Step 5: Operate a Lead Generation Trio
Traditional lead generation tactics: directory advertising, trade show participation, half page print ads, are quickly loosing appeal with small business owners. There are two very good reasons for this decline:
- Traditional methods are some of the most expensive.
- Traditional methods are proving less effective in terms of lead generation.
Message and information overload, technology to block ads (Caller ID, TiVo, XM Radio) and the availability of information may make traditional and more expensive outbound marketing efforts a thing of the past.
Small businesses must change the way they think about and approach lead generation. They must think more in terms of being found and less in terms of finding. People are still looking for solutions, trying out new services and buying things they want, they’ve just changed how they go about doing it. In a way, the control of message consumption has changed with it.
Technology has made the phone directory pocket-portable. There is no need to travel to the trade show because the interactive demo is on YouTube, blogs, search engines and social media sites. All the product information, answers and reviews one could ever consume are delivered without ever leaving home.
So, in order to generate leads and be found, businesses must put themselves in the path of people who are learning about, asking about, and shopping about their particular industries. Lead generation does not need to be done exclusively online. This advice should not lead businesses to conclude that they shouldn’t use advertising at all. What business owners should understand is that their online presence is the hub of education and that online and offline advertising, PR, and referral systems must utilize to its fullest potential.
One can think of it as lighting candles along dark paths so that weary travelers can discover the company in the dark. Those candles are the education-based entries in social media hubs like Twitter and Facebook – gentle guides of introduction. They are the PR efforts and articles, written to illuminate one’s expertise. They are the blog posts, designed to attract surfers looking for the way. They are the strategic partnerships, alignments that evoke trust. They are the web conferences, providing interactive discussions with customers and prospects. They are the community building events, places where candles can be re-lit and shared.
You can no longer sit back, dump an offer in the mail and start working the phones. You’ve got to build your inbound marketing machine and start taking advantage of the power of information, networking, trust, connection, and community to generate leads.
Today’s integrated lead generation trio consists of creating education-based approaches that blend the use of advertising, public relations and referrals.
- Advertising: Advertising is used in highly targeted, measurable ways to promote awareness of education-based content: such as white papers, audios and seminars. It carries the highest cost and lowest credibility, but is also the only lead generation tactic that can be completely controlled. Advertising works when utilized as described and must be part of the overall mix.
- Public relations: PR is such a powerful, credible and low cost tool. It is an area that is often underutilized by small businesses. There’s no real magic to generating positive press. It’s a game of building relationships with a handful of key journalists and committing to creating announcements and small stories every month using a combination of local press contacts and online social media tools.
- Referrals: Referral generation is primarily a process of finding ways to be more referable first. It starts with the mindset of making every customer a referral source and making it easy for them to do so. Once this is in order, you can move to building a network of strategic partners that can be relied on to refer new customers. These leads are often the highest quality.
While most businesses find they develop a primary lead generation tactic, it’s the thoughtful combination of repeated contacts, consistently placed, that leads to the greatest long-term trust-building marketing.
See our previous post: 7 Steps for Marketing Success: Step 4