Whether you are an existing business owner or looking to start a new business, marketing is a key strategy you have to plan in order to generate leads. Forty years ago, there were very few choices in marketing (in fact, it was called advertising then): newspaper ads, radio ads, billboards, and television ads were the primary places businesses spent their money for marketing.
Although these all still exist today, the cheaper, more far reaching options exist in digital marketing: SEO optimization, pay per click advertising, email campaigns, websites, and social media.
However, you choose to spend your marketing dollars, you must get the best possible rate of return to ensure your business is not only reaching new clients but getting your name into the public sphere as well. The more well-known your business is, the more likely you are to convert inquiries to sales.
And that is a key concept that all business owners and managers need to remember: there is a clear distinction between a marketing strategy and a sales strategy. The purpose of marketing is to bring people in the door -this is when they become leads. Once you have them interested, then you will execute your sales strategy to convert leads to sales.
Here are 21 ways you can generate leads using all techniques, new and old, or even by combining them.
1. Know your Demographics
If you don’t know who you are trying to reach and who you are actually reaching, your marketing strategy will fail. When you are creating your business plan, the marketing strategy must include who your target audience is and how you can use that audience to reach secondary and tertiary audiences.
For example, if you own a sporting goods store, your demographics will be extensive. You could sell equipment to the parents of youngsters just starting out in a new sport, or you could sell equipment to semi-professionals or professionals in a league team in your city. In places like Indianapolis, Indiana, sporting goods store owners sell youth gloves to little leaguers as well as helmets and bats to the minor league Indianapolis Indians.
Once you have a handle on your demographics, you need to create campaigns focused to each specific group, determined by age, most likely products that group will buy, which gender(s) you are selling too, the economic make-up of your immediate sales area, and who you might be trying to reach through internet sales.
2. Word of Mouth
Before the evolution of advertising, most businesses generated new sales via word of mouth. It was essential that every customer was treated with the utmost respect and courtesy because the best way to get new customers was through current customer testimonials.
This is most certainly still a viable method of generating new sales leads. But, with the advent of internet marketing, instead of reaching a few dozen or maybe a hundred people by word of mouth, you can reach millions. Instagram and Twitter are the two most popular places to generate leads by word of mouth.
On Instagram, you can post your product(s), list some customer testimonials, and ask your current customers to share links to your business. This can generate leads within an hour. A single customer tweet praising your product or business can reach hundreds or thousands of people within just a few minutes! Traditional word of mouth might bring in new customers once or twice a month.
One of the most popular slogans for word of mouth campaigns was “Tell your Friends!” In this day and age, places like Instagram and Twitter have modified this to “Retweet!” or “Share this link!” It’s the same process utilizing modern technology.
3. Web Design – The Landing Page
In times past, the best way to represent your business was with a clean, well-organized storefront with knowledgeable and well-groomed employees who were happy to be of help. The outside of the building needed to always be in good repair and have signage that drew attention.
These same principles exist in web design. Your landing page (the outside of the building) needs to be inviting, engaging, and without too many videos or other animated advertisements. While having a banner at the top of the page that you can fill by selling the space, you don’t want your potential customers to be overwhelmed by a slow-loading, super busy page that distracts from your business – the whole reason the potential customer went there. The landing page should encourage the visitor the visit more pages and turn from a lead to a sale.
4. Web Design – Shopping Cart
Visitors to a website are always potential sales. One thing that may stop them from completing a purchase is a point of sale system that doesn’t work well. It is essential that your website has a shopping cart that works flawlessly. If a new customer can navigate your site with ease and has a great experience with all aspects of the shopping experience, that new customer will spread the word about how easy it is to shop online at your website.
5. Email Marketing
It is now standard practice for cashiers at brick and mortar stores to ask customers for an email address when checking out at the cash register. That email is sent to a central database for the company and then used as a marketing tool. At regular intervals, marketing emails are sent to every customer who has provided an email address. These emails can announce an upcoming sale, offer coupons, or even give customers special discounts offered only to those who have provided their email. Emails are a fantastic – and cheap – way to generate leads.
6. SEO Optimization
The primary goal of SEO optimization is to bring additional traffic to your business website. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including using keywords and phrases in your code headers that bring your site to the top of search engines; using links within your content to send visitors to a product page; or embedding keywords in your main page title or header. This will put your business webpage in the top results of search engines like Google. The closer you are to the top, the more you will generate leads.
Including a blog on your website gives you the opportunity to speak directly to your visitors. You can use blogs to introduce new products, update your customers on upcoming sales or promotions, and you can post customer testimonials to demonstrate how popular your products are.
Lots of business blogs link to other businesses, partners, or products related to your business that you work with. This can not only generate leads for retail sales, but it could also generate leads from B2B. Blogs are also one of the best places to post pictures of your products.
8. White Papers
What is a White Paper? White papers are generally used by government agencies to propose new ideas or policies. When used in business, they can influence potential customers about the usefulness or quality of your products. A white paper is all about talking up the positives about your products and your company.
White papers are often circulated within industries, giving you the opportunity to find some corporate partners or B2B testimonials.
9. Press Releases
When you have invested huge amounts of time and money developing a new product or line, a press release will introduce your new products to the world. Most small business don’t generally use press releases, but larger corporations use them frequently to generate leads.
If you are a small business, and your new product will be unique and helpful to the community you are in, a press release would definitely be a good idea. For example, you’ve developed a new product to help capture, but not kill, chipmunks and squirrels that have overrun residential and rural areas. Your product will help the community at large without harming wildlife.
10. LinkedIn Advertising
LinkedIn is one of the premier networking sites online today. Users post their resumes, talk about the opportunities they are searching for, and communicate with possible new employers or business contacts. This would be a great place to advertise your business and generate leads. Target people who could be potential customers as well as those who could be potential investors. Lots of networking happens on LinkedIn.
11. Networking Events
Most industries sponsor conferences or conventions almost year round. These events are terrific places to introduce yourself to the business community and also to demonstrate your products. When you rent a booth at a conference, you can pass out literature, take orders, or even do point of sale purchases.
What’s critical is that you have someone else man your booth while you visit other booths, meet people, talk up your business, and pass out business cards to generate leads.
12. Trade Shows
Trade shows are a bit more than a conference. There are still speakers and presentations to listen to, but the primary purpose is to show off products.
You can schedule hourly demonstrations, arrange private meetings with manufacturers, meet with potential advertisers, make sales, and so much more.
Trade shows also give you a glimpse of the competition. Take notes! Find out what everyone else is doing in your industry and compare your products to theirs. Whose is superior?
13. Facebook Advertising
One of the hottest tickets in marketing for the past few years was Facebook. It’s cheap and has the potential to reach millions. However, Facebook use has dwindled in the past four to five years. Your ads may reach hundreds or thousands of people every day, but the conversion factor is very low. But, for a narrowly targeted audience, the Facebook lead gen ad manager is excellent.
If you want to just reach males who like sports, you can choose your demographics to target males, 18-35, in whatever region of the country or world you want. Plus, you get to choose how long the ad runs and Facebook gives you a report of how many people you reached each day.
14. Discounts and Coupons
Cutting coupons? Don’t we do that digitally now? Yes, for the most part. But, there are still big retailers out there who send coupons through the mail, through text messaging, and on their social media pages. One of the most popular methods of discounting is called a flash sale. This is a sale limited to certain, regular customers and is handled online. Usually, it is a product that the company either wants to get more exposure for or wants to get rid of because they will no longer be making it. Flash sales typically last 12 to 24 hours and those chosen to receive the notification are given a code to type in at checkout. Flash sales offer anywhere from 15% up to 90% off specific, targeted items. Those types of deep discounts will surely generate leads.
15. Referral Partnerships
Working with the competition is counterintuitive in business. But, with the use of the internet more and more for retail sales, businesses within the same industry are forming referral partnerships. Let’s say you run a business that makes hot tubs. But, you don’t sell things like the chemicals needed to keep a hot tub safe and clean. You can make a deal with a pool chemical business. They agree to post your link on their website if you agree to refer people to theirs. This can generate leads for both parties!
16. YouTube Advertising
YouTube has exploded as a social media tool. Social media influencers are making millions by selling advertising and sponsorships on their video channels. For example, a YouTuber who posts videos about fitness may offer a protein shake retailer the opportunity to sponsor a video. If the YouTuber has more than 100,000 regular viewers, the protein shake retailer is reaching more than 100,000 people, who are specifically interested in his retail niche.
17. Direct Mailing
This seems old school, but direct mailing still has an impact. The key to a productive direct mail campaign is to determine your demographic. Who are you trying to bring to your store, whether brick and mortar or online? What’s cool about direct mail is that when you are ready to send out your campaign, you choose exactly where it goes.
Let’s say you sell sweatshirts and t-shirts for all the local high schools. Rather than sending a mass mailing to every address in the area offering merchandise for all schools, create a mass mailing piece specifically for the addresses of one school and offer them a special deal just for their school (say, 35% off a sweatshirt, or t-shirts for $8). When you narrow the delivery to specific zip codes, you aren’t spending as much money, so your rate of return is better. Let’s say you send a mailer to 500 homes for a single school and it costs $250. You would only need to sell 32 t-shirts at $8 each to break even; the standard rate of return on a direct mail is 10% (50 out of 500). That means that the next 18 sales are profit.
18. Video Tutorials
YouTube is also a great marketing tool if you create your own videos. There are multiple “gurus” on YouTube who talk about their own products and services and then direct you to their website for purchases. For example, if you produce a video on how to best use your product and post it online (YouTube, another social media platform, or even on your own site), every view is a potential lead who may want to use your product because you’ve demonstrated its value.
19. Leverage Social Media Influencers
Social media influencers are people with an online presence who have millions of followers (whether on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, or other social media platforms). When we talk about leveraging influencers, we mean send them free products if they agree to try them and then give a good review on their page(s) – this can generate leads by the thousands. If an influencer likes your product, you can set up a contract where he or she will receive a certain amount of free product for every mention they make or ad they let you post. This is a cheap and easy way to reach millions of people.
20. Marketing Analytics
If you are using SEO, social media platforms, or other online applications to market your products, the analytics results will tell you where you are most likely to gain sales in the current market. Let’s look at a very simple chart from socialmediaexaminer.com:
This chart represents when you have the most followers clicking on or logging into your social media page. With this information, you can choose to have a flash sale during that hour, offer a coupon or discount during that time period, or create a contest for your users. Marketing analytics can be very complex, but this simple example shows you how valuable that information can be to generate leads.
21. Price Point
Price point is simply the price you must charge for your product to turn a profit. When considering your price point, you must also consider the prices charged by the competition. It’s not unusual for competing businesses to undercut each other when it comes to price point. But, when you bring a product to market for the first time, don’t undercut yourself.
Let’s say your total cost to produce one unit, including all overhead and production, is $1.25. Most markups are between 100-500%, meaning you would charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6.75 for your product. Your competitor charges around $4.99 for the product. How much can you cut your opening price point to undercut the competition but still position yourself in the market? If you know you will eventually settle around $4.59 for your product, make your debut price $3.99. That undercuts the competition by $1 per unit, but your normal price is only $0.60 more, which is not a shock to the consumer.
There are so many options for marketing in business today. We can use old fashioned tools effectively, or we can optimize our exposure with social media advertising and digital marketing campaigns to generate leads.
However, you choose to market your business, make sure you take advantage of getting the most exposure for your product for the least cost. Improve your free advertising with word of mouth, by posting customer testimonials, or by creating referral partnerships. Reach millions with the help of social media influencers. Become an influencer yourself with videos demonstrating your products.
In the end, you will find the marketing niche that best fits your business by experimenting with every kind of marketing you can find to generate leads.