Think of it this way - if a well-run strategic planning session is the essence of good leadership, then repetitive goal reviews are the essence of good management.
Great managers check in with their teams as often as daily - if only for 5 or 10 minutes - to review the day’s objectives and to keep the shorter term work flow aligned with the longer term planning and mission objectives.
The old adage that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time is never more true than when is comes to these spaced and repetitive management check-ins.
When done right, they measure, acknowledge, and reward incremental progress and prevent the desire for the perfect from getting in the way of the doable and the done.
Then, the organization reconvenes and reviews progress against stated goals, assesses what worked and what didn’t, and then refines and updates the key goals and objectives.
And after this next round of strategic planning, what is done?
Well, the spaced and repetitive management check-ins begin anew.
Wood is chopped, water is carried.
Following this simple but disciplined formula, over time great ideas become great realities, businesses are built, and legacies and fortunes are made.
And for investors, far more than technology these “above the line” leadership, management, and company culture disciplines separate the well-run companies to back from the disorganized ones to avoid.
So what are you waiting for?
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, June 9, 2013
I periodically read research reports about business failures. I always find them interesting, although often they are depressing.
Such as what I recently read. Which was research from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. This research found that 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year.
And while this was frustrating enough to read, the research further stated that half of those companies which do survive the first year will fail within the next four years.
Now, let's turn to the cause of this failure. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the number one cause of this failure is lack of business planning.
What this essentially means is this: entrepreneurs and business owners don't plan to fail; rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).
In my view, there are two types of business plans. The first is the business plan you must create when you start your company. The purpose of this plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.
Among other things, this plan includes significant market research. It assesses your market size to ensure the opportunity is big enough. It analyzes customer segments to confirm that customer needs match your company's proposed product and/or service offerings. And it analyzes the competition to determine how your company will position itself and how you will most effectively compete.
From a strategic standpoint, the business plan must document your marketing plan (how you will secure customers), your human resources plan (who you will hire) and your operations plan (what key milestones you will accomplish and when).
When you're done, your business plan will confirm your market opportunity and give you a roadmap to follow. It will also be required should you wish to gain funding from investors and lenders.
Now, once your business is up-and-running, you still need a business plan in order to succeed. I refer to this type of business plan as a "strategic plan." I term it as such because this type of plan requires much less research (since you already know who your customers are, the market fundamentals, and lots of information about your competitors). Rather, the focus of this plan is strategy.
Specifically, this plan needs to identify precisely:
1. Where you want your company to be in five years
2. What you need to accomplish within the next year to progress you to that point, and
3. What your strategy is to complete your key milestones in the next 12 months
In determining the optimal strategies, you need to consider your company's strengths, and opportunities that can best leverage them. If you don't take time to do this, you become too tactical. That is, you continue to use the same tactics that have gotten you to the point you are at. And oftentimes, the strategy and tactics that got you where you are today are NOT the strategy and tactics that will get you to the next level.
So, spend time figuring out the best strategies to follow. The good news is that you've already proven you can execute on strategies (which is what got you to where you are now).
After you figure out the big picture opportunities to go after (which often fall into the categories of further penetrating your existing market, going after a new market, or creating new products/services for existing and/or new markets), you need to revisit the three core strategies you developed in your initial business plan.
To start, you need to modify your marketing plan. Importantly, your marketing plan should always be adding new marketing channels (e.g., direct mail, print, radio, search engine optimization, etc.) as the more channels you have, the more customers you will get and the less risk you have of one channel losing effectiveness (think about businesses who used to get all their customers from the yellow pages).
Next, consider your human resources strategy. What new people will you need to hire to accomplish your key goals in the coming years? And finally, you need to develop your operations strategy. Figure out what key tasks and milestones you need to accomplish over the next year and break them down into smaller projects that you and your team must accomplish. And then create a master schedule showing who, how and when these projects will be completed (I like using a Gantt chart to do this).
To achieve maximum success in your business, create a business plan when you start your company, and annually create a strategic plan to grow your company.
The planning process will force you to focus on accomplishing the right things in your business. Since even if you execute flawlessly, if you are executing on the wrong strategies and opportunities, success will elude you.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Regardless of how good your current website it, I'm confident it can be better. In fact, on my website, I'm constantly testing new ideas to improve it. I test different colors, different headlines, different pictures, and so on. And each time, I learn ways to improve.
Below I summarize the 10 key aspects of your website that you should review and improve over time.
1. Look and Feel
The look and feel of your website is much more important than you might realize. Because when visitors go to your site, it's critical that their first impression is positive.
Think for a minute about who your customers are and what they are seeking. Then cater to them. For example, the look and feel of Porsche's website is extremely cool and elegant. Conversely, the look and feel of the Ben & Jerry's website is much more animated and fun (right now it's showing cows drinking on the beach).
Both websites do a great job of conveying the image in which they want customers to view them. Make sure that the look and feel of your website does the same.
I'm sure following situation happens to you (since it happens to me all the time): I go to a company's website, I read the homepage, and I still don't know what the company does.
So, I end up going to the "About Us" page to read more and to try to decipher what it is that the company does.
Importantly, I'm the exception. Few other visitors will invest the time to figure out what your company does. Rather, if they don't immediately "get it" and you don't immediately show them how you will benefit them, they'll leave and be gone forever.
A quick tip here is to use compelling headlines. For example, if your website sold tires, a great headline would be: "See Our Selection Of Over 500 Brands of Tires at the Guaranteed Lowest Prices." This is pretty much what all customers are looking for (selection and best price), so this headline lets visitors quickly know what the company does and that they are in the right place.
I'm sure your website has many pages, and it's your job to make it as simple as possible for your visitors to find the pages they want.
Navigation should be done on a top and/or left navigation bar, using links at the bottom of your website AND within the body text of all pages of your site.
More and more people are using devices other than computers (particularly mobile phones and tablets) to access websites. Make sure your website is accessible from all of these devices or you will unwittingly be turning away new customers.
5. Quality Content
Website visitors have come to expect that your website will include quality content or information. For example, if your website has articles, they shouldn't be "fluff" - they need to include actionable advice that shows visitors that you know more than they do.
And clearly, having typos and grammatical errors will also turn off site visitors and prospective customers.
Think about the information you need to convey to customers to better solve their needs and differentiate from the competition. While some of this information is compelling verbiage about your company, more of it should be information that's truly helpful to customers and makes them feel they made the right choice by visiting your website.
6. Amount of Content
The amount of content you include on your website is important for two reasons.
The first is that the more content you have on your website, the more preference search engines like Google will give your site when ranking it for desired keywords.
The second is that if customers are considering doing business with your company, they will want to learn more and more about it. Having a 5 or 10 page website clearly won't allow you to do this (you can start with a small website, but you need to add to it over time).
Having a blog on your website helps solve both your website's need for amounts of content (#6) and interactivity (#7).
With regards to amount of content, adding a daily or weekly blog post entry will allow your website to constantly grow in size. This will boost your website's search rankings and give you more keyword opportunities to rank on (since each blog post might rank for certain keyword search terms).
With regards to interactivity, having a blog allows customers and prospective customers to interact with you. It gives you the opportunity to solicit feedback, which provides quick and easy market research.
Your blog also gives you a voice. Here's why this is important. People prefer to buy from people and not faceless companies. While your main website can have a professional, corporate look and feel, your blog gives your customers a look into your personality, and can encourage rapport and sales.
8. Prove that You are Worthy
Your website must prove that you are a worthy company, since many of your visitors may have never heard about you or your company, and there is a natural skepticism consumers have against companies they find online.
Unfortunately, overcoming this skepticism is not as easy as simply stating "we are great." Rather, you need to prove that you are worthy.
You can accomplish this by including any or all of the following on your website:
- Media mentions (in which media your company has been featured)
- Credibility logos (e.g., a logo of the Better Business Bureau with a link to your BBB rating)
- Client logos, names, testimonials and/or case studies showing you have performed quality work
- Industry associations and groups to which you belong
- Certifications you and/or members of your team hold
9. Have Multiple Calls to Action
Even though all of us have grown accustomed to going online to find new products and services to buy, the way each of us likes to buy is different.
Some of us like to buy online. Others like to fill out an online contact form. Others like to call a toll free number. And so on.
It is your job to ensure you have multiple ways in which visitors can contact you to learn more about buying your products or services.
Also, if customers may not be ready to buy now, include calls to action to download free reports or other items to satisfy their initial needs; these items should require them to give you their contact information for further marketing.
10. Effective Page Layout
The final key attribute of your website is the layout of your pages.
The key here is to ensure visitors have to think as little as possible. The idea layout influences visitors to take the desired actions. For example, if the goal of one of your web pages is to get the visitor to give you their email address, having the email box near the top of the page, with a clear headline above it in a big font, will yield much better results than the same email box on the bottom left corner of the page with a small headline.
Consider using a heat map program that can show you exactly how visitors are interacting with your website; what they are looking at, what they are clicking on, etc. As you can imagine, this information enables you to make significant improvements to your site.
From reading these 10 key website elements, ideally you will have identified at least a few improvements you can make right away. Also, please realize that improving your website is an ongoing process. You should always be trying and testing new ideas, so your website keeps getting better and better.
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Written by Jay Turo on Monday, June 3, 2013
Every time I moderate a strategic planning retreat, I learn something.
About the investment of life force necessary to build and sustain a successful organization in the modern business day.
About the importance of heartfelt and mutually supportive communication among and between an effective executive team.
About how there is no more efficient use of business time than to step away from the day-to-day, to reset, and to talk about the big “whys “of an enterprise.
And from this talk, to refresh, refine and define the best, most strategic, and highest ROI use of executives’ time and of an organization’s capital.
I have the great, good fortune to moderate 1 - 2 of these “big” strategic planning retreats each month.
This past week, the group was the eight person executive leadership team of one of the larger and more prestigious hospitals here in Los Angeles.
A dynamic and highly experienced group, these eight executives have management and leadership responsibilities for over 1,500 hospital employees - providing care to over 17,000 patients, including 4,000 deliveries and 8,000 surgeries annually.
Yes, these executives have their strategic and tactical hands full to the highest degree.
In addition to the sheer scale and breadth of their organization and of the truly life and death impacts of their decisions, they also must grapple with and adapt to the sea changes beyond their control in our brave, new healthcare world.
The Affordable Care Act.
Payor consolidation, driving down reimbursements.
An increasingly Byzantine thicket of regulatory, liability, and organizational complexity that can easily make a hospital executive feel that even their best work will and cannot “tilt the windmill” toward high quality and cost effective care.
But here’s the inspirational rub of it all…
The bigger the challenge, the more engaged does become the effective executive.
And in this hospital executive team that I had the privilege of working with this past week, well they were engaged and committed at the highest level.
Well, how about this - in spite of having a more than a century of collective experience, and having to travel from their homes an average of more than 50 miles through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, all eight members of the team arrived at the retreat 30 minutes before its scheduled 9:00 am start!
Or, how about the fact that the organization’s CEO, in spite of being on the job for 17 years and being honored as one of the nation's top hospital CEOs, seeking critical feedback from a staff member on the job less than 90 days?
How about a willingness to, in spite of leading a wildly successful and highly respected 100 year old+ organization, to in an afternoon agree to scrap the team's existing meeting structure and try something completely new?
And my favorite, how about a willingness to take on the challenge of fundamentally rethinking the performance review structures of their vast and complex organization, knowing that yes, doing so will result in far more work on their already stretched plates, but committing to it as it is in the profound interest of the organization's mission and reflective of its values to do so?
And that is all that matters.
These kinds of discussions, and of course many more of the highly confidential, and often heated and pointed type, resulted in a high emotion and results-packed retreat day.
Undertake this work like our fair and fine hospital executives did this past week and watch the magic happen.
And, of course, ignore it at your peril.
Because, as Thoreau once famously said an unexamined life is not worth living.
And an unreflecting organization will, in the end, almost always turn into one not worth having.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, June 2, 2013
Typically when I ask entrepreneurs and business owners what their number one challenge is, they reply that it's getting new customers.
And one specific question I often get is which are the best ways to generate new leads and customers? Certainly there are many tactics to choose from: direct mail, radio advertising, referral programs, and so on.
Particularly over the past decade, smart businesses have learned that one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to generate new leads is going online.
Two of the benefits of online lead generation are that it's quick and inexpensive. As you can imagine, it could take a month or more and several thousands of dollars to produce and run a radio, TV or print advertisement. Conversely, you can literally start generating leads online within an hour and with a budget of less than $100.
However, in my opinion, the real beauty of online lead generation is the metrics: you can track everything extremely closely to tell precisely how much money you spent, and calculate your return on investment.
On the other hand, traditional advertising like television, print and radio are much harder to track. For example, it's very hard to accurately tell if a new customer came to you from a print ad or a television ad, and it's even harder to tell which ad they responded to (e.g., the ad from newspaper A or the ad in newspaper B).
So, let me give you some tips and steps for creating an effective online lead generation campaign.
The first step is to determine what a lead is worth to you. For example, is a lead (for now, let's define a "lead" as someone who visits your website) worth 10 cents to you? 25 cents? 5 dollars?
Clearly, you need to understand what leads are worth to you, so you can generate leads at a lower cost than that amount.
So, how do you determine the value of your leads? The answer is to know, track and constantly improve your conversion rates. Conversion rates refer to the percentage of website visitors who take the actions you desire.
For example, let's say that for every 100 visitors that come to your website:
- 3 buy one of your products or services from your website
- 4 fill out your contact form
- 2 email you
- 6 call you
In this example, 15 visitors took a desired action; or you had a 15% overall conversion rate. And your conversion rate on buying online was 3%, on filling out the contact form 4%, and so on.
The next step is to determine how much each of these conversions is worth to you. For example, let's say:
- Your average product or service sale on your website generates $50 of gross profit
- 25% of people completing your contact form eventually buy from you at an average gross profit of $100 each
- 50% of people who email you eventually buy from you at an average gross profit of $75 each
- 33% of people who call you eventually buy from you at an average gross profit of $150 each
In this example, for every 100 visitors, you would generate $625 in gross profit as follows:
- $150 in gross profit from online sales
- $100 in gross profit from contact form conversions
- $75 in gross profit from email conversions
- $300 in gross profit from telephone conversions
Which means that every visitor to your website is worth $6.25. And as long as you can drive visitors to your website at less than this amount, you will generate profits.
Importantly, as mentioned above, not only must you know your conversion rates, but it is critical for you to continue to test and track to improve your conversion rates. For example, by changing the layout of certain pages of your website, you could boost overall conversions by perhaps 25%. This would mean that the average value per visitor to your website would jump from $6.25 to $7.81.
Not only would this jump allow you to boost profits, but it would enable you to outspend your competitors and advertise in places where they can't (since they perhaps generate only $5 per visitor). This is how you can truly dominate your market.
So, let's discuss where you can generate leads online. Here are my five favorites:
1. Search Engine Pay Per Click Advertising: Via pay per click advertising networks Google AdWords and Bing Ads (which covers ads on Yahoo and MSN), you can reach millions of web surfers. While many advertisers lose money with this method, if you know your metrics and improve them, you can make a killing here.
2. Social Media Marketing: You can drive lots of traffic to your website using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and/or LinkedIn.
3. Social Media Advertising: Some social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Twitter have specific advertising programs to allow you to attract their members and drive them to your website.
4. Online Media Buying: Online media buying is purchasing ad space on desired websites. Unlike pay per click advertising where you pay each time someone clicks on your advertisement, media buying is typically charged on a CPM or cost per thousand basis. That is, you pay every time a visitor sees your ad, regardless of whether or not they click on it. The key is to find the sites on which your target customers are spending time.
5. Search Engine Optimization: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your website to be listed at the top of the search engine results for your most desired keywords and keyword phrases. Gaining top positions on certain keywords can drive hundreds, thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of leads to your site each week. However, SEO results do not happen overnight; you need to have a strategy in place and invest in this lead generation technique.
I want to mention a key point here. You are more likely to be successful if you focus on doing an excellent job executing on just ONE of these five tactics, rather than doing an average job executing on ALL five tactics. So, my recommendation for you is to start with just one tactic above and gain success. Then you can start to add the other tactics.
And finally, when marketing online, it's important that you have a lead nurturing process in place. Specifically, not every visitor who comes to your website is ready to buy right away. So, make sure you have processes in place to capture those leads (perhaps by offering a free report or video in exchange for their email address), and then send emails to them to nurture and maintain your relationship with them over time. Because when you nurture them, when they are ready to buy, they will most likely buy from you as they know and trust you more than the competition.
Suggested Resource: Want unlimited online leads? And want a proven step-by-step system to get them. Check out our Ultimate Internet Marketing System to learn how you can build the ultimate online lead generation machine. Click here to learn more.
Written by Katie Perratore on Thursday, May 30, 2013
A great source of funding to start or grow your business is SBA loans.
SBA loans are issued by private banks. However, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a percentage of each loan. What this means is the following: if you, the entrepreneur or business owner, default on the loan (i.e., can't pay it back), the issuing bank only loses a small percentage of the money it lent you. The United States government essentially pays for the rest.
Because of this guarantee program, banks don't bear as much risk and are much more prone to issue SBA loans. This makes it easier for entrepreneurs like you to get these loans. Conversely, without the program, banks wouldn't make as many loans, and fewer businesses would get funding.
When small businesses grow, everybody wins. The entrepreneur can start or grow their business. In doing so, they create jobs. And their employees then have money to buy things. And the economy grows.
Small business funding challenges during the recession
But, as you may have noticed, business owners are still having trouble getting access to capital, namely 1) Small dollar loans, and 2) Loans in the niche industries affected by recession, such as real estate, finance, etc.
If you think about it, most small businesses don't need $1 million or even $500,000, and wouldn't even know what to do with it all. In many cases, even $100,000 can go a long, long way towards boosting revenues (or even doubling them) if invested in more lead generation campaigns, building a sales team, etc.
The odds are you can suffice with a smaller loan amount. In the past this has been more difficult because banks are geared towards extending larger loans since they can earn more interest for the same amount of due diligence per loan.
What the SBA is doing for small businesses
The SBA recently launched two loan-guarantee revisions that simplify and streamline paperwork even more for banks and borrowers.
One of them, the Small Loan Advantage program, is off to a strong start. It allows banks to make loans at more affordable rates, and brings more opportunities to borrow smaller loan amounts, like $50,000 to $100,000 or even less....which is great if that's all you need!
Applying for a small SBA loan from banks
To take advantage of this for yourself, find out which local bank makes the most SBA loans. You can often find this information on the bank's website. Or you can visit the branch or call them. Ask them how many SBA loans they make and how often they fund loans in the dollar range of what you need.
Find the local bank that is most active in the SBA loan program and apply for a loan. If the bank says you're not ready for the loan, don't hesitate to ask them why. Ideally, you can then fix the issue, and come back shortly thereafter and get the loan.
The SBA wants you to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. As mentioned, when you do, you will create jobs and stimulate the economy. So consider SBA loans as a funding source; they might be perfect for your business.
Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.
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