For many businesses, generating strong sales leads is a top priority, but a vexing one. HubSpot research found that generating leads was a top challenge for 61% of marketers. You need clues about the people and businesses that will buy your products and services, but how to get sales leads is a constant conundrum.
Plus, unscrupulous entities may take advantage of that challenge. Lead fraud—companies selling bogus leads—is not uncommon. These fraudsters may misrepresent where they got the leads or how they qualified them. Businesses may later learn that they bought worthless sales leads.
Whether you're selling business-to-business services or trying to generate more consumer leads for your website, one of the best ways to grow your business and avoid being scammed is to create a system for generating your own leads.
Here are six ways to start.
1. Encourage Referrals
“One of the best ways to source new sales opportunities, even in a down market, is to work with happy customers to get active referrals for leads," says Jeremy Zerbib, head of marketing at community management and engagement platform Hivebrite.
Satisfied customers are your advocates—and they likely know other people who may buy your product or service. “Anyone can cold call, but a referral from a respected entity in the space that has actual experience with your organization will take you much further—especially in a time when businesses are being much more discerning when deciding to buy new services," Zerbib says.
Remind customers that you're always interested in referrals. You may even consider a discount or loyalty reward for those who refer business.
2. Target Strong Sectors
In any market, some segments thrive and some do not. When you're qualifying sales leads, choose strong companies in thriving industries and aggressively go after key targets, Zerbib says.
“Although there is not really such a thing as a 'recession-proof' industry, if you work to identify those that are uniquely positioned to weather a down market and target them for sales, your business will be well-suited to maintain a steady flow of sales," he says. Look for mutual contacts who may be able to help you identify the decision-maker and perhaps even give you an introduction.
3. Optimize Your Website
Whether you're running an e-commerce business or use your website as an information resource and brand-awareness builder, it needs to be optimized for greatest effect.
Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Mavens & Moguls, advises optimizing for voice search, which allows users to interact with websites through voice commands, making it more usable and also compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also optimize your website for mobile use, so it can be viewed across a number of devices. Increasingly, people use mobile devices to get information, and mobile optimization can boost your search engine ranking.
4. Publish Great Content
Post amusing and useful tips on social media platforms or update your website's blog with the latest industry insights.
“Search engines notice when sites publish consistently and can see how long people stay," Arnof-Fenn says. "So building a strong reputation as a site that informs and educates pays off in higher organic search results." Tailor your content to your brand's personality and the interest areas of your audience to keep them coming back for more.
5. Build Community
Create a community of fans of your product, company, or content through social media, which gives you an opportunity to connect with those who already have a relationship with you. Albert Ho, founder of Healthcare Heroes, a healthcare sales consultancy, and author of the book, Checkmate: How to Win the Sales Game in Healthcare, suggests creating a mailing list to communicate with customers and prospects.
“A popular way to build a mailing list is by using a squeeze page [on your website], in which the business provides something of value that is given to the lead in exchange for providing an email address," he says. He offers a free copy of his book on his website. You can also create groups or profile pages on social media as an easy way to create a community.
6. Boost Your Platform
When you build your own or your company's profile, you can benefit from inbound leads that come with awareness. Ho likes to host webinars, which he says are a great way to provide value and better understand your audience.
“Customers want to regularly hear from businesses that they know, like, and trust," he says. "Other ways to push out content are through social media such as YouTube."
Work on generating publicity and buzz “by reaching out to third-party influencers," suggests Peter Blanchard, COO of Actinium Healthcare Holdings. Think of newsworthy stories in your industry or about your products and services and pitch them to appropriate media. Engage with influencers. Write bylined articles or start a blog. All of these efforts can help you gain awareness with a broader audience.
Think about the ways you can target people who need your products and services and raise your profile—a winning combination for keeping good leads flowing.