Lead Generation and How it is Helping Businesses Maximise Opportunities
Right now, this is the number one topic of conversation I am having with my clients and other business owners in my network.
Some businesses are having to rebuild their pipeline since the lockdowns, others are having to change the way that they are generating their leads.
I have one client who pre-pandemic was generating all their business via face to face meetings. That included networking and sales meetings, 100% ‘in person’. The business then went 14 months without one single ‘in person’ engagement. However, like others they adapted to the digital world. As for many others, this did not return the same volume of leads or opportunities. Since the easing of the lockdowns, the level of ‘in person’ meetings has not returned, but they now have options to meet the post-lockdown customers expectations.
You could argue that much comes back to your effective lead generation. Is business survival and profit primarily linked to the ability to create a constant flow of opportunities for your business?
I often refer to 7 systemised steps to improve your revenue and profits. They include the improvement of your conversion rate, selling more, increasing your average sale value, improving your margins and retaining your clients for longer. However, if you don’t generate leads in the first place, then you can’t improve these areas!
Additionally, you could have the best operational systems or the best team, but will they be utilised and tested without maximising your lead generation to win more business?
What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of finding people interested in your business and which then gives you the opportunity of turning them into customers.
Every company needs to generate leads for its product or service, no matter what industry they belong to. Lead generation can be done in person, on social media or through numerous other digital channels like websites, emails, webinar invitations and more.
Leads are prospects, potential customers who need to be nurtured and converted into paying customers by taking them through your sales process including steps such as following up with them via email, social media platforms or phone calls.
Leads can be generated at any part of your customers journey from consideration through purchase into the stages of loyalty.
Lead generation is a marketing technique that brings potential customers towards a business. It is a process of acquiring valuable information from a customer or prospective customer that helps you to capture their interest, engage their attention and may lead to a sale or other revenue generating opportunity.
To link with the bigger picture for your business, a lead generation strategy contributes towards your business goals and marketing objectives, as well as the creation of tactics and campaigns designed to meet those goals.
Lead generation is the essence of our business. We all do it in some form and we all do it with some form of success. We need to generate leads at all life stages of our business, whether that is start up to get some momentum or later a confident flow of leads that underpins our ability to grow with confidence. We should also be mindful that our lead generation strategies need to evolve as the business moves through its life stages.
Improve Your Lead Generation By Identifying The Pain Points Of Your Target Audience
Firstly, who is your target audience? I’d certainly discourage you from trying to market your business to everyone or look to proactively generate leads from everyone.
What does your ideal customer or customers look like? Can you picture them? Can you profile them? Can you define what is important to them?
This is an exercise my clients find results in them working with better customers in a more enjoyable, profitable manner. This focus fuels your subconscious which is powerful and influences how we look for leads.
Once you have identified your audience and hopefully defined your buyer persona, then it is important to identify your audience’s pain points so that you can verbalise or write compelling content that will resonate with them and pulls them towards you with interest. The first step to crafting the engaging piece of content for your target audience is to identify those pain points. By identifying what is causing them pain, you are able to build out an offering and create relevant content that demonstrates how you solve those issues.
Some of the most common ways to identify your target audience’s pain points are through surveys, interviews, and user testing.
Many businesses are reluctant to undertake good market research with their target audience. They fear that they may mess up opportunities that they would like to revisit once the offering is perfect. It is a common mindset to not speak to people until the offering is finalised. It surprises many business owners when I say that the perfection is often not achievable. I encourage my clients to ensure that their market development is aligned with their product development. What’s the point creating an offering that no one wants when you start to ask them?
On the majority of occasions, I have also found that those who help you with your market research end up leaning towards you anyway, as you’ve told them about your solution but you were not selling to them!
I have a client who was entering a new market, a vertical sector that they wanted to work in, was less price sensitive and likely to see less impact from the pandemic. They approached a target prospect to ask if they could talk through their solution in relation to the sector they worked in. The request was well received. During the meeting, it resulted in a work order, as that business wanted to be the first locally in that sector to have the solution!
There are a number of benefits to using these research methods:
-You gain subjective insights from interviews and surveys providing you with a more accurate picture of the problems your customers may have. These activities may be with your existing customers, prospects, target market or your ideal audience.
-User testing can give you further insight into what your audience is doing when they interact with your content, how they react to certain features, and provide feedback on what they like about it and don’t like about it.
-Interviewing experts in the field can help you better understand the language used in that industry or subject topic area.
It’s important to note that it’s not enough just to identify what is causing your audience pain, you need to know why they are feeling this way and when. Once you know why they are feeling this way, you can craft a piece of content that speaks directly to what will solve their problem and best position your solution.
From my experience and observations of activities that have positively generated leads for businesses, let me share 12 ways to generate leads. 6 online and 6 offline.
6 Ways To Find Leads Online
There are many ways to find leads online. The internet has made finding leads easier than ever. Marketers don’t have to spend vast time cold calling prospects, because they can find their targets on social media. When you’re looking to market your business online, it’s important to know where to look and establish where your ideal prospects are hanging out. For example, if they are not on a certain social media platform, then why invest time posting on it or spend money advertising on that platform? At all times, be smart with your activity.
From my experience and observations, here are 6 of the best ways help you find leads online, so your business can scale and grow.
- SEO is the process of improving a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) by considering the copy, meta information, key words and tags. One tactic here is increasing the number and quality of its inbound links from other sites. I have one client who made 3 simple tweaks and saw an improvement in search results. They reviewed their page titles, tagged their images and reviewed their meta description for all pages.
- Social Media – a growing tool used for following, research, posting, sharing, communicating and engaging. Content marketing is one such way in which you can generate leads on social. Social media has become a popular way for people to find whatever they’re looking for, so it should come as no surprise that these sites are also a great place for lead generation opportunities too! As part of this, importantly don’t forget your videos and transcribe the videos, copying the text into your descriptions. I undertook an exercise with one client where we identified that they spent the majority of their time promoting their business on one platform, primarily because they liked it! We found that most of their social media related enquiries came from another social platform that he avoided because he didn’t really know how to use it.
- Paid search – Paid search is another way that leads can be found online. This may be via search engine result advertising known as ‘Pay Per Click’ (PPC). The key with this is to make sure that you’re using phrases and keywords that people will search for in order to get your business in their sights. This is sometimes not researched or tested as an option, and even avoided, because of the perceived high cost per click. But what if a click returned a customer, however high the cost per click was? I had one client that had always considered key words for his search terms. They were very popular and cost around 60p per click. We changed the campaign to longer phrases using long tail keywords. This not only reduced the cost per click to 11p but also ensured that he attracted a more qualified prospect as they were not just searching for generic references.
- Guest blogging – this is a great way of getting your business name out there in the marketplace. By contributing to someone else’s blog or online content you are able to get more exposure on the topic of your choice. Some common ways to do this will be with your industry bodies, industry influencers and associates within your network.
- Build relationships with influencers – Influencers are some of the best people to get in touch with when you’re looking for potential leads. It is always worth investing time into building up relationships with these influencers as they can provide a wealth of potential contacts for you to follow up with in future marketing campaigns. This may be an industry influencer, a social influencer or someone within your local business community that influences opinion and choice.
- Lead magnets with marketing automation. The right download, trial, report, guide, white paper, eBook, tool or tips etc can attract leads with prospects providing an email address in order to obtain what you are offering, often for free. You can then put all your online lead generation with that prospect on auto-pilot, although I am an advocate of still having some human interaction at some point. This automation is often with follow up email marketing that qualifies the lead potential or nurtures the potential. This enables you to deliver the right content based on the specific interest of the audience and makes the critical personalisation pretty easy.
6 more ways to generate leads, but offline
Generating leads offline is a tried, tested and proven way in getting the attention of potential customers. It can feel a lot more work to do this compared to online activity from your desk, but for me it is very often worth the investment in terms of the speed of engagement, quality of interaction and ease of progressing the sales process.
Offline leads are generated in many ways, but here are the most common tactics I see to help you take your business to the next level.
- Networking – Networking for lead generation is a very important process especially in the world of B2B marketing. It helps to build relationships with people in a field that you may not be familiar with. It also creates access into areas that may be difficult to obtain without the support of another person. For me it’s one of the most important skills in business. Even if you do not like ‘Events’, which some people may simply state as being ‘networking’, you are in fact networking every day in some way! You are networking with prospects, referrers, suppliers, customers, team members, the public, the list goes on. Consider how you are building your network, who you want in your network and what you want them to do for you, in return for how you can help them. Many networking groups also have an online platform, such as a website, that enables you to identify opportunities. I’ve ran my own networking groups in Oxfordshire now for over 12 years and I am a huge advocate of networking because I have seen it work time and time again. My top tip with networking is to ensure you are Working your Network.
- Referral strategy – This is your strategy to encourage another person to ultimately refer you to a new customer? They may be customers or someone in your network including strategic partners. Firstly, identify your potential referrers and determine what they need from you, what I reference as the ‘What’s In It For Me Factor’. Then communicate clearly what you want them to do, why and for what reasons. Those reasons given should cover the benefit for all parties, them, the referred person, as well as you! On my website within my knowledge base Q&A section, I have an article titled ‘How can I generate referrals for my business’ which provides a couple of thoughts in this area.
- Cold calling – yes this can take a lot of time and effort, so effective targeting is important. Once you have obtained the contact information of the potential lead, you will need to call them, which can be tricky and will need a positive mindset. You have to be prepared to dial that 4th number if the previous 3 have not brought from you or even slammed the door in your face. You may end up speaking to a voicemail or a gatekeeper and not your specific target individual. They may also not pick up at all because they are busy or they are on another call. Therefore, plan out the call but also plan your action for these other potential outcomes. Some sectors treat this offline activity as a numbers game. The more bread we put on the water, the more bites we will get. Could that be the case for you?
- Event Marketing – from workshops or seminars to exhibitions. Different sizes and styles of events will prove more valuable for one business than another, but all capitalise on the power of getting face-to-face with your prospects to generate your leads. Another option could be to sponsor events that have the footfall of your audience. I remember when I was exhibiting with our First Aid DVD at the NEC where we received an enquiry from the coach company, National Express. They just walked up to our stand at the health & safety show and started talking about the benefits that led to an order. In comparison, finding that contact and establishing a way to reach them would have been a time consuming difficult task.
- Direct Mail – this is the delivery of advertising material to a database of recipients via post. The content and design can come in all shapes and sizes, but if you use this tactic then make sure you stand out on the door mat in order to encourage the recipient to open the mail and then actually want to read it! There appears a resurgence in this activity as the amount of other post has considerably reduced. When talking about direct mail, I always reference one marketing asset that I personally received. It was a card with a campaign piece titled ‘We have a peach of an idea for you’. On the card was the printed picture of a peach that when you touched it, it felt like a peach. I kept that card on my desk for weeks and looked at the website referenced as the call to action because of it being so impactful and memorable.
- Advertising and PR – this is the practice of communicating information to the public in order to affect their perception of your business and build a positive reputation. The big question is where? Where do you advertise? What do you place your PR? My response is as mentioned earlier, by identifying where your audience hangs out. If your ideal prospect reads a specific publication or has a common association to such a magazine, newspaper, trade news etc, then that is the place you need to be. I had a client that wanted to target a specific, affluent demographic area, that was down to specific postcodes. They used a selection of local parish magazines to capture the interest of their target type prospect.
So that’s 12 ways to generate leads for your business. Just 12 of the many ways in which you can market your business. We all have limited resources for our marketing in terms of time and money, so from all the options available to your business, drill down to find the most effective activities, understand the budget required and test your choices to establish how much it costs you to generate a single lead.