Starting a small business takes a lot of work and sometimes it takes years before the investment really pays off. In the beginning, many small businesses rely on a small staff to handle all aspects of business. In fact, you might have one person handling sales, marketing, accounting and much more.
Perhaps the greatest challenge a small business will face is finding good leads. In order to grow your business, you need a steady stream of leads to pursue. These leads could be individuals or other businesses that would have a potential interest in your service or product.
How can a small business with one location get more leads? There are several strategies that have been successfully used, but ultimately you will have to figure out a plan that is right for your business. Here are some ideas to consider as you create your personalized lead-building strategy.
Know Your Target Audience
Before you can start finding leads, you need to know who your business will attract.
- Who is looking for your products and services?
- What is their typical age, gender and lifestyle?
- What is their income level?
Knowing these details is important because this is your target audience.
The better you understand your target audience, the more successful you can be in reaching out to them and converting these leads into sales. Instead of using your time and energy to convince people they need your business, look for customers who are already searching for your products and services. You’ll have half the work and double the conversions.
Build a Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve identified who you are targeting, it’s time to build a marketing strategy. Choose promotional methods that will get you closer to your target audience.
- Where do they spend their free time?
- Where do they shop?
- Who are their go-to businesses for similar products and services?
Design a marketing plan that will connect with your target audience in as many ways as possible. Consider building a website, social media accounts and a blog. Advertise locally through flyers, signs and speaking engagements.
Develop a List of Your Contacts
Once you begin marketing to your target audience, make it a goal to collect as many contacts as you can. In order to build relationships with the people you meet, you will need their contact information. Ultimately, you want to build a sales funnel that you can send your new contacts through, but it starts with collecting contact information in a customer relationship management database to help you stay organized.
Create an Email Newsletter
Email marketing is one of the easiest ways to cultivate relationships with leads and convert them into sales. You can use email marketing services to make this process simple. By designing a series of emails to send to new contacts and subscribers, you can cultivate relationships and build sales. It is all automated and requires little work to maintain after it is originally set up.
Connect through Social Media
Social media has opened a whole new world of marketing opportunities for small businesses. Using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can revolutionize your lead-generation strategy. Social media allows you to connect with your target audience and give them short snippets of information and updates. You can attract and engage with people through social media, ultimately building a relationship with new customers before you ever meet them face-to-face.
Social media is also a good tool for learning more about your target demographic. You can ask questions and glean information about what your potential customers want and need. You’ll learn how to serve them better through each new interaction.
Make sure you leverage social media to also build your contacts list. Make it easy for customers to subscribe to your email list for updates and link to your blog, website and other social media profiles. Each route of communication builds another level of engagement with your customers. You want to keep your business in front of them on a regular basis, not in a pushy way, but in a relevant way.
Drive Leads from LinkedIn
Perhaps the most valuable social network for small businesses is LinkedIn. This platform is an excellent tool for generating leads, especially if you are engaged in business-to-business marketing. There is a description area where you can write a short “elevator pitch” to describe your business and link to a landing page on your website where you can collect sales leads or even make direct sales online.
LinkedIn also has groups where you can connect with other businesses in your industry. These groups are an incredible asset for networking and finding new leads. For instance, if you have a small plumbing business, find a group of home builders in your area and network together. When a contractor needs plumbing, he will already have your info on hand and you will gain a new customer. On the other hand, if you have a plumbing customer who also needs some remodeling work done, you can refer your customer to the contractor. This networking can create strong relationships between businesses in the same sector and ultimately build profits for everyone involved.
Don’t Underestimate Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Even in today’s technology-driven world, word-of-mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool. Your customers will naturally talk about your business if they are pleased with the products and services you offer, so be prepared to capitalize on this.
Keep custom business cards on hand and make sure every satisfied customer goes home with a few to share with friends. You could even create a referral reward program. Have the customer write his/her name and phone number on the back of your card and when a friend brings the card in and makes a purchase, the original customer will get some kind of reward. This is an excellent motivator to encourage people to share about your business and it will quickly help you build a solid database of potential leads.
Ultimately, small business marketing depends on collecting solid leads. There are a number of ways that you can generate leads, so don’t be afraid to try several of these strategies and figure out what will work best for you.