No matter how you cut it, generating leads as a small business is hard. You’re faced with an uphill battle against larger competitors, a perplexing number of tools and techniques to choose from, and a lack of clarity about what is actually working when the leads do come in.
Many small businesses turn to digital avenues to generate leads, assuming it will be easier or more effective than traditional methods. And while digital does offer a multitude of benefits (it’s probably where your customers hang out, after all), it’s not a silver bullet solution.
Here are five steps you can follow to build a digital lead generation plan that will actually work.
1. Find your customers where they are
In order to start generating leads, you need to know where your customers are – and you need to be there too. Are they tweeting? Watching YouTube videos at lunch? Listening to podcasts on their commute? Wherever they spend their digital time, that’s where you want to be.
To get to know your customers and their digital hangouts, you might want to build one (or more) buyer personas. These are profiles of your target buyer that you create in order to understand them better. They can include things like demographics (age, marital status, income level), company information (industry, size, their position), challenges and goals and more. After creating a persona, you should be able to determine where he or she is most likely to be online.
2. Examine your outreach and targeting
Now you know where to start looking for leads. The next part is how to connect with them.
If you discovered that your customers are on Twitter, you tweet. If they’re on Facebook, you create a page and start posting. These organic methods may sound basic, but they work – as long as you are consistent and have the resources to manage them.
However, if you’ve noticed that you’re not seeing much engagement on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or wherever you determine your customers are, it’s time to reassess your targeting (by reviewing your personas) and outreach (by reviewing the content you’re creating). A successful digital outreach campaign will show steady engagement with your customers. You might not be generating a significant number of leads at this point, but this is what lays the foundation.
3. Combine your outreach with other digital marketing tools and techniques
Once you’ve pinpointed where your customers are and you’ve started engaging with them, it’s time to expand beyond simple organic social posts. There are a variety of digital tools you can use to improve your lead generation: Facebook ads, cross promotions with partners, content management systems for more complex campaigns, landing pages, gated content, and more. Which of these techniques you use will depend on your customers and your lead generation goals.
4. Know your competitive landscape
You’re not tweeting (or posting status updates, or videos…) in a bubble. Your competitors are using digital channels to reach their customers, too, and your lead generation depends on knowing this competitive landscape.
By monitoring what your competitors are doing on social channels, you can gain a multitude of insights that will help with your lead gen. For example, you might witness a spate of complaints that come in from customers about a competitor’s recent price hike. Or you may notice that some of your followers are sharing the same piece of competitor content, indicating that they may be close to making a purchase.
5. Create trigger events to generate leads on autopilot
Once all of the above four steps are in place, you can set up trigger events to identify leads on autopilot. Trigger events are actions that your customers take that indicate their readiness to make a purchase from you. When a prospect moves into a new position, shares industry news, asks a question about a competitor’s product or is researching new industry legislation, they are signaling their buying intent to you – as long as you can pick up on the signal.
LeadSift has created a HootSuite app to help identify these signals. It scans the conversations of millions of Twitter users and shows you who has intent to buy. These are hot leads that you can follow up with right away.
Knowing what content your target customer is sharing will help you understand where they are on the buyer’s journey. From there, you simply have to reach out and watch the leads come pouring in.