The funnel of generating, qualifying, and then closing leads is the biggest driver of sales for most businesses. However, a majority of companies tend to focus their efforts on the first step of generating leads more than anything else. They figure that the more people they can bring to the top of their sales funnel, the more sales they will generate at the bottom.
While this is true, it turns out that most of the time it’s actually more efficient to improve the conversion rate of your sales process than it is to increase the traffic that goes into a leaky funnel. By increasing the conversion rate of your funnel, you increase the odds of closing a sale for every single visitor that comes to your site from that point on. This means it’s easier for you to see a return on your investment in both paid and earned media, since more of the traffic will convert and you will reach your break-even point faster.
For businesses that use this multi-tiered sales funnel of “generate, qualify, and close,” the first conversion that happens is turning passing website visitors into warm leads by collecting their contact information so the company’s sales staff can follow up with a proposal or collateral materials. Just improving the number of visitors who enter your funnel as warm leads can lead to dramatic increases in sales.
This post breaks down one excellent, time-honored tactic that can help you amplify warm leads for your business: Free content!
This often-overlooked strategy has been a cornerstone of both direct and internet marketing for decades. Here’s how it works: A company will offer something free, like an information kit, trial product, or reference material, in exchange for the prospect’s contact information. Once their information is captured, the prospect is then sent additional communications and marketing messages to build their trust in the company and ultimately turn them into a paying customer.
Online you typically find businesses will offer an Ebook or other information product related to their paid offerings in exchange for the prospect’s email address. For example, a company whose business is performance coaching might have an Ebook containing their company’s 5 keys to high performance including case studies of their clients. They would give this away in exchange for the prospect’s email address and permission to contact them.
Anyone who downloaded the Ebook would immediately be identified as a quality lead by the business, because they were interested enough in the topic to take action to download the Ebook and join the mailing list. Now that the prospect is in the warm lead database for the hypothetical performance coaching business, they can experiment by sending the prospect additional resources related to the performance field to continue to demonstrate the company’s expertise, and also include special offers and discounts to further encourage the prospect to become a paying customer.
The Ebook itself should also be specifically designed to encourage readers to become paying customers. Strategic information should be left out that only paying customers can access in order to make the prospect aware that they are lacking important details. This is known as opening a “Knowledge Gap,” since the prospect becomes aware that there is gap in what they know about the subject, which is extremely uncomfortable for them from a mental standpoint. Prospects will often make a purchase just to close this gap.
Calls to action that up-sell the prospect on why the company’s paid offerings are better than the free Ebook should also be included to drive sales.
Having an Ebook and regularly emailing warm leads with additional tips also helps get more paying customers by increasing the trust the prospect has for the business. Especially with online products, many consumers are skeptical of web-based companies. By providing an Ebook and regular emails with additional helpful information, it will allow the business to gain the skeptics’ trust. The key point here is that the content must be good enough to earn that trust.
If all you are doing is sending sales messages to your warm leads, you are more likely to alienate your prospects instead of keeping them interested until they are ready to buy. Seth Godin wrote an excellent piece about “The curse of frequency” where he points out that, while it’s true that if you promote something twice to 100 people you will get more sales than if you only promoted it once, the people who have already purchased no longer want or need to hear that message a second time. The longer you push the same promotion or message to your audience, the more likely you are to alienate your core customers – the ones who were first to purchase and eager to support you.
Keep this in mind when you are communicating with your warm leads. Your goal should always be to provide additional help to your prospects related to your business’ field. You want your prospects to use your free advice and get results, that way they come to trust your brand and eventually will have enough faith to buy.
Show us examples of how your business generates warm leads with free content in the comments!
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