Where does your business get its leads? Chances are, you’re aware of all the traditional channels – social media campaigns, referrals, ad campaigns, and in person events. Maybe you’ve heard of some of the less common techniques – buying leads from list services, scraping leads off the internet, or strategic SEO for inbound links. There are so many different potential sources of leads. Which ones are the best?
The answer, as with everything in business, is it depends. You first have to have a clear idea of what your goal will be with the lead generation campaign in order to decide which method to pursue. If your product or service tends towards a longer sales cycle, is expensive, and requires a consultative sale built on trust, you will probably target the more personal, direct methods of sourcing leads – referrals, in person events, and reselling. If your offering is not these things, especially if it is a B2C offering, you may tend towards the wider net methods of lead sourcing.
In order of most individualized and engaged leads provided to least, we can rank the sources of potential leads as reselling, referrals, in person events, inbound SEO, social media campaigns, buying leads, and web scraping.
Reselling – Targeting past customers for future business is the easiest source of leads. At one point they saw enough value in your product in order to buy it. Targeting of these individuals should be highly personalized, having someone they’ve previously worked with reaching out to them, perhaps offering them some free piece of content or other value add. For instance, if they were struggling with process improvement and they hired your company to consult on this, reaching out with a recent article or case study is a good way to restart conversations.
In Person Events – These provide a great way to meet leads in a physical, face to face manner. These sorts of leads tend to be very hot and committed, since they feel like they really know your company. Consider offering an educational seminar or networking event for individuals in your target industry. This shows competence in the topic you are speaking on and creates brand equity with those in attendance.
Referrals – Building trust with a lead is always a challenge. Referrals overcome this because the source of the trust is the person referring you. Having a well-defined and well-known referral program is key. Many companies offer some kind of benefit for referrers, but few people know about these. These sorts of leads should be a very high priority for companies with an involved sales process or larger purchase prices. Referrals are especially valuable because the primary selling point is trust, not price.
Inbound SEO – Inbound marketing seeks to bring leads to you, rather than bringing your brand in front of your leads. By targeting very specific, long tail keywords and phrases that people are searching, you can ensure that your company is one of the first they see. The advantage of this is that if the right terms are chosen, you get a predictable stream of inbound leads every month that are more or less ready to buy. This is great for any business, especially those that can handle online sales and have a shorter sales cycle. This is also a great way to select topics for content and should be explored in depth by any organization with a substantial online presence.
Social Media Campaigns – Sponsoring relevant content for leads is nothing new, and for good reason. It works. You need to be careful searching for leads this way – unless such campaigns are highly targeted the quality of leads tends to be low, thus raising the price per lead conversion too high – sometimes higher than is profitable.
Buying Leads – There are plenty of services that offer leads for sale to companies. This can at times seem unethical, and indeed it may be, but it is an important part of some business models. This is really only valuable for companies with the staff able to work through and prospect such a list. These tend to be companies offering quicker, transactional sales. Generally, if you can find a more upfront way of gaining leads, you should. Those on the receiving end of these cold calls tend to look at them as spam and don’t appreciate the effort. It is a matter of pure volume.
Web Scraping – A number of software services exist that can scrape information for leads off of the internet or social media sites. This is something that should only be done with the utmost caution, as it is illegal in some jurisdictions and highly suspect in most others. These sorts of leads are the coldest of cold, but some companies are able to use them to their own benefit. Web scraping wouldn’t exist if it didn’t work for someone, but it is generally cautioned against.
There are so many different tactics for finding leads. This is in no way an exhaustive list. As you continue searching for your own leads, you will no doubt find out what works best for your company and your products. The best advice is to keep extremely detailed metrics so you can understand the cost per lead of each source, thus finding the most efficient one for your company.
Next week we will be speaking about some of these metrics and how to qualify leads. By putting these two things together companies are able to see where their best sources of leads are and target them, getting the most bang for their buck.