Leads Are Only a Piece of the Puzzle: Why Daily Deal Sites Aren’t the Holy Grail of Lead Generation as seen on LinkedIn
By Jay Bean, founder and CEO of FreshLime

Let’s start with a simple statement of fact: businesses require customers to survive, so lead generation is a critical component to growing a healthy business. However, leads are only a small piece of the puzzle and are sort of like placing the corner pieces first — it’s the easy starting point, but building out the rest takes much more thought — as does devising a strategy to generate repeat customers after the initial lead.

While there are many avenues a small business can take for lead generation and customer retention the obvious choice in today’s world is to leverage a mobile platform. Yet for many, the art of mobile marketing is a work-in-progress. When daily deal sites hit the scene in 2008 it seemed like the answer to every small businesses biggest challenge – how to get new customers – but the reality was a painful lesson for many, leaving them in a worse position than where they started and still no closer to a successful mobile marketing strategy.

The Holy Grail of Lead Generation?
Daily deal discount sites, some of the first mobile marketing services available to small business owners, in many ways appear to be the holy grail of lead generation for businesses. With sites like Groupon reporting nearly 53 million active customers a quarter, it seems like a windfall of new, loyal customers are right at a business’s fingertips. However the cost to run a deal like this is extremely high per lead. Businesses generally lose a ton of money on the initial marketing campaign, hoping to regain that loss through repeat business, but the truth is the type of customers deal sites attract are interested in a quick and cheap deal, and seldom come back as repeat customers.

I could reference hundreds of horror stories, but this one perfectly sums it up. A bakery owner offered a 75 percent discount on a dozen cupcakes, which generated a staggering 8,500 deals claimed, ultimately costing her business $20,000. She later called running the deal her “worst ever business decision.”

I want to be clear – I’m not all doom and gloom on deal sites. They serve a purpose and are a consumer’s dream (who doesn’t love a deal, after all?), but for a small business looking to leverage the world of mobile marketing for lead gen and customer retention, they are not where I would start.

Establish, Encourage and Engage a Community
Word-of-mouth has always been the best form of marketing. In the 80’s if you needed a plumber you would call your neighbor and ask if they had someone they recommended. Today, we ask our Facebook or Twitter communities for advice or look to online review sites to see other consumer experiences. Knowing that, the most critical thing for SMBs to do is establish and engage an online community and encourage customers to participate in the online dialogue through reviews and social sharing.

Community – that word keeps coming up, but it’s the crux of successful mobile marketing. In addition to encouraging customers to write reviews on both your website and general reviews platforms, encourage “remarketing” to other social sites to create buzz about your products or services. What a potential customer might not see on Twitter, they may see on Instagram or LinkedIn, and so on, and so on. Working to build a community on multiple social platforms will deliver the kind of organic exposure that can rival even the healthiest advertising budget.

Once communities are established online they need to be called to action, or engaged, whether through social conversation, converting for new deals, or leaving reviews on an SMB service. Real time response is helpful as a customer is more likely to be loyal to your brand if they feel like there is a real person behind the logo. Personality is key because it allows them to relate to you as a customer service oriented company that will take them seriously as a client and respond to their needs/concerns quickly. Put out content your customers are likely to enjoy given their association with you – something that they will find valuable. Offer exclusive deals for only those in the community and honor them. Feature great customer stories and put the spotlight on them instead of you in your community engagement efforts – the result will be more loyal customers. Basically, approach your community like you would a group you want to become friends/colleagues with. Offer them value, continue to consistently engage, and respond appropriately, without over-spamming with company info.

Leverage Lesser-Used Mobile Options
These tactics may seem obvious, but they are critical to establish as the first pillars of a successful mobile marketing strategy. Some of the less obvious benefits come from leveraging mobile maps and text messages/push notifications. If your business offers deliveries or on-site service appointments scheduling those stops in close proximity saves both time and money, enabling you to potentially service more customers in a day by eliminating drive time.

Text messages, which are shown to have a nearly 100 percent open rate, or push notifications related to deals of interest or reminders to schedule ongoing maintenance appointments (it’s often helpful to remind a customer that their gutters are due for a cleaning or their HVAC needs an annual service) are an easy way to remind customers to use your business and make scheduling both simple, and time-saving.

The one constant that never changes, regardless of the decade or the service you offer, is the power of quality customer service. However, in today’s mobile world staying connected is vital to keep your brand top of mind with current and future customers.

Mobile is not only having a huge impact on our personal lives, but it has totally transformed the way small business communicate and interact with their customers. Those that don’t adapt will eventually be replaced by those that do.

For more insights on marketing strategy that actually works for small business, subscribe to the FreshLime Newsletter here. Connect with Jay Bean, Founder of FreshLime and Small Business Marketing Expert on LinkedIn and Twitter.