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Lead Generation 'must knows' for small business

By Anne-Marie Watson
Published Nov 17, 2011

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is the marketing process of developing potential buyer interest in products or services sold by a business, resulting in the generation of a list of potential customers. Simple lead generation involves obtaining contact details of potential buyers through one or more promotional tactics e.g. direct mail, email, web registration pages, telemarketing, etc.For more complex products or services, the lead generation strategy will be more involved and include refining the initial list of leads into a ‘qualified' list of leads. A qualified lead is any potential buyer who is considered most likely to become a purchaser either through demonstrated interest in purchasing or other reason.

Lead generation programs for products or services can be complemented with lead ‘nurturing' activities that focus on engaging the lead throughout the sales cycle and moving the ‘qualified' lead towards purchase as the end of the cycle, known as ‘lead or sales conversion'.

Why is lead generation important?

All businesses need a flow of new customers to help drive growth. For newer businesses it is even more critical while their customer base is still small. Lead generation is the bread and butter for many small businesses promoting to other businesses (B2B). Not getting enough demand is a common reason why some small businesses fail. In today's world, where buyers are extra savvy and ever demanding, getting enough new leads can be a big challenge!

Five critical steps you need to consider in any lead generation program are to:

1. Provide a compelling offer

Out of all the actions a business can take, this is probably the most important, as it is the centerpiece of your marketing. Your offer should be tailored to the specific group of customers you are communicating with so the offer is relevant. Your contact list therefore needs to be segmented into meaningful groups so that a relevant offer can be made to each segment. If you have several groups of customers, you will likely need a range of offers. Ideally, your marketing systems include a tool such as a CRM system (customer relationship management system) to enable such customization.

 A compelling offer is one that the customer cannot pass by. To be compelling, all the elements in the offer i.e. the offer itself, its' imagery, language, method of accessing, timing, etc., need to be fine-tuned to a specific customer group's interests and needs. This applies whether it's a discount voucher, a free gift offer, a free consultation, a downloadable whitepaper, a catalog or something else.

2. Use online and integrate all approaches to get the widest number of leads

Recent research shows how online measures such as corporate websites, social media, SEO (search engine optimization) and online content marketing have become powerful tools in generating leads. If your business is not established online already and lead generation is critical for your growth, now is the perfect time to reconsider entering this arena. Opportunities to promote businesses through digital means are proliferating with increasing use of Smartphones, apps, Facebook, Google+, to name a few. If you do utilize a digital approach, ensure you integrate communications amongst all your promotional efforts – avoid having a range of unrelated, adhoc offers with different messages or different offers for the same target customers. Integration is the best way to capitalize effectively on multiple channels. The same integration should also be implemented with any offline channels, such as direct mail, promotional offers or advertising.

3. Develop a professional referral network

Professional referrals are the foundation of lead generation for many service businesses. Despite the growth of online, referrals will continue to be important for many customers who value the opinion of other professionals or experienced customers. For service businesses, a referral network of complementary service businesses can be an ongoing steady source of new leads. For example, a mortgage broker may have a similar customer group to accountants, financial planners, real estate agents etc. Such a network can be developed through involvement at professional networking groups or through networking with your own business colleagues whose customer base overlaps with yours. Referrals can be accelerated through other initiatives such as co-promotion programs where two allied service businesses promote their services or products together or incentive schemes for referrals provided to business colleagues or existing customers.

4. Nurture leads throughout the product/service purchasing cycle

Once you have a list of ‘leads', you can continue nurturing them by providing more offers until hopefully the lead turns into a purchasing customer. If the first offer was not taken up, try to develop alternative offers that may meet their needs. You could also try to discover more information about your customer along the way by using a slightly different contact forms with each offer. Make sure each new contact form builds on previously completed information by using different questions versus prior forms. This can be done simply by adding different fields to your contact form to get new information. Don't ask for the same information repeatedly, as this can be annoying if the customer has already provided it. Surveys can also be used to gather information. The information gathered will help distill your choice of future offers so they are more relevant. Lead nurturing helps maintain a relationship with your potential customer. This is useful in case they need other information before they can make a purchase decision or they decide to purchase in future.

5. Review and measure marketing effectiveness

To be truly effective, lead generation programs need to be measured. Each campaign should have set objectives and methods of measurement put in place before they start. Whether it is email, direct mail, website, social media or something else that you are using, unless you measure it by using specific metrics for each lead generation tactic, then you will have no idea if the campaign worked or not e.g. for emails, you might measure open and click-through rates; or for direct mail, you might measure response rate. Without measuring results, you will also not know what to change about your campaign to improve it, so it will be hard to develop more effective future campaigns. The bottom line is you need to ensure performance criteria are set up at the beginning of any lead generation campaign and measure results against these at the end.

Outlined here are effectively the ‘basic foundations' for lead generation that are essential for success. In future articles, we will cover other methods for improving lead generation results.

   © Copyright 2012 - Southside Marketing Solutions





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