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Competition is getting tougher but communication is getting easier, and cheaper.

For effective marketing, and to convert leads into sales, you’ll need a marketing program based on expertise, added value, and trust. By Peter Hickey 

Effective marketing is getting harder. It can be one of the most frustrating, time-consuming and expensive elements of your business, and it is often done very poorly. Without leads and an effective sales conversion system, it doesn’t matter how good your internal systems, personnel, or product, your business will fail.

The biggest cause of the large turnover of SMEs is the lack of time spent in developing coordinated and systematic lead-generation programs. Sure, most businesses will attend some networking functions, do some direct mail, maybe advertise in the Yellow Pages, but most are poorly followed up in terms of an ongoing program of awareness. If there are no immediate leads generated by the networking and marketing activity then the program is dropped.


Marketing must be treated more like a science, with the aim of developing a system that can be run on auto-pilot to bring leads to you.


To become successful you must become a brand builder, an expert in your target market. Expert status helps to add value and lower client risk. So, initiate contact, add value or differentiate your brand, then motivate your client to action.


It is essential if you want to command a higher price and have leads flow into the company, rather than having to ‘cold-call’, that you choose a niche and build your business as a brand. I unfortunately learnt all this the hard way through spending hundreds of hours pursuing flawed lead-generation and client acquisition strategies.


One of the reasons cold-calling can be so unsuccessful is because of timing. You could have the best list of managing directors, financial controllers, housewives or fishermen, but if they don’t need your product or service when you call them, you rarely get a sale.


For example, if you cold-call stay-at-home parents in the middle of the year about books for their kids to start school next year, you’ll have a low response. But if you call the same list with the same script at the start of the year, your response is more likely to be great. And it won’t matter whether the sales pitch is made via the phone, networking meetings, social functions, advertising or through public relations (PR) programs.

The problem with most target markets is we don’t always know when it’s the right time to call. This is why businesses need to develop an education-based marketing program. With a carefully selected target audience you can then send ‘solution-based’ information. If you are able to present your business as offering ‘expert-based’ information, any recipients within your target who have a need for your services are more likely to initiate a call to you. This gives you higher ground in both selling ability and credibility. It also helps to justify a higher fee. 

Brand Building Program

There are key areas that make up an educational brand building program. Some of the direct tools you can use include:

Newsletters: These are acceptable frequent communication devices. In other words, you can send one per month and generally your recipients won’t find this annoying. When emailing, be sure to ask if they are happy to receive them, to avoid spamming.

Booklets: Provide your (potential) clients with seven reasons why not to (buy or do something), but be sure to follow up with 20 reasons why they should.

Research reports: These special reports are often developed over a period of years, and are generally based on market research hot topics.

Statistical updates: This could be things like ‘business optimism’ studies or benchmark data that you can update and circulate. Get in touch with media outlets who circulate this kind of information.

Articles from elsewhere: Try copying an article to the prospective client with a letter, saying something like: “I found this article, I knew it was in your industry so I thought I would send it to you. Hope it is of value."

White papers: Send a white paper concerning a key area of interest—theirs, more so than yours.Case studies: Develop case studies based on past client assignments. This is a good way to show potential clients what you can do for them.

Webinars: Invite them to online seminars covering key areas of interest.Seminars: Invite them to seminars run at convenient locations.

Tapes/videos: Try sending your target market videos such as taped sessions from training programs or specially developed material. 

Value Adding


You can also make use of media-based programs, such as sending out press releases and short articles to appropriate media outlets, and paying for advertorial about your business.


Whatever method you choose, your educational message must add value to your clients. This is achieved by providing prospects with valuable ideas and helpful information on topics that are most important to them. Press releases and seminars are excellent mediums for portraying your business as an authority, as long as your candidate actually reads or attends. Obviously, the best way to ensure your target sees your material is to send it direct.


The goals of education-based relationship marketing are to build trust and establish a dialogue that is not just centred around a sales pitch. The less you sell openly, the more your potential prospects start to trust and want to establish a relationship with your business. In the presentation of your information, you should position yourself as an expert. You do this by including references to your stature and standing, past clients or years of experience in the field. But the education can’t just be a one-off; you must set up a communication plan that keeps you in front of your prospect. Over a period of time this convinces your customers you are the type of firm they would want to deal with.


By acting as an authority in a niche area you gradually start to build trust with your prospect. By producing solution-based educational material you are even able to solicit leads. The goal of this type of marketing is to produce information which you offer in magazines, seminars and PR programs. You offer this information and in return receive the contact details of your prospects.


That is where it starts. Once you have the warm leads you still have to convert them to sales. This is where you need to build your communication program and keep offering value. The basis of the communication plan is to continue to guide the prospect towards ‘problem areas’ and to match these areas with products or services. You need to establish good ‘teaser’ information. For example, ‘seven things to know before buying a car’, or ‘10 things not to do when building a house’.


To develop an educational message, you need to decide who your prospects are. This comes back to your original marketing plan and financial modelling. Those with established businesses will h
ave a good understanding of who their prospects are, those starting a business should think long and hard at the outset about who they are trying to attract.


Try not to attract people that you can’t convert to a profitable assignment. Think about your end goal, your billing rates and the number of clients you need. Then you need to get inside the mind of your prospect, working out every step of their day-to-day routine, keeping in mind the product or service you offer that might be the solution. Then develop material that contains a step-by-step guide.


In the past, businesses have been limited in how they can get their message out, such as seminars, mainstream advertising, and expensive mail shots. These days our education material can be broadcast at a very low cost via the internet, such as through webinars, or via email or fax. Of course, traditional channels such as coupon advertising and leaving material with your channel are all very effective, provided the cost can be justified.

 You need to exchange information with prospective clients to establish trust, and good ‘teaser’ information is a good way to encourage prospects to leave their contact details. And remember, be wary of giving a sales pitch.   

* Peter Hickey is the CEO of Corprat, a national network of business advisers and business brokers (www.corprat.com)   


Lead Generation Model


 Six steps to form the basis of your communication plan: 


What area do you want to specialise in?

What problems is your target market trying to solve? 


Develop lead

generation materialFor instance: “How to dismiss an employee without being sued.” 


Package material

Create material for PR, your website, seminars, tapes, etc. Create ‘teaser’ material, eg “Seven things you must do before firing an employee”.  


Distribute material

Search engine marketing, call editors, place advertisements, conduct seminars. 


Get leads

Your content should drive prospects to seek more information. This is where your ‘teaser’ information must be strong. 





Convert leads to a sale.

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