SelfInformed

March 2014


Developing Quality Leads for Your Business

Friday, March 28, 2014



By Sallie Hyman

All businesses, big or small, need to generate leads in order to generate sales and profit. Without leads, a business will not grow and could fail. In larger companies, the marketing department is usually responsible for lead generation, but quality leads can be obtained by even solo entrepreneurs if they look in the right places.

The quality of a lead depends on whether the individual or business was incentivized to provide its contact information, or if the sales lead was aware of what he or she was signing up for.

Someone who signed up to “win a free vacation” but soon starts getting information about your business’s new product is not a quality lead. They were not interested in your product, but rather the chance for a prize. Quality leads can be expensive to acquire, but there are a number of ways to gather them at little to no cost.

The key to lead generation is using a variety of strategies simultaneously. This means taking all of the tools from your marketing department (even if the department is just you) and putting them to work.

Effective lead generation comes in both low-tech and high-tech forms. This means combining face-to-face interactions, print and snail mail, the web and social media. All of these draw attention to your business in multiple ways and reach multiple audiences.

Here are some ways to help you develop quality leads for your business:

Networking Groups
Networking groups are plentiful and an excellent source of leads. Many businesspeople go to networking functions for trade associations, chambers of commerce and other organizations on a regular basis, but view them as a boring nuisance, instead of the excellent opportunity that they are. Networking events are an excellent lead generation strategy for businesses, because the other business people that attend them are consumers too and need products and services just like the rest of us. Even if you don’t expect to do business with a particular business owner, let them know about your business so they can refer people to you (and you to them). Ask them if you can add their contact details to your database. You can also network virtually. For example, the NASE Small Business Locator (member directory) is a good way to generate leads and network with small businesses.

Referrals
Referrals, or word of mouth, is the number-one most successful lead generation strategy. Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about his experience with your company. (A dissatisfied consumer will share their lament with 8-10 people and some will push that number to 20.) People are more likely to become a customer of a business that they hear about from a friend.

The best part about referrals is that they are free, so it is important to seek out referrals from your clients. You can offer incentives to current clients such as free gifts, discounts, or public recognition for every referral they send your way.

Alliances
Depending on your type of business, you may be able to work with other similar industries to build an alliance and expand your client base. Make sure to choose a reputable business that treats its customers well, engages in proactive marketing strategies, and is open to trying new things. Once you have built a relationship with this business and have come to an agreement, you can start targeting their clients with your own marketing. A great way to get the leads generating for alliance members is to hold a joint event where clients from all businesses are invited to attend. Have attendees sign in with their contact details and you have a whole new set of potential clients.

Brochures
Brochures are an inexpensive and effective way to provide potential clients initial information on the product or service that you offer and encourage them to take the next step in the sales process. They can be distributed through mailings, at tradeshows, at your place of business, and at those of your alliances. Brochures should be eye-catching, precisely convey what you have to offer, and have a powerful call to action.

Trade shows
Trade shows are an excellent way to promote your business and generate leads. They do take a significant amount of planning and time, however. You need to make sure that you or those running your booth are adequately prepared in terms of knowledge of your product/service. The payoff can be big if you choose the right trade shows. One drawback can be determining who is a real lead and who just came for the free pen or candy!

Get Involved
Being involved in the community and with local organizations is way to put yourself and your business in front of many people at once. You can offer to be a guest speaker at local networking groups, business associations, or even charitable groups. Host seminars or special events. Invite current clients and ask them to bring a friend. You can showcase your product or service during the event. Finally, consider becoming a community volunteer. Not only will you be supporting a worthy cause, you will get visibility for your business.

Buy a Sales List
A sales list will provide you with a targeted list of prospects for your business. There are many companies that can put together a list for you, from your local print shop if you are just looking to target a specific area code or local demographic, to large marketing firms that can pinpoint target exact demographic groups of consumers of products/services similar to yours. These lists will cost you, but can be worth it in terms of time saved and accurate targeting.

Website
Use your website to its fullest potential. NASE offers web services to help your business. Put a lead form on your webpage. This will allow interested consumers to receive more information from your business and help you go develop a database. You can also put a referral form on the website that will allow current customers to put in a friend’s information. You can use incentives such as discounts or gifts to encourage people to fill in their information.

Search Engine Optimization
You want to be as visible online as possible and that means making sure that your website is on the first page of any search result. You can improve your SEO by altering the copy on your website to use some of the top words and phrases that customers use to find the types of products and services you offer. When you use these words and phrases on your site, it helps it get ranked in the search engines, which means the site appears when customers are searching using these terms.

Call to Action
Develop a call to action for your product/service. A good call to action never assumes the customer will know what to do. If you have an information or referral form, don’t assume that the customer will know that the button on the bottom of your page is where to click. Be very explicit. Put a bright-colored button that says “SUBMIT FORM.” Whatever you decide, remember that boldness on your end will be rewarded with action on your customers’ end.

Facebook Advertising
Use Facebook advertising in conjunction with a Facebook business page in order to generate more leads. Promoted posts highlight content in the newsfeed of your target audience. To help you capitalize on the click-through of a Facebook user, use a signup form that reveals the content on your website or Facebook tab only after the user fills out any required information that you define. This could be an email address, demographic data or geographic location information. The more information your business has about a Facebook user, the better you can personalize your future messaging to match their interests, making it more likely that they will convert from lead to customer in the future.

Twitter Chats
Twitter chats are frequently scheduled discussions hosted by a Twitter account. Each chat uses a particular hashtag so that other Twitter users can follow the conversation even though topics change with each discussion. These very focused audiences are a great place to generate leads. You can participate in Twitter chats in two ways: Join existing Twitter chats that are related to your industry or create and host your own chat. Do research on participants and then follow individuals who could be potential future customers. Then you can start to tweet to these connections outside of the chat and eventually direct message them content or marketing materials that will further establish your expertise and what your business has to offer.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers several features that can help you to generate leads. There are LinkedIn Groups targeted to a variety of subject areas that bring professionals with similar interests together to talk about business topics. This is similar to the Twitter Chat idea. Pick a few groups to join or start your own and build relationships and develop your presence as an expert in some area. These relationships can develop into leads.

Another LinkedIn offering is the LinkedIn Lead Collection Widget. You can use this if you set up a LinkedIn ad campaign. This little box sits at the top of your website and allows people to easily submit their email address to you with one simple click. You can easily accept email leads with one click of a button.

There are many other high-tech ways to generate leads, including Google+ Hangouts and YouTube, if you have the time, motivation, and just a little bit of know-how. With so many ways to generate leads, it’s time to get busy and start finding more customers.

 

 

Sallie Hyman writes on small business issues and owns and operates her own small business in Purcellville, Virginia.

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