The Blueprint for Internet Marketing Lead Generation

Why do online efforts to generate leads and convert them into customers too often fall flat?

 

Lead generation campaigns fail to function as well as they should when some crucial element is missing—and no one notices.

 

In a sense, an Internet marketing lead generation campaign is like a jigsaw puzzle. If only a solitary piece is missing or out of place, you have no way of successfully achieving your goal. Unfortunately, with a generation campaign, you don’t have the benefit of a picture on the front of a box to guide you.

 

If your lead generation campaigns haven’t gained the results you’ve hoped for, Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing firm (for whom I’m a contributing writer), has created the handy flowchart below to help you.

 

It identifies the components an effective campaign requires and how all the pieces fit together. Use it as your blueprint to solving the lead generation puzzle.

 

Infographic created by Straight North

Good Karma For Your Small Business

I’ve written about the topic of strategic volunteerism on several occasions, most recently for national media personality, investment expert, and New York Helping handsTimes bestselling author Carol Roth’s Business Unplugged™ blog.

 

As a solopreneur or small business owner, choosing your volunteer activities carefully so you take something (other than feeling good about yourself) away from the experience can do wonders for your business.

 

By selecting volunteer gigs strategically, you can improve your leadership skills, connect with influencers in your community, learn new technology, and become more business savvy.

 

But Professional Development Isn’t The Only Potential “What’s In It For You?”

While giving your time and talents, you can also increase awareness of your products and services—and that can eventually help your business’s bottom line. I typically don’t mention that because directly promoting your business and seeking financial gain through volunteering is generally a no-no. But as you volunteer with others to work toward common goals for an organization, people naturally learn more about who you are and what you do—and they spread the word as you earn their trust and respect.

 

In 2015, I can attribute over $8,700 of my year-to-date writing revenue to the connections and exposure I’ve gained through past volunteerism efforts. No, that’s not enough to sustain my business. But it’s a decent chunk of change that’s helping me reach my income goals for the year.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around: Good Karma For Your Business

I don’t advise that making money be your motivation when embarking on a volunteer opportunity—but know that volunteering can present the potential for building your business revenue. The key, I believe, is in leveraging the connections you make—and staying on the radar. Keep in touch, be active and engaged on social media, and do your best to network face to face when possible.

 

Have your volunteer efforts paid off for your business? Tell me more!

 

Image courtesy of KiddaiKiddeeStudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

Does [Client] Size Matter?

The bigger the client, the better?Ruler

 

That’s the mindset of some professional services solopreneurs and freelancers I’ve met.

 

And what’s not to love about landing that big-time corporate client with a limitless budget and an endless stream of exciting projects waiting for you?

 

When I first started my freelance writing business, I had my sights set on moving away from working with smaller businesses and marketing firms to getting signed on by larger companies. After all, they’re bigger so they have to be a better quality client, right?

 

Not necessarily.

 

After working full-time as a freelance writer these past five years, I’ve learned that the size of clients often has very little to do with how fulfilling—and lucrative—the working relationships will be.

 

What Really Matters

If your skills, expertise, and services are a match for a client’s needs, don’t discount them as a bad fit purely because their business is small.

 

Good clients come in all sizes. And so do the not-so-good clients.

 

Rather than using size as a way to qualify or disqualify prospective clients, consider other qualities and characteristics:

 

  • Can they/are they willing to pay you what you ask?

    You might be surprised to discover that the largest of businesses might claim to have the smallest of budgets when outsourcing work. I’ve already turned down work from a very large international company because they proposed to pay an amount so much lower than my billable rate that it was downright insulting. Conversely, I have solopreneur clients and business clients with two or three employees who give me no pushback on my pricing because they value what I do for them.

 

  • Do they pay on time?

    This might be difficult to assess until you’re actually working with a client, but you’ll want to know what to expect. I’ve heard and read horror stories from a few solopreneurs who have waited up to six months to get paid by large corporate clients. When you need that income to pay your bills—and pay yourself—waiting 180 days for a check can hurt. Smaller sized clients can be late payers, too, but there’s far less administrative red tape to get through to get paid. As you’re discussing an opportunity with a prospective client, ask them what their typical payment cycle is and identify what your payment terms are in your proposal. One of my large corporate clients shared that they pay in 45 days rather than in 30 days as my proposal requested. I was fine with that—and they have indeed paid all my invoices within 45 days.

    Tip: Some companies will shorten their accounts payable cycle if you accept payments electronically through PayPal or credit card.

 

  • Do they have their act together?

    Clients who are all over the place with their idea of what they need from you can suck up a lot of your time and energy. If they don’t have clear goals or vision of what they want to achieve, you could find yourself doing a lot of rework or completely scrapping what you’ve done to accommodate their whims. Note that good clients will often need your guidance and recommendations to fully shape their vision. As an expert in your field, you should expect that. But a client who is a “hot mess” will likely be high maintenance and give you more stress than the opportunity is worth.

 

  • How many layers of approval will your work need to go through?

    If you’re an impatient person, prepare for frustration if your work will need the seal of approval from multiple people within a company. Expect to wait longer for feedback and expect multiple change requests. This can happen with small clients, but it’s more typical of larger businesses with various departments and a corporate hierarchy in place.

 

What Really, Really Matters

Last, but not least, never underestimate your intuition. Are you feeling a connection with your prospect? Are you getting a good vibe from them?

 

This may sound superficial, but it can make or break how much you enjoy your work. AND it can affect your attitude and energy level overall. It’s tough enough to manage all aspects of your business. If you’re working with clients who are nasty to you, make unreasonable demands, or are otherwise difficult to deal with, you’ll find yourself mentally drained, unmotivated, and void of self-confidence.

 

You don’t have time for that and your business could suffer under those circumstances.

 

Size up your clients carefully. And remember, bigger may not be better.

 

Your turn! What qualities make clients a good fit for you?

 

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Four Cs To Stop Pushback On Your Pricing

Competing on price alone is a losing proposition for small business owners who provide professional services.Hand-No

  • It sets you up for burnout because you need to take on ridiculous amounts of work to make a living wage.
  • It sends the message that you’re of “bargain basement” caliber. (Nice reputation to have, eh?)
  • It attracts cheapskate clients who will try to take as much as they can from you for as little money as possible.

Who needs that? Not me. Not you.

And not your clients.

Speaking as a client of other professional services providers, I—and I think the majority of B2B clients—don’t mind paying a higher price to a vendor who delivers these things:

Competence

Naturally, it makes sense to want the job done well. Does it matter how cheap you can get a professional service if the person or company providing it doesn’t seem to have the expertise or skills to provide quality results?

Collaboration

Working well with others, sharing ideas, and coordinating efforts—collaboration makes a tremendous difference in the end product and client satisfaction. Excellent collaborative abilities help keep projects with multiple moving parts on time and on target.

Communication

Good communication skills set expectations and avoid misunderstandings. Sadly, not everyone has them. People who are good communicators…

  • Ask the right questions to fully understand clients’ needs.
  • Define the scope of work and the responsibilities of themselves and clients before starting projects.
  • Keep clients informed of their progress.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Respond promptly

Conscientiousness

If your vendor is disorganized, doesn’t pay attention to detail, or is a procrastinator who veers off course or can’t stick to deadlines, does a cheap rate make that OK? Conscientious professional services providers care about doing the best job possible and meeting expectations. They’re meticulous about delivering quality and consistency.

Avoid The Low Price Pitfall

A low price doesn’t do clients any favors if they’re not getting quality work but are getting major headaches from working with a “professional” who is cutting corners by not devoting the time and energy needed to the business relationship.

As a small business owner who provides professional services, take your business—and your clients—seriously. The rates you charge should reflect the value of you as a total package. And your total package will be worth a higher rate if it includes the four Cs I mentioned above. Deliver on them, and you’ll find less pushback on price and more appreciation of you as a business professional.

How do the four Cs differentiate you from your competitors?

 Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Can Mistaken Identity And Party Crashing Work To Your Advantage?

I love when random circumstances transform into something unexpectedly delightful.Party with champagne

Like this story for example:

Joey DiJulio was minding his own business in Seattle when he accidentally got invited via a misguided email to a bachelor party for a guy he doesn’t know. As the email conversation between the bona fide recipients unfolded in Joey’s inbox, he replied to all to explain that he got the email by mistake, but wished them all a great time.

Rather than dismissing him, the groom’s friends invited him to join them in Philadelphia for the party. Joey started a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 for his plane ticket and to help the soon-to-be newlyweds pay for their dream honeymoon to Italy. It appears Joey might not only attend the bachelor party, but also the wedding.

As I write this, Joey’s crowdfunding effort has reached $7,544 in 7 days, and he was on national TV talking with the Fox & Friends folks this morning

Not bad for a case of mistaken identity and a call to action that involves supporting someone’s desire to crash a party.

The moral of the story…hmmm, actually, the way I see it, there are several morals of this story relevant to small business owners, solopreneurs, and every other professional out there:

  • Without agenda, be kind and respectful to everyone. You never know where it will take you.
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You’ll be surprised at how many people will rally behind you in support of your efforts.
  • Savor serendipity and the opportunities it can bring to you and others.

Thanks for reading! Are we connected on social media yet? I’ve made it easy to do with those little buttons on my website. Hint, hint!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Solopreneur Tip: Sometimes You Should Judge a Book by its Cover

I’ve been fortunate as a freelance writer. The overwhelming majority of the prospects I’ve met and the clients I’ve worked with have been respectful and reasonable people.

But you’ve probably discovered not ALL prospects have those same qualities.

Signing on problem clients can cost you time and money—and they can chip away at your self-confidence and sense of self-worth if you let them. That’s why it’s important to recognize the warning signs. Some prospects display tendencies or act in certain ways that you should consider “red flags.”

Exercise Caution, Solopreneurs and Freelancers!

Freelancing tip: Sometimes you need to judge a book by its cover

If you’re someone who patiently gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, you could do yourself and your business a disservice if you see these signs but move forward with the business relationship. Although a prospect who fits one or two of the descriptions might still be OK, you need to be careful.

Problem Prospects Can Cause BIG Headaches as Problem Clients…

When You Should Judge a Book by its Cover_Page_2

As a solo biz owner, you need to look out for yourself. Your time, energy, and talent are precious, so don’t squander them on prospects who won’t appreciate your professionalism and the value you bring. We’ve all been told to never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you have to go with your gut.

Want to keep my posts on your radar? Add dawnmentzer.com to your RSS reader.

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ Post

Tough Job Interview Questions Even Self-employed Professionals Should Prepare For

Finding work as a self-employed professional services provider can be like finding a job. Although you’re not looking forBoy confused by tough question employment, you often need to go through an interview process with prospects. Whether by email, phone, Skype, or face to face…you need to be prepared to field and answer questions.

As a freelance writer, I’ve found most prospects ask the sorts of questions you’d expect them to ask of someone in my line of business. But recently, I talked with a potential client who caught me a bit off guard. He didn’t ask me anything inappropriate or altogether out there, but I wish I would have been better prepared for some of the questions he tossed my way. That experience made me realize how much it could benefit professional services providers to think like a prospective hire and anticipate not only standard questions related to your line of work, but also a few that dig into your personality and psychology.

Ready…set…prepare to answer the following interview questions in case a prospective client raises them in conversation:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why are you interested in working with us?
  •  How do you react to constructive criticism?
  •  How well do you work under pressure?
  •  How would you describe  your working style?
  • Are you comfortable working as part of a team?
  •  On a scale of 1 to 5, how do you rate your communication skills?
  •  What intimidates you? (This was one of the questions I recently answered…and not very well because I was, well, intimidated by the question!)
  •  What has been your biggest success?
  • What has been your biggest failure?
  • What motivates you about your work?
  •  What types of professional development activities do you participate in?

You might be thinking, “C’mon, what are the odds a client will ask me these things?” I understand your skepticism. But while you may never encounter inquiries like these, why take the chance? At worst, preparing answers for them will help you discover a thing or two about yourself. And wouldn’t you rather ask yourself the tough questions first before someone else does – even if the odds are against that ever happening?

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The One Thing ALL Small Businesses Need to Communicate

As a small business owner or solopreneur, your communications skills – or lack of – can directly affect your bottom line.Lady using tablet Professionals with a flair for engaging people and getting their message across clearly have more success in building relationships and converting leads to clients. Some people seem to be born with those interpersonal gifts,  but what if they don’t come quite as naturally to you?

Don’t be discouraged! You don’t have to be an accomplished writer, polished speaker or master networker to communicate effectively.  By ensuring that one single element is at the foundation of all your business interactions, you can set the stage for people wanting to learn more about your brand – and put the odds in your favor of gaining and retaining loyal clients.

Respect!

Whether you’re interacting with prospects by phone, in person, through email, via your blog, or on social media, demonstrate respect for your audience.

Put respect at the center of all you do when interacting with your prospects, clients and colleagues…

  • Respect their time.
    Be prepared.  Think things through. Be organized and have purpose so you communicate what your audience needs to know without going on tangents that waste their precious time.
  • Respect their intellect.
    Although you might know more about something than they do, check your tone and approach so you’re not perceived as condescending. Also, ask them for their insight, opinions, and feedback whenever appropriate.
  • Respect their need to take things slow.
    Never ever be pushy about selling your wares! While hard-sell/now-or-never tactics may have worked in the past when all we knew was one-way, push marketing, they’re now annoying and a turn-off to most people. Especially as a professional services business owner, you’ll find it can take months or sometimes years to nurture relationships that turn prospects into clients. Sometimes it’s because they view your offerings as more of a luxury than a need. Sometimes it’s because they have budget constraints. Sometimes they’re just so busy running their businesses they don’t have time to really think about working with you. Be patient. And stay top of mind (social media makes this so very easy!) so when they are ready or need the services you provide, you’ll be the one they call without hesitation.

Communicate with respect…and you’ll gain respect for you as a professional and for your brand.

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How What You’re NOT Can Successfully Set Your Brand Apart

As solopreneurs, we put a lot of thought into what we are to customers – and into how that makes us different from our Apples and Orangescompetitors. That’s very important, but what if you’re in an industry that’s borderline commodity. What if you do a fine job for customers, but the type of service you provide or business you’re in in really doesn’t lend itself naturally to differentiation?

Story Time!
One of my clients, owner of  a local marketing and design firm, shared a story with me about one of his clients who faced that very challenge.  Being in the pet food distribution business, his client was in a market where products offered and price points were pretty much the same everywhere.  When asked how he differentiated himself from his competitors, he said something to the effect of, “I make sure that I’m not an a_ _ hole.”  (I’ll let you fill in the blanks!)

Quite a point of differentiation, eh? As I understand, because very little competition enters that industry and customers don’t have a lot of options, some distributors were acting like jerks toward their clients.

So, my client’s client found that not being an a_ _ hole was his key point of differentiation.  His unique selling proposition wasn’t centered on what he was. It was all about what he WASN’T!

What does that mean to us as solopreneurs?
My thoughts…

  • Sometimes you have to think about more than just the bells & whistles of what you offer. The personality behind your brand is what clients will gravitate toward and connect with – especially when you’re offering services that aren’t overwhelmingly different from those of your competitors.
  • ALWAYS treat clients with professionalism and respect. Don’t be the “a_ _ hole”  your competitors are taking business away from.

Time for you to share! Is there anything that you’re NOT that has set you apart from your competition? Have you seen business owners sink their own ships by being jerks to their clients?

Image courtesy of Suvro Datta / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Power of 8! Generating Referrals With Fresh Ideas from Insatiable Solopreneurs

While the legacy of your good work and professionalism needs to be at the foundation of every referral that you get – it Ideas for solos by solosdoesn’t always serve to generate referrals in and of itself.

And “traditional” ways of generating leads can sometimes fall short, too. Or maybe we solopreneurs are slightly impatient? Guilty as charged! (Speaking for myself only of course!

As I’ve navigated my way over the often rough and rugged waters of being my own boss throughout the past 4 years, I’ve discovered that gaining referrals sometimes takes more than doing a great job and mixing and mingling at networking events or making Facebook posts. It takes opening your mind to new ideas and approaches that can leverage relationships and raise awareness of your business and your capabilities. It takes the willingness to try something different – and to learn from each and every experience and opportunity.

If you’re connected with me on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or Google+, you might have noticed some “promotional” posts sharing about next week’s Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit. Elaine Quinn, The Solopreneur Specialist®, is hosting this free event – and it’s dedicated to giving solopreneurs like you new ideas and ways to think about building your referral potential. For more than 10 years, Elaine has been helping solo professionals more effectively manage their businesses – and their growth. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to lead us in exploring how we can do things better!

Elaine will interview the following list of speakers during next week’s telesummit that runs “live” March 11 – 14 (with the option to listen in for free for up to 24 hours after each session):

AND Elaine will share her tips for smart partnering!

All have found ways to reach new clients and customers with “next step” strategies that you probably haven’t tried yet.

I hope you’ll register, listen in and connect with me to let me know what you thought of it!

Click here to register for the FREE Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit!