In today’s competitive business environment, a good Lead generation strategy can be the difference between success and failure. This involves creating an awareness and interest about your products and services in order to develop leads, which can be converted into actual sales.
Traditionally, Lead Generation has involved tele-marketing and advertising in print and television media. But with the rise of digital channels of communication, many new avenues have opened up allowing small businesses to compete on a more level playing field, even with their limited resources. Online and social media have thus been a real game changer for small businesses.
With a wide range of lead generation tactics available, it is important to try out and settle on the best combination of strategies that works for your business. Sticking to 2-3 traditionally known techniques isn’t going to keep you afloat for long, especially if you are a small business. In an era of fast paced change, you have to change with the times and leverage current tactics that play to your strengths.
Local businesses have a tendency to rely too much on referrals alone as a method of generating leads. While, referrals undoubtedly are a great tool for generating business, this needs to be combined with a mix of other tactics that work well for you. The options available are many.. and surprisingly cost effective too!
The Changing Sales Paradigm
The buying process has been turned on its head since the advent of the Internet. Earlier, your sales personnel sought to initiate contact with potential customers and turn them into sales opportunities with the flow of information being one-way.
With a wealth of information now available online, customers can do their own research about different products and services online and approach or simply buy the product from a company of choice. Consumers are better informed than ever before and are ready to interact with your sales personnel in a two-way exchange of information. Sometimes, consumers have already made a purchase decision before even coming into contact with a company’s sales and marketing force, just based on their own proactive research online.
The transformation of marketing also means a more one to one and targeted approach as opposed to mass advertising campaigns. User preferences are tracked based on online activity and this makes customized ads based on those preferences possible.
Small businesses need to use this changing paradigm to their advantage and ensure that they have a sound digital presence. Instead of sending your sales force out looking for customers – let your customers find you! Use the variety of free online tools available for an effective marketing strategy that is customized to target and appeal to different kinds of audiences.
Maintaining an online presence through a website, blog, social media page etc. is relatively cost effective as compared to traditional advertising media, so you don’t need to spend a bomb on lead generation activities any more. This is great news for small businesses.
Lead generation strategies for small businesses
While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to lead generation, a few activities have emerged as generally productive and cost effective in the context of local businesses.
Build your online presence
The rise of a more proactive and aware consumer, it is important for small businesses to put out clear and helpful information online that can attract customers. Having an informative company website is a crucial first step to securing a positive online presence.
Social media marketing is an extremely cost effective method of reaching a wide audience, given the amount of time people spend on networking sites such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Given the interactive nature of these sites, this is not only a great way to get your message across to large numbers but also to garner feedback from actual and potential customers. People who join your business’ Facebook page or follow you on Twitter are all leads, which can be converted to sales opportunities. The fact that they ‘like’ or ‘share’ your posts and tweets can be translated into an expression or interest, which makes them more receptive to your marketing efforts.
Having a company blog is another free and easy way to build online presence, establish credibility as an expert in your field/industry and generate leads. Build in a call to action to social media posts such as ‘Find out more by clicking this link’ or ‘Request pricing’ in order to get your engaged audience to the next step of being a ‘lead’ as opposed to a mere recipient of information.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Be easy to find
It is one thing to design and put up a slick, eye-catching website, social media page or blog. But visibility is another matter altogether. The impact of your site or page is lost if it isn’t optimized to show up on search engines. This you can do by using common key words or phrases, that people might use online to search for your type of product or service, within your website titles and copy so that you appear as one of the top results on any search engine.
For small and local businesses, local SEO is especially relevant because people often search for local listings online. Tools like Google Places enable your business to be found easily on Google.com or Google Maps and you can list your business on this for free. You can even list the brands you sell and provide detailed information such as directions to your store and parking information to stand out and appeal to your target market.
Use online forms on your website to capture information about visitors such as their names and email addresses to increase your lead database. You can provide incentives such as coupons and discounts in exchange for this information whether it is an online visitor or a physical visitor to your store. Capturing this information, online or offline, helps you to know who visits your website or social media pages and target them with promotional mailers and generate sales. Even beyond just names and email ids, you can gather other intelligence such as consumer preferences and get some valuable feedback that can help you align your marketing and promotional strategy for better results.
Systemize referral collection
Since word of mouth and referrals are the backbone for increasing traffic to local businesses, you need to have a systematic strategy to ensure that you get that referral. Don’t simply rely on customers to spread the word or recommend your business to others. Instead, ask them to recommend their friends who may be interested in your products. The best time to do this is at the point of actual purchase or just after or as a follow up to a positive customer satisfaction feedback survey. You can even incentivize the process through reward points or discounts in exchange for referrals.
Build local partnerships
Small businesses should focus on local lead generation through tying up with other local businesses that may offer complementary products or services. Small businesses can generate leads for each other and even go in for product bundling and co-promotions. This sort of ‘community building’ approach is appealing local customer base and encourages loyalty towards supporting community business. You can even rely on local chambers of commerce and other trade associations that can assist you with lead generation.
Building relationships online with local bloggers can also help you to generate leads. You can write guest posts on each others blogs and promote each other for a mutually beneficial partnership.
How to get the maximum benefits from lead generation
So, you have a growing database of names and contact information. What next? The buck doesn’t stop at building a lead database.
Measure and monitor success
With online media, it is easy to track the results of your activity. For example, there are free analytics for blogs to monitor the number of visitors and page views. Similarly, there are free tools such as HootSuite, Social Mention, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and Google Analytics that can help you track social media metrics such as hits/page views, repeat visits, number of followers as well as conversion rates (from lead to buyer). Analyzing the return on investment (ROI) of social media will help you to find out what is working for you and what is not and align your online lead generation strategy accordingly.
Use the information captured
Analyze the information gathered based on forms completed by visitors, links clicked on etc. to learn more about the preferences of potential customers so that you can highlight relevant products and services in your marketing campaigns. Marketing approaches on the whole have become more individualistic in nature so targeted promotion has a much better impact and conversion rate today as compared to mass campaigns. Categorize your lead database according to preferences gleaned and tailor your promotional material accordingly for improved results.
Keep the communication ongoing
Interaction with leads isn’t a one-time deal that ends once the lead is in your database or even once a sale is made. Keeping the communication ongoing is a vital step towards ensuring repeat visits as well as being recommended to others. So make sure to keep an ongoing dialogue through phone calls or emails with helpful information, updates, photos and videos.
The biggest marketing challenge for small businesses has always been the resource constraint. But the rise of social media has changed all that. You no longer need a huge investment into lead generation because there are a plethora of options available, which can be tailored and customized to suit both, your requirements and your budget.
Lead generation is a significant marketing activity that no business can afford to ignore. You need to use a mix of both online and offline strategies available (and there is no dearth of options to choose from).
Not only is using multiple tactics important, but reviewing their performance from time to time and making the necessary changes is equally vital. Keep an eye on the ROI of your activities to ensure that you’re getting the right value for your dollar and decide whether it’d be better spent elsewhere.
Also, lead generation isn’t just a numbers game of increasing your database. A name needs to be qualified as a potential buyer in order to count as a lead. This is where information capture plays its crucial role in qualifying a lead. Ensure that you get relevant answers to smart questions that will help you to structure your business decisions in a profitable manner and that your online presence is geared towards gathering as much information about your potential customers as possible.
So, if you are a small business that has only been using 2-3 lead generation methods, sit and evaluate your current lead generation strategy vis-à-vis the cost effective methods available to even the most limited budgets. You might just hit upon the most successful lead generation formula for your business.
This post first appeared on The ClinchPad, please read the originial post: here