Tips for generating leads
It is little wonder that lead generation is surpassing brand awareness as marketers' greatest priority - and doing it on the cheap is even more important.
Here are some lead generation strategies and tips from the experts.
1. Use everyone you know to get more leads
Go back to basics - create a top 100 list of all the people you know. "The average person knows 800 people," says Sue Barrett, founder and managing director of sales consultancy firm Barrett.
She recommends prioritising these people into segments - family and friends, work contacts, and so on. Then call them and ask them who they know in your target market.
She says the important point to remember is that you must be very explicit and clear about what you want. Ask first, "who do you know?", then "can I call them?" and "can I mention your name?"
"It's boring," says Barrett, "but this is how it works."
2. Create reasons to contact your clients and others on your marketing lists
Marketing expert Colin Benjamin suggests that modifying your rate card, for example creating discounts for buying in bulk or making early purchases, can give you a good reason to get in touch with your customers and others on your marketing list.
3. Boost referrals from clients
One strategy for boosting referrals from existing clients is to offer them incentives for each referral.
It offers another reason to contact existing clients, and it can even be done online. Jason West, CEO of online marketing firm Websalad, says one of his clients, a business-to-business telco reseller, offered its clients cash for referrals that resulted in subsequent sales. The cash was paid through Paypal. He says the company immediately noticed an increase in referrals.
4. Buy a database of quality leads
Buying a database of leads could be a cost efficient way of generating new business, provided they are pre-qualified for your target audience and you get the list for the right price.
Tom McKaskill, serial entrepreneur and author, says in every industry somebody is collecting names. It could be the industry association, a credit agency or a potential business partner. The critical question is whether the list is any good and whether it matches the company's needs.
Firms must define their ideal prospect and make sure the list is pre-qualified for them, otherwise time and resources will be wasted. "Lead generating should be like a rifle, not a shotgun," McKaskill says.
To avoid wasting money, firms must do the calculations on what it would cost to get the names any other way. "If you are not collecting data on the cost of a quality lead, then it is a very hard decision to make," he says.
5. Find some free prospect lists online - starting with SmartCompany
If you look hard enough, you will be able to find some free lists of companies online. For example, if you are looking for targets in a particular sector, head to the website of the industry group or association that represents that sector - many of these organisations publish lists of their members online.
SmartCompany is also a great place to start looking. We've created a page with links to all the lists we produce, including the winners of our Smart50 awards and the lists of fast-growing companies that we produce for our regular SmartCompany Dun & Bradstreet Industry Growth reports.
6. Offer short term deals, incentives and risk-free trials
In uncertain times, potential customers are often reluctant to commit to a long term deal - so make it easier for them. Offer short term deals, incentives and risk-free trials, particularly if you have a product or service sold by subscription.
If the customer is satisfied and finds they can't live without you, they are likely to stick with you. For more information on this, see our story on the trend of Tryvertising.
7. Use your website to get leads by building traffic
To get leads from your website you must get traffic to your website. Most internet traffic is still coming to sites via Google searches, so it is critical to optimise your site to rank well in Google searches for key words.
Chris Thomas, search engine optimisation expert at Reseo, says potential customers will come through searches on your brand but if you are good at search engine optimisation it will also come through "head terms", which are key words in your industry.
For example, if you are a funeral director you want to be listed high for "funeral director" "funeral parlour" and your city. (See his SmartCompany blogs for more traffic generation tips)
You can increase traffic to your website through Google AdWords, pay per click advertising, or affiliate marketing programs where you split revenue with other companies that send leads your way from their website.
8. Convert website visitors to leads
Once you have the potential clients on the website, you need them to submit their contact details or call you.
Thomas says online inquiry forms work best when they are short and split into more than one page. He says the first step should request only a name and email address. This way if the web visitor doesn't go any further you have their name and can send personalised messages.
The second page of the form can ask for more information to enable you to segment the customers into demographics and by other personal information.
Thomas also recommends offering web visitors an incentive to send in the inquiry form. For instance, offer them a free trial or a whitepaper or downloadable PDF for example, in return for completing the inquiry form.
He says the form page itself should make explicit the reasons why potential clients should be interested in your goods and services. For example, "we promise to answer your query in 24 hours" or "we have 10,000 satisfied customers".
Thomas says companies usually only put the company's phone number on the "contact us" page. He recommends putting it in the header so that it is front and centre on every page. "And make it clickable," he says. "Studies show that people click on numbers."
9. Use free webtools to optimise your online marketing success
Google's Website Optimiser is a free tool offered by Google that allows businesses to test and optimise website design and content. It enables users to work out which aspects of design or content are creating leads and which are not.
Much more sophisticated software for website testing is available, and at the enterprise level you can get web testing software such as Vertster for about $US200 a month.
10. Revisit customers that have slipped off the books
Barrett says it is time to call customers that have lapsed. These lapsed customers are more likely to buy from you than a new client, so go back and find them.
Apologise, if necessary, for whatever it was that drew them away from you, and find a way to meet their requirements - even if it means renegotiating price.
11. Cold calling - do your research first
Cold calling can be a cost-effective lead generator, especially for business-to-business marketers, but it is not a matter of just buying the biggest contact lists. Your pitch to them must be relevant to be effective.
To make cold calls worthwhile, you need to understand what the prospect's issues and problems are, and what they are trying to achieve. If you have something to offer them that addresses their need your call won't annoy them and may eventually lead to a sale.
Some sales experts recommend beginning the call with a question. But not "can I have a moment of your time?" (they can too easily say "no") but "are you experiencing [insert a problem or need that clients of your business usually have]?" Then follow up with a description of how you resolved that problem for somebody else.
12. Use social media, such as Twitter, to generate leads
Twitter, the latest social media trend, has 10 million users and is growing four times faster than Facebook. "It's massive and getting bigger," says Reseo's Thomas. He believes it can be used to generate leads.
Thomas says Twitter's search function enables you to search users' Twitter messages for key words that may give you a clue as to their potential interest in your products or services.
Having a presence in Twitter can raise your profile, and following others in your industry can help you keep in touch with what they are talking about.
Facebook is also becoming more relevant to business people. People are using it to network with like-minded people. For instance, Small Business Victoria has created a group on Facebook, which about 300 businesses have joined. Thomas says many people are trying to generate leads in there.