How to fill the top of your sales funnel with more leads
Author: Jeff Sauer
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In any business, especially B2B services, it’s hard to increase your revenue without consistently filling the top of your sales funnel with new leads.
But the typical top-of-funnel marketing tactics, like blogging, or link building, or growing a social media following can take a long time to pay dividends.
So if you need to get more clients now, then you want to find a way to inject your lead generation machine with a little bit of rocket fuel.
In this video and post, I am going to share four ways you can start to pack the top of your funnel with new clients. These four strategies will help give your lead generation an instant boost while you work on building out your complete business development flywheel.
Doing great work, alone, will not fill the top of your sales funnel
As a B2B service provider or consultant, your work product is likely your focus. After all, that’s how you generate an income. You deliver expertise to your clients that’s so valuable that their willing to hire you, “an outsider,” to solve their problems.
It’s easy to become consumed by your work and fall into the trap of relying on your work product as your sole business development mechanism.
But it’s also a big mistake to view your work as your best marketing tool. In my experience, doing great work, alone, doesn’t scale.
Producing an excellent work product is table stakes.
Your clients expect it.
And even when your clients are happy to sing your praises, word-of-mouth lead generation is usually painstaking slow to catch on. Your clients are focused on their own problems. They need time to understand and implement your expertise. So they are not likely to open up their contact list and start sending you referrals until well after they’ve seen results from your services.
Invest in building your network effect to scale your business development process
A much better way to generate top-of-funnel leads for your business is to leverage the “network effect.”
Your professional network and reputation can be used to gain more exposure, which in turn can help you quickly generate more top of the funnel traffic and leads to your business.
Also, as opposed to relying on your clients to celebrate your work, building a reputation is scalable. When done the right way, growing a professional reputation is like investing. The effort you put into developing your network today will have a compound effect on your business’s future success.
However, unlike investing, you don’t need 20 to 40 years to see a return on your efforts. If you’re working full time on your business, you can see massive growth within the next five years. Heck, if you focus your efforts, you can see dividends within the next 6-12 months.
If you’re just starting to think about business development because you need revenue growth now, then you probably want to see quick gains. If you need a quick fix while building your own network, one of the best ways to grow your exposure is to leverage the networks of others.
So let’s talk about how you can tap into the network effect to rapidly increase growth at the top of your sales funnel.
1. Leverage existing networks like LinkedIn, and take advantage of the network effect
It’s never been easier for B2B service providers to connect with clients and other business owners, and LinkedIn is far and above the best tool for quick and effective B2B networking.
You can use the search features in LinkedIn to connect with influencers in your industry, as well as niches that are downstream and upstream from your business. Then you can provide value to their network by asking questions, sharing your ideas and having a positive impact on others. When done consistently, this strategy will help expose you to a larger audience, and in turn, grow your network quickly.
*Pro tips for building a valuable LinkedIn network*
Step 1: Connect with the piggyback
You can piggyback trust by leveraging the network of others. It’s called trust by association, and it’s a great way to quickly increase your exposure, website traffic, and lead generation. You can piggyback the networks of your clients, friends…and even competitors. Here’s how this works.
If you’re connecting with a friend or client, this will be an easy step. Find them and send a connection request. As an added bonus ask them for a recommendation after you connect with them. Their recommendation will give you extra trust when their network views your profile later on.
If you are connecting with a competitor (playing frenemies), approach the situation like you appreciate having colleagues in the industry.
Step 2: Prospect their network
Most people allow their connections to see everyone else they’re connected with (it’s a setting you can turn on/off – the default is on). Click the “connections” icon to see everyone in your new contacts network.
Use advanced search filters to find potential leads in their network.
Search filters include job title, location, industry, and more.
Step 3: Connect and Talk
When you find someone who looks like a potential lead, send them a connection request with a custom message. In that message mention that you’re both connected with your piggyback and say something personal about them. This should be a friendship pitch, not a sales pitch.
Utilize open profiles and InMail to visit with people who don’t accept your connection request. If they accept, they’re now in your network as well. Have a two-way dialogue to discover if they’re truly a good potential lead and where they’re at in the sales cycle.
Most of your prospects will be top-of-funnel, but a small percentage will be looking for what you do now.
Step 4: Stay top of mind as they move down the funnel
Once someone is in your network, it’s easy to stay top of mind as they move down the funnel. You can message your connections directly any time, your content will be eligible for their newsfeed, and you usually get their email. Sharing high-quality top-of-mind material by messaging and in your newsfeed is a great way to drive traffic to your website.
To learn more about Isaac’s unique and ultra-effective process for growing a highly valuable B2B network on LinkedIn, check out Linked Jumpstart.
2. Contribute to popular industry blogs (ahem…)
When you’re first building up your presence online, contributing to more established sites can be more effective than publishing content on your own website. By giving away your unique and valuable content to a website with a larger presence, you can connect with a new audience. Also, when your content is seen on a platform that your desired audience already likes and trusts, you earn instant credibility with that audience.
As a result, you can capture a lot of new leads in your funnel if you’re prepared to capitalize on the referral traffic these posts generate.
Before Jefflaytics gained momentum, I did a ton of contributing posts all over the internet. I wrote posts for the Moz Blog and shared content on other popular digital marketing sites to spread the word.
Contributing to more established sites had a significant impact on the growth of my website. It led to thousands of new followers to my social accounts and invitations to speaking gigs all over the world. It also helped me generate goodwill amongst my peers and made them more likely to share the work I publish on my own website.
Now that I’ve grown Jeffalytics to the point where I get a consistent stream of new visitors to my site, I’m looking for fresh content that brings value to my network. If you want to share your digital marketing expertise and get your name out there, I am open to featuring you on Jeffalytics.
3. Get people to say “I want that” when they see your work
Growing your network is about more than just awareness. You also need a way to capture your new audience’s attention so that you communicate with them long term. There are thousands of articles about how to capture leads on your website, or from social media posts. But they all boil down to one thing – your prospect saying “I want that.”
If you can get others to say “I want that” when they see your work, you’re going to convert a lot of your website visitors into top of the funnel leads. Here’s an example of an irresistible offer that one of our Agency Jumpstart students shares on his website.
He’s been able to collect a ton of leads by sharing his work in a way that allows others to consume his expertise quickly and on-demand.
When you’re crafting an “I want that” offer, think about how you can turn your most popular solution into something that people who have never heard of you before can access and benefit from immediately. Giving away lots of value up front, in a scalable format, is one of the best ways to get your name out there and quickly warm your relationships with new leads.
4. Discover frustration and solve for pain
Listening to your potential customer’s pain points and frustrations may be the single most powerful way to grow your business. Why? Because once you know what your ideal customers’ most common problems are, and you have a solution, you can share it everywhere. You can share your answers to these problems on LinkedIn, on your blog, as a contributor to other blogs, on social media, and it will amplify your reach quickly.
Also, understanding how your customers talk about their problems, and what kind of solution they are looking for will allow you to use their language in your future marketing content.
Then, when your target audience sees the solutions you share in your content it will resonate them, they won’t just say “I want that…” they’ll say “I NEED that!”
So we covered four ways you can amplify your top-of-funnel lead generation efforts immediately. And we discussed one common trap to avoid. At this point, you may be thinking “how am I going to get this all done.”
Well, it comes down to adopting a straightforward rule for your business.
Spend 20% of your time on new business development
No successful business was ever built without putting in significant effort to attract new customers. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t reap the rewards.
My recommendation is you spend 20% of your work hours on business development, no expectations. If you work 40 hours a week, that’s eight hours or the equivalent of one full business day spent building new opportunities.
Eight hours may seem like a lot if you’re crunched for time. But think about what you want out to get out of your business. How much further along will you be in a year if you invest eight hours a week to business development now?
Remember, your networking, and business development efforts will have a compound effect. So eight hours a week now could be worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars five years from now.
Are you ready to leverage the network effect and start accelerating your business development flywheel?
If you are, leave a comment with “YES!” below. Or, leverage the network effect right here on this post. If you have a top-of-funnel “I want that” offer, please share it in the comments below.
Follow along with our five-part series on growing your business development machine. You can take a look back at our recent videos and articles here:
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