This blog article was written as a team project by Erica Castner of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and Phil Stalnaker from Atilus Web Development and Internet Marketing.
To a baseball fan, few times of the year are more exciting than April. Opening Day of the major league baseball season holds excitement, wonder, promise and hope for (almost) all of the teams in the league. Yes, I even include Chicago Cubs fans in that statement, as though there is no hope for an October run, they are still as optimistic and excited as everyone else. While there are plenty of other fun and enjoyable times of the season, such as the Home Run Derby and the play-offs (not to mention anytime the Atlanta Braves are playing), I don’t think anything beats the awesome-ness of Opening Day.
Alas, baseball cannot be played everyday of the year, so we must all learn to live with the off-season. To keep my fix during baseball’s off-season, I find myself quite regularly returning to ESPN’s “Hot Stove” reporters for the latest, minute-by-minute information on the trade market and free-agent signings. There is something intriguing about the Hot Stove – its freshness, the possibility of something that could be awesome but isn’t quite in the bag yet.
The excitement’s the same when dealing with hot leads in business. Feeling the butterflies in your stomach as you ask for the deal; waiting for the phone call with the promise of cash; and seeing the new ink on the signature line of a contract page – all are invigorating to the soul…that is, unless you aren’t getting those wins. In fact, a close loss, especially in the sales game, tends to hurt a lot more than the ones you knew you never had a chance at.
Marketing Strategy | Who are your Target Prospects?
The never-ending search for quality prospects, or hot leads, can be exhausting, especially when you are unsure of exactly who makes a hot lead for you. Since being trained and certified as a Guerrilla Marketing Coach, I have worked with many different types of business on this particular topic. No matter the particulars of their issue, I always start with a few questions on their target:
- How well do you know your target audience?
- Who are they?
- Where/how/when are they most influence-able?
- What are they dealing with in their life/business that you are uniquely equipped to solve?
These are basic questions, but vital in determining a plan to get those hot leads to your door. I am reminded of a quote from the movie “The Patriot” where the lead character tells his children (reminding them of their hunting lessons) to “…aim small, miss small.” The theory behind that quote is ideal in marketing, specifically in targeting your approach. If you aim to reach anyone, then you are going to come across a full variety of hot leads, cold leads and no leads – and you’ll be paying to reach them all. BY focusing your approach and defining what a very hot lead for you is, you can winnow “anyone” down to the very best potential clients, then put your marketing efforts into them.
For example, I had a friend who owned a flower shop that was next to a biker bar. She placed an advertisement inside the mens’ restroom (above each stall) that reminded men they could abate punishment for coming home late by bringing flowers. That’s what I mean by knowing your target.
Marketing Strategy | How do you Measure Marketing Data?
Baseball and statistics go together only about as well at hot apple pie and ice cream. I am not really sure of the history of why stats are so revered in baseball, though I am quite confident they are to blame for the fact that a ticket to a game costs $65. Statistics are popular in other sports as well, but baseball is severely more obsessive in its statistical analysis.
Measuring your prospects means finding a way to determine what activities work to bring in hot leads and sales. The most important component to accurate measurement of prospects is diligence. It’s really not magic; it just takes the will to make sure each and every prospect gets the opportunity to answer one simple question, “What brought you here today?” By having a defined list of possible answers, you can easily measure what activities work, bring in the most revenue and which ones need to be given a proper burial. Industries with lower priced items will find themselves with a larger prospect base and will thus have a bit more work in getting those answers, but whether a prospect meets one-to-one with a sales representative, passes through a cash register line, or makes an online order; all can be measured. You just have to be willing to ask the question.
Ways to Find Quality Prospects for Business Growth
One of the most vital abilities in baseball is vision. Not just the ability to see, but the ability to see the ball coming at you at upwards of 90+ miles per hour, the focus on the spin and flight path of the ball well enough to determine the type of swing necessary, then perform the action. Much like going to school, that kind of vision requires a) at least a modicum of talent, and b) lots of practice. In the business world, if you can say “hello” and add a few numbers together, you have enough raw talent to work with, you just need practice finding where your prospects are hiding. Here are a few key places to look.
Finding Good Prospects Online
Truthfully, we could spend an entire article on the debate between phone books and search engines (oh wait, that was done already a few thousand times in 2008), or hotly discuss which search engine is better (insert your reminder that Bing is actually a “decision” engine). We all know that phone books are a thing of the past, and are waiting for that Facebook #tbt photo of one where people ask, “Remember this?” Though Bing certainly is a decent search engine and seems to be getting small steps in market share, Google is still the clear out and out behemoth in the search engine world.
With all that, let me say this: if you are not online professional way, you are hurting your business.
Finding Good Prospects Online | Search Engine Optimization
While this article (as a whole) is not meant to be exhaustive, but more serve as an introduction to businesses and business owners who are fighting for every slice of the pie they can get their hands on. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the name used to call activities that help your website show up at the top of a search engine results page (SERP). In other words, if you are a dentist’s office and you want your site to show up on the organic search list for “tooth cleaning”, you need to perform SEO in order to make that happen.
Search engine optimization is a broader term that can mean a lot of different, albeit similar activities, but allow me to make it incredibly easy. Consider it this way: In order to make money, Google relies on advertisements. To interest advertisers, they must consistently maintain and grow market share. TO do that, Google has to provide their constituent base (searchers) with the best possible website for the particular keyword typed in the search bar. This requires observation (what words are they looking for?), interpretation (“tooth cleaning” must mean they are looking for a dentist’s office) and application (we recommend you visit this dentist office website).
To prove to the search engines that you are worth top placement, you have to show them you are the most active, content rich, and well-built site going after that particular keyword. There is no magic number, you just have to be better than everyone else. That takes time – like a train getting going – it’s hard to get moving, but once you do, it’s hard to stop. This means your website can’t have broken links and errors; you have to pay attention to title tags, meta tags, keywords, and descriptions; and as much as you may not enjoy writing, you have to be consistent with your blog.
This is all possible to do yourself, and if you can, all the power to you. However, if you can’t, understand it’s importance and don’t let yourself get shuffled to page 235 of the search results page; especially when no one looks past page 1.
Finding Good Prospects Online | Paid Search Ads
Often a great strategy while waiting for the train to get moving and to supplement it once it gets full speed, paid ads are a light switch that can instantly get you on page 1 of the search engine results, assuming you are willing to pay for it. While people to generally prefer to click on organic search results, there is more than enough data to show that paid ads work well too, and considering you only have to pay for the when after the individual clicked on your page; well, it’s a lot better than some other options. Wouldn’t it be nice if you only had to pay for that billboard when customers came to your store directly from it? It’s a new paradigm in marketing: pay-per-click is genius in that it only charges for actual clicks, which means each and every paid click is a visitor to your website.
Finding Good Prospects Online | Social Media Marketing
There are numerous articles in this thread alone that discuss in detail the pros and cons of social media. It has been a hotly contested subject for over 5 years. What I will say in this article is that while I recommend you be very careful to guard your time (as it can get lost very easily on Facebook, for example), good content on your social media sites do have a positive effect on the search engine presence of your website (albeit to a lesser degree than SEO). Social media can and does have value and can trace money directly to your bank account, but it is easy to spend way more time in there than planned. Watch closely.
Traditional Marketing Tactics
There are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of baseball teams to pick as your favorite. While I am happy to congratulate friends of mine for being long-time Kansas City Royals fans, the idea of sticking to outdated ideas that don’t work anymore is a bad idea in business. Traditional marketing, for the most part, is over-priced, outmoded options that are only really effective when you have the budget to make saturation. In other words, 1 TV commercial doesn’t work – you need 2-3 every hour in primetime. It doesn’t work to do one mass mailing – you need to keep reminding your prospects that you are here for them.
I am not saying these are bad options, but most small businesses I know cannot afford real penetration in the traditional marketing world; certainly not without significant creativity (see Business Fusion). The point of this article is to show that there are other options for lower budget companies to get out there.
Be the Face of Your Business | Business Networking
Building trust in relationships with others can certainly help you in your quest for more prospects, but how can you do this consistently and efficiently? The easiest way is to attend networking events (organized by your local Chamber of Commerce, trades associations or civic organizations). Showing up to these types of events is only part of the process. Chances are there is not a whole room full of people that happen to be your ideal prospect. There are some professionals out there that believe they have to introduce themselves to everyone in the room in order to find a couple of potential prospects. After all, finding prospects is a “numbers” game, but what do you do with all the business cards you collected at the event? How do you begin to follow-up with each person, accordingly? The answer: you don’t!
You have got to qualify people that you meet and put them into one of two categories: Prospect or Prospect Referral Source. It is easy to determine this if you can follow these steps:
- Identify the characteristics of your ideal prospect, prior to the event.
- Share these characteristics to others attending the event.
- Ask that person if they would keep you in mind if they meet someone with these characteristics.
You may have to dig deep to accomplish Step 1. However, steps 2 and 3 only take about a minute to convey if you are doing in correctly. By expressing what you are looking for and asking for help, others will be more likely to point you in the right direction to your ideal prospect.
Be the Face of Your Business | Business Fusion Partnerships
If you successfully accomplish the above networking techniques, you will have the beginning of your own business fusion network. Business Fusion is simply the idea of working together with companies that have similar targets and aligned goals to help achieve them together. This is the step at which you move from addition (bringing on clients as you can go out and market to them yourself) to multiplication (a network of other people consistently marketing for you).
We sincerely hope these ideas and tools are successful as you go out there and find quality prospects for your business growth. And if you are in the southwest Florida gulf coast region, then keep an eye out for both of us (Erica and Phil) as we are out there in the networking world and happy to help you hit that grand slam!