With the creation of the JOBS Act and the new, looser SEC regulations around crowdfunding, starting a new business has gone from pipe dream to viable reality for many entrepreneurs. Start-up businesses are seeking innovative ways to fund their companies, and finding overwhelming success with technology-driven alternative financing opportunities.
In order to make it, though, these companies need customers. Sales are the root of success for any business, and winning customers is a challenging task for any up-and-coming organization that wants to succeed in the long term. With all this increased opportunity to start a business, it can be tougher than ever to make a new company last if you don’t have a plan in place to win clients. As a new company, marketing dollars are limited, so it’s crucial to have a plan that will give the best bang for your buck.
So what are the best approaches to generate leads? First of all, it’s important to think outside the box. Don’t settle for what you’ve known to work in the past. Today, innovation is key, and relying on old school lead generation strategies will ensure that you miss out on a lot of opportunities to woo new customers. It’s also vital to recognize that not all leads are created equal. Business owners and marketing teams need to be able to differentiate between the curious and the committed. Those who are just tire-kickers, and those serious leads that just need a little push to become loyal customers.
Below is just a sampling of the top strategies for lead generation. These strategies incorporate time-tested approaches with new technology-driven plans to insure that your small business will reach the right audience: those serious leads that have a need for what you can provide.
A STRATEGY THAT WORKS: INBOUND MARKETING
In recent years, inbound marketing has replaced traditional outbound marketing as a more efficient and cost-effective way of generating leads. Dated outbound marketing relied on reaching out to a loosely targeted consumer base, while new inbound marketing techniques allow a business to focus on specific groups. Telemarketing, TV commercials, and print ads are all examples of outbound marketing strategies that are falling by the wayside in favor of newer, tech-based styles of lead generation.
Inbound marketing is a more interactive method of generating leads, as it allows potential customers to come to you through social media, search engines, or referrals. Content marketing is a key factor in the use of inbound marketing strategies. Potential clients are on the web, seeking content, and they find your business. But how do they find you? What content can you produce that will attract the most promising leads? Let’s take a look at some popular content marketing strategies that allow customers to find you.
Inbound marketing is content-driven, and blogs are a great way to deliver relevant content about your business. Potential customers are seeking information about your services, and your blog is at their fingertips, ready to provide that information. The audience finds you, and not the other way around. Search engine optimization of your blog will help potential customers find you, and after reading your blog, they are more likely to visit other parts of your site, especially if you are offering something they need.
Though white papers are designed as a sales tool, they do not come across as such. Typically, a white paper is research-driven and offers an authoritative view of its subject, which should be something closely related to your product or service. Offering your white paper free of charge will ensure a larger readership. Asking for a name and e-mail to gain access to your white paper will give you the opportunity to follow up with potential customers at a later date.
Customers are often looking for companies that will provide them with something in order to win their business, and eBooks are a perfect solution to fill that need. Like white papers, eBooks don’t look like typical marketing or sales tools. They present useful, factual information, while subtly marketing your brand to potential clients. These online texts can be used to get your message out and grow your brand, or to provide research-backed information on a subject related to your product. You can use eBooks as an opt-in tool, or offer them for free to attract interest to your company’s website.
These are just a few content marketing tools that can be used in your inbound marketing plan. Others include:
- Vlogs (video logs)
- Free guides
- Sponsored e-mails
- Case studies
Inbound marketing shouldn’t be your only focus, however. Many of these content marketing tools can be applied to modernized versions of outbound marketing.
STRATEGY REDEFINED: OUTBOUND MARKETING
Though inbound marketing strategies are touted as being more cost-effective and are all the rage right now, there is no need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. In fact, a study by Marketinprofs.com finds that “outbound marketing proves to be the most effective for generating B2B leads.” A mix of inbound and outbound strategies will insure that your company is reaching the most potential leads. Here are a few outbound marketing strategies that are still finding success in the digital age.
Businesses have successfully been using inside sales for many years, and it continues to be a useful outbound strategy today. Inside sales is simply the act of generating leads and marketing remotely, but it is not simply telemarketing, which targets a large, general audience, rather than a specific audience that is more likely to be interested in the service or product being promoted. Inside sales relies on phone calls and email, as well as the customer coming to the company, rather than the other way around. New sales technology has allowed inside sales to become more cost-effective in recent times and generated interest in this strategy.
Social Lead Targeting
With the wealth of data generated on the Internet, companies are able to segment and target their leads. By examining the social media and web-surfing habits of your potential leads, you can tailor your outbound marketing materials to the individual and generate interest in a whole new way. Social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all possible venues where outbound marketing tools can reach potential leads. Knowing the interests of your leads, you can send them relevant content marketing tools, such as the white papers and eBooks mentioned above.
Though technology has driven many changes in marketing, there is just no replacement for good, old-fashioned face time, and trade shows remain an excellent way to generate leads in your field. They bring together thousands of potential customers, and since the event is likely based on your company’s product or service, you know that there is already some level of interest on the consumer’s part, just by the nature of them being there. Small businesses can benefit greatly from trade shows, as booth rental is usually affordable. With a smart, creative marketing platform, small businesses can garner just as much attention as larger corporations.
Even such old-school methods as telemarketing and email can still be effective outbound marketing strategies, if done right. A case study of drug information provider First Databank found that a combination of phone calls and e-mails produced a 300% ROI for the company. By targeting “known” prospects, those who had previous contact with their company, they developed a system of e-mailing and follow-up calls that yielded stellar returns. This shows that with a few tweaks, old methods can become new again. To learn more about this study, visit marketingsherpa.com
IN THE END…
There is no one surefire way to generate leads. As a business owner, you have to know your target audience and figure out what will work best for you. A combination of traditional outbound methods working in concert with new, technology-rich inbound strategies will assure that your company will have a rich pool of leads to build upon and develop into a strong customer base. Because, in the end, bringing in revenue and putting out your product is really what it’s all about.
P2Binvestor is a crowdfunding platform for working capital financing and a leader in crowdfunding receivables. P2Binvestor utilizes the power of technology and its crowd of accredited investors to simplify lending and provide working capital to growing businesses faster and at more affordable rates. The company offers three flexible products: A receivables-purchase product, an asset-backed line of credit, and a credit line secured by future revenue (designed for SaaS companies). P2Binvestor lends to companies in all 50 U.S. states in various industries including staffing, natural foods, manufacturing, technology, and more. P2Binvestor has been providing businesses’ receivables financing since December 2012. For more information, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @P2Binvestor.