The biggest problem most businesses struggle with is revenue. More particularly, we struggle with marketing, which in turn should generate leads, which eventually should lead to sales.
As you know I'm a big fan of simplifying things so that they are easy to understand. Once we understand something we can break it up into parts (the art of deconstruction), and focus on getting one part right at a time.
I've recently had a number of conversations with early-stage service businesses around the topic of marketing and sales (and more importantly, the lack of sales), and that made me think about the process of going from marketing to lead nurturing and eventual sales.
The overall process
To understand how we go from marketing all the way to a sale, the first thing we need is an overall model. Let's look at the overall process and define what I mean by the different stages.
The diagram below shows my definition of the marketing and sales process.
I define the stages as follows:
- Marketing: the activities we do before we know our potential clients by name (or email address). These include things like posting on LinkedIn, being active on Twitter or Instagram or publishing articles on Medium.
- Lead nurturing: When a potential client downloads a lead magnet or signs up for a newsletter, we know who they are - and this gives us the ability to track their engagement with our content. We can now nurture these leads.
- Sale: This is where we make an actual sale to a customer. I define a "simple" sales as something that requires little or no interaction from ourselves - products like reports or (in my case) step-by-step guides are good examples of a simple sale. Complex sales require you to interact with the potential client to make the sale. Obviously, simple sales are faster and easier than complex sales where you have to devote a substantial amount of your time - which eats into your profitability.
- Delivery: This is where you deliver your service (or product). This is what you're already an expert at so usually you don't have problem with doing this.
- Follow-up: After your product or service delivery is complete, there is always the opportunity to bring them back for more. Or, if your client no longer wants to use your services, there may be a chance you can bring them back in future. But to do either, you have to follow up.
Where we struggle
Most business struggle with getting their marketing to deliver leads, and then nurturing those leads so that they turn into sales.
Some of us struggle with the sales process itself (it takes too long or we fail to convert leads into sales). Most of us are good at delivery, and usually we're not that good at following up.
If our marketing and lead nurturing is effective, we should be generating enough leads so we have a good rate of conversion to sales. So let's zoom in on the marketing and lead nurturing stages.
The Marketing and Lead Nurturing stages
When we zoom in on these two stages, here's what we find:
We're going to do marketing so that we create an awareness in the market. Marketing could be things like engaging on social media, advertising, public speaking or even cold calling.
Our hope is that an awareness will eventually drive people to our website. If what we're offering is interesting and compelling enough, visitors will download a free report or sign up for a mailing list.
If we're using the right tools, we can now track how people interact with our content - starting with our website. We know which pages they visited, how long they spent there, and how often they're coming back.
A key part of lead nurturing is content marketing, sometimes called email marketing. This is where we send regular information to those leads that hopefully drive them back to the web site to view our blog, go to a landing page or otherwise use our content.
By keeping up the engagement level and continuously providing value to our subscribers, we keep our products and services top of mind and remind them that we can help. And - eventually - they buy something from us.
Here's a more detailed view of how this works:
Now that we know all of this, what do we do with the information? Here's how this helps:
The purpose of your marketing is to create awareness in the market and drive people to your website.
This is a simple but critical understanding that we often lose in the complexities of marketing, social media engagement, tracking views on our articles and other arcane statistics.
Once you understand the purpose of your marketing, you can focus on doing those things that work and discard those that don't work.
For example, I've had great success with some of my articles on Medium - but most of the articles don't get much traction. So I need to decide whether I'm going to continue publishing on Medium, what I'm going to publish there and if this is a valuable use of my time.
The purpose of your website is to a) get people to give up an email address in exchange for something of value so that b) you can nurture those leads and c) make an eventual sale.
If you clearly understand your website's job description, you can design it so that it does that job well. Your website is not about you - it is about your clients and how you can help them solve their problems.
So you need to structure and design your website so that it turns away the people you don't want to work with, and guide those that remain to the right place. That right place is usually an entry-level product (relatively inexpensive) or an opening conversation with you.
The purpose of lead nurturing is to keep potential clients engaged, establish yourself as a trusted and valuable resource and eventually make a sale.
You don't know when your potential clients will be ready to buy, or what they're going to buy - but if you don't keep them engaged they definitely won't buy from you.
This means that you need to make your lead nurturing as valuable as possible but without taking up all your time. There are some great tools out there that can help you do that - and you have to invest in learning how to use them or get someone to do it for you.
Here's what all of this looks like:
If you're struggling with marketing, lead generation and eventual sales it's worth taking a step back and drawing your own version of the above diagrams.
If necessary, create your own simple model: My model above may not suit your circumstances perfectly - in that case create your own but keep it simple. You should still have marketing and lead nurturing as your two initial phases, but you may have your own flavors.
Start with marketing: What channels are you using to create awareness? Are they working for you? Should you drop some and test others? Remember the only really important metric is how many visitors eventually visit your website - nothing else matters.
Review your website: Does it clearly identify who you work with - and what problems it solves for them? Does it guide them to your lead product or service? Does it clearly show the available options, and does it make it easy for them to make an initial engagement with you?
Ramp up your lead nurturing: If you're not using content marketing you should be giving it a serious consideration. That's how you get these articles - and that's how I keep track of who interacts with what so that I can target future messaging more accurately.
Next week I will be launching my Service Business Masterclass - a fast-response masterclass for solving painful business problems. Keep an eye out for that if you need more help with the above.
And as always let me know if I can help in any way - I'm just a phone call or email away.