With dozens of marketing platforms to choose from, many small businesses have trouble apportioning the right share of the marketing budget to each different strategies. Add to this the challenge of customizing these channels to suit your own individual business needs, and it becomes a scenario where you may have to test these various channels yourself to identify what works and what doesn't.
And that takes a lot of effort.
However, knowing the marketing channels that give other businesses their highest conversion rate is a good starting point to benchmark your own results and thus identify areas of improvement. We asked different small business owners to share their conversion rates on their most effective channels. Here's what they say.
We're talking about sending physical letters to prospective clients here. Today, there are very few physical letters being sent out, and this lack of popularity is one reason why a number of marketers still see success with this strategy.
According to Gabe Aluisy, founder of Tampa-based marketing firm Shake Creative, targeted direct mails -- particularly postcards -- fetch around five percent conversion rates. He's observed a similar trend with a number of his clients as well since direct mail is pretty under-utilized and thus grabs people's attention. Also, unlike enveloped letters, messages sent on postcards stare right in the face of the recipient and cannot be missed.
For those operating in the B2B segment, LinkedIn is an amazing platform to identify and reach out to targeted leads. According to Joshua Jones, managing partner at data analytics consulting firm Strategy Wise, their highest conversion rates come from LinkedIn where the figure is in the 10- to 20-percent range. Jones clarifies, however, that the number is highly dependent on strong list building and highly targeted messaging tied to the right profile.
Search Engine Optimization has been the holy grail of online businesses for more than a decade and a half now. Businesses that manage to reach the top of Google's organic search results often enjoy unbridled inflow of leads although the level of competition today among the various rivals mean that one has to constantly optimize their website to retain their rankings.
Brandon Howard is the owner of All My Web Needs, a website that ranks number one on Google for the keywords “small business web services." By targeting this mass volume of Internet searchers and by being visible to them at the exact moment of their search, Howard says he's able to see conversion rates as high as 10 to 15 percent.
The effectiveness of online ads depends immensely on the industry you're in and the advertising channel you deploy. Some products work very well on Adwords while others work great on Facebook. In addition, a lot of small businesses rely on local classifieds and directories for visibility and leads.
Online advertising is a huge topic and might need an entire article for itself. According to Marian Berege, the owner of Rianns Wedding Planners, a wedding event management company, the conversion rates from Adwords, Facebook and Gumtree (local classifieds that she advertises on) are 30 percent, 50 percent and 20 percent respectively.
A lot of businesses take on speaking engagements as a way to build authority in their industry. Besides building a brand, speaking engagements can also be an effective platform to find business opportunities.
Meghan Ely is a principal at OFD Consulting, a marketing firm for wedding professionals. According to her, approximately 85 percent of people who talk to her after a speaking engagement do so to book her for either a business service or another speaking engagement. This, she says, is way more than her other successful marketing channels like SEO and referrals.
A networking event is often an ideal marketplace for the buyer and the seller to meet and interact face-to-face. Thanks to the personal interactions fostered at such meetings, the conversion rates can sometimes be pretty good -- depending on your industry.
Rusty Foster, president at Bow Tie Strategies, tells me that he's been able to convert nearly 75 to 80 percent of businesses he met through networking events and personal introductions.
Email newsletters are often touted to be the most precious digital property for any business -- unlike social media presence or a high ranking website page, a targeted email listing is always reliable and belongs to you.
When Naresh Vissa, the author of Podcastnomics, a book on podcasting, found it difficult to sell 100 books through his various marketing channels, he turned to sponsored emails. He paid $300 to the owner of a blog that was targeted at podcasters. The blogger wrote a teaser about the book along with a recommendation to his mailing list.
Within 24 hours, Vissa was able to sell more than 90 copies of the book. This strategy not only helped him recoup his investment, but also helped the book climb to the top of the Amazon charts.
Cold calling has a huge learning curve, and unless you have the right script and persistence, it's often a tough nut to crack. Experienced cold callers, however, will often vouch for the viability of this platform.
Kunle Olomofe, CEO of AdTwist Publishing Company, says the conversion rate on cold calling can go as high as 80 percent -- depending on the target you pick and how effective your follow-ups are.
Referrals have by far the best conversion rate, since the person referring you to their contact has already established the trust factor on your behalf. But you don't have to always wait for referrals to come by.
Sean Mallon is the CEO of Bizdaq, a UK-based company helping businessmen estimate the value of their business and also sell them. He's been able to see a 28-percent conversion rate on referrals because, he says, he has actively requested existing customers for referrals.
“I often spend an afternoon a week calling our customers to ask about their experience with our business. If the feedback is positive, I ask if they know anybody who would benefit from using our company. The majority of people say they're willing to provide a referral on these calls, and we instantly have a list of hot leads to follow."