Qualified leads are critical to growing your small business to the level of success you want. However, most business owners struggle with finding qualified leads for a local business. Developing a strategy can help you ensure your business succeeds long-term.
This article details what a lead in marketing is, where to find them, and how to convince qualified leads to sign with your company.
What is a lead?
When you begin looking at how to grow your business, there is a lot of jargon and complex procedures. These procedures may improve your business, but only if you implement them in a way that works for your company.
A lead is a person or company that could use your products. However, some definitions specify that it must be someone who might eventually become a client, which rules out some people in the pool.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is the actions or processes you take to convert potential customers into buyers. It is an ongoing process for most businesses, and you will adjust the process over time.
Lead generation is critical. Without it, you won’t have a steady stream of customers for your business, which will make it challenging to grow. However, with lead generation, you can grow beyond your immediate local area if you want.
An important part of lead generation is qualifying leads. Many people could use your products but will not buy them for various reasons, including budgets, authority, needs, and the timing of your offer. Qualifying leads will help you focus your efforts and budget.
The most common way of classifying leads is by creating a funnel. Funnels start with all of your potential clients to generate interest and then use specific actions those people take to move them toward buying.
The top of the funnel is shown to all of your potential customers, whether they’re local or not. It’s where you use small offers, lead magnets, and even the option to request more information to see which sales leads are interested.
If someone takes action on the things at the top of your funnel, they move to the middle stage. Your business may have multiple middle stages or a single one. In the middle stage, you should know which customers are interested, and that might take you up on bigger offers you have.
Once someone reaches the bottom of the funnel through their actions at the top and middle stages, they’re considered a hot or qualified lead. These leads are ready for your big offer, including signing long-term or large contracts.
It’s important to understand that not all leads make it to the qualified stage in the process of qualifying leads. This dropout is natural, and it’s why the analogy of a funnel is used. You can improve your strategy, but even the best funnels lose some.
Places to look for qualified leads
Potential customers do not simply exist in a vacuum, and asking what is a lead in marketing does not tell you all about them. Instead, they have hangouts, places they visit, demographics, and more. Once you know these places, you can find qualified leads that match your business’ sales lead or ideal client definition.
Google is a wonderful resource for information to build your strategies. It’s also a great way to find other businesses that might need your goods or services or be open to potential strategic partners. It’s also a great way to find possible mentors to help take your company to the next level.
Google is also often an effective avenue for local and not-so-local small businesses through its advertising services. Google Ads can be very targeted, which means it includes options for a geographical area, demographics, and more. If you know what your sales lead definition is, you can quickly find more like them using the platform.
Other targeted advertising
There are many platforms for businesses that allow you to target ads to find customers in a local area. For example, Facebook and Instagram will both target specific areas, and more platforms are adding the feature.
Targeted advertising may seem challenging for small businesses, and the practice is an investment like any other. The trick is to start small and evaluate your results regularly while also giving the campaigns about a week to work at a time.
Business directories offer two benefits: recognition and options. Listing yourself in a directory allows potential clients to find you from a reputable source. Plus, there is little to do with a directory once you list yourself.
Additionally, you can look in business directories for new clients. While cold calling and emailing may present a challenge, the results for your small business could be well worth the investment of time and energy using the contacts from a directory.
Local referral partnerships
Referral partnerships are a form of strategic alliance for your business. Through this, you recommend other partners, perhaps not in the same field, and they recommend you. This option often works well in related industries, like real estate and construction/remodeling.
You need an arrangement with one or more local partners to all refer each other for this to work. Otherwise, you’re simply a good community member without the agreement and won’t receive the benefits.
Build a local social media following
Social media may help you reach a broad audience, but it can also help you grow a local one. Start at your location with signs advertising your social media presence and requesting people follow.
Many common tricks for creating a social media following, like doing contests and getting shoutouts from other businesses, work well on the local scale. You can even use twists, like developing a scavenger hunt that several local companies share on their profiles.
Check out in-person networking
Your area should have in-person networking events from a local chamber of commerce meeting to regional trade conferences. Each of these is an opportunity to get your business in front of more people, and many business owners use them to network amongst themselves as well.
Consider business cards with your professional photo on them for maximum impact rather than just your company logo. This trick helps people remember your face and what you said when they later sort out their business cards.
In-person networking for qualified leads can seem challenging, but honesty is still the best policy. Of course, you should follow the standard advice for networking, such as dressing well, being able to explain what you do, and letting the other person do most of the talking.
Contribute to your community
Contributing to your local community is a fabulous way to get your name out there. This not only supports the community you work in, but it also shows qualified leads what you are committed to. Often this community work can be a tipping point between buying and not.
Finding ways to become involved in the community should be straightforward if you’re a local business. You can choose a single cause, like a community center, or spread out activities where you donate time and labor.
Get a qualified lead to sign
Once you find qualified leads that meet your sales lead definition, you need to actually convince them to buy. Your process may vary slightly depending on your business focus, but there is some universal advice.
Develop a professional presence
Any qualified lead you have will encounter your company’s digital presence so you must have a reputable one, or you might as well not ask what a lead is in marketing. Equally as important, you must have a presence.
The foundation of your digital presence is your website. You want something modern and uncluttered that links out to all your social profiles. You do not need a social profile on every platform, although you should pick at least a few you know your qualified leads hang out on to keep them updated.
All of the information about your company and offers should not be hidden behind a contact us form, email subscription, or other option that makes it difficult to find. These actions can drive qualified leads away, even if it may seem like it makes your job easier.
Someone should be able to spend 30 seconds on your homepage, for example, and know exactly what your company does. You should also have the information about your offers either summarized on the homepage or readily available on dedicated campaign pages.
Following up is one of the best things you can do for your business, and it greatly improves the rate of conversion amongst your qualified leads. A simple follow-up schedule one day after contact and a week after that will work with many qualified leads.
You may also want to follow up with a particularly qualified lead more often, especially on higher-value projects. This is part of your customer service as a small business and should continue throughout the project or delivery.
Develop a system
No matter what your niche is, developing a system for developing and converting qualified leads is key. Having a system delivers a consistent experience to your qualified leads and makes the process easier for you as well.
A system does not need to involve software, though it can help as your business grows. It can be as simple as jotting down a plan in a document with a few ideas on how to start each conversation with leads.
Finding and converting qualified leads is vital to your business’s success in both the short and long term. After the first step of determining your small business’s sales lead definition, you can develop the right system for your small business.