How do you feed the marketing funnel efficiently while still focusing on making deals and growing your business? It’s the quandary of every small business owner. Article #8 in a series exploring the big questions that entrepreneurs ask as they’re starting up and growing their businesses.
The funnel is hungry. Feed it!
Keeping the marketing funnel fed is, plainly put, a numbers game. For a small business, the numbers can quickly get overwhelming. It can be very discouraging, especially when you’re looking at the raw numbers. You put all that work into a marketing campaign, and it generates only five halfway decent (i.e., not friends and family) leads. It’s nice that Uncle Joe clicked your link, but he’s not about to spend $1,200 on the service you’re launching to what seems to be very little fanfare.
Don’t be discouraged! You have a few tools in your small business marketing toolkit that can help you stay on the sunny side of the marketing funnel. Please allow me to share some tips as a small business owner myself.
- Dedicate a resource (if you can). If you can’t, block a good-sized chunk of your time every week to finding the channels that work best. You’re going to need time to get your marketing engine going, but once it’s spinning — especially if you follow the advice below — it takes less effort than you may think to keep it running.
- Drive home, own your home. Pick a central location on a digital asset that you own 100% (i.e, your website) for the initial offer/landing page for your campaigns, and commit to driving all your traffic to that one asset for the ultimate conversion whenever possible (it’s not always possible). Set up a single “landing page” if you can, set up A/B testing and optimize the hell out of that page. Then read up on the art and science of conversion rate optimization.
- Build your content library. Start with your “offer” — a primary asset. If you’re a services company, ideally the offer is a longer-form document (ebook/white paper) or video (instructional/informational) that you can attach/attribute a value to, but offer for free. If you’re a subscription-based business, consider making the “offer” a long-form “narrative-style” overview of your subscription service, along with a discount code. If you’re a product company, consider the same approach. Retailers and product companies can also simply link to a “special/exclusive offer” page. Then, with that in place, Pick 3-5 key “evergreen” messages/themes that support this offer, and create the content that will appear in the various channels you will test and begin to rely on. Write up your informational and promotional content in short- and long-form. Convert it from plain old text/tweets to images, video and audio to cover all your potential bases. Finally, create a series of follow-on (“drip”) messages (see below) that reinforce their decision to learn more, or to take the big plunge and “convert.” Plan on dedicating a solid month of your time and your team’s time to creating the offer and all the supporting promotional content around those themes. Hit publish on your offer’s “landing page,” and get ready to use the content you created over the subsequent months.
- Put on your rose-colored metrics. Raw numbers can easily disappoint. They can also easily mislead. Before you try to analyze any of your marketing metrics, set up a dashboard (even if it’s in Excel or Google Sheets) and convert those raw numbers into ratios and percents. Don’t look at leads generated. Look at your conversion rates. And before you get even more depressed by those, compare them to industry averages. According to Mailchimp, the average email open rate is 21.33%. The average click-through rate is 2.62%. If you’re doing better than that, then you’re off to a good start. If not, try testing different layouts, messages and color schemes and see if those numbers change. Mailchimp has an easy way to test and optimize your messages.
- Think outside the popup box. Popups work. The average popup conversion rate is 3.09% according to Sumo (which edges out email conversion rates for the record). But they’re only one way to attract the attention you need to feed the top of your funnel. Constant Contact outlined some very creative tactics you can try to ensure you’re feeding your list through all of your channels.
- Find and fail fast. There are more than 100 channel options that marketers can take advantage of to reach their audiences. Many of them you can quickly write off based solely on the demographics of your target audience. Once you’ve narrowed the list down a bit, pick a few of them and try them out. Set some goals, and hit those few channels with everything you’ve got. Being sensitive to the fact that some channels have slower ramp-up times (SEO and content marketing, aka blogging, come to mind—give them a lot longer leeway before you cut them loose), pick a time frame to see an impact, and see which channels hit your conversion goals the fastest. Those are the ones you want to hold on to.
- Skip the plumber, let the follow-up content drip. Automation is a powerful tool, but it can also be a dangerous tool. I generally don’t recommend a lot of automation on the front end — you need to come across as authentic and responsive, and over-reliance on automation in your channel efforts can be hard to manage and come across as disingenuous or worse. But automation (email-specific or broader “marketing automation“) after the fact, as part of an email “drip” campaign to keep your brand top-of-mind, is relatively safe and extremely effective, allowing you to focus more on closing deals and growing more personal relationships with the folks that stay engaged. These drip campaigns help you drive engaged prospects deeper into your marketing funnel with the least possible effort.
- Rotate your tires frequently. Repeat step 6 every 90 days or so, a few channels at a time, until you have a good list of effective channels that reach and engage your audience (a recent podcast guest has some wonderful advice on what to do once you find the channels that work and exactly how this process works). As you continue to “kick the tires” of various marketing channels, move the channel candidates from the 90-day test cycle to your regular marketing cycle, and rotate out the rest.
With these eight steps, you can build a process that will, after an initial investment, ultimately allow you to direct more and more of your attention to closing deals and growing accounts. This approach is effective, efficient and fast. You can repeat all eight steps every year or so to keep the offer and all the content fresh, or stick with what’s working.
Are you feeding your funnel well enough? Let us know in the comments below.