There’s a hard truth about sales: Just because you open a business doesn’t mean customers will automatically flock to you. You have to promote your business — figure out where your ideal customers hang out and market to them there. Lead generation is critical to business success, because all customers start out as a lead before they decide to buy.
5 top tips for lead generation
Lead generation doesn’t have to cost a bomb — there are lots of free and inexpensive methods. Here are five of the best.
- Social media marketing.
- Facebook ads.
- LinkedIn profile-building.
- A business website.
- A newsletter.
Choose one of these to start, then work your way through the list.
1. Social media marketing
In the world of marketing, social media (the free kind anyway) is something of a soft tactic. The idea is to introduce yourself and then engage with people who respond to your posts.
- Share lifestyle photos of your product in use.
- Share user-generated content to build a community.
- Tell a story about a delighted customer.
- Show something funny or behind-the-scenes.
You can post occasional offers and sponsored posts, but mostly it’s about letting potential customers get to know you in a no-pressure way. In fact, only one out of every five social posts should be direct promotions of your business.
Because people see what their friends enjoy, social media ‘likes’ can act as a recommendation to potential customers.
Customers think, “If my friend likes it, it must be good.” It’s free lead generation for your business. Try posting a variety of different images and captions at different times of day, and see what gets the best response. Then do more of that.
You can learn the basics of social media lead generation for your business by taking this affordable social media starter course from The Digital Picnic. Then check out “A beginner’s guide to social media for small business.”
2. Facebook ads
We’ve all heard recently about the amount of data Facebook collects on its users. While we admit we’re a bit freaked out by it, that information is gold for your business lead generation.
By looking at which pages users like, and what they search for online, Facebook can have a pretty good guess at a customer’s life stage and interests. Facebook ad targeting shows ads only to the customers who are most likely to buy. For example, a florist might combine interest-based targeting of ‘florists’ and ‘flowers’ or ‘bouquets’ with certain age and location demographics. Facebook will serve it up to people who match that description, possibly generating an enquiry or sale.
With social media targeting, customers see ads for things that they’re already thinking about buying.
A baby wear business can even target advertising of their clothes range to women who are currently pregnant or who have newborn babies. A sporting goods store can display their boxing glove ads to people who are searching for local boxing classes. Further, you can test and target certain delivery modes with your ads (In the Facebook newsfeed, on Instagram, between videos) and device types relevant to your user.
How many times have you searched for a product online and the next day Facebook has shown you an ad for that exact product? That is the power of social media advertising. Your business will likely make more sales with targeted ads like these than with general ads in the newspaper or on TV. This is because targeted ads are better for lead generation and their conversion rate is higher.
The great news is that social media advertising doesn’t have to be expensive. You can set limits and control how much you spend. You’re able to try out a few different ad types and see what works best to make sales.
3. LinkedIn profile-building
LinkedIn is generally thought of as the least exciting of all the social media platforms. And sure, it’s not as much fun as Facebook and it’s not as beautiful as Instagram.
But if you run a service-based business like marketing, coaching, bookkeeping, writing or design, LinkedIn is where your future customers are hanging out.
This makes it a great platform for lead generation.
Creating a LinkedIn profile is free (although LinkedIn offers a for-fee premium version as well as paid ads). Your goals for LinkedIn should be to:
- Clearly state what your business does, and who you do it for.
- Connect with people you have worked with in the past (both colleagues and clients).
- Ask people to recommend you and endorse your skills.
- Post a few times a week with your opinions on current topics, sharing tips, blog posts and completed projects.
- Join groups where your potential customers might be hanging out.
- Join groups frequented by peers who might want to refer overflow work to you.
It’s also a good idea to follow people you admire, as well as anyone you’d like to work with in the future. Interact with them, commenting on their posts and having thoughtful discussions. After they’ve noticed you, send them a connection request with a personal message.
All this activity means you’re out there in the LinkedIn universe talking about what you do and getting noticed. This type of lead generation is completely free; it only takes your time and willingness to share your knowledge. Next time someone thinks “I need a [what you do],” they’ll jump into LinkedIn and message you.
Don’t expect results overnight. This method of lead generation takes time because it’s part of building your reputation as an expert. But it’s worth it in the long term.
4. A business website
Your website is more than a brochure explaining your services or a display case for your products. It’s your 24/7 salesperson. No matter when your customers are browsing, it’s working to capture leads and customers.
Once your website is up, you’ll want your customers to be able to find it when they search online. This involves something called search engine optimisation or SEO. When someone types “newborn baby knitted hats” or “plumber in North Sydney” into Google, you want your website to be on page 1 of the search results if that’s what you offer. Those top few positions get the most clicks and the most new customer leads.
A great way to learn about SEO for your website is to read the “Beginner’s SEO guide” — it includes start-to-finish instructions on getting your website listed in search engine results.
You could also do a free mini-course called SEO Nibbles by The Recipe for SEO Success. It walks you through the basics of doing your own SEO and improving your website’s search engine ranking. SEO is well worth every minute you spend on it.
5. A newsletter
On your website, you can offer something for free as an incentive to subscribe to your newsletter (GoDaddy Website Builder comes with this feature built in). Basically, you’re offering the visitor a special bonus in return for their email address.
This is called a ‘lead magnet’ or ‘opt-in’ offer. It could be a free eBook, a printable list of tips, discount voucher or a code for free shipping on their next order. The customer receives the bonus, which doesn’t cost you much. The offer could be in the form of a pop-up when users come to your site.
Make sure the giveaway is good. The free item attached to the lead magnet gives your customers a chance to try out your services. They’re taste-testing to see if they want to pay for your services. If your free eBook isn’t useful, they’re definitely not going to buy your paid course.
Get started with lead generation
Which forms of lead generation do you already use, and which ones would you like to try?
Start out by launching your brand story on social media. Try some social media advertising and spend some time networking on LinkedIn. Then get serious about launching a website that’s optimised for SEO if you haven’t already
Many of these lead generation tips take time rather than costing a lot of money, and many are easy to do yourself. Good luck and happy hunting for your future customers!