How Can Small Businesses Squeeze More Sales Out of a Lead Generation Funnel?

The economic times that exist today are testing us all; whether you are a solo entrepreneur, home based business or small business owner. Despite all the doom and gloom, one thing that is for sure is that there will be survivors. The obvious first question is, “Who will they be?” The next one question would be, “What are they doing to make this happen?” While there may be the few who just get lucky, it is probably safe to say that the ones who do get through this and actually grow will have taken very deliberate actions to make it so. What then will these businesses do?

First of all, they will cut back on the costs of doing business without compromising the quality of the goods and services that they produce. This means that they will take the time to find vendors who are offering better prices, look for ways to streamline staffing costs (telecommuting, virtual assistants, cutting back hours), becoming more energy efficient (traveling less, lowering heating and cooling costs), find more affordable health insurance options and so forth. Once they have streamlined, smart businesses will continue to look for ways to get more for less while trying to increase the value that they provide to their customers.

The first place to get more for less is by finding more effective marketing strategies. It is crucial to note that the only type of marketing that should be cut is ineffective marketing. Existing marketing programs need to be evaluated for their effectiveness. Those that do not have a high ROI should be chucked and replaced with those that do. Effective marketing is essential for getting in front of potential customers as well as staying in front of existing ones. This is not the time to ignore your existing customer base. After all, it takes six times as much money to acquire a new lead as it does to market to an existing one. Smart businesses recognize that effective marketing is their lifeline to the future.

What is the best place to start? Small businesses that get organized and put systems in place to automate their marketing and sales processes will get a higher ROI. The best place to get started is by using a customer relationship management program (CRM).

CRM is much more than a contact management system although this is one of the functions that these programs can perform (sometimes they will coordinate with an existing one such as Outlook). CRM is in reality a combination of processes that organize customer and business interactions by providing a means to track all the customer information and then track what has been done with that information. It allows the various departments such as marketing, sales and customer service to be aware of the needs of any given prospect or customer and what needs to be done next.

What would this mean to a business that has a presence on line? It means that a prospect is able to fill out a contact form 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The prospect that fills out this form will now be tagged as a prospect in the CRM system. Depending upon the information that was checked on the form (e.g. newsletter request, product information desired etc.) the prospect will have additional tags that indicate the interests of these prospects. Depending on the type of form that was filled, the database may also now contain demographics such as age, location, occupation and so forth. All of these would be tags that help segment the list. The segmented lists will be connected to appropriate email follow up sequences that automatically send out information, education and marketing materials over a period of weeks, months or year.

This one capacity of CRM has enormous value. Consider that 80% of small businesses fail to follow up with prospects beyond three attempts and that it typically takes seven or more “touches” for a prospect to become a customer. The tragic end result for businesses that fail to follow up is that they are warming up their leads for their competition.

What else can a CRM system do? It will help a business stay in touch with their existing customers by automatically sending welcome messages, customer satisfaction surveys and marketing materials that create opportunities to cross and up sell.

It can also organize affiliate programs, billing and so much more.

A good CRM will be able to use multiple channels to communicate including: emails and newsletters, fax broadcasts, voice blasts, and direct mail post cards. An automated system is highly cost effective and efficient at generating new and repeat sales. CRM is also a time and energy saver and ultimately the best way to squeeze more sales out of any lead generation funnel.