No matter what industry you work in, generating quality leads is an essential skill for any businessperson: knowing who – and importantly when – to approach prospects, what messaging to use and how to leverage resources to grow a business.
Instead of marketing your business to anyone and everyone, lead generation is about building relationships: finding the right people and nurturing that relationship to a sale. However simple this may sound, generating leads requires a bit of strategy and finesse to get right. We reached out to the experts – CEOs, speakers, authors and marketing directors – to get their advice:
‘What’s the best way for businesses to improve their lead generation?’
Here’s what they had to say.
Cian Mcloughlin, author, speaker and founder of Trinity Perspectives
One strategy to consider and one which very few organisations have truly mastered is the internal and external referral strategy.
Those leads with the highest propensity to purchase are invariably ones that have been referred to your business by someone who is both known and trusted to them.
Working out how to target referral opportunities and harness the influencing power of your customer’s network can be a hugely successful mechanism to increase the value of your customer base:
- They are, to a large extent, pre-qualified
- They are often less likely to shop around for multiple vendors
- They have less of a tendency to haggle over a discount
- And perhaps most importantly, whether they become a new customer or not, you invariably have the right conversation, with the right individual in a timely fashion
Often the hardest thing is knowing who to ask, and when and how to make the referral request. Creating some simple and sensible language for your sales teams to use and a mechanism to trigger this conversation with your customers is a powerful way to create a consistent and high value stream of referral based leads.
Another powerful funnel-building strategy is the ascending transaction model (ATM), where prospective clients are initially exposed to your product, service or value-adding content in a free 'try before you buy' approach. The majority of individuals need to spend time and develop trust for a product, service or brand before buying. Smart businesses create ways in which to engage with, add value to and normalise their product or service in the eyes of prospective customers before ever trying to sell anything.
The benefit of this approach is that it’s got an incredibly low cost to serve, until prospects are already well-qualified and allows you to significantly increase the size of your sales funnel and ultimately the scale of your business.
Sonja: We are living in a world where consumers have multiple digital identities. Each identity has its own purpose. One for maintaining friendships and the private life, one for work and career, one for shopping and selling. (And maybe one for complaining about products and services).
It’s more important now than ever to be easily found online and to be online when and where it counts. I’m not talking only in search – but really be hanging about and ready to communicate in the places where the conversations are happening. This can be on a high-traffic website, on Tripadvisor, on a blog or on the Instagram feed of an industry influencer. (As a good marketer, you know exactly who is an influencer in your industry).
If you want to generate leads, you need to understand where your customers hang out online, at what time of the day and what content they consume. Then you have to be exactly there, at the same time of the day and produce the content they want to see, read, experience. All of that, without being salesy. It’s not easy, but totally possible. As a good marketer, you also want to understand the different personas that are attracted to your brand, your products, your services. You know the tone, the lingo, and how conversations play out.
It’s psychology 101 – or maybe 201. (And it’s actually quite fun.)
Joe: So, online advertising has been through a bit of rollercoaster in recent years. Marketing automation has been the hot topic and we’ve found it to be the magic. Facebook Dynamic Ads are pretty key – they’ve helped our clients create a sustainable and predictable growth, especially for their ecommerce stores. And the costs can be lower than regular advertising.
The way it works: it’s all about timing. Getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time – if you’re putting good content out there at random times, you’re wasting your marketing dollars. Marketing automation does the guess work for you and the cool thing is: anyone can do it. Of course, it helps to have digital experts to help out when getting started. If you’re counting your budget: start slow and build traffic organically. Even a small budget can get your message into the ears of the right future clients or customers, and once a few visitors start coming, more tend to follow.
Trish Witkowski, author and keynote speaker
The single best way to improve a business’ lead generation is to quite simply keep better score. Here’s the deal: leads can’t be called leads if they’re not viable, and we can waste a lot of time on cold calls and emails and other marketing efforts to try to turn unlikely prospects into paying customers. So, the focus absolutely has to be on quality of lead, and the best strategies that I’ve seen are the simple ones that work to, in essence, keep score among the prospects and efficiently qualify leads through a series of tasks or touchpoints.
One of my favourite examples is from a travel agency that developed a fun online quiz to generate leads. They were selling teach and travel abroad packages, and although lots of people were curious and loved the idea of an international adventure, the agency realised there were very specific personality traits that the buyers of these packages had in common - like having an open mind and an adventurous spirit. Their quiz identified those individuals and, quite simply, put them at the top of the list for sales calls. Sales became much easier to close, and the program grew dramatically. So, the goal should be to find a simple way to disqualify those who are not a good fit for your business at the earliest stages, while identifying those who are. The secret to better leads is to keep better score.
Teneille Dawe, Senior Marketing Specialist APAC at LogMeIn
It’s becoming more and more difficult to set yourself apart from the competition; both because the world is becoming more commoditised, and because of an inability to cut through the noise to reach target audiences.
But one thing I think really proves time and again to be a great lead generation activity is forming strategic partnerships. Working with other companies - that have a similar message, similar target audience or complementary product to your own - allows you to develop great relationships in the market. This is especially helpful for small businesses who don’t have extensive budgets and yet have great visions to scale and grow.
With the right type of fit, partnerships can bring about some great benefits:
- Sharing of lead data
Putting together a co-branded content piece or co-hosting a webinar can be a great way of sharing leads across businesses without the usual costs of lead acquisition (media buy or list purchases) – just be sure to work within the confines of the SPAM Act.
- Extended brand associations
Linking with another brand allows your target audience to form specific associations of what your brand means (especially if linked with an established brand). This is a useful strategy if you want to create unique associations that your brand doesn't already have, or to reinforce associations in a different or unique way.
- Exposure to new databases in a different way
Being ‘present’ in the areas that your target audience congregates can be hard to manage across multiple channels (online, social media, print, etc). Yet, it’s the only way you can make sure that you’re in your target audiences world. Developing an ongoing partnership means that you can reach new audiences in a way that makes sense to them, but without it feeling like constant advertising.
Finding the right type of partner can be a little tricky, but there are companies and consultants out there that support the cause. These can help you to make sure that you have the right type of protocols in place so that both parties end up with a win-win.
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