Do you struggle to get more customers for your small business? You’re not alone.
Maybe you're not sure what marketing tactics to use, or what type of offer will get prospects to act. Small business lead generation is key to success and growth, but if you're like most others, it’s also an ongoing uphill climb.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Small business lead generation can solve many of your problems. The secret is knowing these three things:
Once you plug your answers into a lead generation service, tool or campaign, getting new customers will be much easier! Whether your business is B2B or B2C, in this post, I'll show you how to identify your biggest lead generation challenges, understand how a lead generation service can help, and share some tips to make small business lead generation services work for you.
First, let’s quickly define what is a lead generation program. Lead generation programs are marketing campaigns designed to attract potential customers and get them to indicate interest in what you sell (that is, become leads).
It’s also important to understand the difference between outbound and inbound lead generation. Outbound lead generation occurs when your business sends a message “out” to the prospect. This might be a cold email, a direct mail letter or a cold call. Inbound lead generation occurs when, instead of reaching out to prospects, you get them to come to you. You might do this through content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) or online advertising.
The chart below shows the biggest lead generation challenges for B2B businesses according to a survey (these would also ring true for B2C businesses though). In the rest of this post, I’ll run through each challenge listed in the image below and share tips and tricks for overcoming them and generating more leads.
Challenge 1: Finding a strategy, tactics, or offer that gets the attention of potential leads
This is the number-one challenge in lead generation for businesses in the survey.
Tip: Get to know your target customers.
What are their demographics, interests, needs, budgets and pain points? What problems does your business solve for them? Where do they look for companies like yours when making a purchase? Learn about your target customers by conducting surveys, doing market research, seeing what they say about your business online, or just asking them in person.
The more you know about your target customer and how they buy, the better you will be at developing successful lead generation strategies, tactics and offers. Once you have a profile of your target customers, you can use lead generation tools to target them more effectively. For instance, if your customers typically do an online search to find nearby businesses, your business can generate more leads by using a service that helps you get found on local search engines like Google Maps, Yahoo and Bing.
Challenge 2: Having enough people (or the right people) to generate leads
Some 38% of businesses struggle with this. As a small business owner, having enough people to do just about anything is a constant challenge, so this isn't surprising.
Tip: Automate as much as you can.
The more you can automate your lead generation and lead management process, the more you can accomplish even with a lean staff. A good small business service will help you automate tasks such as sending emails or getting notified of new leads. Plus, it takes the onus off your team to keep up with every little technical change in the world of search engine optimization, online advertising and other lead generation tactics.
Look for a lead generation service that helps with multiple aspects of lead generation, such as paid search advertising, optimizing your website for search, getting your business placement on Google Maps, or providing exclusive leads. The more your lead generation service can handle, the less your staff will have to do (and the less staff you’ll need).
Challenge 3: Measuring and documenting lead generation success
More than 31 percent of businesses have difficulty measuring how well they're doing at lead generation. But if you don’t measure your success rate, you could be wasting money on the wrong lead generation strategies without knowing it.
Tip: First, define "success.”
To document lead generation success, you need to first have a measurable definition of success. That definition will vary depending on your business, your target customers, and your specific lead generation problem. In other words, it's up to you to figure out.For example:
It's essential to track how many leads you generate, how many sales you close, sales revenue, how long your typical sales cycle is and other key performance indicators.
Good small business lead generation services do more than generate leads — they will also make it easy to track performance metrics and measure your results.
Be sure to revise and update your definition of success as time goes on. If you're having lots of problems with lead generation, update it every month or at least every quarter.
Challenge 4: Responding to inquiries in a timely manner; managing and tracking leads
About 30 percent of businesses struggle with these issues. Speaking as a small business owner with thousands of emails in my inbox at any given time, I can definitely relate.
Tip: Add staff, outsource or automate.
There's no substitute for investing in the human resources you need to respond to leads. However, that's not always feasible for a small business. Outsourcing is one option, but independent sales reps who work for other businesses as well may not always be as passionate about your business as you are.
Automated sales solutions can help you make the most of your staff's time without the cost of hiring or the management hassles of outsourcing. Look for small business lead generation services that help you automate lead management and respond to leads.
For example, using chatbots on your webpage to reach out to leads can save your employees time while still qualifying leads. You can also set up automated emails to follow up with leads. If you use customer relationship management (CRM) software, your lead generation software should integrate with your chosen CRM tool.
Challenge 5: Working with strategic partners and other business alliances to generate leads
This is a challenge for about 30% of businesses surveyed. I know myself how difficult it can be to keep a strategic partnership thriving. That's unfortunate, because partnering with other businesses is a great way to help everyone involved get more leads.
Tip: Minimize the grunt work.
Don’t give up on strategic partnerships. Yes, when you're swamped working on your small business day-to-day, it can be difficult to prioritize joint efforts with another company. But the more you can systematize, automate and streamline the administrative aspect, the less time the overall lead generation effort will take. That gives you and your partners more time to spend strategizing about the big picture.
Lead generation services that automate the process of lead generation, lead management and follow-up can take a big load off both you and your strategic partners. Look for a small business lead generation service that works for both parties so you can collaborate effectively. Unless you both buy into the tool, you may not get the best results from it.
Challenge 6: Funding lead generation activities
This is a struggle for more than one-fourth of businesses in the survey. Given that budget issues are common for most small business owners, it's not a surprise.
Tip: Treat marketing as an investment and measure your ROI.
Often, small business owners feel like money spent on marketing just goes into a black hole. They see it as an expense, rather than an investment. This is why many small business owners are reluctant to invest in marketing their businesses, but here's the thing: without marketing, your business will never grow.
The key is to view marketing as an investment and, like any investment, to carefully monitor your ROI. Small business lead generation services that track key performance metrics, such as ad ranking, lead conversion and how well each ad campaign performs, give you a clear picture of your ROI.
Look for a solution that tracks your ad spend details in real time so you never have to worry about going over budget.
Challenge 7: Providing relevant and valuable content to potential leads
Almost one-fourth of businesses in the survey struggle with this. Content marketing is one of today's hottest marketing trends; as a professional content marketer, I have to be diligent about writing ONLY helpful content for readers.
Tip: Avoid creating content that your customers don't care about.
Don’t waste time writing about topics your customers aren’t interested in or sharing it in places they don't visit. Develop an understanding of your customers so you can speak to them through content. Think about what your customers’ interests, needs and pain points are. Then measure results to see what content performs best.
As you track the path that leads follow to get to your website and take action, pay attention not only to where leads come from, but also what specific type of content they prefer.
Challenges 8, 9 and 10: Getting it done
These three challenges — agreeing on a lead generation plan, implementing the plan, and having enough internal knowledge about lead generation — all basically boil down to getting the job done.
Tip: Get outside help.
In a small business, you’d think it wouldn't be that hard to agree on something. However, any business owner knows that even a two-person business can butt heads. Sometimes, the solution is turning it over to an expert.
Small business lead generation services are typically run by business marketing experts, so you can feel confident that when you’re turning to outside help they know how to develop a framework or plan to do so.
Develop a lead generation companies list and go through the options to see which one fits your needs. Choose a small business lead generation service that provides strong support, such as regular review calls to go over performance and account managers with expertise in lead generation and management.
Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.