You have everything in place that makes your business attractive for prospective clients: a great product, happy customers and expertise in your niche. But, how do you find new customers?
Lead generation is the generation of inquiry into the products or services that your business offers. You might have already considered cold calling, which is a really effective method, but you probably don´t like phoning people out of the blue. Here is a list of seven other methods you can use to generate leads:
1. Be findable in search engines.
The first stop of almost everyone who wants to find out more about a subject is a search engine. In practice search engine equates to Google because it is the market leader in all English-speaking countries. If you want to generate interest among new potential clients make sure that your website is ranked high in the search results for keywords that are relevant to your business. The process of ensuring a high rank in the search results is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
All SEO starts with determining which keywords you would like to rank for. If you own a widget factory you would want your company’s website to appear in the top results for the keyword “widgets”. It is especially interesting to rank for highly specialized terms such as names of machine parts or technical descriptions. The search volume for these phrases is typically low, but you really want people who do search for these things to come to your website.
After you have determined the keywords you want to rank for two areas are important to get a spot in the top results: on- and off-page optimization. On-page optimization means ensuring you have an optimal website structure and use of your chosen keywords throughout the page. Off-page optimization entails getting links from other websites and mentions in social media such as Twitter.
Not all links have the same value. The significance of a link is determined by the importance of the website linking to you and the relevance to your offering. In case you are a widget manufacturer it would be great to get a link from the leading industry website, getting mentioned on your grandmothers blog will not help a lot even if she known all over the world for her apple pie recipe.
SEO is a complex field that is constantly evolving trying to keep up with changes Google makes in it algorithms. It is a good idea to hire an expert to help your company get started.
Like in most fields that have developed fast in the past years there are lots of frauds and charlatans in this market so do your research before hiring anyone.
This post from Google is a good starting point if you are planning on getting someone to help you with SEO.
2. Online marketing.
The most common and well-known form of online marketing is pay to have your ad appear next to the search results in Google. Search results are split up in two parts, the organic results where the results deemed most relevant by the search engine are placed and next to that the paid results. Ads are triggered when a user searches for a keyword or phrase that you specified. For instance, if you sell acoustics equipment for concert rooms you would want your ad to appear if a user searches “how to improve acoustics in a venue”.
Apart from search engines other websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook have their own advertising programs. Users of Facebook don’t search for specific equipment, ads are shown to users with characteristics that you can choose. If your typical buyers are male, over 45 years old, live in New York and are interested in acoustics you can pay to have your ad displayed only to them.
Another option is to display your text ad or banner on websites that are visited by your target audience. The biggest advertising network is Google that has a huge inventory of websites covering every theme you can imagine, but thousands of others exist.
3. Build a website that converts.
Users that click on one of your ads or your link in the organic search results are taken to your website. You do not want people who found your website to just have a look and simply leave again because chances are you will never them again. You want the user to perform an action. Actions can be anything: a sale, downloading a brochure, requesting a call with one of your experts etc. etc.
The percentage of visitors that takes the action you want is commonly referred to as the “conversion rate”, the process of making changes to your website to get the highest possible rate is “conversion optimization”.
The important thing is that the taken action will allow you to build a relationship with that visitor. In most cases it is best to define the smallest possible action that will allow you to start a conversation with the user as part of your regular sales process. This usually means getting people interested in what you have to offer and give you their contact details.
Determine what will trigger a visitor of your website to want to be in further contact with you and set a realistic goal. When you want to sell a company car getting people to order one online on their first visit is not realistic, getting their contact details so you discuss their requirements with them is. Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your website to find what they are looking for and give you their contact details.
You can get enormous increases in your conversion rate by making changes to your website. How you formulate calls to action, the amount of information displayed, your website structure and hundreds of other variables influence conversion rate. What you should do is create different versions of the page and test them to find what converts best.
4. Visit trade shows.
Getting your own stand on a show is really expensive, but as a visitor you can usually get in for free. If you have ever participated in a trade show you know how much time is spent just hanging around the booth waiting for visitors to show. Moreover, decision makers tend to be present at the show, which makes it a great opportunity to generate leads.
Visit trade shows that your customers attend as exhibitors. Companies with a similar profile to your clients will be present as well and you have a good reason to approach them since you are already delivering value to customers in the same industry.
As a bonus you can use the opportunity to visit existing customers to build the relationship and maybe even up- or cross-sell.
5. Do something for a charity.
Charitable organizations are well-connected and can give your company exposure. Doing something for a charity does not necessarily mean giving money. Most non-profits would also appreciate getting access to experts or material for free.
A good starting point is identifying organisations that could benefit from the know-how your company has. Then order them based on the return they can give to your organisation.
Even if it does not generate new business there is a return for society and it will make your employees feel proud about the company they work for.
6. Ask your clients for referrals.
Of the seven methods listed this one is the easiest, fastest to implement and most likely to give good results.
List all customers you have done business with. Mark the ones that are both happy with your product and are well-connected in the industry. Give them a call and simply ask if they know two other business that might benefit from your services. They will probably be happy to refer you because they know the value you deliver.
It is important to not just get contact details, because this would still require you to make a cold call, but an introduction either by email or in-person. Most people never actually contact their customers to request referrals and hope to just get them. But, like most things in love you have to ask for it to get it.
When I started my own business I thought that getting coverage in newspapers and on TV was something that required contracting a specialised company with specialised knowledge and many contacts. However, I did not have any money to hire such a company and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
After researching how to get featured in the media it turned out not to be complicated at all. Getting coverage comes down to doing four things correctly: approach the right journalist, at the right time, with the right story on the right way.
Journalists need interesting and fresh content on a daily basis and they are very happy when someone reaches out to them with a story idea. Ultimately, it is all about selling a product and in this case the product is your story. Think about an angle on your product or business that can interest the audience of the journalist and pitch that story.
More about this subject in a future post.
Any lead generation method that works for you and I missed? Would love to know!