7 Ways to Improve Small Business Lead Generation

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Small-business owners have more marketing tools available to them now than ever before — more than 7,000, to be precise. Yet, despite this array of solutions, they still struggle with one of marketing’s fundamental functions: lead generation. “Not enough leads” is far and away the biggest marketing challenge reported by small-business owners.

And actually, it’s not surprising. A lack of time, resources and know-how can make it difficult to stay on top of small business lead generation. There’s no doubt it takes focus to generate and convert leads, but when done right, the payoff is significant.

Here are seven fundamental things you can do to increase leads while saving time in the long run.

1. Give Your Online Presence a Face-Lift

Before you embark on a lead generation initiative, you need to ensure your online presence is serving your business well. As of 2018, studies show that less than two-thirds of small businesses have a website. Many feel their operations are too small to warrant one, or they are concerned about cost.

Here’s the deal: your customers expect you to have a website. It not only allows you to boost your online search rankings and gain a competitive edge, but it’s also a place to showcase what you do and acts as a resource and lead capture hub for all your online and offline marketing activities.

If you don’t have a site, there are several low-cost, easy-to-build options to get you started, such as Wix, GoDaddy and Weebly.

To optimize your site, add informative content. Think blogs, infographics and even video how-to guides (all you need is a smartphone to make one). Then, create Calls To Action that deliver something of value to your prospects in return for their information (a line such as “Subscribe to our blog,” for instance).

Your online presence should also include social media, which is a great tool to amplify your products, services, content and marketing campaigns. Check out these tips for getting started on social media and keeping the conversation going.

2. Set a Strategy

Without a plan, how can you know if you’re on the right path to achieving your marketing goals or making the best use of your time? Planning can also prevent knee-jerk marketing efforts that solve an immediate need but don’t pay off in the long run.

Start by thinking about the big picture. What is the goal of the campaign? Is it promoting a new product, generating a repeat purchase or showcasing your brand as a thought leader in its space? Who is your target audience, what are their pain points and what do they want? Which is the best marketing channel to reach them on and how will you tailor your content for each? Then think about what you expect from your campaign in terms of results and metrics.

3. Develop Your Content

It’s the opinion of 78% of CMOs that content is the future of marketing. And for good reason: content generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing at a 62% lower cost. Blogs, videos, white papers, infographics, newsletters and so on can help build trust and engagement and open the door to conversations with your prospects. In 2019, 84% of consumers believe their purchasing decisions can be influenced by good marketing.

Importantly, content can be used as a hook in your marketing campaigns and improves search engine rankings.

Content isn’t hard to create, but it requires a developed strategy. And remember, more isn’t always better. Focus on creating content that your customers and prospects find valuable and that supports each stage of the sales funnel.

4. Prepare Your Customer Data

Email and direct marketing are still hugely popular lead generation options that shouldn’t be ignored. However, the success of your outbound marketing efforts is only as good as the quality of your prospect and customer list. Spend some time cleaning and segmenting your list before your execute any campaign.

Scrubbing your list will remove inactive email addresses as well as those who haven’t opened your messages or purchased from you in a while. However, it’s a good idea to run a re-engagement campaign to see if you can win back subscribers before you remove them.

Once your list is clean, segment it. This means grouping your subscribers by categories such as interests, purchase history, whether they are frequent or infrequent buyers, their position in the sales funnel and so on. Segmenting your list makes it easier to run targeted campaigns and deliver tailored messaging. It’s proven that segmented lists can raise email open rates 203%, boost click-throughs nearly 65% and lower unsubscribe rates. Most email marketing software or automation platforms make it easy for you to segment your list.

5. Improve Your Follow-Ups

A measure of a business’s seriousness about its customer relationships is following up. Whether it’s responding to an online request for a quote, checking up on leads that marketing generates or thanking a prospect for attending your event, it’s imperative that you strike while the iron is still hot.

Ensure you have a plan in place that addresses how each lead will be followed up on. For your online campaigns, consider setting up an automated email response that’s triggered when a form is completed by a prospect. Use this message to set clear expectations about the time frame in which you’ll follow up. If you use a customer relationship management system, connect your campaigns so that you can organize and prioritize the follow-up.

An important, yet easily overlooked, aspect of following up on leads is paying attention to where the customer is in the sales funnel. Understand your buying cycle and map your follow-up approach to it. For example, if you’re targeting a bunch of prospects, it’s doubtful they’ll be ready to buy from you immediately. They may need more information, such as a customer testimonial or a demo video, to help them determine if you’re a good fit before they’re ready to speak to a sales rep. In this case, an email nurture campaign can help guide them through the evaluation process.

6. Automate to Save Time and Resources

One of the biggest marketing challenges for small-business owners is finding the time and resources. According to a survey by Forward Push, nearly 30% cite this as their No. 1 challenge, followed by converting leads into customers (21%). The good news is that this is fixable. Technology can help you save time and be smarter in your lead generation efforts.

Marketing automation platforms, for example, eliminate time-consuming and repetitive actions — things such as email campaigns, social media, and website and blog management. The true value of automation (which has been listed as one of the top small business marketing trends of 2019) lies in how it easily generates quality, personalized content and then delivers it to the right people at the right time. It also delivers easy-to-digest insights about which marketing activities work and which don’t.

Taking on marketing automation doesn’t mean you have to go all in with a soup-to-nuts platform. Your business may be able to save time with best-of-breed tools that tackle the tasks that are dragging you down. To better understand your options, check out tips on choosing the right marketing automation platform.

Automation can reduce the amount of human resources you need to throw at lead generation, but freelancers and independent contractors can also help with time-consuming tasks, such as content development, web design, campaign management and more. Here are some tips on how to start working with freelancers and independent contractors.

7. Measure Outcomes

Finally, be sure to measure the outcomes of your lead generation activities against your original goals. What worked and what didn’t? Are you spending your money wisely and achieving your maximum return on investment? Are there areas that need adjusting?

Today’s marketing tools often have analytics built in, but use them wisely. It’s easy to get distracted and placated by the number of social likes or blog views you racked up. Dig deeper to uncover those metrics that reveal true ROI, such as what content is performing well, which email messages resonate in terms of open rates and conversions, and so on.

Spend the Time

Admittedly, all of these tactics will take time to perfect. But once mastered, they will bring worthwhile results and will actually save you time in the future. That’s time you can use for other tasks, making your business that much more efficient.

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