The world is full of millions – make that billions – of potential customers for your products or services. But how do you find and reach your target audience, without spending (or wasting) too much time, money and resources? And how can you help ensure that the people who visit your Web or social media site are truly interested in your offerings?
We put those questions to sales and marketing experts who shared their top eight suggestions on how to find and connect with qualified sales leads.
1. Referrals/Word of Mouth
“For most businesses, the best lead generation strategy is to focus on getting repeat business and referrals from the customers you've already won,” says Branndon Stewart, CEO, OutboundEngine.
Besides offering great service, provide loyal customers an added incentive to come back, such as 10 or 20 percent off their next purchase. Similarly, get them to refer their friends and family (and colleagues) by including a friends and family coupon with their order.
And don’t hesitate to ask clients to refer you to their friends, family and colleagues. (Don’t ask, don’t get.)
“One of the best ways that I find gets new leads is to ask current clients to refer us,” says Allan Madan, the founder of Madan Chartered Accountant. “We do get no’s, but from the people who do refer us to their friends or family, on average we get three new leads from each client who refers us.”
2. Free E-Books or White Papers
Providing useful information for free helps “make consumers trust your brand,” says Lisa Chu, CEO, Black N Bianco, which provides formal wear for boys and girls. “By offering quality educational content regarding your niche, your brand will organically attract those in your target audience.”
“Your company’s lead magnet could be a free e-book, template or webinar,” adds Jeanine Blackwell, CEO of 4MAT 4Business, a performance improvement and brain-based instructional design company. “The trick is to deliver the resource in exchange for a prospect’s email address, which fills your sales funnel with potential clients.”
3. Webinars, Live Chats and Hangouts
“One method that has been successful for us and is also very cost effective is webinars,” says Robert Armstrong, cofounder and CEO of Appstem, a mobile design and development firm. “We choose a topic relevant to [our audience and discuss] trends we see or industry pain points – and invite a few of our technology partners to join. It’s a great way to create value for industry related people and introduce your company.”
“We generate over 3,000 leads per month, mainly for free, by offering free webinars,” says Ray Higdon, a marketing and lead generation expert and founder of Top Earner Academy. “Then we take the webinar recording and place it behind a capture page,” which results in additional leads.
Another way to attract potential customers or clients is to conduct a Twitter Chat or “create a Google Hangout on a topic that connects with the needs of your target audience,” says Jeff Beale, aka Mr. Marketology. Show the audience “you understand their needs, and how you approach a solution and the benefits of that solution,” he says.
When conducting a live Twitter Chat or Google Hangout, it’s also important to respond to questions promptly and provide participants with contact information, where they can get in touch with you or learn more after the Chat or Hangout is over.
LinkedIn can be a great way to find potential customers, if you know what, as well as who, to look for.
“When searching for potential clients on LinkedIn, use specific qualifiers such as geography, common education or previous work history,” suggests Brian W. Sullivan, vice president, Enterprise Selling, Sandler Training. Similarly, identify companies or organizations that may be relevant and “mine the entire enterprise for insights, leads and connections that can help you develop the relationship.”
LinkedIn Groups are another source of leads. Join Groups most relevant to your business, or where you are most likely to find people interested in your product, service or expertise. Then “participate in Group discussions by being a resource, sharing best practices and knowledge gained from experience,” says Lydia Sugarman, president, Venntive, which provides a digital marketing platform.
Finally, “follow up with people who’ve made interesting comments [on your posts or related posts] with personalized emails and schedule a call or coffee to connect and build the relationship.”
“Rather than throwing money at advertising, SEO and other services, invest in valuable, engaging content and distribute it via social media [sites, such as Facebook],” says Stewart.
Having a company Facebook page and providing fun, helpful or informative content of interest to potential (and existing) customers “is a great way for business owners to build credibility, nurture customer relationships and increase marketing ROI.”
Also consider Facebook ads.
“We've found Facebook ads effective for both B2B and B2C purposes,” says Brian Carter, an author, speaker & consultant with The Carter Group. “Facebook ads [give you] access to hundreds of millions of people, [offer] more than a dozen targeting options and [are] low cost.” Moreover, “Facebook can automatically find people within your target audience that are more likely to convert.”
6. YouTube Videos
“Video content can be a boon for email and demand generation strategies, and some studies have shown that simply including the word ‘video’ in an email subject line can increase click-through rates by more than 7 percent,” says Brendan Cournoyer, director of Content Marketing, Brainshark, which provides a sales enablement platform.
“Video can be used in a number of ways to support lead generation,” he continues. “You can create short video teasers for a new [product or service] or repurpose live webinars into on-demand videos that visitors can register to view,” he explains. “And with today's technology, practically anyone can create effective video marketing content like this quickly and easily.”
7. Third-Party Lists
If you are a new business looking for certain types of customers or an existing business launching a new product or service and looking to find potential buyers, buying third-party validated data (aka lists) can be a good option.
“For example, if you sell iPhone accessories that assist people with live navigation while in their car, knowing that they drive a car that is Bluetooth enabled [is a valuable] piece of data that you may not have access to otherwise,” explains Ted Prince, senior vice president, Information Services, Neustar, which provides real-time information and analytics.
“Another example when validated third-party data can be extremely helpful is when a company decides to open a new retail outlet,” he says. “They would want to know the density for potential buyers [or buying patterns or average income of the population] before they make a large investment.”
8. Google AdWords (PPC)
Whether you are a new business, especially a new ecommerce business, looking for customers or want to attract Internet users to a new product or service you have on offer, Google AdWords can help you find potential customers quickly.
Signing up for Google AdWords is free. You determine, and can adjust, your budget. Pick the key words or phrases you want to use (or can get Google to help you). Target specific regions (advertising locally, within a certain region or internationally). And only pay when someone clicks on your ad and goes to your website or landing page.