Tips For More Successful MarketingApril 30, 2018 | By: Cheryl Winokur Munk
In marketing, there’s a basic tenet that it takes seven “touches” within 18 months to prod someone into action.
Nowadays, with customers exposed to thousands of ads a day and across so many channels, it takes several times that in interactions to generate viable sales leads, according to Samantha Berg, a marketing and strategic partnerships executive with 6th Avenue Capital in New York.
That’s why it’s so important for funders, ISOs, brokers and other alternative funding professionals to have a solid marketing and lead-generation strategy that incorporates multiple channels such as search engine optimization, digital ads, direct mail, email and social media. The challenge, of course, is to find the right balance between being invasive and being top of mind, industry professionals say. Here are a few ways tried and true ways to generate warm leads and potential new business:
DON’T DIS DIRECT MAIL
Many marketers have a negative view about the importance of direct mail to consumers. But consumers may be more interested in this medium than you think. Consider a survey of more than a thousand consumers by Yes Lifecycle Marketing, a provider of email and digital marketing services. According to this study, 56 percent of all consumers say they find direct mail influential when researching a purchase. By contrast, a separate survey by Yes Lifecycle Marketing paints a very different picture of how marketers view direct mail; 78 percent of those polled say they believe direct mail is not influential for any age group.
One good thing about direct mail is that it can be opened at the merchant’s convenience, unlike a phone call which some merchants find annoying, especially since they often get multiple calls a day from numerous funders. With direct mail, even if a business does not need funding immediately, there’s a decent chance the merchant will keep your information on file for future reference, says Glen Faulhaber, vice president of sales at G-Plex Direct Mail Services in Holtsville, N.Y. Sending a follow-up mailing within a week of the first helps you gain additional brand recognition, he says.
Of course, for direct mail to be successful, certain parameters should be followed. For starters, mailings have to be based off good data; meaning the people or businesses you are sending to have a high likelihood of needing funds. Without worthwhile data, you’re basically throwing money out the window, Faulhaber says.
Timing is also important, he says. With direct mail, Faulhaber says you have about five seconds to get someone’s attention, so your message has to be catchy.
MAKE YOUR WEBSITE SHINE
Trey Markel, a software specialist at CentrexSoftware, a customer relationship management software company in Costa Mesa, Calif., says it’s shocking how many funders don’t use their websites to generate leads. Markel, who consults with B2B lenders and MCA providers on marketing strategies using enterprise software, recommends funders spend time working on their website so that it appeals to all types of visitors: those who want to read relevant articles, those who want to watch webcasts and those who want to listen to podcasts.
The idea is for funders to use their website to provide helpful information to merchants that will, in turn, encourage them to seek funding from you. For instance, you might consider hosting monthly webinars on topics such as how businesses can use loaned money to increase their marketing budget. Another topic merchants may find appealing is how to use credit cards to increase customers. “You give them a solution to a problem, and then you give them the money to go afford that solution,” Markel says.
Many funders know how to close a deal, but they fail to understand that the consultative approach over time will gain them even more business, Markel says. “Becoming a trusted information source in the industry is so much more valuable to customers than just being a funder,” he says. The industry needs “professionals who are going to tell you how to solve a problem.”
Jennie Villano, vice president of business development at Kalamata Advisors LLC, says ISOs looking to build their business should attend networking events where small businesses are present. Sounds simple, but many ISOs don’t take advantage of this, meaning a missed opportunity to connect with “people from every facet” including accountants and other business professionals who can be a good source of referrals.
She also recommends ISOs hire at least one professional who is warm, trusting and engaging to visit merchants at their place of business. She recommends they pick places such as local strip malls which have a sizeable number of merchants. If you saw 20 merchants a day and only two funded with you that amounts to 40 extra deals a month, she points out. “Many ISOs would benefit from an extra 40 deals a month,” she says. On top of that, you have additional touchpoints because each of the merchants you visit may tell other businesses about your services, she says.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
ISOs should also use social media more often than they do now—and not just to find sales help, Villano recommends. She uses it to target ISOs, but in the course of that, she gets inquiries from small businesses. ISOs should be using social media to find small businesses in need of funds. “I just don’t know why they aren’t using it more. It has tremendous reach,” she says.
To be sure, you don’t have to bombard your connections with posts. Once every other week is a good target. Make sure to include your business name and phone number, but posts shouldn’t be a hard sell. “There are ways to stand out and get your message across without appearing pushy or too sales oriented. The two-minute video ‘Cooking with Kalamata Capital’ that went viral in the industry is an example,” she says.
Also remember there are many social media venues. Sometimes funders focus their efforts on LinkedIn, Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. But Instagram and Pinterest can also be used to target potential customers. Posting aspirational videos or photos in these venues can help encourage businesses to think about ways to fund the things they might need, says Berg of 6th Avenue Capital.
USE EMAIL MARKETING TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Some funding professionals say text messaging works well for them, though others prefer email for a host of reasons.
For one thing, it’s a “little less intrusive” than a telephone call or a text, Berg says. Also, with email, there’s ample ability to personalize, and you can run analytics to determine helpful metrics such as open rates and click-through rates, for example. You can compare how these metrics change when you tinker slightly with email subject lines or messages.
“We see email as a very viable channel,” she says.
Another advantage of email is that it helps funders and brokers get around the restrictions imposed by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that has hampered lead generators’ ability to solicit business owners, says Michael O’Hare, president of Blindbid, a B2B lead generation site.
With email, you can direct the prospect to click on a link, which then triggers a phone call from a sales rep. In an environment when cold-calling can result in a lawsuit, email is a viable alternative, says O’Hare, an outspoken opponent of TCPA restrictions for business-related matters.
A growing number of funders are also using or exploring the use of artificial intelligence to help with lead generation, says Matthew Martin, managing director of Silver Bullet Marketing, a provider of trigger lead data.
One company that’s working in this area is AI Assist. Using Conversica, an AI-powered virtual sales assistant, funders can send automated emails to prospects. The automated sales assistant determines whether the prospect is interested, and if so, it alerts a human sales representative. The automated sales assistant can also gather additional information from a lead, such as the best phone number and best time to call. The entire “dialogue” is available for the human sales rep to review.
“AI is not going to make the sale for you, but it’s going to give you enough information to move forward,” Martin says.
REFINE YOUR LEADS
To generate leads, funders, ISOs and brokers tend to buy banner ads on Google or send an email blast with a link for interested businesses to click on. The link usually directs businesses to an online form that typically asks for their name, telephone number, email and how much money is being requested.
But it doesn’t generate meaningful information about the business or what type of funding product the business is looking for, says O’Hare of Blindbid. These forms don’t typically include critical information such as whether the person has been in business for less than a year, whether he or she has mounds of debt or what kind of funding the business is seeking.
One way to get better, more tailored leads is with “lead quizzes” similar to those used by the online insurance industry, he says. Instead of a basic form, potential leads would be directed to fill out a form that has much more pointed questions about the person, the business and the type of funding sought, he explains. Some questions might be, for instance: Is your credit score over 500? Have you been in business for more than a year? And, what type of funding are you seeking? Based on the merchant’s responses, he or she could be directed to a certain funding product or a specific funder, if you’re an ISO working with multiple providers. The funder could also decide to pass on an opportunity based on a merchant’s answers to the lead quiz.
O’Hare says he doesn’t know of MCA providers currently using this type of form, but it’s one of the things he’s working on as a way to generate better leads for his clients. With the basic forms many funders use today, you get a “lot of garbage,” O’Hare says.
Certainly, there are many ways to market and get leads, but industry professionals say one thing is clear: you can’t rely on one avenue alone. According to Markel of CentrexSoftware, too many in the industry put too much faith in raw data that gets plugged into a phone system dialer. The quality of this data isn’t always the best, which means funding professionals are wasting a lot of time, he says. “There are only so many small businesses in the country and an even smaller amount that are fundable,” he says.Last modified: April 30, 2018