Why Lead Generation is not your biggest problem

Knowing the Customers Path…

…and then I thought, if no one is signing up, I just need to get more traffic…

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Every day your business is throwing money away…

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;

the trouble is I don’t know which half”

John Wanamaker (1838-1922), marketing pioneer

I hate to break it to you, but…

In the last hour you’ve wasted money

…it could be that your phone rang when you were away from your desk…

…an email slipped into the junk folder and was ignored..

…or more likely, a Facebook Advert driving to a page with no way of capturing data…

…or a Social Media post who’s link is broken.

…but whatever it is… the opportunity has gone.

The world has changed a lot since John Wanamaker’s time, and if he was alive today it’s likely he’d now know which half of his advertising isn’t working.

With Google analytics, Facebook pixels and email tracking, the 50% that was being wasted would be quickly identified and tweaked.

…and you can do this too…

…but you’d still be wasting money.

The thing is..


Once that potential lead reads our advert and visits our website or likes our Facebook page, the onus is on us to carry that person along a path which will take them from a suspect, to a prospect, to a customer and maybe even further into advocacy.

And it’s this journey that I believe is where every single business is dropping the ball.

Whether it’s as simple as…

…not having an answering machine or even an answering service when you’re not there to pick up the call;

…not having a way of capturing the details of someone who is interested, but not quite ready to pick up the phone;

…or even just collecting business cards at an event and then not following up, or in fact doing nothing with them.

The fact is every single one of us is guilty of focusing time, effort and energy (and lots of money) on lead generation, and then screwing it up by not having a system to carry that lead through to a purchase.

…and despite knowing that the bucket is leaky… we still insist on turning the tap on… and wasting money.

Today John Wanamaker would probably say something slightly different:

“Half the money I spend on marketing is wasted; and I probably know which half… I just haven’t done anything about it, yet.”

So what can we do about it?

You need to build an effective marketing system

In my view, the biggest problem facing businesses nowadays is not actually generating leads.

Anyone can generate a lead, either from going networking, posting on social media or investing in some form of advertising – leads and ‘traffic’ is not the issue.

The issue is that most businesses don’t have an effective marketing system to handle those leads and turn them into customers.

There is no clear understanding of the customer’s journey along a specified path and as such, it’s easy for leads to step off the path and be lost forever.

Developing an effective marketing system is essential to any businesses ongoing success… and is the way to block the holes of your leaky bucket.

…and it’s a conversation I have every time I sit down with a new client – I want to understanding the path that a customer takes – and then ensuring that the path is clearly ‘signposted’ and there aren’t any big gaps in it that people can fall through…

Once we’ve developed a “path” with no gaps… then it’s all about making it easier to get to the next step.

Too many businesses focus on making things better… without focusing on actually making sure there is a connected system, and end up wasting money, which is why I focus on building the path, and then making it better… or as I put it.

“Understand What Happens Next?… and then Work out How can I make What Happens Next more likely to happen?

…and like any pathway you need to consider a few things.

Don’t make the steps too big

I may be being a bit broad when I’m saying lots of businesses don’t have a clear path. Most of them actually do have a system that converts leads into customers (they wouldn’t be solvent if they didn’t have one).

…but when you look closely at it, you can see some mighty big steps on the way… some would even say “leaps”.

The most obvious example of this is meeting people in person and immediately trying to get them to buy your stuff. It’s akin to going on a first date and asking someone to marry you!

A few years ago, I was introduced to a concept (it was a presentation from one of the leading digital marketing influencers, Ryan Deiss, of Digitalmarketer.com) which I felt really outlined why this is a really bad idea – and it was based on research carried out by human sociobiologist(!) Desmond Morris.

Morris identified 12 stages of human intimacy..

…starting with eye to body…

…eye to eye…

…voice to voice…

…hand to hand…

…hand to shoulder…

…and so on to… well you can guess the ultimate destination 😉.

What Morris discovered was that it didn’t matter how quickly a couple went through the stages in terms of success… but it did matter if they jumped a few too many stages…  for example, putting your hand on someone’s shoulder before you’ve ever spoken to them isn’t a good thing to do (and in some instances would be considered assault!!!)

…and that’s why it’s important in marketing to do the same thing.

All of our possible customers are developing a relationship with us… and as such, we need to make sure that there is a pathway which takes them on that relationship journey… without missing steps out.

…but you also don’t want to make the steps too small either… which in reality extends the time taken for someone to complete the path – the equivalent of making someone “jump through hoops” before they become a customer.

A good path is like a ladder… each step on the ladder is conveniently places and easy to ascend to. They aren’t too close together (so someone stumbles) or too big (so they can’t reach the next step).

…but you also need to remember that some people don’t like following paths…

Not Everyone will follow the path

Although it’s easy to take a concept of “the 12 stages of intimacy” and turn it into something business related, there are always situations where someone wants to jump a step or two.

…and so even though you can highlight what happens next, you shouldn’t hide ways people can accelerate through things, or take a different route.

The best example of this is a website with a form to ask for more information, but without a phone number someone can call. Most people may use the form, but some may be happy with the information they’ve gathered to this point and want to actually jump to the ‘conversation’.

So when thinking about your path, consider a few ‘shortcuts’ that individuals might want to take along the way.

So how should a pathway for customers look?

Designing the Customer Pathway for your business

The way I articulate the journey that a potential customer takes from not knowing someone exists (or even that what is offered is possible!) through to being your biggest fan, is through a model I’ve developed called “The Path”.

It’s been developed over many meetings with clients (and understanding how other marketers view the process) and I’ve turned it into a tool to look at each individual step and work out what happens next.

Using this as a guide, means that they understand what state of mind a customer is at each step of the path

…and thus what they should be saying at each step, what they should be trying to do and how they should be saying it (and not saying “I love you” two minutes after they’ve met).

There are eight “stages” along the path.

Here’s a bit more detail on the 8 states…

  1. Innocent –  They don’t know you exist as someone who can solve their problem.
  2. Aware – They know you exist, but don’t really know much more about who you are.
  3. Suspect – They are now looking into you and have taken some form of action to learn more, such as reading a blog post, watching a video or following you on social media.
  4. Prospect – They’re now demonstrating that you are definitely someone they are considering to solve their problem, by making a commitment towards you, such as giving you their email address, or putting time aside to attend a webinar.
  5. Lead – They’re getting great value from their investment as you are really “over-delivering” and they are really considering your core product.
  6. Customer – They’ve bought your core product
  7. VIP – They’ve bought lots of your product
  8. Advocate – They love you so much they tell others about you

There’s also another “special” category for those people who reach a certain point but don’t progress to the next stage within a certain period that I call Zombie (they’re not actually dead yet, and there’s a chance they could be cured!). 

…and those who don’t even know a solution exists, let alone that your business offers it fall into a special category as well, the “unknowing“.

In a nutshell, marketing is the activity of moving people along the customer path from one step to the next… you just need to make sure that there aren’t any big gaps on your path.

So, to wrap up…

Stop being Crap at Marketing

Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly obvious that there are many businesses out there who are struggling with the concept of the customer path

…I know this from looking at the type of marketing that they are putting out there.

It’s why I’ve created the path and use it with my clients to:

  • avoid missing steps
  • avoid making the gap between steps too much
  • ensure no one falls into the gaps!

Having a clear idea of the customer journey is a core part of ensuring you aren’t guilty of crappy marketing. 

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Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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