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12/21/2010
02:38 PM
Michele Warren
Michele Warren
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SMBs: Cherish Every Lead

Remember last week's post about the building blocks of SMB success? We discussed three tips from entrepreneur Clate Mask: Sell Stuff Online, Supercharge Your Website, and Grow Through Partners.

Remember last week's post about the building blocks of SMB success? We discussed three tips from entrepreneur Clate Mask: Sell Stuff Online, Supercharge Your Website, and Grow Through Partners.Today we'll talk about three more of those blocks, but before we proceed, I need to explain the terminology that Mask uses. In several of his tips, he refers to a "funnel." Simply put, your funnel is your database of customer leads. Mask says never to toss a lead. Even somebody who isn't ready to buy from you at this moment is a potential customer at some point in the future.

Building Block #2: Fill Your Funnel I couldn't put it any more clearly than Mask does in "The Edge of Success," his e-book: "Today's leads are tomorrow's buyers, or next month's, or next year's. … By putting [every] lead in your database, you're securing a lucrative future for your company. The more leads you have in your funnel, the more buyers you're going to have down the road."

Mask isn't suggesting that you fill up your database with the names of people you check in on once a year, or never at all. You have to stay on top of each and every person or company whose contact info you've collected. And your correspondence with them has to be personalized--specific to their situation, whether they're still a long ways away from making a purchase or poised on the brink of doling out some cash.

OK, so say you've got your leads. Where do you go from there?

Building Block #3: Convert Your Funnel Pop Quiz: How do you move all those customer leads down through the funnel and out the other side (the narrow end), into the customer "bucket"? A) Be pushy about it and call the prospect often B) Call the prospect several times on federal holidays C) Don't call, EVER; use e-mail only. D) Add value, get personal, and show them (don't tell them) how your product or service will help them.

The answer is D. It encapsulates three conversion techniques that Mask shares in his e-book. First, add value. Sure, sometimes you'll contact a prospect just to let them know that your widgets are going to be on sale the following week. But more often than not, you're going to share valuable information with them. Some examples: free reports, white papers, downloads, e-mails with tips, links to news stories, newsletters. As Mask says, "Share what you know."

Second, get personal. Don't take this the wrong way; you're not going to invade the prospect's privacy by asking a lot of questions. But you are going to inject your personality into the mix. Be real and heartfelt, not an unctuous salesperson making another pitch. Mask cites as an example how Steve Erwin, "The Crocodile Hunter," made reptiles more appealing (or at least more tolerable and interesting) to the audience by sharing his love of the creatures--by being his authentic, enthusiastic self.

And third….Here's one that'll bring back memories of English Comp class. Show, don't tell. But how can you show off your wares to hundreds--or millions--of prospects without incurring a lot of costs on travel or trade shows? Mask recommends virtual, or online, demos and webinars.

Onward and upward. You've collected lots of names and you're busy turning prospects into customers. You're all set, right? Nope. There's still more you can do with your funnel.

Building Block #5: Flip Your Funnel You'd think your journey is finally over, right? You've scaled the mountain, won customers. But being a small-business owner is hard work, and it never ends. But you love what you do, right? So read on.

Now you have to "re-sell" to the same people who bought from you already. You know the deal…upselling, cross-selling, etc. "The sales process requires the continuous courting of your customer," Mask writes. The easiest person to sell to is a happy customer, he says. "For one thing, they already know and trust you. Secondly, they know what they can expect from your company. And third, they obviously have a need or want for your product."

The No. 1 reason more SMBs don't go after their existing customer base, according to Mask? Complacency. It's a dirty word in the business world.

Cross-selling. Amazon does it. So do Columbia House and Netflix. Here's an example from Mask:

Dear Customer, Recently you purchased product X. Product X is a phenomenal product. But you know, it's not the only thing that can fill your needs and wants. I think product Y is a good match for you, also.

Up-selling. The classic example: Would you like to super-size that? It's human nature to buy more of something if we feel as if we're getting a good deal. Two for the price of one? Sure! A second burger for just 50 cents? I'll take it! It might not be entirely logical (we sometimes buy more than we need as a result), but the lure of a "great value" is a powerful one.

Another idea from Mask is to sign up your customers for a regular service--a monthly subscription, membership or club. "If you've successfully converted your customers into raving fans, they'll jump at the chance to be one of your exclusive customers. They'll gladly agree to pay for future products or services. Because they know you'll deliver!," he writes. "And you'll get a regular payment. So, why not do the job of selling once, and reap the benefits of consistent, repeated income?

Join me next week for the final three building blocks from the Infusionsoft exec.

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