Lead generation involves the methods businesses use to attract prospects that bring them into your sales pipeline and ultimately turn them into paying customers. Companies use an array of best practices to generate leads, such as having an excellent social media presence, networking, using lead generation software to automate processes, and more.
Here, we dive into eight of the best practices for lead generation for small businesses.
1. Automate Your Lead Generation Processes
Automating your lead generation process means that you use tools and methods to create a repeatable system for collecting leads and adding them into your sales pipeline for lead nurturing. For example, you can use a form-scraping tool that will collect lead data from forms on your website, and automatically put them into your customer relationship management (CRM) so that you can follow up with them in your sales process.
Many software programs also help you automate this process. Many CRMs will score incoming leads without you having to do it manually, helping you identify which leads are “hot.” This allows you to prioritize which you should reach out to right away. Another example is Pipedrive CRM’s “Leadbooster” feature that engages web visitors and captures qualified leads, offering a conversational bot that identifies leads and helps sales representatives can close deals quickly.
“Having an automated system to generate leads is essential for today’s small business. As a sales and marketing professional, I employ multiple strategies for generating high-quality leads online and offline. One of my favorites is the targeted online offer. When you create targeted online offers, you are essentially creating doorways into your business. So, the more doorways you have, the more opportunities you have for being discovered by your ideal customer.”
—Jimmy Newson, Marketing Director, JimmyNewson.com
2. Use Lead Qualification Software
Qualifying leads means that you ensure they are a good fit—and are likely to become customers—for your products and/or services. If your sales team goes after leads that aren’t a good fit constantly, they waste valuable time on people who will probably never make a purchase. However, knowing which leads are worth pursuing saves both time and resources and increases the likelihood you will close a new deal.
You should qualify leads at the beginning of the sales process. This can be as simple as making sure the lead is a decision-maker or someone who has the authority to make a buying decision before it is given to a sales rep, so they don’t spend time nurturing nondecision makers when they could be focusing on highly qualified leads.
Lead qualification software, however, allows you to set up more custom rules for scoring leads. For example, if someone downloads an e-book, they might be given three points. If they fill out a form, they get seven. On the other hand, if they unsubscribe from your newsletter, they lose five points. The software then creates a score automatically that helps sales reps identify the best leads to follow up with, how frequently to reach out, and what types of offers to promote.
Pro tip: As you qualify leads and identify which types of leads are most successful and likely to convert, use that information to create customer personas, which are fictionalized ideas of your ideal customer.
3. Create a Robust Social Media Presence
Every small business needs to set up Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages to generate leads, especially when you consider how much time people spend on social media today. Post regular content about your products and services, and boost some of your posts if you have the budget to expand the reach of the post to your target audience.
Another great way to generate leads on social media is to include buttons on your Facebook page. For example, you can put a “Buy now” or “Book appointment” right at the top of your page, making it easy for interested prospects to take the next buying step right on social media. Learn more about social selling tips from the pros.
Another part of lead generation on social media involves engaging potential customers with your company brand with stories on Instagram and Facebook. Stories are quick, easily consumable bits of content that give leads information about your company, story, promotions, and more. It’s one more valuable touchpoint that can move a lead into a paying customer.
Pro tip: When you’re searching for leads on LinkedIn, you can search using custom filters. For example, you can filter by location, industry, or job title, generating the most qualified leads. Then, reach out to the most qualified leads with a personal message to start a sales conversation.
“LinkedIn has become one of our most successful channels for generating new leads and, ultimately, selling new customers. The great thing about LinkedIn is that it is highly targeted and efficient. By using the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool, you can search and build a targeted prospect list based on several different parameters including, location, job title, company size, and so on. We are able to send free messages via LinkedIn to all of the people that have connected back with us successfully. One amazing benefit that we have found about contacting prospects on LinkedIn is that they are 23% more likely to respond to our sales outreach than if we were to contact them via email.”
—Jesse Silkoff, Founder, MyRoofingPal
4. Attend Networking Events Relevant to Your Industry
It’s a best practice to get out of the office and generate leads naturally by networking with people in your industry. It fosters word-of-mouth referrals, which are so effective because people trust recommendations from people they already know.
Attend educational conferences in your field, go to chamber of commerce meetings, and visit other local professional networking groups. Even if someone you meet isn’t a direct lead, chances are they know someone who could benefit from your products or services.
Each type of event you go to will likely feature a different type of leads or customer with similar interests. As you collect leads at events, categorize them into customer profiles to create strategic marketing tactics catered toward them.
Pro tip: Be sure to bring plenty of business cards with you to hand out and collect cards from everyone you have meaningful conversations with. You can even use a CRM like HubSpot that allows you to scan business cards in with their mobile app and store them automatically in your CRM in real-time.
Often, the leads you generate aren’t ready to make a buying decision before they try out your product. That’s why so many businesses offer free trials, particularly software companies. By eliminating the friction associated with trying out a product, you increase the chances someone will become a lead. For example, Pipedrive offers a 14-day free trial without you even having to supply your credit card information and offers support even to trial users.
On the other hand, you can’t exactly offer a free trial for something like a mattress. But you can offer a satisfaction-guaranteed money-back promise. Many companies will give you 30 to 90 days to try out their product, and if you aren’t satisfied, you get your money back, no questions asked. This encourages them to try your product but reduces the financial risk of choosing to purchase.
“Offering a money-back promise if the product or service doesn’t do what you say it will, or doesn’t meet their expectations, gives the client a lot of peace of mind. It also helps build trust and helps the client not worry about the consequences if there are discrepancies in performance.”
—Sean McPheat, Founder & Managing Director, MTD Sales Training
5. Leverage Your Personal Network
As busy professionals, we are already connected to so many people who may be able to provide excellent leads. You talk to people who work in the industries you are targeting at community gatherings, networking events, your children’s sporting events and school activities, and more.
Not all word-of-mouth referrals have to come from meeting people at networking events. Strike up conversations with people you already know, like other parents at your kids’ schools, your book club friends, or people at the gym. Get to know what they do for a living, what organizations they are involved in, and don’t be afraid to ask them to help you make a connection.
For example, share email addresses and ask if they would be willing to introduce you to a potential lead that can grant access to a large group of leads you can market to online. In the introduction email, be sure to make sure they share your website and social media links. Alternatively, you can ask if your connection will introduce you in person over coffee or lunch.
6. Offer Free Consultations
Free consultations are a great way to generate leads because there is no risk for the prospect if you are providing a service but not asking for any money. Create a post on LinkedIn and Facebook about the services you provide and offer a call-to-action (CTA) for the lead in calling or emailing and setting up a free consultation.
For example, if you are in the business of home remodeling, write a short article about kitchen or bathroom remodeling. In the article, offer a free 15-minute consultation for interested leads. It could be over the phone or, if you’re local, it can be in-person. This increases the chance you’ll earn their business and the likelihood that they will refer you to others. Even if they decide not to move forward, you can still put them in your CRM and follow up at a later date.
7. Develop a Customer Referral Program
A customer referral program is beneficial because satisfied customers are a great source for generating new leads. People trust your brand and company more when they hear about it from someone they know. You can cultivate these types of referrals by making it easy for your existing customers to tell their friends and family about your business.
It’s a great idea to offer incentives for sharing prospects email addresses or facilitating personal introductions. You can offer things such as discounts on future purchases or gift cards for leaving positive reviews on your Yelp or Facebook. For example, Uber gives you your own personal referral code and gives you a free ride for every person you refer with your code and takes their first Uber ride.
Pro tip: Leverage those positive reviews customers leave on Yelp or Facebook. Put them on your website, use them on social media, and include them in email campaigns to engage leads and build social proof.
8. Use Website Chatbots and Facebook Messenger
It’s an excellent idea to add a live chat feature to your website to engage leads, so they can get questions answered quickly or even make an appointment. It’s great to have multiple support channels but, personally, if I have to email, call someone or search through a knowledge base or frequently asked questions (FAQs) database, I’m more likely to move onto another option where I can chat with someone quickly.
For example, the software company Freshchat offers a free plan for up to 10 users and unlimited chats with leads and customers. Paid plans allow more time members and start at $15 per user, per month. It’s easy to install on your website and includes a mobile app for reps on the go.
If you have an active presence on Facebook, which you should, leverage the use of Facebook Messenger with potential customers. Businesses can preload specific questions when a lead wants to message a company, such as “How much do your services cost?” and “What are your hours?” They can also ask custom questions in the Messenger app—be sure to respond as quickly as possible to increase engagement.
“Direct involvement means listening and responding to the customers’ queries instead of constricting them to FAQs. Direct engagement seems human, so people engage more when they talk to customer service representatives directly instead of reading the already stated answers. While resolving their concerns, the representatives could persuade them to buy the product or service efficiently. The FAQs can’t do this for you. Small businesses should make use of the latest communication mediums such as live chat, online forums, and help centers for generating more leads to ultimately achieve a higher conversion rate.”
—Jeremy Ong, Founder, HUSTLR
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is lead generation important for small businesses?
You can’t expect new customers to come to you just from searching the internet or walking by your storefront. You need to cultivate leads online and in-person actively for the best results so that you can fill your sales funnel with the right prospects.
How can my business generate high-quality leads?
Create a lead qualification system based on their characteristics and activity. This is known as lead scoring and is a method of assigning points to leads who are decision-makers, download your content like whitepapers or e-books, and visit your website. This information gives you what you need to prioritize which leads most likely to convert.
Are sales reps or marketing team members responsible for lead generation?
Traditionally, marketing teams have been in charge of lead generation, and then they hand the leads off to the sales reps to follow up. However, a more modern approach involves sales and marketing teams working together to generate leads, since marketing teams bring expertise about lead generation strategies, and no one knows the customer as well as a sales rep.
Bottom Line: Lead Generation Best Practices
Intentional lead generation is critical for every small business to engage and draw in new leads. You should use a variety of best practices to generate leads, such as your having a great website, cultivating a strong social media presence, attending networking events, and using automation tools to increase your customer base and build revenue.
When you generate leads using these strategies, use a CRM such as Pipedrive. It offers a visual pipeline where email conversations are synced with opportunities and a smart data search to explore more information about your lead with one click. Visit its website today to sign up for a 14-day free trial.