Without paying customers, a business cannot grow revenue and succeed over the long run. And without enough leads, a business won't have prospects to convert into those valuable customers.

In a poll of small business owners, my company found that growing customers base and cash flows were the top business goals of 2017. Yet too often business owners focus on the top of the funnel--spending their time and money attracting more leads--and overlooking opportunities to convert the prospects they already have.

By devoting more effort to your conversion rates, you can grow sales and revenue without spending additional money.

These three tips will help you get started:

1. Keep prospects engaged with email marketing.

Email marketing is the Energizer Bunny of digital marketing tactics: Yes, it's been around for a long time, but it's still going. And for good reason--it works.

Email has a median ROI of 122 percent, according to eMarketer, well above the return for other digital marketing channels. Another recent survey of retailers found that 51 percent of customers make an initial purchase less than one month after signing up for a marketing email.

By adding prospects to an email list and regularly contacting them with a newsletter or other content, you can keep them warm (and keep your business on their radar) until they are ready to make a purchase decision.

What should you email your prospects? You want to maintain the interest of a prospect and offer enough new information to nudge them down the purchase path. Try these strategies:

  • Educate customers. What's preventing your leads from making a decision? Do they need more information about your offering? Do they need to learn more about your track record and expertise?
  • Pique curiosity. Instead of putting all your information in the email, include an enticing tease--the promise of relevant information or a great deal--that prompts email readers to click through to your website.
  • Offer social proof. Peer pressure can be a strong motivator, even for customers who insist they're independent thinkers. Don't just extoll the virtues of your products and services--emphasize how many other customers already use them. Include statistics that support your popularity--how many customers you serve, or how much money you've saved them--and bolster those numbers with customer testimonials.

2. Use testimonials to help leads visualize success.

Referrals and word-of-mouth marketing are reliable ways to attract new leads. But the value of customer recommendations does not end there. Testimonials can be a key tactic in guiding prospects down the road to a purchase.

Start by identifying your happiest customers and asking them to provide testimonials for your business. You should already know who your longest-tenured (and hopefully most satisfied) clients are.

You can also look at positive reviews, raves on social media sites, or old-fashioned in-person compliments for potential testimonials. Reach out to the customers for their permission, and get more details that will help you share their stories.

Next, shape these kind words into inspiring stories with your business playing the role of epic hero. Like all people, your prospects will respond to the power of a tale well-told. Craft customer testimonials like you would tell a story; with a beginning, middle, and end:

  • Beginning: What challenges did your customer face and how dire was their situation before they found you?
  • Middle: How did your business solve their problems?
  • Triumphant ending: What benefits did your customer realize as a result of your solution?

Paint a vivid picture backed with facts so your leads can see themselves as the stars of your next success story.

3. Create urgency to push customers off the fence.

We've all dealt with customers who just won't get off the fence. They're solid prospects, but you just cannot get them to buy. They need a very gentle push into making a decision.

There are several ways to crank up the urgency without resorting to high-pressure sales tactics. One way to do this is with short-term discounts or deals. Offer the fence-sitters savings if they make a purchase decision this week or this month.

This is especially effective if you have slow periods in your schedule you need to fill. You can ratchet up the urgency even more by creating scarcity: Make the discount available to just the first five, ten, or 20 customers who respond.

Finally, appeal to the lead's sense of immediate gratification. Cut through their indecision with a strong sales message showing how your product or service will solve their problem right now.

You may have been promoting the long-term benefits of your business so much that you made it easy for them to put off a purchase. Instead, emphasize that they cannot afford to wait any longer.