What is a Brand Story and Why Does My Business Need one?

A small business owner asked me the other day, “What do you mean by brand story? Is that website copy?” 

I said yes, sort of. But it’s bigger than that – it is not just one sentence, but it’s also the vibe and value promise of your business. Your brand story is not simply what you sell. It’s your purpose and what you believe. How you’re different. What value your offerings ultimately give to a buyer.

Porsche and Honda both make cars. They do NOT have the same brand story. They are not selling to the same people. Customers buy from them for very different reasons – not simply “because I need a car.””

Your business, no matter what industry you are in, needs to understand this.

How did this brand strategist get into the empathy advocacy game? Simple. Empathy is the key to marketing and sales success.

Marketers get this. You can’t influence or persuade someone – or build right-fit offerings for them – if you don’t understand them.(TWEET THIS!)

You must peek into their lives, see things how they see them, and ensure your solutions meet those needs, address those goals, and fulfill those aspirations. Or quite frankly, they should not be doing business with you.

Sometimes empathy gets a bad rap when used by marketers – or sociopaths – to manipulate. If it is used in that way, that’s just lazy marketing in my book. Marketing should be about elevating the truth of your story so the right people can find you and achieve their goals or solve their problems.

Empathy has always been the key to successful advertising. It’s never about the product, is it? 

A 1995 Nike campaign that always stuck with me, which I mentioned in my first book Branding Basics for Small Business, was called “If you Let Me Play”. The ads showed bright-eyed young girls playing sports and each would in turn say,

“If you let me play sports

I will like myself more;

I will have more self-confidence,

I will be 60 percent less likely to get breast cancer;

I will suffer less depression.

I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me.

I will be less likely to get pregnant

I will learn what it means to be strong.

…If you let me play sports.”

This was not just about the features of their shoes or athletic clothing. It was about empowerment. About safety. About strong mental health for girls. 

They got me, as a just out of college woman back then. They knew exactly what engaged and connected with me. They knew who I wanted to be and what I wanted to stand for. And they likely grabbed loads of parents who felt exactly the same way.

That’s empathy in marketing. Understanding the goals, desires, fears, values, and needs of your ideal audience and creating products and services that speak to them. But one step further, a good marketer has to be able to communicate that they understand.

That’s where brand story comes in.

Many business owners and even marketers can speak eloquently about the features of their products. But they might not be as connected to the story they can share that will inspire, engage, and influence their ideal customers to join their community and stay loyal to the brand.

Sometimes this is because we get so caught up in jargon, we don’t speak in the way our customers actually talk. Which is the cornerstone of empathetic marketing! Sometimes, they think customers want to hear önly the facts”- when research proves that we often make purchase decisions because of emotion but justify that decision with logic. Yes, even our most skeptical, data-driven buyers do this because….WE’RE ALL HUMAN! Don’t believe me? Check out my podcast episode with behavioral economist Melina Palmer on all the research proving we don’t buy for the reasons our conscious brains tell us we do. We respond to other cues we are not even aware of! 

But what to say? How to say it? How do we even know what our ideal customers really want and need?

New Course to Help You Craft Your Brand Story! Brand Story Breakthrough

As some of you know, I have shifted from pure brand consulting to focusing on empathy speaking and training.  So  I’m unveiling what I hope will be a signature course to help marketers, business owners – and even agency professionals such as PR and design experts who need to help their clients nail their brand story and may not have a good process.

Check out  Brand Story Breakthrough, a 5 week digital course, along with weekly live coaching with me for feedback and guidance. This is my way to help people at scale uncover the magic of their brand story and build all the tools for their messaging toolkit so they can attract their perfect customers, stand out, and grow their revenue and impact.

And the root of the entire course and process? You guessed it. Empathy.

Empathy is too often what is missing from messaging. I once had a corporate VP client who disrespected their target client base, calling them arrogant, entitled, and not interested in the data. You cannot successfully market your offerings to those who need it if you despise or disrespect them! Sorry, not sorry.

If you’re struggling to get attention from right-fit customers you know you can impact, I would love, love, love to help.

Please check out details right here and see if it’s right for you (There’s even a free masterclass video on that page that will be super valuable for you) 

PS, this process works whether you sell products or services, B2B or B2C, non-profit or for-profit. Because it’s about flexing your empathy muscle and communicating in a way that resonates with the right people and ignites them into action. Not to lie to them. Not to deceive.  But to connect with them in a genuine and value-driven way.

Bottom line: We are all human. And if your mission is to have an impact and offer genuine value to customers or clients, you deserve to reach them and they deserve to know you exist for them. Marketing done right  is not sleazy. It’s a way for you to let the people who need you the most find you. Get excited to share your story. If not you, then who?! ChatGPT can only get you so far. First, you have to emotionally connect with the people you serve.

Photo Credit: Social Cut on Unsplash

What Do You Do? How to Nail Your Elevator Pitch

What does your organization do?

Why does this question strike fear into the hearts of new entrepreneurs? And let’s be honest, many professionals and even markteres who can’t quite capture what they do in a clear and compelling way.

My friends, we call the proper response to this question  the Elevator Pitch. 

What is an Elevator Pitch?

You may have heard this term before but might not know where it comes from. It comes from finding yourself trapped on an elevator ride with an investor or C-suite executive and you have about 30 seconds (an elevator ride) to explain what you do, why it matters, and what is your ask. You are pitching them to capture interest so they want to learn even more.

We use this term Elevator Pitch now as the response to questions like, “What do you do?” Or, “What does your company do?”

There’s a lot that goes into your Elevator Pitch though:

  • What do you do? How are you positioned? Is it a product or a service? Are you defining a new category?
  • Who do you do it for? Your ideal customers. What niche do you serve?
  • Why does it matter? Your core benefits or the results that your organization helps your ideal customers achieve.
  • What is the tone? What’s your brand vibe – what are the right words for this response?

And as I always like to say, perhaps even add on a piece of flair at the end, like a tagline or provocative statement. After all, your should easily be able to say your Elevator Pitch out loud – even though many of us use it on our website.

Call it an Elevator Pitch. Call it a Core Value Proposition. Call it a Brand Positioning Statement. Call it what you like. But if you can’t clearly and compellingly articulate it to people who ask – you, who should understand the value better than anyone else – you won’t be able to attract the right clients and customers.

And that’s tragedy because you may very well be the solution someone is seeking.

See? Communication does matter more than you think! Being able to communicate your story clearly and compellingly can make or break your organization’s success. (TWEET THIS!)

How to Craft an Empathetic Elevator Pitch That Gets Attention

If you’re struggling with crafting your Elevator Pitch, please download my free guide The Empathy Edge Brand Positioning Template to leverage the power of empathy to craft the right brand statement that attracts your dream clients. You’ll get:

  • 6 strategies for crafting your empathetic brand statement
  • 18 examples to spark your creativity
  • 3 fill-in-the-blank templates you can customize and make your own.

Through my books, workshops, and client engagements, these tools have helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses stand out and attract their dream clients and customers.

Download your free guide now right here and make sure you hit all your 2023 goals – and attract and impact all  the right people!!

Photo Credit: Sung Jin Cho, Unsplash

How to Write a Good Sales Page

How to Write a Good Sales Page

Writing sales copy is hard. If you’re trying to write sales copy.

I prefer to think of my sales page as a story. A story customers want to dig into, one that fulfills them. One they are moved by. (TWEET THIS!)

Thats means, you have to think of your sales page as more than just “the facts.” It’s best to think about what your sales page story needs to accomplish.

Here are 4 questions your sales page copy needs to answer to be successful and give your customers what they really want:

  1. What do they BELIEVE? What do they need to believe? Empathetic marketing requires you to understand your ideal customers. What do they currently believe about the situation which you product or service helps? Do they struggle with manual processes? Do they find instructions complicated? Do they lack confidence in themselves? What is their core belief? And then….what do you need them to believe? They should believe that there is a better way, a streamlined solution, a healthier option, a more reliable partner. 

Ensure your sales page evokes not just what they currently believe but gives them an A Ha! about how your work changed or shatters that belief.

  1. How do they want to FEEL? With that change in belief comes a change in emotion. Will they feel more confident, profitable, organized, capable, joyful, driven, accomplished by what you have to offer? 

Ensure your sales page copy reflects a future vision for how they will feel about choosing your offerings. Whether we admit it or not, as humans we often buy based on emotion and then use logic to justify our decisions.

  1. What do they need to KNOW? Now it’s time for “just the facts, ma’am!” What is the program? How much does it cost? What will I get? Who else has it helped? What benefits will I enjoy? How does this all work?

Ensure your sales page copy clearly lays out exactly what someone gets with your offering and what they can expect.

  1. What do they need to DO? They’re on board! You won them over. Now, what’s next? What’s the clear call to action? Enter their information? Swipe their credit card? Book a discovery call? Attend a webinar?

Ensure your sales page copy precisely informs then of what you need them to do next to engage or purchase. Try not to give them a million things: Limit it to one clear next step they can take. You’d be surprised how often this step is missed and then people can’t buy, donate, volunteer because they don’t know what they are supposed to do next!

By making your sales page more of a story or a conversation, and covering these four bases, you’ll be able to have the impact you want to have, make sales, and activate change! 

By making your sales page more of a story or a conversation, and covering these four bases, you’ll be able to have the impact you want to have, make sales, and activate change! 

HT to Alexandra Franzen who was the first to teach me about the Feel-Know-Do formula, that I’ve built upon!

Photo Credit: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Who Needs to Be Part of the Brand Project?

Who Needs to Be at the Brand party?

Your organization’s brand is its reputation, essence and core. It’s not just a logo creation exercise or marketing’s purview from an ad perspective. It’s everything your company is, offers and stands for, inside and out. 

Clients are sometimes surprised that when we  work on a brand strategy process together, the key component is not just a marketing workshop, but a cross-functional workshop. “What can our engineers/CFO/HR leader contribute to a brand conversation? They don’t really understand marketing.” 

Doesn’t matter. They represent a view of the customer or product that serves as an ingredient to crafting the brand story. I’ve had some of the best brand epiphanies come from someone in the room that the marketing lead didn’t think belonged there: The curmudgeon who thinks marketing is a waste of money, or the pre-sales consultant who is not quite sure why they are involved in this effort. 

Here’s the thing: All of these functions are necessary to live out whatever “brand” that marketing cranks out. In fact, they ARE the brand. (Tweet this!)

Their interactions with customers and partners create a brand perception. They need to have a voice in how it’s represented but more importantly, contribute to the conversation in non-marketing speak. That’s how you get to the “real stuff,” to the way people ACTUALLY talk that is not in the press boilerplate. 

When I worked in enterprise technology marketing, my favorite people were the sales engineers. They knew exactly what the product was capable of, keeping us honest in our claims, and they could rattle off use cases and benefits by memory. They dealt with customers and prospects every day. They knew the struggles with adoption and implementation beyond the sale.  

All of these are key ingredients to the brand story. 

So who needs to be in the room when crafting or revamping your story, values, approach and personality – or even having input into naming? Well, first of all, let’s not get crazy. You can’t build a brand strategy by committee. It becomes a Frankensteined shell of its former self with no real teeth or differentiation, because you’re trying to “please everyone” and so you end up with more bland jargon that customers don’t care about. But you can consider various viewpoints and have that represented in the final product so there is end-to-end buy-in. 

Ideally, who needs to be at the brand party? 

Head of marketing:  Obviously. They know about lead generation and customer attraction principles, pipeline building and the prospect journey/buying cycle. But more importantly they are on the hook for execution. And clearly, many branding projects are spearheaded by marketing. I have yet for a VP of Product to give me a call about how to rebrand the company (although he or she might be the bug in the CMO’s ear!) 

One or two other key marketing roles:  We want to avoid making this a marketing-only exercise. Choose one or two other key marketing roles (perhaps head of comms or lead gen) to be a voice in the conversation. 

Head of product or engineering:  They know the ins and outs of how the product works and what it delivers. They have spent time prioritizing features to address customers scenarios. They often work with sales when requests come in or things go wrong. 

CEO:  Yes, the CEO needs to make time to be part of this process. A strong brand is modeled from the top down, even if it’s defined from the bottom up in some cases. If the CEO is not part of the process and bought in to why this is necessary and how it will help the company accelerate growth, you’re dead in the water. Also, my best conversations about the larger company vision, values and market-changing impact happen when the CEO is in the room and everyone is inspired to think bigger. 

Head of people or HR:  Call this Chief People Officer or simple SVP of Human Resources. Time and again, I’m shocked when clients are loathe to involve HR on a brand strategy project. HR is responsible for how the company brand is perceived by prospective employees and what it takes to attract them. They are sharing the brand story every day. And they are tasked with bringing in the right talent who will make the best brand ambassadors. How can they do that if they’re not part of the process? Your people are your greatest brand assets, and therefore those responsible for finding them need to be in lock-step with the brand strategy so a consistent story is told. 

CFO/COO:  What? Yes. Your brand does not stop at customers’ or prospects’ doors. All of your internal policies and processes need to embody the brand promise. A brand starts from the inside out if it is to be genuine, believable and consistent. These policies extend to every vendor interaction with your company: they have their own networks to which they either talk you up, or talk you down. The brand needs to be lived out internally and with key external audiences just as much as your prospects. I’ve seen way too many Silicon Valley companies deny this fact – and while they may claim agility, speed or innovation to their customer base, their vendors are living a painful nightmare of outdated processes, lack of support, or late payments. And vendors talk. To prospective customers. You see where I’m going with this. 

Head of partnerships or alliances:  See above. Partners are part of the eco-system and just as much brand ambassadors as your employees. How does the brand story impact them? The perspective that partner and alliance folks can bring to the brand story is invaluable. 

Head of sales and top salesperson: Brand story shaping is a vanity exercise unless it ultimately drives sales. And who knows what customers and prospects are saying better than your sales leads? They are  talking to prospects in the consideration phase. What they need, want, struggle with, or aspire to be should all be factored into the brand story. And you need to know how customers and prospects talk – it’s not what we want to say, it’s how THEY articulate the problem that will most resonate. Otherwise, how do you empathize with and attract those people? I love when we can have the head of sales involved, but also the top salesperson. 

Head of customer care or customer success: In the trenches, with customers every day. They know their pains, wins and how they are using the product long after the sale. They have a great perspective on which benefits we should lead with – often ones that have been overlooked in past messaging. 

These leaders serve as representatives and solicit input from their teams, so that we avoid an unproductive brand workshop of 35 people. 

Benefits to a cross-functional brand strategy effort 

Yes, it’s hard to get all these people to fill out pre-work. Yes, it’s hard to find a time when they can all get in the same place for 5 hours. But a few amazing things happen when all these various perspectives are at the brand party: 

  1. Cross-functional leadership stops what they are doing and really thinks about the core issues. A brand conversation unearths so many things. I’ve seen disconnects over everything from future company direction, to what the product can actually do, to who we are targeting. You’d think they worked for different companies. When you’re all running on your own tracks, how can you presume to get anywhere together faster? This project is a forcing mechanism to hash our conversations that we are often too busy to have. Crucial roadblocks get discovered that have nothing to do with branding – and solutions to those issues can come out of these conversations because we’re finally talking about the big stuff that is often written off as “Well, of course everyone knows this.” 
  1. You increase buy-in and adoption company wide. When others know their functional area was represented, they feel better about the output. Those present can explain the process to their teams and specifically address what role their teamplays in living out the brand strategy in their daily work. 
  1. Employees reignite and reengage: Taking time to step away from the daily grind reminds people why they joined the organization in the first place. The energy in the room is palatable as we discuss bigger issues, including why folks are passionate about the offerings and what they hope to achieve for customers. It’s inspiring. It’s morale-building. And that buzz lasts long after the branding project is over, especially as the company brings the brand story to life visually, verbally and experientially. 

Ready to see how a brand strategy project at your company can be done efficiently, effectively and ensure all voices are at the brand party? Let’s chat! 

Photo credit: Antenna on Unsplash

How You Can Look At Innovation

While all the talk of “pivoting” these days is turning into a drinking game for some entrepreneurs, it’s important to remember one important thing: 

As a business owner, creator, entrepreneur, it has always been your responsibility to innovate. This is not new. 

Show me a business that never adapts, and I’ll show you an extinct business. 

Show me a leader who fails to evolve, and I’ll show you someone who’s never had a real impact. 

Many businesses big and small have shown remarkable ingenuity in how they are adapting to change. Some have gone after new markets. Some have changed their sales strategies or service delivery models. Some have reimagined their product lines. I shared some great examples here in this Entrepreneur.com article on five ways to pivot and thrive

And not all of it is about “technology.” 

In fact, innovation requires more than tech. It requires humanity. Empathy. Mental space. New relationships.   (TWEET THIS!)

Wanted to revisit two classic posts from the archives with you on this important topic: 

Make space to innovate. 

When you strain and struggle, you don’t leave yourself enough space to get creative. This is why an empathetic team culture leads to more innovation: People are free from fear and pressure and can focus on creativity. They feel safe. Their heads are not full of so much extraneous junk. They are free to see things in a new way and imagine new possibilities. Years ago, life coach Danelle Dowling shared her formula for innovation: Think Less, Bitch Less, Push Less = Create More. If you need some tough love on how to get more creative, check it out. 

Times are tough. Stress is high. It’s on you as a creator to take care of yourself and make the space you need to reimagine possibilities and adapt quickly. 

Redefine innovation 

Innovation is not simply about inventing something no one has ever seen before. True, that is part of it. But can you innovate your processes, service delivery, product usage? Can you adapt how you interact with customers, how to design products, and even which markets you serve? 

And can you simply conduct business in a whole new way? Break the mold of how “things have always been done. This past post shows why redefining success IS innovative. And companies like Zoom Communications, AirBnB, and Ford are showing that empathy and compassion for employees and customers is an innovative (and profitable) way to do business. This was the entire point of my book, The Empathy Edge. The way you do business can be what sets you apart and creates a whole new standard of success. 

Want to rethink your own brand and business? Let’s chat in a 90 minute strategy session to get the juices flowing on what’s possible with what you already have to work with. 

5 Ways Empathy Benefits Your Business

Empathy is not just good for society, it is good for your organization’s performance. 

(Yes, if I have to speak to selfish motives to make the world more empathetic, I will!) 

Empathy has been shown to have a direct impact on everything from customer loyalty to innovation to profits. When embraced with genuine intent and not simply as a glossy PR veneer, empathy can offer your organization countless benefits beyond just, well, being a good corporate citizen and doing the right thing for people!  

Caveat: While empathy offers all these wonderful benefits, it must be genuine. Your organization can’t just paint a glossy empathy veneer on for good press. 

It must truly embed empathy at the leadership, culture, and external brand levels.  (Tweet This!)

Here are 5 proven ways that empathy benefits your business:   

  1. Empathy spurs innovation: When you understand your customers, you can keep pace with changing needs and desires. Internal studies at Google found that their most innovative and profitable ideas came from teams leading with soft skills, such as empathy. 
  2. Empathy aligns you with customer wants and needs: The more in tune you are with your customers, the faster you can deliver best-fit products or services before your competitors catch on. In order to know what customers desire, you must see things from their perspective. Building an ideal customer profile will help you know what their life is like. Steve Jobs, for instance, focused on understanding a customer so well that Apple’s product designers knew what the customer wanted before they did. 
  3. Empathy improves employee performance: Employees with more empathy and collaboration skills can often outperform and advance faster than those with purely the technical skills to succeed. Organizations find that having these skills aids in team members’ individual successes. 
  4. Empathetic brands — and workplaces — appeal to millennials and Gen Z: As professionals, they are among the most diverse generations in the workforce and seek to leverage diverse perspectives to solve tough business challenges. They stick with employers who embrace new perspectives and value their points of view. As consumers, they’re loyal to companies and brands that care and make a difference. 
  5. Empathy drives sales, growth, and market performance: The best and most progressive corporations have begun to adopt and employ compassionate business tactics, which have improved their standing in the market. Many companies report improved metrics such as a healthier stock price, higher valuation and increased revenue. 

Want to read more about how empathetic mindsets and practices specifically benefit your leaders, culture, and brand performance? Please download this free guide: Five Ways Empathy Benefits Your Brand, Performance, and Culture 

And don’t forget to check out my new book, The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success (A Playbook for Brands, Leaders, and Teams. You’ll get an even deeper dive into research and case studies that process these benefits and get actionable steps you can take right now to make yourself and your organization more empathetic. 

Are you giving too much away?

Don’t be afraid to give them a taste

Recently, someone wrote to me and asked: 

“Maria, how can I differentiate my services without actually ‘giving it all away’ in the marketing and sales process? It’s literally like pulling people out of The Matrix: unfortunately “no one can be told what the Matrix is – you have to see it for yourself.” So I spend all this time ‘explaining the disrupter’ to explain and  differentiate myself – but then I’ve given everything away.” 

Trying to understand how to give away “valuable content” (aka, content marketing) to get your audience to know, like and trust your brand can be confusing. If I share all my secrets, you worry, why would they even need to pay me? 

It might feel like you’re telling them everything, but if the only expertise you have to offer can be given away in a few posts and free eBooks, I’m worried that you may have chosen the wrong profession! True experts know there is so much more they can possibly share. It’s okay to tempt with a few tasty morsels. When you do, you create more trust in your brand and expertise. 

Here’s what is actually going on: You feel like people already know “the basics” of what you do. So you may think you have to give away the good stuff. Au contraire.  

Don’t discount sharing the basics as part of your content marketing strategy. What is basic for you is a revelation for others who are not as skilled in that area. People will realize there is SO MUCH more that they don’t know – and they need your help. 

Here’s a very personal example: I wrote a book, Branding Basics for Small Business, that gives entrepreneurs and business leaders a DIY, bare-bones version of my consulting process. They can build their own brand strategy using some of the actual questions I ask. 

But I still get paying clients. For a few reasons: 

1. As I said, this is bare bones. Working with me is a richer experience, we dive into deeper questions, I probe further, and we deliver polished recommendations and messaging (they have to come up with that on their own with the book!) This will be true for you, too.  

2. There is always a volume of clients out there who think they want to DIY but then can’t/won’t. They know they need the experience: the hand-holding, the accountability, the creative insight and wisdom that only YOU bring. So they buy the book – and then they might hire me anyway to get things DONE. (PS, I am that person) 

3. There will be those who will never buy from you anyway. Great. They can take the free stuff and not waste your time. But then there will be those in #2. So give them a taste and they will want to engage more deeply with you and benefit from your focused attention. 

Don’t be afraid to give away a piece of what you do to better explain your work and offer a taste of your style, philosophy, and smarts.  (TWEET THIS!)

You have a lot of expertise and knowledge. Years. Perhaps also years of education, certification and lessons-learned.  You couldn’t possibly give it all away, even though you think you might be. And even if you reveal some goodies, your ideal client wants you to tailor your advice and coaching to their needs – so, in the end, they will hire you. 

How to Become a Better Connector

It’s time to go beyond networking and start connecting. Being a good connector reaps endless benefits for your business and life. Knowing the right people gets you jobs faster, scores you more clients, boosts your visibility, increases your acumen and skills, and shapes your ideas. It is also great for your health and enjoyment in your career.

But how do you become a good connector if you think you’re terrible at it? And if you already feel pretty good about your connecting ability, how can you uplevel for even more influence and impact?

Today’s I’m interviewing leadership speaker, connection creator, and author Michelle Tillis Lederman on this very topic. She just wrote The Connectors Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact

Whether you are horrible at making connections, or you want to further build your skills and uplevel your connection-making status so you can get to success faster, enjoy this video, power-packed with useful tips.

YouTube video

Highlights include:

* How to be a good connector even if you think you suck at it (5:50)
* What level connector are you and how you can level up (7:50)
* Difference between a connector and a thought leader (10:50)
* Take Michelle’s Connector Challenge! (12:59)
* Two mindsets necessary to be a good connector and keep your boundaries (17:30)
* How to use underutilized time to nurture connections (23:03)
* Action tip to become a better connector: Eat that frog! (28:00)
* How to be a more inclusive connector and get out of your bubble (29:34)

“Connecting is not nature over nurture. Anyone can become a good connector and find success.” – Michelle Tillis Lederman (TWEET THIS!)

Learn more about Michelle on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Download your free connection gift pack.
Learn more about The Connectors Advantage and enjoy great book bonuses.

How to Build a Sales Funnel

How to Build a Sales Funnel - man proposing

“Hi, nice to meet you! You’ve never heard of me before but please click this button/take my business card and spend over $1000 on my products or services.”

The underappreciated skill of marketing is to take a customer on journey. One where they get to know you, assess your approach/values, evaluate how you can solve their needs and compare you against the alternatives. This sales cycle can happen in 5 minutes (rarely, unless you are chewing gum at the checkout line: a low-risk, low investment impulse purchase) or more likely, if you sell high-value goods or services, anywhere from one to six months. For some enterprise software firms with deals worth more than $500,000, this could take even longer.

I know, I wish it could be easier, believe me. You write a clever social media post, create a slick sales page or run one compelling ad and…BAM! New buyer.

Please stop proposing on the first date! Prospects need time to learn about you, know, like and trust you before they are going to invest their money and time. (TWEET THIS!)

Most of you don’t sell $5 items, but more expensive products or professional services.

When was the last time you parted with more than $100 when you met a brand for the first time?

To take a prospects on the journey, you need to build a marketing funnel. Or as I like to call it, do some good ole’ fashioned wooing and create a courtship plan.

Here are 5 ways to build a sales funnel so prospects can get to know, like and trust you before they buy:

  1. Offer a safe, no risk way for them to get to know what you are all about: an easily digestible free guide, white paper, or short video. This should be packed with value and not immediately lead to a hard sell, as they are still getting to know you. You are welcoming them to your world, so make them feel comfortable. Dating analogy: Don’t talk about how many kids you want or ask someone to meet you parents on the first date.
  2. Make each call to action or next step crystal clear: While the next call to action from #1 should not necessarily be BUY NOW, what other step should they take in the journey to get closer to a purchase? Perhaps ask them to invest some more time at a webinar or an event. Or ask them to sign up for your email list so you can deliver valuable content on a consistent basis and prove your expertise. Dating analogy: Plan some fun dates and keep things breezy and casual for a while…but make your intentions known that you are serious about building a long-term relationship.
  3. Offer multiple touch points: Building an automated follow-up funnel and getting them on your regular emails is great, but make sure you also have air cover (also known as brand marketing!) Are you posting regularly to social media? Are you doing a few ads every now and then so you stay top of mind? Are you booking speaking engagements or media? Combining your lead funnel “ground game” with the “air cover” of brand is a winning combination for prospects to start getting more comfortable. Dating analogy: Know any friends who can talk you up to your new crush? Or how about sending some flowers, an article you think they might like, or a “thinking of you” text so you stay top of mind between dates.
  4. Follow-up: Don’t leave people hanging. I can’t tell you how many vendors I wanted to spend money with, but I got busy and they never followed up. If you had a conversation or they attended a webinar and asked a lot of questions, be sure to promptly follow up and ask what they thought, what specific challenges they face, why they attended your training or downloaded your guide. You can automate this with emails or if you have strong analytics and can segment out the really interested folks, reach out directly with a personal email or call. Dating analogy: If you say you’re going to call the next day after your date, CALL!
  5. Make it easy for them to buy: When you get to the purchase phase, tell them what to do to seal the deal. Offer options. Ask for the sale (gracefully). Clients want to be led and they need to know what to do to say yes. Make sure your directives are clear: What button to press, where to click, what the contract process looks like. Dating analogy: When we are ready to commit to someone, what do we do? We pop the question: Will you marry me, or will you move in with me? Don’t assume they know that’s what you want!

For more advice on this topic, you may enjoy these past articles:

How to do content marketing right (3-part series)
The Art of Seduction: How to Woo Your Audience with Great Content
How to Build a Sales Process and Close More Deals
4  Tips for How to Sell Without Selling Your Soul

And did you know? Sales funnels that effectively use video marketing can greatly increase your customer conversion. Check out this article on How to use videos in a sales funnel for high conversion from Studiotale, to know more about employing videos in your sales funnel.

Traffic or Referrals?

Heavy city traffic - Do you invest in traffic or referrals?

When it comes to the primary method for attracting new clients or customers, small businesses and entrepreneurs fall into two camps:

  1. They rely on website traffic.
  2. They rely on referrals.

Neither strategy is right or wrong. You just need to be clear on what is your strategy so you can invest your time and money into the right activities.

Online shops, of course, rely on website traffic. They need as many of the right people knowing about and coming to their site as possible to make their sales. But this strategy also benefits coaches or consultants with online courses or speakers and authors needing to build a platform. These are the folks you also see investing heavily in social media ads. (Sidenote: while I was never someone who bought from online or social media ads, I have to admit that Instagram ads finally got me. I regularly buy from brands I’ve never heard of before after seeing just one compelling video ad!)

Certain consultants and B2B marketers, however, rely more upon referrals. I’m one of those people. People may not buy such high-touch, high-priced offerings from their site, so they double-down on referral efforts. This includes actively reaching out to their networks or existing fan base, consistently asking for client testimonials and spending their time providing compelling content for those audiences to constantly stay top of mine.

You must understand your primary sales lead channel in order to invest in the right marketing. (TWEET THIS!)

Some resources for you:

If you’re focused on driving online traffic, I highly recommend you check out Devani Freeman for Facebook and Instagram presence-building and campaigns. Amy Landino for video marketing strategy to build a YouTube presence and drive traffic, or Diamond and Branch Digital Marketing for all things SEO, digital content strategy and more traffic driving.

Articles you may love:
How to make Facebook and Instagram ads work for your business
5un-ignorable reasons why your business needs a blog
How to do SEO in 5 minutes (really)

The 5 best ways to drive traffic to your website If you’re focused on referrals, I highly recommend you check out relationship and networking and connection expert Michelle Tillis Lederman (she has a new book coming out soon called THE CONNECTOR’S ADVANTAGE – so good!) and LinkedIn guru Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain. I also highly recommend Leah Neaderthal’s course SIGNED to help you create a lead generation process and really work your referral base (If you’re interested in an intro to Leah AND a special discount code for this course, contact me!)

Articles you may love:
6 ways to spread the word about your business
Top 5 networking tips from a pro
How to attract quality clients and customers
25 ways to ask for a referral without looking desperate