“How Do I Find Business Leads?”

The Smarter Message for Better Business and SalesIt’s a question that’s fundamental to financial growth and success, whether you’re a one-person shop or a company with thousands of employees. If Cash is king for a business, then Leads and Customers are two indispensable pillars supporting the throne.

(If you’re online for business, a third pillar is Content, but that’s another discussion.)

We need business leads so we can convert them into customers and, ideally, into long-term sources of revenue.

The good news: B2B and B2C businesses are online in a huge way. So are the customers for their products and services. More businesses, more buyers—online every day.

Naturally, this growing channel awareness and demand means tools that facilitate business dealings are growing in number, too. So, online and off, there are more ways than ever to find leads for your business.

 

The Challenge: Avoiding “Choice Overload” And Confusion

Once you understand your lead generation options, where should you begin? Me, I’d step back, put on my sales hat, consider the possibilities and then organize them.

I’d create a plan customized to my strengths, schedule and comfort level with the different methods of contact. I want to build a platform from which I can start with confidence.

If you choose to jump right in without a plan, at least think about the kinds of digging you do best, given the lead gen options available. Focus on those first for best results.

 

Lead Development Methods

You probably already have some business leads. Start with your existing contacts and current (active and inactive) customers to renew relationships and re-lay the groundwork for referrals.

Find other appropriate potential contacts through business directories, online business databases (like Jigsaw®), publications’ subscriber lists, conferences, trade shows and other events.

Then, start building a fresher, more robust lead list with some or all of these techniques:

Offline

  1. Contact by phone—cold or warmed up with a referral or friend’s intro.
  2. Send a smartly-crafted email. (Familiarize yourself with the current CAN-SPAM Act email requirements.)
  3. Send a letter and/or promotion by mail. Today’s emphasis on online communications can mean that a carefully written business letter may stand out and make a big impact.
  4. Meet and interact with your targets where they gather. Try business association events, social events, Meetup groups, professional development organizations and more. Search online for these and more opportunities.
  5. Attend industry conferences. If you find one that’s especially useful, consider:
    • hosting/sponsoring a gathering at the conference
    • buying booth space at the expo
    • submitting a proposal to speak
    • stopping by the social activities offered after a day’s sessions

    Also, check out conference sites for special or paid-attendee-only networking opportunities.

    Some conferences facilitate spontaneous breakout groups that target topics not part of the main agenda.

    Or mini-sessions that continue a discussion started by a keynote or main session.

    Keep your eyes open for these opportunities to take part, share your expertise and become known.

  6. Place an ad in your local newspapers or magazines.

Online

  1. Start a company blog and publish high quality, original posts regularly. Or revitalize your existing blog with frequent posts of value to your target audience.

    Side opportunity: spark interest and re-engagement by sending an email to existing contacts announcing what you’re doing (publishing useful content) and why you’re doing it (to help them).

  2. Review your existing website to be sure it’s well organized and easy to navigate. See that all copy makes sense and content is valuable to visitors. Confirm that your overarching message addresses visitors’ needs and desires. Include calls to action that prompt readers to, for example:
    • get in touch
    • ask for help
    • join the newsletter mailing list
    • get a complimentary report, ebook, consultation, business template, application . . . .

    (Always offer people something in return for sharing their contact details.)

  3. Go to special interest sites that you think your targets visit. Make yourself known with your comments to articles and participation in forums. Important: include a site link in your signature and contact info in your profile.

    Do the same at special interest sites that you favor—get involved, make interesting and helpful comments. You never know who’s reading and whether someone has business needs they’d want you to meet, once they get to know you.
  4. Join high-traffic social media sites. Publish high quality, original content regularly. Take part in conversations. Start or join appropriate groups. Engage and start building relationships.
  5. Create profiles at all these sites. Provide useful personal details to inform and interest readers when they click to view. Include a variety of contact info: phone, email, Skype name, etc.

    Where possible in your account settings, include keywords that can help you be found in search results.
  6. Ask to contribute guest posts or other content to the blogs/sites of businesses with which you share a target audience and whose services align with yours. If you can attract potential buyers to their sites/services (as well as to your own), they should be interested.
  7. Place high quality articles with publishers or article distribution sites. Be sure to check out these sites carefully. You want your ideas to be presented with care and on reputable sites. Seek out distributors that demonstrate respect for their members, support your efforts (with, e.g., tips for writing better articles) and offer you control over when and where your articles go. Distribute Your Articles may be worth a look.

    Then there are niche topic publishers who look for specific types of articles. These can be smaller businesses with a particular dedication to a specific interest. As such, they may insist on quality submissions and, thus, ensure high standards. That’s good company to be in.

    Nick Usborne’s Profitable Freelancing may be such a site. I don’t know Nick personally. But several years ago, I joined his mailing list because what I’d read was always professional, sensible and helpful. (Plus, he seemed like a very nice guy.)

    (See? With these characteristics, Nick presents a good example of how to find business leads.)

  8. Unpaid Search: optimize all of the online pages and content that you control for better search results.
  9. Paid Search: consider Google Adwords and other search engine PPC programs. PPC advertising offers you potential whether you sell specific products or your goal is to build brand awareness.
  10. Submit your business to paid and unpaid directories. You might check out Yahoo Directory or the online directories associated with popular hubs or e-magazines in your industry or niche.

 

Lead Generation: How-To Summary

  • Organize your options
  • Plan the steps you’ll take based on the lead gen efforts you’re most comfortable with
  • Create a high quality message
  • Reach out to the right targets for your offering
  • Place yourself where your targets are
  • Help your targets find you where they are
  • Behave responsibly and with authority
  • Respond and follow up
  • Stay in their view
  • Share your expertise and stay in contact

 

Simplify Lead Generation With Technology Tools

There are a lot of opportunities to find leads these days. Many of them exist online.

Online technology has made it easier for us to get in front of the people who may want to know us and buy from us.

You can bet that, as tech evolves, we’ll continue to see new ways to capture the interest (and contact info) of potential clients. Stay in touch with these developments and you’ll stay on top of new ways to generate leads.

 

Contact Liz Manning at liz@thesmartermessage.com.