How To Apologize To Your Customers

How To Apologize To Your Customers

How To Apologize To Your Customers













There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle most things in life, and that includes crises of the technology hacking variety. Two recent hacking crises do an excellent job of illustrating how companies handle crises. One, involving Buffer, occurred in October 2013 and was handled quite well while another, involving Snapchat in January 2014, just wasn’t. One of the major differences between the crisis management demonstrated by these companies? The apology. Customers want to know that the companies they patronize care.

Here’s what Buffer did right:

Buffer acted quickly. No one likes to languish, wondering whether a company is aware of a problem and has definite plans to fix it. Buffer was right on top of things, responding to the problem within about an hour and letting its community know it was pausing posts and working on a fix. This stops people from panicking and speculating about what’s to come.

Buffer apologized—multiple times. There’s nothing worse than a company that just doesn’t seem to care how much it inconveniences its customers. Sometimes, it almost seems as if companies are afraid to admit responsibility. Did Buffer want its accounts hacked? Of course not. But it repeatedly apologized and let its users know it understood their anger and frustration. In fact, the CEO got right out there and apologized again and again.

Buffer provided frequent updates. The waiting is just killer. People want to know when they can expect a resolution. Buffer not only offered frequent, specific updates about what the company was doing to fix the problem, but it also provided these updates on multiple outlets, including its blog, Twitter, and Facebook. This ensured that its customers could easily find the updates without having to dig for them.

Responsiveness counts. Sometimes customers feel like they’re shouting questions to the wind, and nothing annoys a customer faster than feeling ignored. Buffer not only took the time to answer hundreds of tweets during the crisis, but it also continued to respond even after the problem was solved.

Especially by contrast to Buffer, whose breach came before Snapchat’s (thereby giving them a blueprint for superior crisis management!), Snapchat got their response all wrong. Massively wrong. Here’s why:

  • They let a whole week go by before it apologized to its users.
  • Their apology seemed grudging and insincere; it was included at the very bottom of a super-short post explaining how the company planned to prevent hackings going forward.
  • They didn’t encourage users to reach out to them if they had concerns.
  • They failed at keeping users updated on the progress towards a resolution.

To compare and contrast a bit further, here’s Buffer’s apology, direct from their CEO. (Click to enlarge)

buffer apology med

Hopefully you’ll never need to make this kind of apology – but if you do, now you know, there’s a right way and a wrong way!


Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing













Some things just aren’t one-size fits all, and content is one of them. To effectively engage your audience, you’ll need content that caters to the specific types of consumers you are trying to reach. And how can you get that? Start by creating customer personas that fit your audience members, and then tailor content to fit each persona. Essentially, you’ll use these personas to drive your inbound marketing strategies.

What Are Personas?

Your company has ideal customers that are unique to it. A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Fictional doesn’t mean fairy tale, however. You’ll use real demographics and behavioral data to make each persona a realistic representation of your ideal customer. Of course, your customers are more than just a collection of facts and figures. To make them more human, you add in educated speculation about such things as motivations, backgrounds, preferences and concerns.

Here are the main categories companies often cover when creating personas for marketing purposes:

  • Demographics: This includes basic demographic data, such as age, gender, education level, career or business, etc.
  • Profile: This reveals what the persona does, where she lives, and what she cares about. You might include how much time the persona spends on the Internet and what she does online, what her hobbies are, how much she earns, where she works, what kind of car she drives and whether she is a homeowner. You’ll also want to include what she reads and which kinds of memberships she has.
  • Motivators: What are this persona’s reasons for choosing your brand? For example, does your brand help this persona save time or money? Does this persona choose your brand because of perceived value?
  • Goals: What does this persona hope to achieve?
  • Pain Points: What are the concerns your brand solves for this persona?
  • Behaviors: What are this persona’s behavioral traits?
  • Story: What is your persona’s backstory? Who is she? What does she want? What does she do? What are her needs and concerns? This is a brief fictional account of the customer’s overall traits.

How to Get Information for Personas

You can get the information you need to craft realistic personas via the following:

  • Customer data
  • Surveys
  • Interviews with a sampling of customers
  • Interpretation of data

Creating Your Customer Personas

Once you have the data, plus behavioral data and story, you’ll want to codify each of the different personas into documents you and your team can refer to frequently. This could be a Word document, a Powerpoint, or an online doc which you can update easily. You might even blow up your customer personas poster-sized and hang them on the wall, so you’re constantly surrounded by the people you’re creating content for.

Here’s an example of a persona I’ve developed for a client.

creating customer personas resized 600

Aligning Content to Personas

Once you’ve compiled convincing personas of your ideal customer, it’s time to create content that fits each persona and speaks directly to her. Your goal is to create the right kind of content, but this doesn’t mean the right content for all of your customers. Instead, you want to match each persona with content that will move her through the inbound marketing continuum toward becoming a customer and even a brand promoter.

For example, consider example personas A and B. Persona A is less tech-savvy and needs help understanding the hows and whys of your product while persona B is extremely tech-savvy but more budget conscious. To engage and move persona A through the inbound marketing continuum, you’ll want content that primarily teaches, while persona B may better respond to content that helps him compare choices.

Here’s an example of how you might align content to personas.

persona content alignment resized 600

Ongoing Persona Management

Once you’ve created your main customer personas, you won’t need to do this entire exercise from scratch again. You should, however, look at your personas critically every six months to a year, to determine if you need to adjust them, add or drop personas, or update them with new data.

Although persona creation may seem like a lot of work, it’s work which will ultimately shorten the time it takes you do to many other marketing tasks, as you won’t be guessing (and second-guessing) about who will be on the receiving end of your content and communications.

Have you used customer personas in your marketing? Do you have ideas or strategies to share? Please leave a comment below!

This post is part of a series on how to use inbound marketing in your company marketing efforts. You may also be interested What Is Inbound Marketing, 7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing, and 4 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Engine.


Social Listening Like a Rap Star

Social Listening Like a Rap Star

Social Listening Like a Rap Star

The social media revolution was – is – all about talking. It’s about putting your ideas out into the world to see how they connect and collide with others’.

But if the social media revolution is about talking, the social media revelation is about listening. (See what I did there? Eh, eh?)

Social listening is a hugely important piece of successful online engagement because it has everything to do with understanding our audience(s), developing a sense of empathy, and speaking to our customers in a language they can relate to. Unfortunately, though, it’s also the step that’s easiest to ignore. Why is that?

I think we ignore it because it’s genuinely hard, and it’s often overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost. For what should we be listening? To whom should we be listening? On which channels?

These are difficult questions that deserve thoughtful answers. Yet, to butcher an Oscar Wilde quote, social listening is too important to be taken seriously. So let’s have a little fun with it, shall we?

Interactive Social Listening Exercise

The following is an exercise to get you and your team excited about social listening, and ready to think about it strategically. It might also make your colleagues blush (win-win!).

Step 1: Listen

Gather your team. Anyone involved in social media, communications, marketing, etc. Play them this song (“Overnight Celebrity” by Twista – free player embedded below). Resist the urge to giggle as your colleagues squirm and contort their faces out of confusion.

Step 2: Analyze

Explain to them that they’ve just heard “Overnight Celebrity,” a song by one of the fastest rappers on the planet, Twista. Ask: what did you hear? What was the song about?

Step 3: Organize for listening

Break the group up into three sections and ask them to listen for the following things:

  • Group 1: listen for every time Twista says the word “girl”

  • Group 2: listen for names of brands and other celebrities

  • Group 3: listen for items you may find in a home

Step 4: Listen again

Play the song again (yes, again), asking each group to write as they listen.

Step 5: Analyze

When the song is over, refer to the lyrics of the song, posted here. Which group did the best? Which got the most results, which got the most accurate results, and which got the most interesting ones?

Step 6: Reflect

How did it go? How did people feel about this exercise? How did this new framing change the way everyone understood the song?

Step 7: Take the conversation to the next level

How does this experience compare with listening on social media? Well, Twista, as mentioned above, was once known for being the “fastest rapper” – so it’s hard to just hear the song and try to get the big idea. But when we focus our listening, we can “hear” better. The same is true for social listening.

Step 8: Consider this question

How do we focus our listening?

Note that answering this question has a lot to do with why we’re listening in the first place.

There are lots of reasons to “listen” online. A few are:

  • Brand management: understanding how, when, and why people talk about us

  • Community engagement: understanding our people and what they care about

  • Content curation: finding good “stuff” to then contextualize and share

Ask: why are we listening? Which reason takes priority? What comes second? How do those reasons tie into our greater goals and strategies?

From here, take the conversation home. Think about what you need to listen for, and why. And don’t take yourselves too seriously. Let the playfulness of the activity spill over into this discussion; know you can – and should – adjust how you listen.

Folks have a lot to say on social media and it’s up to us to listen. Let’s learn to listen well…and not get lost in the lyrics.

This is a guest post and awesome exercise from Miriam BrousseauBy day, Miriam is a social media strategist and coach, working in a joint position with The Jewish Education Project and Darim Online. By night she is half of the “biblegum pop” duo Stereo Sinai (the other half is her husband, producer Alan Jay Sufrin). She loves learning to be a mom to an awesome baby boy, devouring all things Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek (Next Generation, mostly), and Oscar Wilde, and dangling stuff in front of her cats. She tweets as @miriamjayne and blogs at and, more recently, at


6 Tips for Video Marketing Success

Interested in video marketing, and wondering where to start? Don’t let this valuable tool intimidate you. Here are 6 tips you can use to get started and marketing with videosucceed with video marketing.

  1. Be Interesting: The mere fact that you’ve created a marketing video won’t capture your audience’s attention. There are many other video marketers out there trying to accomplish the same thing. To stand out among them, use different perspectives, include movement, incorporate color, and add music where appropriate. Focus on creativity and personality.
  2. Try It: Often, people hold off on video marketing, spending too much time thinking about it and not enough time acting on it. Go ahead and plunge in with creative content, and try not to worry about perfection. Use your first few efforts to gauge effectiveness and reaction. Then use what you learn from your initial efforts to tweak your approach and create even better video content.
  3. Publish Regularly: When someone sees your video content and likes what he sees, chances are he will check to see if you have any related content. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Publish regular content so that your audience knows what to expect from you and looks forward to viewing and sharing your videos.
  4. Create Video Tutorials: People are always looking for how-to information, and many prefer video how-tos. Fulfill this need by making your own video tutorials. You can use questions your customers asks as topics or search the Internet to see what burning questions your target market has.
  5. Tell Your Story: Youve probably heard this suggestion when it comes to written content, but it’s important for video marketing too. Some people just prefer digesting video content instead of the written word, so don’t limit yourself. Go ahead and tell your story in a video, or a series of videos, as well.
  6. Create Video Contests: You can use video contests to engage your audience and obtain more video content. Run contests that ask consumers to submit videos or video clips. Set guidelines for submissions, and offer attractive prizes. Use the best video on your site or make a new video that compiles the best of the video clips you receive.
Pros and Pitfalls of Sponsored Content for Brands

Pros and Pitfalls of Sponsored Content for Brands

Pros and Pitfalls of Sponsored Content for Brands

Recognizing that many consumers have become bored and disillusioned with traditional ads, many businesses are looking to create new types of advertising. Although technology makes it easier than ever to create and post attractive ads online, and many advertising opportunities are fairly inexpensive, consumers less likely to pay attention to them. Therefore traditional ad options just aren’t as attractive as they used to be. Sponsored content, also called branded content or native advertising, is filling a gap for advertisers.

Sponsored Content and Native Advertising Defined

Sponsored content includes content that is demarcated as “sponsored by,” “brought to you by,” or “presented by” – as in the soap opera days of old. These may be stories written either by a media publication or blog or by the brand. Sponsored content may also be eBooks, whitepapers, videos or infographics made available on a publisher’s site.

Native advertising, a slightly narrower universe of sponsored content, typically fits only within the site or platform its on. Facebook sponsored stories, for example, can only be found on Facebook. An article sponsored on a media publication, written by and for that publication and only run in that one place, could also be considered native advertising.

Benefits of Sponsored Content

Sponsored content looks a lot different than ads did in the past. Because sponsored content look more like the standard content of the site they’re on, more consumers pay attention to them. This can translate into greater brand awareness, more consumer-to-consumer sharing, and ultimately, more sales. The advantage of sponsoring or publishing native content is that brands can often reach larger audiences through the publications they choose, vs. through their own sites or social channels. For advertisers and publishers, sponsored content is often a win-win scenario: brands get better access to consumers and publishers get revenue, sometimes premium revenue for this type of sponsorship.

One Pitfall: Ethics Concerns

One of the main concerns about sponsored content is that it be deceiving. Often, sponsored content resembles news content, which causes many, especially those in journalism, to question the ethics involved in posting it. In fact, some go as far as to call this type of content corporate propaganda, while others argue that the articles provide valuable information that addresses important issues and offers real value to readers.

Many publications do put effort into ensuring that this type of content is separate from the news they provide. However, that separation isn’t always enough to ensure that consumers can easily distinguish between news and sponsored content. In some cases, publications position editorial and advertorial content side by side or on pages practically identical to those used for news content. Despite the fact that sponsored content is typically marked as such, many opponents of this type of advertising argue that the “Sponsored by,” Supported by,” “Paid for by,” “Partner of” wording is just not enough to help consumers tell the difference between news and ads. In their eyes, brands are taking advantage of consumer naivety to get their ads ranked and shared just like true news articles.

Another Pitfall: Google News Doesn’t Like Sponsored Content

Not surprisingly, Google doesn’t like that. The search giant has taken a strong stance against mixing sponsored content in with news. Google warns publications to keep the advertorials out of Google News and sets consequences for those that fail to heed the warning. If a business site mixes sponsored content in with the news, its entire publication may end up excluded. If Google sets an example with a few publishers, it could lead other publishers to minimize sponsored content opportunities.

Sponsored Content Examples

Here are just a few examples of sponsored content on the Web:

Halfway through 2013, I’m going to make the prediction that we’re going to see more and more about sponsored content and native advertising in 2013, and it will truly explode in 2014. Do you agree? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.


Is Cold Calling Obsolete?

Is Cold Calling Obsolete?

Is Cold Calling Obsolete?













With so much discussion of online sales tools and social media, it may seem that cold calling is a thing of the past. Many might say good riddance,
as they dreaded making cold calls anyway. Before you strike it from memory completely, however, consider the point of a cold call, which is to make a personal contact with someone who needs your product or service. That point is far from obsolete.

Why Bother?

Why bother picking up the phone when you could easily just send an email or a tweet? There is much to be said for the personal touch, and a telephone conversation can be the next best thing to meeting a prospect in person. Besides that, it is very easy to simply ignore or delete a message received online. It’s much harder to ignore pleasant conversation from someone in a position to help solve your problems.

The Focus

Some people feel eager to bury cold calling and dance on its grave because they view it as trying to sell to a large database of people who have no interest in the product or service.  Essentially, they view it as telemarketing. However, cold calling shouldn’t focus on making sales. Instead, you should do it with the goal of introducing yourself and your company. The point is to make a personal contact that allows you to follow up with more information, set up a meeting, develop a relationship with a prospect, and eventually make a sale. Focus on setting an appointment during which you will pitch your products and services.

Good Preparation

In addition to having the goal of introducing yourself rather than making a sale, you can make cold calling more palatable (and effective) by performing careful research before you pick up the phone. This means researching to choose targeted prospects who are in need of what you offer. Your research will save you from attempting to sell ice to Eskimos. Additionally, the research you perform before a call should provide you with valuable information about a prospect. It should help you demonstrate that you understand the prospect’s company and its needs from the beginning of the conversation. (Figure out the company’s/contact’s problems and prepare to show how you can solve them.). Your careful research also ensures that you will understand your contact and his or her role within a company. As such, you will avoid reaching out to the wrong person or expecting an unlikely result.

Keep in mind that cold calling need not replace emailing, social media, and other tools for reaching out to prospects. Instead, you can benefit from using this method of communication along with your other strategies for making contacts and initiating relationships. Cold calling is just another tool in your arsenal, and you will benefit most by using all of the tools at your disposal.

Do you think cold calling is dead? Why or why not?


Visual Content for Brand Marketing

Visual Content for Brand Marketing

Visual Content for Brand Marketing

The alternate title for this post is: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, because given the rise in visual sharing platforms today, including Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and more, it’s imperative that brands have a plan for creating compelling visual images.

Some brands have in-house graphic designers or can afford to hire one, which partially solves the problem. But designers need ideas, and ideas need to be aligned with marketing plans and goals.

Here are some ideas for incorporating photos (or short-form video like Vine) into your brand marketing plans, fueling your visual social networks at the same time.

Photos of Your Team & Location

  • Humanize your brand by creating a series of pics of your team: in silly hats, in their workspaces, or out in the field
  • Show off your office, your factory, your stores, or your tradeshow booth in a series or gallery
  • Create a caption contest for funny faces your team members make

Photos of Your Products

  • Take pictures of your products in the wild – being used by actual people in real life
  • Take or crop close-up or partial pictures of products and ask your fans/followers to identify them
  • Create a fashion show or product parade with brand fans at an event, or have an impromptu show with your office staff

Graphic Images of Words or Numbers

  • Create infographics or, at the very least, charts you can share with your social networks – data can be silly (average number of sandwiches eaten between midnight and 4 am) or serious (reduction in bandwidth consumption based on your software efficiency)
  • Illustrate quotes or key data points through typography (example in my image above and also here)

Highlight A Hero Product

  • Highlight a hero product and create a series of topical, relevant photos or graphics around it; Oreo does this exceptionally well
  • Use your hero product as your mascot or spokesproduct in funny cartoons or graphics
So now you’ve got some ideas; the next question is how to create the photos or graphics. Here are a few photo and graphics creation resources to get you started:

Online Photography Help

Photography for Social Media (from Convince and Convert)
iPhoneography Course (from Photojojo)

Photo Editing Apps (simple!)

PicMonkey (my favorite, and what I used to create the image above – free for basic use)
OverHD (for iPhone only – but great for creating images on the fly – worth the $1.99!)

Infographics and Charts

Piktochart (free for basic use)
Infogram (free)

Now go forth and create! And please follow me on Vine (@stephanies), Instagram (stephanies) or Pinterest (stephanieschwab) – leave your links in the comments so I can check out your visual profiles, too!

Image source (frame only): Flickr (eriwst)


Mobile Is Not a Strategy, It's a Necessity

Mobile Is Not a Strategy, It’s a Necessity

Mobile Is Not a Strategy, It's a Necessity

Today’s world is growing ever more mobile. It seems that everyone, from the youngest grade schooler to the happy retiree, has at least some sort of mobile device, and it’s more and more likely that device is a smartphone. These devices aren’t used for just entertainment anymore. Today’s users rely on them for everything from driving directions and work productivity to research and shopping. Since you need to be where your customers are, you need more than a mere mobile strategy or mobile campaign. You need to make your business mobile.

You probably need little convincing of the importance of mobile technology for today’s business, but here are some stats, just in case:

The idea of a mobile strategy implies that mobile technology should be separate from other aspects of your marketing plans. It also implies secondary importance. This can be a mistake, as it may lead you to believe that producing an app or creating a mobile campaign or two will prove enough. In reality, your target market expects you to be where it is – in the mobile realm, and it expects you to be easy to find and patronize. If you fail at this, or only provide mobile tools here and there, you can bet your competitors will lure your customers away. This could happen, not because your competitors are necessarily better, but instead because they provide the mobile accessibility you do not.

Mobile Across the Marketing Organization

When you drop the idea of mobile as a mere strategy, you can begin to see why you need to take your whole business mobile. If your customers can view some of your content on their smartphones but have to wait until they get home to view the content they really want, they will eventually consider going elsewhere. Likewise, if they can access your content but cannot place orders from their devices, there’s a good chance they’ll give a competitor who offers easy mobile ordering a try. To stay competitive and give your target market what it really wants, you’ll need to make sure all of your sites, all of your pages, your ordering system, and your marketing campaigns are mobile. This means leaving nothing out: give no reason for your customers to throw their hands up in frustration and move on to a company that’s better at mobile.

Mobile Is Not So Different From Online

Many of the same considerations that apply to a traditional online presence also apply to mobile. It’s critical to make mobile navigation easy and intuitive. Customers and prospects should be able to find what they need quickly and easily. Your mobile sites should be visually appealing and quick to load, and the content you provide should, as always, be fresh and of value to your audience. Marketers often disagree on whether businesses should create separate mobile sites for their mobile audiences. Taking your business mobile, however, means making sure your sites are easy and even enjoyable to use no matter what type of device your customers and prospects use to access them.

Mobile is Not A Department

You may have mobile specialists within your organization – the folks who understand the underlying tech, can build or specify what you need, or who understand mobile advertising. But everyone in your organization should know what your company’s offerings are on mobile, how your mobile sites work, and how important it is to plan mobile into everything they’re doing, from marketing to commerce to information.

Marketers need to infuse a sense of urgency about mobile throughout their companies, and make sure that it’s not being treated like a separate line item. It’s got to be part of the DNA of everything that you do.


Business Social Media: Farming vs. Fishing

Business Social Media: Farming vs. Fishing

Business Social Media: Farming vs. Fishing

As a social media consultant, I get asked this question all the time: Which social media platform should I use for my business. And my answer is always the same: It depends.

Of course, there are many variables to consider when determining your marketing strategy, and your use of social media platform(s) should be part of that strategy.  And your personal preferences, or available resources, must be part of the decision making process. If you hate yourself on video, YouTube may not be your first or best choice of social channels for your business.  If you don’t have a smartphone, Instagram won’t work for you.

But ultimately, for most businesses, I think there’s actually another question which will help you to answer the platforms question. It’s whether you want to own a farm or fish in a river.

Here’s how I see it:

Your own blog, website and email list are like your farm, and social media is like a river where anyone can go and fish.

Your Farm

When you own a farm, you get to choose everything: what to plant, when to harvest, whether to let it lay fallow.  You own it, and any time and effort you put into it is for your benefit alone.

When you create a blog on your own website (side note: your blog should never, ever be located at or – it should always be somewhere on your company website), you are farming your fields. You are adding value to your website in the form of search engine-friendly content, creating links back to your site when people link to your blog posts, and providing content to your customers and potential customers which may help them build their relationship with you.

The same goes for your email list (which you should start building today, if you don’t already have one), and your website in general. These are things you own. No one can take them away from you. If you later choose to stop farming (stop blogging, stop collecting, email names), that’s up to you.

The River

Social media is a fishing river, and you never know what’s going to happen to that stream. There may be vast amounts of fish one day (or year) and you could see huge benefits from it because you can get fish (customers) you may have never otherwise attracted to your farm (business/brand/cause).  But you’ll never own the river, and so you should never put all of your resources into fishing, to the detriment of your time farming.

Consider how quickly MySpace went away – the stream dried up, and all the money and time brands put into MySpace was lost, forever. The same could happen tomorrow to Facebook or Twitter. Sure, it’s not likely, but it could happen. Or brand pages could just fall out of favor with consumers. Or some other platform will be shinier and newer. The point is – none of these platforms are yours.

You Need Both for a Balanced Presence

Doing both farming and fishing (your own content/properties + social), however, gives you a balanced pantry as well as a balanced business…. and the combination of the two can be very powerful.

I always advocate that small companies and non-profits start their social efforts by creating and writing a blog. It’s rarely what they want to hear – they want to hear that Twitter will be a huge channel and all they have to do is open an account – but blogging is really the best place to start.  And once they have a blog, then they have original content to use in social channels, if they choose: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  Unfortunately, if they have no interest in blogging, they just won’t do it, and so Facebook or YouTube or something else may be more appealing and more valuable for them. I get that. I just think it’s a short sighted view.

So in my mind, the question a business should ask isn’t whether to choose Facebook over Twitter, or if Instagram is important. The first question to ask yourself is whether you’ve built and tended your farm.

Image source: Flickr (State Records NSW)


5 Practical Lead Generation Tips

5 Practical Lead Generation Tips

5 Practical Lead Generation Tips

Looking for more (and better) leads for your business? Hoping to turn more of your leads into actual sales? Generating leads and converting them into sales is a tough, ongoing process, no matter what type of business you’re involved in. Here
are 5 tips for more effective lead generation and conversion:

1.Take a combination approach to generating leads rather than focusing on just one method. Use online and offline ads, word of mouth, referral requests and partnerships with other professionals to generate leads. Network and participate in trade shows as well. It’s also helpful to establish yourself as an expert in your field, which you can do via networking, producing informative online and offline content, building your readership, and speaking at conferences, seminars and workshops. These steps get you noticed, establish your reputation as an industry expert and naturally help generate leads.

2. Always follow up as quickly as possible. Since you’re busy with so many tasks required to run your business, you may feel tempted to delay your lead follow up. This is a mistake. It’s always best to strike while the iron is hot and your lead’s interest is at its peak. If possible, follow up on leads within 30 minutes to one hour, keeping in mind that sooner is always better.

3. Realize that transforming a lead into a sale can take time. While you prefer to close a sale on the first or second contact, it can take several contacts to close a sale. What does this mean for you? Don’t give up so quickly that you miss out on sealing the deal. Keep in mind that some people may take the information you provide but choose to buy weeks or even months down the line. Develop a plan for deciding whether a lead is truly dead or just needs some nurturing to become a sale.

4. Be a source of information and instruction. You can often attract customers/clients and encourage sales by providing information of value in addition to pushing your products or services. Provide industry news and updates as well as helpful how-to content for your prospects. Teach your prospects how to use your products and how to take advantage of your services. Further gain their attention by offering hints, tips, and advice for making their lives or business dealings easier. For example, if you are a real estate agent who focuses on vacation homes, information about things to do in a vacation area or tips for preparing a home for an extended absence can prove valuable.

Have tips for generating leads and closing more sales? Please share them!