Author: Jeff Sauer
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Creating a reliable, consistent B2B Lead Generation system is a challenge that just about every service provider, agency, consultant, vendor, etc. faces on their way to building business development momentum.
For me, I’ve struggled with lead generation at every phase of my business. I struggled when I first launched my freelance business back in 2005. And I faced this obstacle again while growing my marketing agency a few years later. I even struggled with finding students for my courses for the first few years.
The truth is that it takes time and substantial effort to build momentum with business development and most fledgling businesses will give up way too early in the process. Usually, they are giving up right on the cusp of finding the momentum they desired for years – which is a shame, because it was just about to start getting easy.
Fortunately, through my experiences, I have been able to uncover a process that I believe every service-based business can use to build an effective lead generation system. This system is based on my own trials and tribulations, along with helping 200+ business owners refine their lead generation processes through my Agency Jumpstart program.
In this video and post, I am going to show you why creating a consistent and scalable lead generation system is the most important thing you can do to grow your service based business. And I’m going to cover the steps you can follow to start building a program that has the potential to change the trajectory of your business.
But before we get started, I want you to know that this process isn’t about exploiting some new marketing tactic you haven’t heard of yet. It’s not nearly that exciting.
Instead, we’re going to break down the business questions you need to ask yourself to get started and the components you can build to make lead generation a lot less daunting.
Why NOW is the best time to fix your lead generation process
The harsh reality of building a service-based company is that until you meet the business development challenge head-on, and find a lead generation process that works for your business, you are stuck in survival mode.
And the feast or famine cycle that comes with not having a reliable source of new clients makes it almost impossible to predict your revenue, OR hire employees, OR bring on more resources so that you have time to work ON your business instead of just IN your business.
But don’t worry. EVERY business goes through this phase. Some never leave.
The good news is that if you’re in survival mode, and you’re wondering how you’re going to get over the hump… how you’re going to close a deal to keep the lights on, that’s actually a sign that your business is going to be successful.
Why? Because you’re thinking long and hard about how you can solve the biggest problem you are facing in your business right now and at nearly every point in the future.
Most consultants and agencies won’t solve this problem. They’ll continue grinding out getting clients here and there until something forces their hand… It could be a market crash, or a family issue, or problems with a business partner, or unexpectedly losing a major client. And when this huge shock occurs, their revenue may dry up altogether, leaving them OUT of business. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to many businesses. Good people closing their doors because they never built the business development flywheel.
So if you’re thinking it’s time to solve your lead generation problems and build the machine that will allow your business to hit the next growth phase – I’m here to tell you that YES – it’s definitely the right time to face this challenge.
I can tell you from experience that once you solve this problem, the rest of the pieces of your business will fall into place. It won’t be seamless, but it will put many components into perspective. You’ll finally have the revenue needed to appropriately staff your projects, which opens the opportunity to fix the issues that are holding your business back right now.
So let’s talk about building your lead generation machine.
The trouble with getting started, and how to take the first step
One of my Agency Jumpstart students, Darren, recently sent me a question that pretty much sums up the challenges we face when we start trying to figure out how to get more leads for our businesses.
“My biggest struggle is generating leads and going after business. I have many ideas but to get started I don’t know where I should be putting most of my energy & focus.”
Darren is a skilled and successful PPC Manager. He’s already at the phase where he’s hiring employees to replicate his PPC results so he can take on more clients.
But between servicing his clients and training his employees, he barely has time to focus on his lead generation efforts. So like the rest of us, he doesn’t have time to waste.
Well, Darren, I feel your pain. It’s hard to know where to get started. We all have millions of ideas, and we don’t have enough time to execute on all of them. There are also 1000s of networks you could use to build your business pipeline, but there’s no confidence any one of them will work. Take for example the SMB Marketing Ecosystem.
This is a simplified chart of all the players in the marketing space for small businesses. Simple? Not really. It makes me wonder how could any single service provider navigate this roadmap and make it work for their business?
The answer? You can’t.
So instead of getting overwhelmed by all the choices you have in front of you, I recommend starting with something I call Project Forcefield.
Put a forcefield around your business
Take all the distractions that don’t bring you closer to your goals and eliminate them. Build a forcefield around your business and only focus on the actions that bring you closer to your goals.
Commence Project Forcefield
After all, if your efforts aren’t going to help you achieve your goals then you’re probably not going to be happy or satisfied with the results they generate.
But therein lies the bigger problem. If you don’t know the ultimate objective of your business, then you can’t define what’s going to get you to your goal.
So we need to work backward. We need to define the goal Moonshot you have for your business.
Determine Your Moonshot
You’ll notice I crossed out the word goal above and replaced it with Moonshot.
Because goals are often arbitrary, they lack definition and clarity.
Your Moonshot is the ultimate ambition you have for your business.
To me, taking a Moonshot means preparing for an unlikely event that’s well out in the future and developing a plan to reach your moonshot by working backward.
Your moonshot represents the picture of what your business looks like when you solve the things that are holding you back right now. Whether it’s eliminating bad client relationships, or improving your employee structure, or upgrading your team, achieving your Moonshot will allow you to make these changes.
Your Moonshot could be represented by a revenue figure, or growth percentage, or a number of employees, or your company valuation, or even the number of clients you want to have.
What is your Moonshot goal?
You may not know the answer to this question right now. In my experience, most businesses don’t. 90 to 95% of the business owners I’ve talked to don’t know what they ultimately want their company to achieve in the next few months, let alone years into the future.
That makes things difficult, doesn’t it? If you don’t know what your Moonshot is, then it’s also impossible to chart the path you need to follow to get there.
So how do you determine your Moonshot?
Project Three Scenarios
You can figure out what your Moonshot target is using an exercise I call “Three Projections.”
Projecting your revenue, expenses, and profits using the scenarios I detail below can show you what your business will look well into the future based on the decision you make now.
Pessimistic Growth Scenario
Our first scenario takes a pessimistic approach to your business’s growth. In this situation, you want to estimate what will happen if everything goes wrong for your business. This projection is the financial picture of what happens to your business when you over-invest in resources and don’t achieve any growth.
Realistic Growth Scenario
Next, take a realistic look at your business’s. What happens to your key financials when your business progresses at a rate that’s on track with or slightly better than your current growth rate?
BHAG Growth Scenario
Finally, project what your numbers look like when you build your ultimate B2B lead generation machine. I call this the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) forecast. The BHAG projection represents what your business can achieve if you keep bringing in new clients, retain your existing customers, and you maintain manageable salary growth for your employees.
Essentially, the BHAG projection allows you to visualize how a really well run service-based business maximizes their profits.
Looking at these three scenarios, you can start to see how your ideal business would function. You can formulate precise targets for your revenue, expenses, employee structure, and client numbers.
And you’ll also notice that both the realistic and BHAG projections depend on consistent business development. In fact, without an effective B2B lead generation pipeline the only scenario that’s left is the pessimistic one.
Now that you have a goal – or rather a Moonshot – in mind, you can build the system that’s going to get you there.
Identify the service offerings that will help you achieve your goals
So which services are most likely to help you achieve your Moonshot?
Think about your service offerings based on three foundational pillars:
- What are you good at?
- What can you make money doing?
- And what are you passionate about?
If you can afford to sacrifice any one of these pillars, it’s probably the third one (passion). Your service offerings don’t have to be glamorous. There’s a lot of money to be made in doing things like emptying dumpsters or watering plants.
Many business owners fulfill their passion by building a successful company that creates generational wealth.
Define your unique selling proposition
Once you know your service plan, you can define your unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP is how you communicate the benefits of your services to your potential clients.
Your USP can be summarized by saying:
I do X (your service) for Y (your target customer).
Here are some examples of USPs based on the business of students who have gone through our Agency Jumpstart program.
- “I run PPC lead generation campaigns and build landing pages for roofing companies.”
- “My business creates custom dashboards for medium sized real estate companies using Power BI or Data Studio.”
- “I make conversion-focused websites for online course sellers who are hosting their site using WordPress.”
Your USP should be as specific as possible about the benefit your services provide and targeted to the ideal customer who needs that service.
Get to know your target customer on a personal level
Customer research will help you figure out who wants your service, where they hang out and how to connect with them.
When you do customer research, you want to investigate the company demographics, locations, and revenues of your target customer. You also want to find out who they network with and what communities they spend time in.
If possible, interview as many businesses owners as you can who fit the profile of your target customer. Interviewing these individuals will help connect with their pain points and allow you to adapt your service plan to meet the most critical needs your customers have.
There are many other places where you can conduct research as well, but I find primary research is always the best starting point.
Use a Cornerstone Content strategy to corner your market
The Cornerstone Content strategy has been very successful at both my agency business and at Jeffalytics.
Here’s how it works.
Create an epic solution for the most common problem faced by your target customer.
Then you test and prove that your solution works.
Finally, you create a piece of content designed to share your solution with your target customers.
When you develop your Cornerstone Content, you can use this proven marketing and storytelling framework to make sure you get your audience’s attention:
Problem > Agitate > Solve
Let’s talk about how to use the problem, agitate, solve sequence in your content.
First, you introduce your content by letting your potential customer know that you identify with their problem. Empathizing with them will communicate that you understand their frustrations.
Next, you discuss and remind them why the problem they are facing is limiting their business’s potential.
Finally, you share your epic solution, and you show your potential customers how it solves their problems.
Example: Let’s take a look at how the problem, agitate, solve sequence would work in the PPC industry.
Here’s a challenge that almost every business owner who uses Google Ads faces:
“We can never bring enough leads from Google Ads to generate a positive ROI.”
Anyone who’s used Google Ads has felt this pain at some point, so it’s easy to empathize with the problem.
“I know you what you mean! It seems like the only one making a profit is Google, amirite?”
But, that’s not actually the case. “You” have an answer to your audience’s problem. Now that you have your potential customer’s attention let them know about it.
“It turns out it’s still easy to make a profit from Google Ads… if you focus on the right things. Here they are…”
How giving away your best solution works to your advantage
Here’s the counterintuitive part of this formula. In your Cornerstone Content, you give away your solution.
Sure, there will be people that will grab your intellectual capital and try to recreate your success. But they are not you.
They’ll have the tactics, but they will not understand the strategy behind your exact process, and they won’t be able to recreate your success.
So don’t worry about the DIYers. They would never have been your customers anyway.
Your ideal customers will see your solution, and they will pay you to implement it for them.
These customers don’t have time to re-create your work product. They probably won’t even entirely consume your content. They’ll see that you have a new approach to solving their problems, one that they’ve never tried before, and they’ll want your solution in place as soon as possible. They’ll want your experience and expertise, and they’ll be willing to pay for it.
Amplify your message
You might be wondering how you’re going to get your content in front of your customers so that they see and desire the services you offer.
Well, there are many ways to amplify your message. Here a few of the strategies I’ve found to be most effective.
Leveraging your organic reach
Your organic reach is basically your existing network of connections and colleagues. This could be direct contact you have with other business owners, or it could be your following on LinkedIn or other social networks in your industry. It could also be forums you post in, your email list, or people that read your website’s blog.
The key to effectively using your organic reach is to leverage your business’s existing skill sets and assets to reach your customers.
For example, before I started offering PPC or Analytics services, I provided SEO services, and I built WordPress websites. So when I wanted to start Jeffalytics, creating search optimized blog content on a WordPress website was a natural fit.
If you already have assets, like a social media following, or a network of business influencers, use those resources to promote your content.
If you’re starting from scratch…
Look for the path that provides the least amount of friction between your skills and your target customers’ attention.
Investing in paid advertising
With all the content created these days, organic reach only scales to a certain extent. So if you really want to jumpstart your B2B lead generation machine, you’re going to have to pay for it.
But if you followed the process I’ve outlined and done your research, paid advertising should be very successful for you because…
- You already know the platforms that your customers like to use.
- You know who your customers are.
- And you know what will get their attention.
Automating your outreach
Eventually, you might decide to automate your outreach so that you can grow at a faster pace. Automating your lead generation process could involve hiring a virtual assistant to help you implement the outreach methods we teach in our Linked Jumpstart program. Or you might hire a salesperson to focus on contacting your potential customers.
How you choose to amplify your message really depends on your industry and the resources you have at your disposal.
Clarity (not focus) is the difference maker
Most business owners I talk to assume a lack of focus is preventing them from building their lead generation system.
But that real problem is usually a lack of clarity. And that lack of clarity is understandable.
It’s shunned by society to talk about how much money you want to make, or how we want our business to generate millions in profits. So instead of setting sights on our highest ambitions, we get distracted by tactics and strategies that offer short term fixes.
Then, when we don’t see instantaneous results, we start believing that real success must be the product of irreplicable business genius or luck or timing.
The truth is that building a business is a challenging and rigorous pursuit.
You’re a far more likely to be successful if you don’t compromise your uniqueness and you embrace what you really want. And once you’ve mapped out what you genuinely want your business to achieve, you can start to put the pieces of your lead generation machine together.
Recapping our B2B Lead Generation Process
If you’re ready to build your ultimate B2B lead generation pipeline, here’s a quick recap of the steps we covered:
- Commence Project Forcefield – Put a forcefield around your business and commit to blocking out all distractions that don’t bring you closer to your goals.
- Determine your Moonshot – Use our Three Projections exercises to define what success looks like for your business.
- Define your business’s service offerings.
- Craft your business’s unique selling proposition.
- Research your target customer. Learn about their demographics, tendencies, and behaviors. And become well acquainted with their most significant problems.
- Create a piece of Cornerstone Content that shares your solution to your potential customers’ most common problems.
- Amplify your message so that your unique solution gets in front of as many of your potential customers as possible.
- And last but not least… Be patient and persistent at the same time.
Building and perfecting your B2B lead generation machine won’t happen overnight. But the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get the flywheel in motion that’s going to propel your business to your ultimate goals.
If you haven’t downloaded our Three Projections worksheet, you can grab it below.
And if you have determined your Moonshot, share in the comments below. Remember, it’s OK to shoot for the moon. I’ll even share my Moonshot goal for Data Driven in the first comment.