For any business, no matter how big or small, lead generation is highly important to its success. Lead generation brings potential customers to your marketing funnel, where they can eventually become customers. There are a number of different ways to generate leads for your business. In this post, we’ll break down lead generation into four key areas: inbound, outbound, online, and offline. We’ll then put it all together with some small business lead generation examples.
Lead generation is the process of capturing the interest—and ideally the contact information—of potential customers for your business. With the number of options and resources available today, it is less likely now than ever before for a consumer to make a purchase during their first encounter with a business.
Lead generation is the first step in building a relationship with a potential client or customer. When an interested prospect becomes a lead, they are not just expressing interest in your business, but also inviting you to nurture that interest. By giving you their contact information, they are giving you permission to further the conversation.
The goal of generating leads is to connect with people who could benefit from your business so that you can show what you have to offer, build trust, and provide the information they need in order to make the purchase—thereby increasing the chances that they do.
Lead generation takes many forms, and different strategies will work for different businesses and audiences.
As mentioned above, lead generation is obtaining permission from a prospective customer to communicate further with them with regard to your business. There are two ways of generating leads: inbound lead generation and outbound lead generation.
Outbound lead generation is when a business makes the first reach out to a potential customer, such as through:
• Cold calling
• Going door to door
• Purchasing an email list
• Sending direct mail to all residents in your zip code
Outbound marketing is also referred to as “interruption marketing” because the business is dictating the encounter with the potential customer and directly asking them to engage. Outbound marketing is looked at by many as an old school approach but is still highly effective for businesses today.
Inbound lead generation is your business making customers and viewers want to work with you. This may include:
• Subscribing to your blog
• Signing up for your email newsletter
• Downloading a piece of content
With outbound lead generation, the business makes the first move. With inbound lead generation, it’s the consumer. They decide if and when they want to engage with your business. For this reason, it is also referred to as “permission marketing”.
With both forms of lead generation, your prospects are offering up something that is of value to them, such as their contact information, their time, or even their money. This means that for the exchange to be worth it or beneficial to them, you must provide something of value in return.
Whether you’re taking an inbound or outbound approach, the key to all lead generation is the offer. Examples of quality offers include:
• Free eBook in exchange for email address.
• Free consultation in exchange for a phone number.
• Free demo on an item in exchange for an in-store purchase.
Remember, the focus of lead generation is to connect with potential customers, so your offer should be something that is relevant to your business and of interest and/or value to your ideal customers—not just anyone.
Both inbound and outbound lead generation can occur online and off. Online and offline lead generation have the same goal but are different in the platforms they use and ways they engage customers.
Online lead generation is rising and getting easier with all the different ways you can build your digital presence. Online lead generation targets potential customers through digital platforms such as your website, email, webinars, and social media.
Offline lead generation uses traditional offline channels to build your audiences such as newspapers, television, radio, and physical events.
While they are exactly as they sound, online and offline lead generation aren’t exactly as simple as they sound. These two methods of lead generation can intertwine. For example, you may host a webinar (online), send out an email invite with a link to signup (online), but also have a signup sheet in your store (offline).
Now that you have a clear picture of the inbound and outbound approaches, as well as the online and offline channels for lead generation, let’s put them together for some realistic examples.
• A new fitness center sends a postcard out to all residents of the surrounding area about an open house.
• An accountant produces a radio ad during tax season to call for a free consultation.
• That same fitness center runs a display ad that shows up in front of people shopping online for workout clothes or equipment.
• A salon creates a Facebook Ad with a 20% promo code, that shows up in users’ News Feeds.
• An interior designer hosts a free workshop on DIY dining room decor.
• Photographer offers to do free headshots at a local professional networking event.
• Personal trainer writes blog posts on health and wellness, accumulating traffic to their website that has a contact us form.
• Local pastry chef uses SEO to show up first on directory searches such as Google Maps.
Lead generation is crucial to your small business. Now that you understand and have examples for the four key areas of lead generation: inbound, outbound, online, and offline, you can put them to use to grow— your small business.