When a few of your long term clients – you know the ones; the ones you bank on being there for the next few months – begin to “evaluate” their current contracts, it is easy to feel a sense of anxiety.
Perhaps your motivation and confidence starts to wobble as one after another potential lead says “Thanks, but no.” Your diary starts to look a little empty and you begin to wonder when exactly you are going to make your next sale.
When business is good, you are king of the hill. But when business gets tough, it is easy to start feeling a tad nervous. And when these nerves turn to panic, it can really start to filter in to your marketing; which makes the lack of business leads only get worse.
Why? Because the 2 biggest mistakes you can make when business gets tough is to reduce your prices and to widen your market.
I’ll come back to reducing prices at another time, but let’s deal with the widening of your market first. I suppose it kinda makes sense to feel you must widen your market if your business leads are drying up. After all, you want more clients.
But never get confused with wanting new clients with wanting to have any-new-client-who-will-have-you.
When you start to widen your market, it is easy to lose your focus, your speciality and your ability to compete with other businesses.
The more focused you are in who you want to attract and the more targeted your marketing is, the more successful you will be in winning more clients and customers. And if there is one thing that you are more likely to win over other cheaper competitors is by being a specialist.
When you try to win any-new-client-who-will-have-you, your marketing starts to become spray and pray. The more letters, emails, calls and Facebook posts you can get out, the more chance you feel someone will come back to you. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Here are the 3 core problems caused by spray and pray marketing; and the solution to each one.
Sending everyone to the same website
Problem – the attention span of your average website visitor is less than a couple of seconds. People are not as patient online and scan web pages, rather than read them. And social media has only made our attention span online get worse and worse.
If they can’t see the right information for them, they hit the back button. And if you are sending everyone, online and offline, to the same home page, are you giving that potential new client the right information to make a decision on whether to buy from you?
How do you know if you have this problem? – check your web stats and look at your bounce rate. This will show you how many people click away from your site after viewing only one page. An average bounce rate is 50% so if you are way up in the 70 or 80 percentile, there’s possible a problem. Even if your website is your blog, if most people are coming on over to read just one article and then leave, then you’ve potentially got some work to do to encourage interested people to stick around and act on what you’ve got to offer.
If you sell products and services online, you will also keep track of your conversion rates. How many visitors do you need to attract to your website to make one sale? And yes, it can be quite a depressing figure when you realise that it may take 10,000 visitors for 1 person to buy your £97 online course … gulp!
Solution – Having a separate website for each of your target clients is ideal, but not always practical.
Start off by having separate pages relevant for different clients and give out a dedicated web address to the right clients. For example a training business could have www.yourwebsite.com/retail if they have decided to target this sector. When a potential retail client clicks through to this page, they can read about the problems retail businesses have, what specific solutions are on offer to them and what targeted results can be achieved. There is a greater chance that this training company is going to be perceived to be a specialist in the retail sector, thus improve their chances of winning business.
The option you have is to make use of one of the large number of squeeze page products out there (LeadPages is my current favourite, must-have web tool). This makes it very easy (for a non-techy who does not understand HTML coding) to set up and create specific pages for your targeted marketing campaigns.
For example, if you are running a campaign to promote a free event such as a webinar, you don’t want people to have to be stumbling around your website and getting lost in the navigation. Or, even worse, bouncing off your home page because they can’t see your event (remember the split second it takes for someone to scan a page … they will no patient to look carefully for your beautifully designed “click here” graphic.)
Send people direct to a specific landing page (and yes, you can use a standalone page from your LeadPages account to do this) and not only will you get better conversion, you will have accurate stats to work out how well that page is converting.
Sending everyone the same letter & brochure
Problem – 1,000 letters and brochures are sent out to a mailing list which results in not one enquiry. Expensive!
How do you know you’ve got this problem? – When the invoices for the printing and postage start hurting your bottom line.
So few small business owners even consider using direct mail any more because the fear of wasting their time and money. And yet, direct mail is still one of the communications channels that work … social media and email may be cheaper but they will never replace the effectiveness of a well written letter, leaflet or postcard. If none of your competitors are doing, then you’ve got a unbelievable competitive advantage is you decide to embrace snail mail.
Solution – Break down your database in to smaller lists, for example by industry sector, location or common problem. Spend time modifying your letter so it is written specifically to that person. The aim is to have each person read that letter feeling that it is written personally for them. It focuses exactly on a problem they may have and gives them a clear call to action that is desirable enough for them to act on.
Save your printing costs and do away with a fancy smancy brochure, unless of course you sell a high-end product or service and your target client would expect something glossy. And keep the mailing small enough so that you (or someone in your team) can follow up each and every letter by phone.
Follow up is key to direct mail success and it will help you identify what’s working … and what’s not!
Sending everyone the same email
Problem – Emails are being ignored and possibly even reported as spam. Open rates have been slowly decreasing over the past 5 years. Email is by no means dead (as some social media gurus like to claim LOL) but you have to work bloody hard to grab reader’s attention in their inboxes; especially when you consider how small a screen most people read their emails on now.
How do you know you’ve got this problem? – If you are using a subscription based email service, check your open rates. It may be easier to send every email to the whole of your database, but if it is resulting in your subscribers ignoring you, you are in danger of damaging your brand. Remember, useful emails to some may be spam to others.
Again, break down your database in to smaller lists. Can you define people by the products they have bought? Or where they have subscribed from? Is there an opportunity to make a special offer to just those who signed up for a free report you offered last year?
This is where I spend most of my time personalising and splitting down my communications. It pays to be sending some emails to just 100 people and other emails (sometimes making exactly the same offer but presented in a different way) to 1,000.
If you want a lesson on targeted emails, just buy something from Amazon or Tesco
So no more spray and pray OK?!
Spray and pray marketing may feel like the right thing to do when you desperate to find more clients. But don’t! Take the time to focus on your target clients; focus on their common problems and focus on providing a solution that is right for them.
Targeting to specific clients is the key to successful small business marketing.