Is your lead generation system a bit random? Relying on meeting your perfect client at a networking meeting, or hoping they find you on social media?
Successful entrepreneurs know that lead generation is one of the most important things they can do to grow their business. Engaging, persuading and then selling to a prospect means one more customer in your pipeline - someone you can cross-sell and upsell, and someone who can refer you to others.
Acquiring that customer - and more like them - can be a costly and time-consuming business, and yet there are plenty of ways that your business can put together a lead generation strategy, and then run that strategy without you having to spend all your time on cold calls. Here are our three top tips for a better approach to lead generation - and things that you can do almost straight away.
1. Create more content
You need to demonstrate your skills, experience and authority to your potential customers. After all, why should they buy from you and not from someone else? No matter what method you use to generate leads, your content needs to be relevant to your target audience, provide answers to their potential barriers to buying and give an insight into your industry.
Ideally, it should position you as an expert in your field, making you the "go to" place for anyone looking for information. Once your audience discovers your content, you can then start the journey of building a relationship with them. Over time, they will come to rely on you and then, when they are ready to make a purchase or enquire about your services, you will be their first call.
This might sound like a slow burning way to generate leads, but at a time when markets are saturated, competition is high and buyers are pickier, you need a way to stand out from the crowd. Good content is particularly important if you are selling high-value products, or if your service is based on the development of a long-term, mutually-respectful relationship.
Top tip: It's a good idea to make some of your content more exclusive by only offering it via email sign up. This tactic of lead generation through email marketing will weed out the genuinely interested from the merely looking, and will help you to expand your database which is, in itself, a valuable lead generation tool.
2. Choose the right strategy for your business
Many SMEs are limited by budget and resource. That means you can't cover all the different types of lead generation methods, so you need to pick the ones that are most relevant to your target buyers, most likely to get results and easiest to do.
To understand what these methods are, you need to do a bit of target customer analysis. This is also often referred to as creating a "persona" for your customer. Who are they? Where do they live? Why are they looking for your product or service? How will they make a decision to buy? How many times might they need to interact with your business before they take the plunge? The more you know, the more focused you can be - both on your lead generation strategy and on your message. Your business may benefit from:
- PR, free editorial and print advertising
- Social media platforms
- Database marketing and dedicated mailing list sign-up
- Direct printed mail
- Email campaigns
- Referral programmes
- Face-to-face networking
- Trade and business shows
- Event sponsorship
Once you know where your potential customers are hanging out, what they're reading, what time of day they're researching and what is the best tool to persuade them, you - or your customer - can concentrate all your time and budget on the strategies that will reach those customers.
3. Look after your leads
It's easy to collect business cards, ask for newsletter sign-ups or gather information from shows and events. But if you do nothing with that information, you're losing potential business. Good sales is not just about generating leads - it's about how you follow them up, how you make those potential customers feel, how you manage their first transaction with you, and what you do to make them feel part of your "family".
Understanding the thoughts, processes and buying habits of your prospects is important, so think about:
- assessing leads in terms of demographics, needs and behaviours
- tailoring your campaigns based upon these needs and behaviours
- recording responses to campaigns to help you tailor future communications
- predicting when a lead is most likely to mature so that it can be developed at the appropriate pace
- recycling leads so that they don't fall off your radar
You can use a variety of support outsourcing to help you manage this and other lead generation activities, allowing you to free up your time to work on going to appointments and closing sales. However you do it, get a good lead generation strategy in place and support it with time and budget, and you'll see the rewards not just in more customers - but in more of the customers you really want.
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