expertanswers-converting-leads-buyers by ScoreSMB

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Converting Leads into Buyers
with Sue Sokoloski — Director of Channel Marketing
Constant Contact
“We are surrounded by unlimited opportunity,” goes the old adage. The challenge
for small business owners today is finding the most effective means for turning those
opportunities (also known as “leads”) into solid sales. With more than 20 years of
high-tech sales and marketing experience, Constant Contact’s Sue Sokoloski has
helped thousands of companies navigate the ever-expanding range of
communications tools to connect with their customers.

We often hear about how consumers today have never been better-informed.
What challenges and opportunities does that present to a small business in
marketing its products and services?
                                                                                                Sue Sokoloski
The challenge for a small business remains the same – not enough time, not enough
                                                                                         Director of Channel Marketing
resources. So the key is knowing which marketing initiatives or combinations give              Constant Contact
the best chance for bringing in new customers. You can’t do everything, so try a few             Waltham, MA
new ideas at a time, and then invest time and money in the ones that work.                      (781) 472-8100

Successful marketing efforts vary in scope from one small business to another. Are
there one or two critical elements that they all share?
   Things change quickly, so be flexible. Today’s best practice is tomorrow’s
    discarded idea.
                                                                                        FREE Online Workshops
   Know who your customers are, what they value about your company or product,           & Resources from
    and where they live online. Once you understand that, all marketing efforts will            SCORE
    be more successful.
                                                                                          Getting Better Customers
   Customer experience still reigns supreme. All the marketing dollars in the world      Take the Workshop Now
    cannot undo a bad experience.
                                                                                             Right Selling to the
Many small businesses use services such as email marketing or social marketing                   Right People
campaigns to build relationships with prospective customers. What are 3 keys to            Take the Workshop Now
making your message stand out?
                                                                                            9 Steps to Successful
   Be visual. Stay true to your brand and make an impression. You have only a few             Lead Nurturing
    seconds to capture their attention.                                                          Read it Now
   Be relevant. Target your message to the audience and be sensitive to the
    method you’re using to deliver that message.                                          Coming On Too Strong?
                                                                                         Know When to Stop Selling
   Be brief. Give them a reason to engage with your business by taking some action            Read it Now
    that further qualifies them as a prospect for you.

Is there a “rule of thumb” for when and how often a company should reach out to its leads?
Frequency guidelines are more dependent on the type of customers or prospects you target rather than any general
rules. Plus, most businesses have significant seasonality—peaks and valleys to new business acquisition efforts. The
key is tracking the responses from all your lead/prospect communications to understand what time of day or day of
the week people want to hear from you, how they want to be contacted, and how often. You’ll know immediately if
you are over-communicating, but making sure you are reaching out enough is the challenge—and it’s more of an art
than a science.
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Some leads may pan out immediately; others may take a long time before
they buy. Are there any guidelines for how long one should stay in contact with
a lead?
Sales cycles can vary so widely—products vs. services, business-to-business vs.
business-to-consumer, etc. It really comes down to awareness. Providing useful,
relevant content that continues to highlight your company’s unique selling proposition is timeless. It may be for a
future need or a referral to a friend, so staying in touch has very long shelf life.

What benefits do social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) offer in converting leads to sales?
Social media is all about reach for a small business—gaining access to the networks of your friends and followers to
find that next new customer. Often these are people your own direct marketing would not touch. But that’s just the
beginning of the story. Awareness is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills. You then have to capture their contact
information, engage with them, offer them something they want/need, then convince them to buy. Email marketing
and social media marketing is the ultimate combination to make that happen.

Are there limits to social media’s value to the small businesses and/or their prospective customers?
Small businesses are struggling to understand the return on their social media investment. In a time-starved world,
owners often question the time it takes to maintain their social media presence. The value is in knowing what people
are saying about your brand online, good and bad, so you can respond accordingly.

What products are available to monitor social media activity?
There are a lot of them, and many are free. For example, Constant Contact’s NutshellMail is a free social network
aggregation service that allows users to manage and interact with updates from social networking services through a
consolidated email digest—kind of like a DVR for social media.

Speaking of monitoring tools, what are some good options for gauging how well a marketing program is
generating sales?
   Google Analytics is a fantastic free tool that lets you measure the impact of your advertising as well as track your
    Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications.
   HootSuite offers Social Analytics that allow businesses and organizations to more closely tie social media
    engagement and connections to business results. You create custom reports to share with clients and
    colleagues, track brand sentiment, follower growth, and incorporate Facebook Insights and Google Analytics all
    without leaving the dashboard.
   Also, many email marketing providers offer advanced reporting features for viewing who opened and clicked
    through your email, measuring your social media success, watching your email list grow and tracking opt-outs,
    managing bounced email addresses, and comparing results from all your email marketing campaigns.

Are online surveys still a useful tool for gathering customer feedback? If so, what are 3 tips for developing and
evaluating them?
   A good survey starts with an invitation that states the reason for the survey and acknowledges the recipients’
    investment of time.
   To achieve the best response rate, keep the survey to a small number of questions, and make them clear and
   Share the results. Tell your audience what you learned and what actions you will take as a result.

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What major trends will shape small business marketing in the coming months?
   Social Media: Harnessing the power of social media to start the sales cycle. It’s
    not about selling on social media sites; it’s about promoting your brand and
    developing content that grabs the reader’s attention and gets them to engage
    with you. The ultimate benefit of this is that when used effectively, social media
    can spawn referrals and word-of-mouth for your business. It’s never been easier for people to forward, share, like,
    follow or retweet information about your company or product.
   Mobile Marketing: Prospects should be able to access information about your company through a mobile
    application that looks good on their smartphone or tablet.

Why is it a good idea to consult with a SCORE small business mentor when developing and evaluating a marketing
SCORE has an army of mentors with incredible talent, expertise and experience. It’s crazy not to make use of those
skills to assess your marketing strategy and further develop your marketing messages. They have experts in every
aspect of launching, salvaging, or growing a business. And they have tools you can use, workshops to attend and one-
on-one counseling. And their services are free. I love to watch the face of a small business owner when they first find
out about SCORE!

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