In the digital age, businesses have more ways than ever to attract new customers. Which lead generation strategies, or channels, are the most successful? That often depends on who you are trying to reach – and what you are selling. But the following nine approaches are considered by sales and marketing experts to be the most effective.
“Did you know that 82 percent of B2B decision makers start the decision-making process with a referral?” says Alex Kehaya, founder, ActionWins. “The fact is, leads that come from referrals convert faster, have low cost of acquisition and have higher customer lifetime values than any other leads. If you have a great product already, chances are that you are seeing growth via word of mouth.”
To help with referrals, get “software that allows you to track your referral program’s performance,” he suggests. “And start thinking about the best rewards to incentivize your customers to refer their friends.”
2. Search engine optimization (SEO)
“The best way to generate cost-effective leads is to optimize your website to rank well for target terms that prospects would use to find your business,” says Kent Lewis, founder and president, Anvil.
“Using engaging content that is created around keyword research, to pull potential customers from search engines like Google and bring them to your website or a specifically designed landing page,” is a great way to attract new customers, says David B. Cuevas, inbound marketing manager, InTouch Marketing. It “gives the user exactly what they are looking for and starts the process of building trust and loyalty.”
Then, “by adding additional resource information designed around that essential search, you can begin to draw the customer down your sales funnel and ultimately reach your goal of a call, consult or free quote,” says Cuevas.
3. Targeted online advertising
“[Another] effective way to generate high volumes of leads is via paid search and social media advertising,” says Lewis. “Automated bid platforms allow businesses of all sizes and shapes to target prospects with advertising. While Google owns a majority of market share, Facebook, LinkedIn and others are making headway,” he notes. And these platforms allow you to “target [prospects] based on demographics, psychographics, geography and more.”
To get the most bang for your online buck, “target the platform that your buyers are most likely to use on a consistent basis,” says Rachel Rapoza, marketing manager, OnForce. “For instance, if your buyers are older, Facebook and LinkedIn are good options; if your buyers are under 30 [or your product benefits from photography or video], Instagram is a good option. [Just] make sure your ads and landing pages are mobile friendly.”
4. Social listening
“With the rise of social chatter, smart businesses are winning big with real-time marketing thanks to social listening tools like BuzzSumo, Mention and Sprout Social,” says Mandy McEwen, founder and CEO, Mod Girl Marketing. “These tools give businesses the ability to see who is talking about them and what is being said, allowing them to learn about their customers and what they’re looking for.
“Social listening also provides an opportunity for businesses to engage in conversations with their audience and respond to questions and issues as they arise,” she explains. “By staying on top of the conversation, businesses are more in tune with their audience and can deliver what they’re looking for.”
[ Related: 9 big small business social media no-nos ]
“Instagram can be an effective tool for generating sales leads, especially if the product or service you provide is visual in nature,” says Nicole Delorme, marketing & sales manager, Tigris Events. However, “it's important to use hashtags with specific keywords to make it easier for prospective customers to find you.”
6. Email marketing
“Email marketing is still one of the most effective methods out there for gaining a steady stream of qualified leads,” says Yuliya Maystruk, marketing associate, Enplug. “Use drip marketing automation software to effectively target only opt-in leads or prospects from your database in order to protect your ISP domain. These emails can come from folks who visit your website’s landing pages, engage with you on social media or download e-books from your website.”
[ Related: 14 email marketing mistakes to avoid ]
“[If you] use an engaging, personal subject line, write a concise, non-sales-y proposition and include a couple relevant links and CTA for your target audience,” she says, your email campaigns “will be sure to generate a steady influx of interest in no time.”
7. Direct (personalized) mail
“Everything old is new again,” says Jim Ninivaggi, senior vice president, strategic partnerships, Brainshark. “Encourage sales reps to send a targeted, tailored letter [not a form or generic mailing] to a prospect via U.S. Priority Mail.
“We all get hundreds of emails every day – but we get less and less physical mail,” he points out. “Sending a note through Priority Mail ensures it will get opened and read. [Just] be sure… [to] explain why you are reaching out and how your company might help, while also including a request for action.”
“A great way to generate new leads is by engaging with your audience [via] a podcast,” says Brandon Welch, founder, Doxy.me. “Businesses and consumers alike are beginning to tap into this market [podcasting], and there is a ton of growth potential. What makes podcasting special is the fact that aside from streaming it, you can also download the content and play it anywhere. It’s [a] perfect… opportunity to promote your business.”
[ Related: 6 ways video can boost your business ]
“When used effectively, webinars can be an extremely powerful and cost-effective tool for sales organizations of all sizes,” says Daniel Waas, director of marketing, GoToWebinar, Citrix. “An effective sales pitch delivered during a free webinar can convert better than almost any other sales medium,” he argues.
“In addition, webinars encourage list building as they allow presenters to gather login details from attendees, making it fast and easy to build email lists of prospective buyers. With these helpful reporting and analytics capabilities, sales people can easily turn qualified leads into customers.”