Every business owner wants more leads. It’s a refrain we hear all the time in our business. “How will a digital marketing strategy generate new leads and grow my business?” the budget-weary entrepreneur wonders.
It’s an entirely relevant question. It’s also the wrong one to ask.
What many owners of small- and medium-size businesses fail to realize is that leads can be had through any major digital platform by simply renting traffic. You can pay to boost a Facebook post, for example, and it might generate a few additional clients interested in your products or services. Pay a lot more and you may even experience an appreciable gain in sales.
Social media platforms, for all their faults, have millions of visitors — and with a bit of money you can have as much traffic as you want. Most marketing-savvy businesses find it relatively easy to draw visitors to their website. With the help of an optimized buying process, often called a sales funnel or sales pipeline, you can require visitors to enter an email address to download content or sign up for a newsletter. Once you have obtained their permission to communicate with them, you can follow up with a prospect and begin to craft a relationship, all with the goal of making an eventual sale.
But this can be a somewhat arbitrary process and can generate mediocre results if it’s not well designed.
The more important consideration is determining exactly how to generate good-quality, sales-qualified leads who will actually purchase your products or services. Customer generation, not just lead generation, should be your focus when designing the right digital marketing strategy for your business. As a side note, we look at leads, customers and clients as three distinct groups and don’t even classify customers as clients until they have bought from us at least twice.
Moving your focus to getting a customer and turning them into a client, rather than just a lead, shifts the emphasis to encouraging prospective clients to make a purchase, any purchase, from your company. Getting your prospects to open their wallet and make a minor financial commitment by giving them a low-cost, high-value product for free so long as they pay for the shipping, for example, allows you to up-sell, down-sell and cross-sell right then in the checkout process. Once they are a happy client, you can focus on creating repeat orders and selling them on the value of your flagship product or service while building a loyalty-based business — the Holy Grail of long-term growth.
In the retail sector, for example, jewellery giant Tiffany and Co. blew away analyst sales predictions for the 2017 holiday shopping season when they introduced a (reasonably priced, by Tiffany standards) homeware line that featured the company’s signature designs. Clients flocked to their stores in droves for a chance to purchase these new items. Judging from Tiffany’s revenue results, many also bought more expensive baubles as well, while entry-level clients had the opportunity to forge a new loyalty to the baby-blue brand.
It’s clear that Tiffany clued in to an important retail truism — if you can attract clients with lower priced items, while still offering your flagship mid- to high-priced staples, you can help them gain a footing on your sales ladder, then use smart marketing to eventually up-sell to your higher-priced (and higher margin) offerings.
If you’re a service provider, such as a lawyer or an accountant, you can use similar tactics as part of your lead generation system. Try using a “lead magnet,” such as a piece of content that’s relevant and helps solve a challenge that your prospective clients might be experiencing (or provides must-know information) to grab their attention and convey your expertise and eagerness to engage.
Once you capture the client’s interest, you can work to build a deeper relationship, commonly through in-person meetings or even a presentation to demonstrate your knowledge in a relevant area. In that scenario, you not only have an opportunity to close the deal, but also to potentially up-sell by funnelling them into your product pipeline and up the sales ladder to your flagship offer. This will help you fully maximize their value as a client.
So, here’s the best, most counter-intuitive advice I can give: if you want to gain a competitive advantage and grow your business, figure out how to pay more than your competitors can afford to acquire paying customers via your digital marketing platform of choice. Yes, you read that correctly. I want you to spend more, not less, for leads because you’re not actually acquiring leads, you’re acquiring customers whom you’ll turn into long-term clients.
You should expect to pay more (perhaps double, in some cases) to acquire a high-quality client in your industry. If your approach is effective — presenting these potential clients with useful information they actually want or helping them overcome a challenge with minimal investment because you’ve done all the work in advance — then you stand a much better chance of having them sign on the dotted line.
Take it from someone who’s spent years tinkering with online advertising and content strategies to acquire new clients. When it comes to digital marketing, you always get what you pay for and you want to pay for new clients — not just leads.
Dave Burnett is CEO of AOK Marketing, a Toronto-based firm that helps traditional offline businesses get discovered online.