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Avoiding ‘Shiny Object’ Trap in Generating Leads

Opening up your email box on any given day is likely to mean having to wade through numerous inducements to follow the path suggested by one self-proclaimed marketing expert or another. Each email imploring you to use “the one and only way to riches.” As a business owner focused on generating sales; it can be daunting to try to figure out which (if any) of these suggestions is worth following. Even more uncertain is determining if any of them are worth spending your hard-earned money on to learn more about (never mind the costs to employ the suggested method on an ongoing basis). This article will share some insights for you to consider as you assess your own marketing efforts.

Goal, Strategy and Tactics

Before even selecting the appropriate marketing vehicle, it is imperative that one’s strategy be clearly defined and distinguished from any of the discrete tactics one chooses to employ in order to accomplish a goal.

  1. The strategy refers to the plan one will implement or follow that is comprised of a tactic or series of tactics.  It is designed to resemble a blueprint of activities.  It is longer-term in nature than tactics
  2. A tactic is a specific event or activity, or one particular approach being applied to achieve an objective
  3. A goal is the outcome one seeks to accomplish.

So, as an example: the goal is to reach six-figures in sales next year.  There are multiple strategies one could employ to do that (sell more to existing customers, find new customers, raise prices, create new products or services, etc.). Within the strategy chosen, there numerous tactics one may select (lower prices, raise prices, hire additional salespeople, offer coupons, schedule conferences, post articles on LinkedIn, etc.).  Any of these combinations may be appropriate or viable to reach the goal of selling six-figures worth of product and/or services next year.  However; not all combinations will be as effective or efficient at generating the anticipated goal.  Said another way, some will be far more costly, others will require more effort, and still others may require both!

Marketing Tactics You Likely Considered to Generate Leads

Shiny objects button

It is too easy for business owners to subscribe to the latest shiny object in marketing is the best.

With the advent of the internet, marketing opportunities have expanded.  There are far more “toys” or tactics one can play with in an effort to reach your potential audience.  However; not all align well with the strategy of generating leads.  A quick review of some old favorites and some newer tactics are in order to help you sift through the options worth considering.  None of these are “bad” or “wrong” as marketing efforts.  They just are not all equal as business decisions to generate leads.

  1. Posting Articles on LinkedIn (or other sites) – Tom Poland cites a study in his book, “Leadsology: Marketing the Invisible,” that there are 7,222 articles published on LinkedIn every single hour (and that was as of 2018).  While any of us may believe that what we have to share will resonate with our intended customers and prospects, the chances of it landing at the exact moment when the person or business contact you wish to target is considering the product or service you offer is remote at best.  However; it is an effective way to keep one’s brand in front of people to build or reinforce awareness.
  2. Social Media ads – Sure, everyone is “on” Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  But that does not mean it is an efficient way to generate leads.  Once again, if you are recognizable to the person (they previously did business with you or you are known to them), it can help keep you “in mind.”  But, the real reason most people go to social media sites is to escape being pitched.  They seek social contact, laughs, or distractions more than business-building opportunities.  It is a slow process to use if your intention is to generate new business.
  3. Blogging and Podcasting – with the state of technology now, any of us can become a publisher and/or a broadcaster.  But that doesn’t mean we SHOULD do that.  The expectation must be in line with the reality.  If you are prepared to create content (even if re-purposed from other marketing efforts) in a steady rhythm of 3-4 times a week for YEARS (not a month or two), then by the time you have established yourself as a trusted source of insight, professionalism, etc., it will start to pay off.  This is an effective method – just not efficient.  It is a LONG-TERM initiative that should not be assumed to be an immediate opening of the revenue floodgates.
  4. Business Networking Meetings – On the surface, these seem ideal.  You get to meet other business people who likely have needs that you can meet with your expertise and experience.  Yet, these often turn into people trying to sell each other – but no one is there to buy.  Further, it requires a skill-set in “small talk” that few have mastered.  So it turns into awkward pushing of business cards at each other and furtive glances at the bar to excuse yourself to refresh a drink, at your watch to see how much longer you must endure this, and at your own diminishing supply of business cards that will likely never make it into anyone’s contact list before they are discarded.

There are plenty of other methods that will not be covered in this article (Trade Shows, Public Relations/Press Releases, A/B testing of ads, Mass Media, etc.). Suffice it to say, that none of those will magically generate leads for you either with audiences that are not already inclined to buy from you.

So, If Not Those, Then What?

In response to what is probably an exasperated sigh being exhaled by you as you read this, the following is what you should be focused on:

  • What differentiates us from others (what makes you special, how do you stand out, what can you do that is better/faster/less expensive/longer-lasting/etc.)?
  • Who do you do it for (who is your ideal customer, where can they be found)?
  • What do you want them to know and remember about your business?  Focus is critical here.  Too many solo entrepreneurs will claim multiple expertise domains or capabilities.  It is hard to market yourself as the panacea for numerous customer needs.  It diffuses your status instead of sharpens it.  A generalist is worth “X,” and a specialist is worth “Xplus.”
  • The Vehicle – ONLY now can you even begin to determine which marketing asset is appropriate to use to reach the people you need to approach.  Until you know the first three, grabbing at any marketing tactic will result in a sub-optimized outcome.

Running a business is hard enough.  Marketing it should be an outgrowth of what aligns you with your customer base and not a reaction to what others claim will provide you with the opportunity to recline on a beach chair and watch money accumulate without effort.

David Zahn