I’ve talked to so many business owners over the years who attempt to apply financial processes to their marketing programs and they almost all fail at some point. Have you ever said “if you can prove to me my marketing is profitable, I will increase the budget to whatever you need” put another way “If my cost to acquire a new customer (CPA) is less than the profit generated from that customer, I will spend a lot more on advertising.” The pragmatism behind those statements is attractive to so many and makes good, logical sense to any business owner. From my point of view, there’s nothing wrong with these statements. It’s what comes next that leads them to failure.

The next step is to bring in several competing agencies to make a pitch on how they are going to deliver more leads than the next guy and ultimately lower their CPA. Marketing companies, hungry for new business tend to pitch specific tactics or creative they will deploy to achieve your desired results without digging into why your customers currently buy from you, the lifecycle of the relationships you have with them or how you communicate a message that will resonate with them. This will lead to a campaign which is only targeting the bottom of the marketing funnel since those leads are easiest to track to a final sale where the agency can take credit for the revenue. Messaging will typically be aggressive and focus on an exclusive offer to drive clicks since that is a successful bottom of funnel strategy for a lot of different business types.

The campaign above may deliver results for you in the short term, especially if you haven’t done much marketing in the past but will eventually fall flat over time. The problem with this logic is that you are attempting to condense a relationship at the bottom of your funnel, in one short 144 character message or offer and my guess is that’s not how you built your customer base.

To get to the root of the problem think back to when you closed some of your best customers and ask yourself these questions:

  • Where and how did the relationship begin? Was it a referral from someone you knew for many years?
  • How was trust built over that relationship? At what point in the relationship did the client trust you and stop shopping the business to competitors?
  • How casual and personal are your conversations with these customers? Do you know anything about their personal life? Do you know what they do outside of work, hobbies, etc.?

Here’s the secret to digital marketing: DIGITAL ADVERTISING HAS NOT CHANGED HOW TRUST AND RELATIONSHIPS ARE FORMED. Imagine for a minute if you swapped in your current ad messaging into your first encounter with the customers from above. Would you have sold them? Would you have the relationship you have now? Probably not. They would see you as someone trying to sell them something and you would be lumped in with the thousands of other companies they are exposed to every day through digital ads. It’s tough to get a personal relationship when it starts that way.

Your digital campaign should make sense to you even if you don’t understand the platforms! Each stage in the funnel should progress a relationship naturally, the same way you have done it in the past. Something like the following:

  • Top of funnel – Think about an introduction at a cocktail party. You might introduce yourself with your name and what you do for work. Top of funnel strategies will generally do the same thing: your brand name and a point or two about what makes you different.
  • Mid funnel – You meet this same person at a second event. Now you know them, you say hello, start a conversation and possibly exchange contact information. A good Mid funnel strategy will work the same way. Maybe it’s a social media outreach to all the people who follow you, a response to a comment, attendance to a Webinar or a collection of an email address through a registration or resource download. This is the beginning of the conversation with these prospective clients.
  • Bottom funnel – Now that you have their contact information, you might schedule a lunch, a drink or coffee. This is where you make your sales pitch, after you have built the relationship and trust. A good strategy will identify those prospective customers who are in the middle of the funnel with an offer or other hook.

The purpose of digital advertising is to take what you already do and scale it. Think of how many cocktail parties you could possibly attend on your own or even with a team of sales staff. It won’t compare to the number of relationships you can build using digital tools. It’s not even a comparison to the thousands or even millions of people you can connect to on digital media.

Now, let’s get back to your current digital campaign and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Top of funnel [think about how many new introductions you are getting]
    • How many new people do you reach every day [impressions]?
    • How often do you get in front of them [impressions/reach]?
  • Middle of funnel [how many new conversations did you engage in]
    • How many engagements (clicks, comments, likes, video views, downloads, etc.)?
  • Bottom of funnel [how many meetings or opportunities to pitch are you getting]
    • How many meetings, quotation requests, lead forms, request for additional information are you getting?

If your marketing campaign worked at one point, but then slowed down over time it’s likely that you have been missing the top or middle of the funnel. A strong strategy at the top should feed the bottom with a consistent flow of incoming leads. It’s a far more sustainable process than just focusing on the bottom of the funnel and will provide more value to the brand long-term.

 

If you are selling in a B2B market then you already know the challenges to finding new customers. Your prospects are getting barraged with cold-calls, emails and digital ads which makes it very difficult to stand out and get their time and attention.

Most B2B marketers look for a hook to engage their audience, something of value to their prospective customers which is given away in return for their attention and engagement. The hardest part of this process is to figure out what has perceived value to your prospective customers which will also make financial sense; not be taken advantage of by non-qualified prospects; and brings the prospect closer to the ultimate goal of buying something from you. As an example: I once received a $100 bill from a financial planner in the mail with a note “I know your time is valuable, so please accept my call in exchange for this $100…” which got my attention and I did take his call but I had zero interest or need for a financial planner at the time. I’m also not sure if this makes financial sense to scale it for most B2B marketers.

Before you start sending out $100 bills, follow this quick guide to help you brainstorm some ideas for your hook:

  • Start with a persona exercise to get a sense of what would be of value to your prospective customers. Once completed you should be able to answer these questions: What topics interest them the most? Who are their primary influencers? What motivates them professionally and personally? There are many good articles on how to develop persona’s you can find with a quick Google search such as this one: https://www.quicksprout.com/customer-persona/
  • Develop your brand’s story which should resonate with your customer personas. Describe what makes you different, why you exist and what you will provide to your customers and team members. If you’ve never developed one, here’s an article to get you started from Shopify: https://www.shopify.com/retail/how-to-build-a-brand-story-lessons-from-retail-branding-experts
  • Now find the intersection of interests of the target customers to your brand story. Which part of your brand story will provide value to your audience? This is where you will find the best ideas for your hook.
  • Now ask yourself these questions before you commit to your hook:
    • Does it have perceived value to my target audience?
    • Is it financially viable at scale?
    • Is it valuable enough to get your target audience to act and engage with you?
    • Does it enhance and build on our brand story and voice?

Here are few common tactics to get your started:

  • Live Events – I like events because they are time sensitive, meaning the date of the event provides a sense of urgency to your audience, i.e. “Last chance to register for this amazing event.” It also places you face to face with potential customers where you won’t have to compete for their attention. An event can be tailored to fit any industry, brand story or customer persona. Find key influencers in your industry to speak at the event and help with the marketing to fill the room. Use your vendors to help with speakers and venues. Capture the event on video for future marketing, social media and blog posts.
  • Webinar – If a physical event is outside your budget then try a Webinar. There are many software packages which are low cost or free to hold it and will only require you to have a laptop and camera. Send out an email blast with a link to a landing page which describes the benefits of attending so you can collect email addresses and phone numbers for future marketing purposes. Record the event for later use on social media and YouTube to gain additional traffic.
  • Free Consultation – Nearly every B2B has used this method at one time or another. It can work well if you clearly provide a benefit to the prospective customer and not just a sales pitch. Make this very clear in the marketing copy such as: “No purchase necessary, get a free evaluation to see how much you can save.” It works even better if you have an automated form for the customer to fill out where you automatically email them results once completed. Conversion rates tend to be higher since the commitment level of the user is perceived to be smaller than taking a phone call. It will also allow you to collect the information you need to better market to them.
  • Enter to Win – If you are looking for a Top Funnel strategy, then this could be a good tactic. The primary issue is that you will most likely get a lot of unqualified people to fill out the form. The low perceived commitment from the user with a large potential gain will increase engagement and allow you to collect important marketing information such as email addresses, but your resources may be stretched if you begin treating the information as leads which are handed over to the sales team. The sales team calling/contacting leads is your most expensive tactic which I would save for truly qualified leads so before you send these over to them, add some qualifying questions to your lead form.
  • Freemium or Free Trial – A highly popular tactic for software, apps or online services the freemium model allows users to try the service for a period of time or with limited features before they make a purchase. It’s one of the best hooks if it is financially viable. I would encourage you to open up the free trial for limited periods of time to create the sense of urgency and leverage the information you collect such as the pages/features they frequented most to setup marketing automation for when users end the free trial.

Your hooks will eventually go stale so I would encourage you to try many different hooks over the course of a year. Collect data from each, analyze the effect on your marketing and sales funnels and repeat.

 

Planning on redesigning or building a new website? Most companies fail to plan properly which leads to delays and budget overruns. I’ve seen many companies over the years spend 6+ months in the development phase, mostly due to decision makers in the organization not having the same goals and objectives. One person from sales might be trying to get viewers to call them while another person in the marketing department may be trying to get the brand message front and center and customer service may be trying to get the users to find a help section. These conflicting strategies will often result in a website with too many call to action buttons which can make the site look busy and not perform very well for any strategy.

By contrast, some of the best performing websites I’ve been involved in have one primary goal or objective and all the others take a back seat. I try to explain this as if the website were a person and had to report to several people each with a different goal or objective. Have you ever been in this spot? No one ever seems to be happy with this situation and I’ve never seen it with a positive outcome.

The next biggest issues typically happen a few months after the site is launched because the company did not anticipate how they would make updates to the site, integrations to other internal systems or the impact to SEO. The adage of measure twice, cut once will save you a lot down the road.

Before you start your project, ask yourself these questions below to keep your website development focused, on schedule and within the original budget.

  1. What purpose will your new website serve?

Your website should be one part of a broader growth strategy. Is the Website a top of funnel tactic where you are attempting to build brand identity, is it part of a middle funnel where you are seeking to increase engagement or is it closer to the bottom of the funnel where you are attempting to capture leads and sales?

  1. Do you have clearly defined KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success or failure?

Going back to item #1, if you don’t have a clearly defined strategy then attaching KPI’s to measure success becomes impossible. Be sure you have a specific business goal you are attempting to hit before you decide to build a new Website. Common KPI’s for a Website depending on your strategy are listed below:

  • Top of funnel – How many users, unique users, page views or sessions.
  • Mid funnel – Page views per session, downloads or other events which indicate engagement.
  • Bottom funnel – Sales, conversions, registrations, app downloads or logins.


  1. What image or impression are you trying to make and will it resonate with your target audience?

If you haven’t developed your customer persona’s, now would be the time to do it. This will tell you who you are trying to reach, what message will likely resonate with them. There are many good articles on how to develop persona’s you can find with a quick Google search such as this one: https://www.quicksprout.com/customer-persona/. Pass this information along to your designer and copy editor to create a site specific to this audience.

  1. Which CMS platform will you use?

This decision will determine how much your ongoing costs will be, how well it will perform in search engine results and how easy it will be to integrate with your CRM and other systems. Technology requirements are always changing. Over the past 10 years we have seen the need to: make sites mobile friendly, increase page speed through compression. Some of the most common systems such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have large user bases and marketplaces for third party developers which increases the options for extensions and plugins to the latest technology and trends. Updating your website will become cheaper since there are so many people trained to service these platforms.

  1. Is your web developer or designer giving some kind of phased approach and timeline?

Depending on the complexity, timeline, # of templates/pages and price of your new website build, this will determine the amount of detail that goes into each phase of the process which could include: information architecture (navigation and customer UX), technical requirements, wireframes, design and development. If you have a highly technical website, strict branding guidelines, and several levels of management approval, you likely have a higher budget and a longer timeline to account for each step of the process. On the flip side, if you are a small or medium sized business with a smaller budget, your agency may take a theme approach which should get your website’s design & development 50-75% completed which will result in a shorter timeline. Whatever your case may be, you should expect some kind of project timeline in a phased approach to make sure you see eye-to-eye with your agency throughout your website build. The ultimate goal is to not end up with a completed website that you or your boss is not happy with! Make sure this is outlined in your project scope.

  1. How will your content be updated?

No matter your purpose or strategy, your website content should be updated regularly to include your latest offers, products, news, events, case studies, blog articles, call to action buttons and landing pages. Who is going to be responsible for writing the content and publishing it? Before hiring an agency, be sure to ask about pricing for ongoing maintenance and updates.

  1. Is your messaging effective? Does it resonate with your audience?

Going back to #2, if you don’t have clearly defined KPI’s, you may never know if your message is effective or not post launch. Once identified you can test several messaging tactics and measure the difference. As an example: If your purpose is to drive new leads, A/B test a few different landing pages to see which one has the highest conversion rate.

  1. How will you handle redirects?

When you create a new website, links to the old website need to be redirected to the new one. If you miss this step, users who may find a link to your site from an older social media post, business listing or Google search will end up with what is referred to as a 404 error page. This will not only negatively affect your user’s experience, but also hurt your search engine optimization. The process is pretty simple but varies depending on the platform you are using.

  1. What integrations will you need and who’s in charge of them?

Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are the most common integrations and all of the major CMS platforms will support these, but you may also need an integration into your CRM to capture incoming leads, additional third party pixels to track the effectiveness of your digital ads, online chat features or custom integrations into your POS (Point of Sale) system. Be sure your have a plan and someone responsible for all of the integrations and coordinate them with your design team.

 

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is sort of like studying for a test; there’s always more you can do to prepare, and you are never really sure you are done.

There are three primary components to an SEO campaign:

  1. Technical – The way your site is developed can have an impact on how well Google indexes your site. If your site loads too slowly or isn’t designed well for a mobile device for instance, this can negatively impact how well it will show up in search results. Other components such as the site structure, sitemaps and META data will also have an effect on your rankings. There are thousands of articles to help you with the technical aspects of your SEO campaign including this one: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/05/25/the-12-most-important-elements-of-a-technical-seo-audit/.

  2. Content – The amount and quality of the content you have on your site will impact your search results. If you are writing a blog for instance and you consistently post articles every week you will certainly see an improvement in your search traffic. Blog articles with 1,500 or more words will usually perform better than blog articles with 500, a daily frequency will perform better than a weekly or monthly and when you publish more than 50 articles you will also see a bump in traffic.

  3. Links – The number and quality of the links from other sites to yours will have a large impact on your search traffic. Setting up links from directories, social media profiles and working community sites such as Quora and Reddit are popular options for link building but can take a
    tremendous amount of time.

So, how much time you devote to this project depends on your strategy. I listed out some factors to help answer this question.

  • Do you offer a product or service that people search for? If not, then no need to waste time on SEO. Your resources are better spent on awareness and display ads.

  • What’s your budget? If you have a total annual marketing budget of over $250k, then you should consider spending a minimum of 10% of that budget towards SEO. If you have a limited or minimal budget then SEO may be your only option and you’ll have to do most of the work yourself.

  • How much does it cost to get a click from a paid search ad for your primary key phrases? If you are forced to pay several dollars per click to get included in the search results, then you should have a longer-term SEO campaign. If it’s relatively cheap to get clicks then the cost benefit analysis may not work in your favor.

Where do you start once you’ve decided on an SEO campaign? I listed out in order of importance below by category starting with tasks which take the least amount of time but provide the largest benefit. Start at the top and work your way down until you’ve hit your cap for time and resources:

  1. Technical – Assuming you are using a standard Content Management System such as WordPress, most of the technical aspects of your campaign can be handled in a few minutes to a few hours using off-the-shelf free or low-cost plugins assuming you don’t have too many pages. Here’s an article with reviews of a few of these plugins: https://www.wpbeginner.com/showcase/9-best-wordpress-seo-plugins-and-tools-that-you-should-use/. If you have a custom HTML site, this project could take considerably longer and will require some technical assistance in most cases. Here’s a free SEO checker to get you started: https://www.semrush.com/lp/site-audit-2/en/.

  2. Content –
    a. Content and links usually go hand-in-hand. The more content you have to share on social media, the easier it is to get people to link to it. This is why, if you have to choose between quantity and quality of the content you are posting, always go for quality. It will make your SEO campaign far more successful with less effort than attempting to get people to link to lower quality content.

    b. You should post consistently. As an example: if you only have resources for 4 articles per month, then post them one per week rather than all 4 at once.

  3. Links –
    a. Add your business to Google My Business and verify your address. It’s one of the most important aspects of your SEO campaign. Do the same for Facebook, Bing and Yelp. Run a Google search to find any directories specifically devoted to your industry and request to be included. It won’t take long and will make it easier for your customers to find you.

    b. Create all of your social channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora, Reddit and Snapchat. Be sure to add a link to your site from the profile sections.

    c. Add a social post across your newly setup channels daily if possible. Break out your content into shorter snippets to generate multiple posts out of a single blog article and link back to the article each time you use content from it.

    d. Join social sites such as Quora and Reddit to communicate with people who have an interest in the same subject matter. Search for and answer questions specific to your industry when possible. Each one of these connections and interactions will generate links back to your profile which is then linked back to your site.

If you plan to outsource this process, the pricing is all over the map depending on frequency and difficulty of the content writing and posting, and level of sophistication in the link building and technical aspects of the campaign. Expect to pay between $100 and $150 per hour for technical and link building and $25 to $75 per hour for blog writing. Social media management will cost you an extra $1k to $3.5k a month. The total package will cost you between $2.5k and $7.5k per month.

 

  1. Does every team member have clear KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to measure their success?

Every member of your team should have a clear picture of what success looks like for their respective position and KPI’s will help you measure their progress towards your overall business goals. This will keep everyone on the team rowing in the same direction and clearly define responsibilities within the organization.

There are so many affordable, off-the-shelf software systems which can track everything from sales to service and accounting so there’s really no excuse to not track outcomes for every department. In my personal experience, your team may not like the change initially, but will eventually embrace it since it will more clearly define success and failure which can relieve stress and anxiety.

  1. Do you have training manuals for every position within the organization?

This will help you define everyone’s role and responsibility within the organization and provide a clear path towards growth. You will be able to hire and train for specific skill sets and get them up, running and productive much faster.

Start with your employee manual to set expectations for the entire team, then map out your organization hierarchy and match primary responsibilities to each. Then begin filling in job responsibilities and primary KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators.) Ask each of the team members to write up a process for each of the job functions and review with them to be sure they are using the most efficient and productive methods.

  1. How do you maintain communication with your team?

It was easy when you were 5 employees since everyone was in the same room, but that’s not going to work when you add 20 or more people. A fast growing business will need to streamline communication to keep up with the fast changing environment. Consider having an annual strategy meeting and be sure to include all departments. This is where you will plan out the next year, project growth and set your KPI’s. Hold daily huddles with your managers and make sure they are all doing the same with their respective teams. Keep everyone standing to keep the meetings to the point, short and efficient so they can get on with their daily tasks. Have monthly or quarterly reviews for every employee to keep everyone on track and let them know where they are succeeding and failing.

  1. Does everyone share the same vision you have? Do they know where you are headed and why?

During your annual strategy session consider an exercise to develop and set your core values, mission statement and company culture. This will help keep the team together. It’s easy to keep everyone on the same team when you first started your company, but as you grow and bring on new team members they may not fit in as well as your first few hires. Over time, this can create factions within the organization which nearly always leads to infighting and a far less productive work environment for everyone. The core values and mission statement make it clear what you are about, what you stand for and how you work together as a team.

  1. Do you have the right technology to scale your organization?

How much new business can you handle at current staffing levels? Imagine a doubling or tripling of your business, how many additional people would you need to hire and train today to handle that? Hiring and training new staff members is one of the biggest hurdles to growing so consider looking at every job function to look for technology solutions to streamline each. Don’t think you have the budget for a CRM, Workflow Application or Accounting system? Consider the resources you spend in hiring, training and managing one team member and you will see it is almost always less expensive to solve a task with software vs. adding staff. Always ask the question: “Can we solve this with technology?” before hiring someone new. 

  1. Do you have a clear picture of who your best customers are, why they use you over your competitors and are your marketing messages consistent?

When you first started your company, you probably already knew all of this inherently without having to write it all down. You were on the front lines selling your product or service, listening to your customers and experimenting with different sales pitches. As you grow, add more sales or marketing people, that connection may be lost. Consider surveying your customers to develop customer persona’s and ask them why they use you over someone else. From here, develop your primary marketing messages and communicate them to the entire team so everyone knows what the customers want and expect from you. If you are using an agency, be sure to share this information with them. Check your website, social media, email and marketing content to be sure the message is consistent throughout all communication with potential and existing clients.

  1. Do you have a Cash Flow Statement with projections out 3 months or more?

Growth can be costly for many business types. If you get a new customer or order, what is the impact on your cash flow? Will you have to hire more people in advance of being paid or will you have to stock up in inventory? Will you need a bigger office or machinery? A good part-time or full-time CFO will need to get a handle on the impact of new business on your available cash, help you acquire loans or help you put together financial statements and a business plan to attract an investor.

  1. Are your vendors ready for growth?

Depending on your business type, you may need to reach out to your primary vendors and ask them if they have the capacity to support your growth. Even if the answer is yes, you may want to consider having multiple vendors for mission critical resources. You never know when one vendor may have an issue outside of your control. This becomes more complicated if you rely on a vendor outside of your country since customs, tariffs, taxes or currency fluctuations can have a high impact on the price or timeliness of delivery. Spread the risk if you can.

 

KPI (Key Performance Indicators) should give you indications on how well your business is performing against a key business objective. Most businesses want to grow and will have a target growth rate such as 20% year over year and although sales and revenue are great KPI’s, there are many more you can use which will help you watch the progression towards your goals.

I use a function in Excel to determine correlations between certain customer engagements, sales or marketing data and sales. I run the correlation function across many KPI’s to determine which ones have the largest effect on the growth before deciding which ones I will follow. I have broken out some of the most common KPI’s by funnel objective to help you predict how well your growth plan is working today and how likely it will be successful down the road several months or years into the future.

  1. Top of Funnel – This is the beginning of your relationship with potential customers. How many people know you and your brand? These KPI’s can be difficult to correlate to sales if you have a longer lead to sales cycle and you may have to run it several weeks or even months back to correlate with a certain time period for sales. Correlations are typically much smaller than further down the funnel since they are dependent on strong execution in the middle and bottom of the funnel.
    • Reach – This will tell you how many people you are reaching with your ads. Google, Facebook and nearly every other digital platform will provide this number for you.
    • Impressions – This will tell you how many times your ad was put in front of a user.
    • Frequency – If you divide Impressions by Reach you will get Frequency which is how many times the average person was exposed to your ad.
  2. Mid Funnel – Mid funnel is where you begin engaging with the prospective clients. It’s the next step in your relationship with them and it becomes easier to correlate than the Top of the funnel to your end goal… growth.
    • Engagement – This can mean a lot of different things depending on the digital platform and advertising methods. It could mean that someone simply “Liked” a post you have on your Facebook page or clicked on a Google search ad. It will show you how effective your Top of Funnel strategy is working as well as the content you are promoting in the Mid Funnel.
    • Email List Subscribers – I’ve found a lot of correlation between the size of the number of email subscribers and sales provided the company is sending out regular communication through it such as special offers, coupons or upcoming events. It can be a great leading indicator of future sales.
    • Traffic to the Website – How much traffic are you getting to your website content from the digital campaign shows some level of intent from the prospective clients viewing the ads. I tend to keep an eye out for the referral and paid ad traffic as well as the impact on direct traffic which would be those users who type in your domain name without going through a Google search or clicking on an ad.
  3. Bottom Funnel – Correlation is pretty easy to spot here. Users have already expressed intent and are ready to purchase. This is where you would typically have an offer with expiration to motivate the Mid Funnel to progress towards a sale. If you are an ecommerce company, then you might be looking at a final sale, if you are a service business you might be looking to setup a meeting here.
    • Conversion Rate – This will tell you the percentage of people who are given an offer take it. The primary factors that effect this KPI are the perceived value of the offer, the design of the landing page and targeting of the audience.
    • Average Revenue Per Sale – This will tell you how well you have optimized the landing page for Revenue. Do you have a “commonly purchased together” section before they click “Purchase” or a “customers who purchase this also purchased”? To get this number divide your total sales volume by the number of customers.
  4. Sales Funnel – If you have a long lead-to-sale cycle, it is imperative that you have a good CRM to track the progress of the leads down the sales funnel past the hand-off of the lead to the sales team. This is generally the first place to look when you are trying to improve sales in the short term.
    • Conversion rate by sales person – This will tell you which sales people are best at converting a lead to a sale. Find the highest conversion rate sales people and get them into a room with the lowest. Have them exchange sales pitch ideas, tips and techniques and watch your sales grow. You can also offer sales incentives for improving this KPI.
    • Profit per customer – Order your clients from most profitable to least and look for patterns such as the sales person responsible for bringing in the top clients, the campaign that helped drive that customer to the sales person. Look into the demographic of your most profitable clients to help target more like them.
  5. Customer Experience – The best data always comes from the very bottom of the funnel. If you are looking to grow, this is the first place you should start looking at.
    • Customer churn rate – What percentage of your business do you lose each year? Lowering this number is the fastest way to grow your business. Call some clients who left to see if they can tell you exactly why. What promise did your company or brand make that they don’t feel you performed to? If they left for a competitor, then what promise did they make that was enticing enough to leave you? What would it take to get them back? It’s amazing what you might be able to uncover here, but also asking the questions shows you are making changes and you might be able to recover some lost revenue here.
    • Customer surveys – Send them out if you aren’t already and try to get a handle on how happy your current clients are. It will let you know how vulnerable or strong your customer base is which is one of the best leading indicators of your future growth. If you don’t send them out yourself, check your reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook.
    • Sales from existing clients – There’s almost always additional revenue opportunity with your existing customer base. Do you have an add-on product or service you can begin selling to them? If not, go out and ask them what their pain points are outside of your existing product offering.

 

If you are like 99% of businesses out there who know they need to do something on social media but have no idea where to start. Here’s a quick guide on what NOT to do. I’ve made most, if not all of these mistakes in the past so don’t worry if you have already made them because virtually every other business has too at one point or another.

  1. No clear objectives. I recently visited a Facebook page for a shared workspace business. They posted content every day about things going on in the area such as parades, concerts and Holidays. The highest number of likes I was able to see was 2 on any given post. I wondered how much time they were devoting to the creation of the content and why they were doing it at all. Even if someone engaged with the content, I’m not sure how it would help the business in any way. If your social strategy is not tied to a business goal with measurable success, then it’s a complete waste of time.
  2. Braggart! Have you ever been to a site that has nothing but press releases exclaiming how great they are, how big, all the problems they solved or awards won? It doesn’t feel very authentic or approachable. Without authenticity you are very likely to be overlooked and you may as well be purchasing an advertisement which will also be ignored by most of people who see it. Rather than talking about the award, talk about the struggles you faced or how the team helped in winning it. It’s far more interesting, makes you more approachable and will ultimately get you a higher engagement rate.
  3. No advertising budget. If you are going to spend the time, energy and resources to create content for your social media then you should certainly put some budget behind promoting it. I’ve seen time and time again where someone nails the content but very few people actually see it. Even a minimum $1/day budget to boost a post every day on Facebook will only cost you $30/mo. I would recommend putting a budget equal to the cost of producing the content. You will reach thousands or even hundreds of thousands of potential customers if you put even a minimal budget here.
  4. You left me hanging bro. If you have great content, put a budget behind it, get a lot of great engagement but never respond to it then you have missed a tremendous opportunity. The purpose of “SOCIAL” media is to scale the number of relationships you have. Imagine starting a conversation with someone on the street “Hey hello, how are you?” They respond “Doing great, how are you?”, and you never respond back. That’s essentially what you are doing online when you don’t respond to comments.
  5. Link to the Website generates an error. Yep, I’ve seen it more often than you might think. Check all of your links in the “About” page of all of your social profiles to make sure they go to your website without an error. Check your phone numbers while you’re at it.
  6. Buy Now! Have you ever had a friend who joined Amway or some other multi-tiered marketing program and they won’t shut up about it? That’s how you sound on social media when you only post ads. Use a buy post sparingly and only when there is truly a great deal.
  7. Finger in the Dike. I get asked all the time about how I can help a client remove bad reviews or block angry customers. I have one answer… It won’t work. Even if you successfully block the customer from your page, they can still post on their own page and share with all of their friends. If you successfully spam Google search to remove bad reviews from showing up when someone types in your company name, they will continue to post on other social channels. There’s no way out but to confront the bad or angry customers head-on and publicly. If a potential customer can see you responding and offering up a solution to every bad review, it can actually work in your favor. There will always be trolls and there’s no stopping them, just give them a polite and respectful response and let the chips fall where they may.
  8. Too many memes, not enough substance. Memes get a lot of attention, engagement and comments, but often times the user only remembers the meme and not the business posting it. It’s certainly OK to send out a few which validate your philosophy or message but sending out a business quote every day gets a little old and I question the business purpose. Instead, mix in relevant content which elicits an engagement such as “read more”, “download now” or “click for more info”. The goal should be to move someone from the top of the funnel down and memes generally don’t move a prospect any closer to a sale.
  9. Politics kill just about any conversation. I try not to talk politics with friends or family, unless of course I am ready to go home. It’s a sore topic for many especially in today’s climate. More importantly there are very few business cases where politics will actually move a prospect closer to a sale unless of course you are a politician in which case this makes a lot of sense.
  10. Consistency wins. I’ve seen countless pages where the owner will post a bunch of content for a short period of time, go AWOL for a few months then try to pick back up again. Most of the social channels have algorithms which track how often you are posting and the people who post more consistently tend to get more visibility. Choose a posting schedule you can keep up with for the long-haul. Don’t try to post multiple times per day unless you can keep that pace up.

 

This is one of the most common questions I get asked, especially when signing up a new client. Although I don’t have a clear cut and easy answer, I have put together a framework to help you determine an appropriate budget for your business:

 

1. Sustainability

The number one rule of thumb is that you have consistency in your digital presence. AdWords and Facebook advertising platforms learn over time about your business objectives and optimize your campaigns from data collected over time. Typically, the more an ad is run, the better it can perform so if you have a highly fluctuating budget it becomes more difficult for these algorithms to adjust and too many changes too quickly to your campaigns can have negative consequences.

Digital advertising is more efficient than any other traditional form of advertising. Your ability to target specific people at specific points in time along with the reporting capabilities of how many people viewed, interacted or purchased your product or service means that YOU NEED TO HAVE A BUDGET here. If it’s not working, then your message, targeting, product or service needs to be evaluated, not the medium. The good news is that digital marketing can be easily adjusted. If something isn’t working, then make some changes once you have collected enough data to confirm it’s not working.

If you are new to digital ads, then you should think about what you can afford to spend even if your campaign has some rough patches. A common mistake by business owners is that they say “I will give you a try for a month and if it’s not working I will cancel.” Instead, they should be thinking that if it’s not working, let’s figure out why, make adjustments and continue forward. The digital landscape is in a continuous state of change and your campaigns should also be looked at, adjusted and tested continuously.

 

2. Measurement

A common mistake by many business owners is to try a bunch of tactics without clearly attaching a business goal. As an example: You may be thinking “I know I need to be on Facebook, all of my competitors are on it and I have no social presence.” So, you go out and hire someone to add content to your Facebook page which increases the activity on the page, but it’s not helping sales so you eventually see it as a place to cut expenses down the road. A better way to think of it is: “Relationships drive my sales. I need more relationships and Facbook is a good place to start them. I’m going to add content to attract my primary demographic and measure success based on how the relationships are progressing, i.e. are they engaging in the content, asking pointed questions or requesting more information?

Set the goal, put a budget behind it that is sustainable and measure success of the business goal!

If you are an ecommerce company, it can be very easy to measure a direct impact on sales, but if you offer a product or service with a long lead time between 1 and 18 months, then you will need to make sure that you can track leads past the marketing funnel and into the sales funnel. This is where a good CRM can help you view a sale going all the way back to the original marketing campaign that attracted them to you. Without this information you will never be able to know which channels are providing the most customers and opportunity for your business. If you can’t answer these questions, then you should be looking to upgrade your CRM:

  1. What is my conversion rate from lead to sale?
  2. What is the lifetime value of a client and who are my most profitable clients
  3. Who are my most productive sales people: what are their conversion rates from lead to sale, which sales people get me the most profitable clients?
  4. How much in advertising budget do I spend to get me a new sale on average and which campaigns drive the lowest cost per sale?

 

3. Profitability

Once your sustainable budget becomes profitable, then it’s time to begin thinking about increasing your budget. If you are an ecommerce company with visibility from top-of-funnel image and awareness down to the final sale, then it will be a much easier task than someone who sells a product or service with a long lead time.

Here are some different ways to look at the data and determine where you should increase or decrease budgets. This will get a little technical, so I recommend speaking to someone with experience or hiring an agency.

  1. Break out your campaigns into Top, Mid and Bottom Funnel first. Typically your social postings and boosts will fall under top, user engagement such as adding someone to your email list would be Mid and clear intent ads such as Google AdWords search ads will fall to the bottom of the funnel.
  2. Look at your stages of the funnel to get a cost per acquisition by dividing the total dollar spent by the number of sales you have (total sales, not just from digital ads) for any given month (use weekly if you have less than 1 year’s worth of data.) Add them into an excel spreadsheet and run a correlation function which will show you the correlation of the ad spend to the number of sales you are getting. A 1.0 result means that you have perfect correlation and that for every dollar in new ad spend would get you one new customer while a 0 means that it makes no difference how much you spend, it has no impact on your sales.

    For top-of-funnel, it can be a bit trickier since the lead cycle is longer so the correlation of the sale won’t match to the time period you placed the ad. In these cases, move the correlation out a month, two or however long your lead-cycle is to find the best correlation to the time period. The same can hold true for Mid-Funnel.

  3. It’s easy to find correlation with Bottom funnel and the data will always tell you to move more into this category if you are profitable, but look at the Top and Mid and if you see correlation here. If there is a correlation then run the correlation from spend to cost per sale instead of number of sales. This should tell you how much you would have to spend to drive the cost per sale down further. If profitable, then you will want to spend more here. If it’s not, then you should consider changing up your message or strategy.
  4. Make sure you have enough data to make decisions! If you are spending under $1k a month in digital ads, then it could take many months or years to fully determine if your strategy is working. Sample data sizes are too small to make clear determinations at this spending level but the exercise can still provide you some deeper insights or give you some very rough idea of what is working or not working.

 

Early in my career as a business owner I would try to take the emotion out of the firing process and hold team members accountable to key performance metrics. I was able to separate myself emotionally from the process which allowed me to sleep at night. I would justify to myself that the business had to make money and if someone is below the pack, then they didn’t have the motivation or skill set to fit the position and that they would be better off finding a place which would be a better fit and in many cases this was true but every now and then I would have someone who I knew worked hard, was willing to do anything for the company and still did not perform. This would mostly happen to people in the sales role where productivity is very easy to measure. At the time, my business offered private jet charter flights so we would track; how many flights and how much Revenue are you generating? I would have to hire 10 people to find 2 or 3 good ones, 2 or three mediocre and the rest would underperform and eventually be let go.

I didn’t have the problem to the same degree in customer service or fulfillment positions. I definitely had some bad hires, but I never had to let someone go who worked hard and had a good attitude. What was the difference? Why is sales so much more difficult than other positions?

Customer service positions were much easier to train for, we had very specific tasks which needed to be completed in any given day such as tracking a flight and keeping a client informed of various aspects of the trip. We had a great computer system to track each step of the process with date and time stamps making it very easy to hold someone accountable.

By contrast our sales function was much more chaotic. A sales team member was responsible for following up with an incoming lead and would attempt to get an RFP. When not taking an incoming call or working on a trip we would tell them to get on the phone and find more customers. We had some training in place to teach them what to say and how to overcome objections but for the most part left them to their own devices.

It wasn’t until I started taking personal responsibility for my own failures rather than pushing off the emotional baggage associated with laying someone off by blaming them. I began asking myself prior to letting someone go: “did I hire wrong or did I train wrong.”

This forced me to look hard at the differences between the successful sales people and those who were underperforming. What I found was that there was some correlation between motivation/attitude and sales, but there was also a “luck” factor and a correlation between the size of the network/relationships which would indicate how successful someone was. We could clearly see that the successful sales person had a large network of flyers who they would regularly speak with, who would give them referrals, bring them to events where there were other flyers and many considered the sales people as personal friends.

Once I had the blueprint of a successful sales person, I could begin to work backwards to figure out how I could help an unproductive sales person become successful and it all started with measuring KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) which would help me watch a progression towards success rather than just the end number “Revenue.”

In my case the KPI’s were around the number of relationships a sales person was working and this required a good CRM. At the time, there were not many affordable, off-the-shelf systems so I programmed my own which would track and assign leads to a given sales person. The history of all communication with them would be recorded so I could see the level of engagement for each prospective client and we would capture information such as how often they flew (how much potential they had), what competitors they were using (how much potential margin we could make) and how many flight requests we quoted (how far down the funnel are they.)

With the new CRM we were also able to track which advertising campaigns generated the most leads, most qualified leads and best customers. We used this information to better target our prospective customers and add them to the funnel process in a much more efficient manner.

We began to hold weekly sales meetings where the successful team members could share tips and techniques for specific sales situations and we could all brainstorm marketing messaging to further optimize our advertising campaigns.

The new process not only improved the efficiency of the entire team but also had additional benefits;

  • We were able to transfer leads to new sales people when someone would leave which dramatically improved the time it took to get a new sales person to profitability;
  • The overall mood of the team was dramatically improved since they always knew where they stood with me, what they needed to be working on and had a plan in place to be successful;
  • I no longer had to advertise for sales positions since we became known as the place that had so many successful sales people.

I certainly made plenty of mistakes after setting up this process. I hired and trained wrong in plenty of cases, but I slept a whole lot better knowing I was doing absolutely everything I could to do both right.