At Ghost Blog Writers, our target clients are small businesses.
We work with small business owners, managers and marketers all the time and the biggest challenge that comes up is finding leads.
Small businesses are up against larger businesses. Those large firms have marketing budgets. Often, small businesses have a small budget for marketing making it difficult to compete.
The large firms can afford to buy lists, ads and other forms of paid lead generation. It’s frustrating, but there are two advantages for small businesses.
First, small businesses are more nimble. They can move fast and innovate when it comes to things like the product, service and marketing strategy.
Second, small businesses have an advantage when it comes to earning free small business leads.
If you’re a small business owner and have the drive to generate free small business leads, but need a few ideas then keep reading.
We’ve put together 10 ways to get free small business leads.
Let’s work together to beat those large firms.
Ideas to Get Free Small Business Leads
The number one way for small businesses to get leads is through referrals from current clients. It’s called word of mouth or simply getting referrals. You do a good job and your current clients share your name with their contacts when those contacts inquire about your industry or service.
Referrals happen because you offer a great product or service and provide great support. This is more of a general business best practice than a lead generation idea so we’ll talk about it up front, but there is one thing you can do to improve your referral odds.
Asking your current clients for referrals is an easy way to get new small business leads yet we often don’t do it. Asking for something can feel weird. It’s a form of solicitation, but as long as you don’t overdo it you’ll actually find that your clients will be more than willing to help out.
Simply send an individual email to your best clients. Let them know you’re looking to add new clients this month. Ask them if they know anyone that would be interested. Ask for contact information and use your client as a way to introduce yourself to the new contact.
Growing a business requires growing your audience. Think of a new singer or artist. They need to grow their audience. They open up shows for bigger artists as a way to tap into an existing audience. They go to radio stations and try to get their songs played to get exposure to new audiences.
These are forms of partnerships with other brands that already have audiences.
To grow your audience you need to partner with other businesses. You can actually do that with some of the ideas of this list. Partner with a company to create a webinar. Write an article that they could include in their business newsletter. Host an event with them.
Some forms of sponsorships require only time instead of money. Local events are always looking for people to help.
Local business organizations usually have speakers discuss certain aspects of business. If your clients are small business owners you could offer to give a talk or presentation. It takes your time and effort, but usually doesn’t require money.
Both offline and online events are popular. It’s a chance for people with similar interests or concerns to get together. You could put on these events yourself.
Tweetups have become a popular way for people that know each other from Twitter or other social media to get together for drinks. You can add structure to these events by organizing talks and presentations.
As the organizer you get the most attention for your brand, which is the first step to generating leads.
5. Social Media Mentions
Social media sites have a great feature allowing you to mention others. It might be with a tweet or message on Google+.
Again, you want to focus on people that have large audiences and you have to focus on creating a message that benefits the person you’re mentioning.
For example, a few weeks ago I switched my website hosting service. I mentioned the change in a tweet and included the owner of the site in the tweet. They retweeted the message and it was seen by his followers (100,000+).
A few people reached out to GBW immediately to inquire about the service.
Don’t go overboard with mentioning. That’s spam. Always focus on something the other person will care about.
Do it consistently and over time you should bring in free small business leads.
6. Social Media Discussions
Online forums have been around for nearly 20 years. They’re still great for meeting new people, participating in conversations and growing awareness for your brand.
Social media sites like Google+ and LinkedIn still have forums or groups where you can participate with your target client. Always look to provide valuable information to the conversation. This usually doesn’t mean simply sharing your blog post links.
It means answering questions, asking questions and providing feedback.
The more you help the more you’ll get noticed, which is again the first step in generating leads.
7. LinkedIn Connections
If your target client is a business professional then LinkedIn is an ideal place to spend your time.
Look to make connections with the people you know. Then browse their connections to see if there is anyone that would make a worthwhile connection for you and your business.
It’s easy for someone to accept your connection request and if they see your service and are interested they’ll reach out for information. It’s a free small business lead that could turn into a client.
I’ve had this happen a few times already for GBW.
Webinars have become really popular. I used to think people only participated in webinars so they could pretend like they were being busy at the office for an hour, but now I believe there is real value in (some) webinars.
The concept is for you to take your knowledge and share it with people in a very interactive way using online technology.
As we mentioned above, it’s hard to create a webinar if you don’t have a large audience. Find a complementary business that has a large audience. Offer to do all the work to setup and organize the webinar and co-host the event with them. You’ll be tapping into their audience as a way to expose your brand to new potential leads.
9. Videos, eBooks, Etc.
YouTube is one of the biggest search engines in the world. People are searching for all kinds of video when they’re on the site.
I’ve spoken with a number of small business owners that have created videos for very cheap or even for free. They put the videos on YouTube and get all kinds of viewers. Some of those viewers become leads and clients.
This strategy is really about creating content for sites that have audiences. It might be a video or an eBook or some other form of content that people can find and take advantage of because it’s valuable.
10. Small Business Blogging
At Ghost Blog Writers we’ve biased about blogging. We had to include it on this list, but we decided to put it as the last item.
We get most of our leads from traffic on our website. That traffic comes mostly as a result of our blogging efforts (see: GBW Case Study).
More and more small businesses are growing and getting leads as a result of blogging. One big example is Copyblogger where they started with less than $1,000 and their blog.
Each of these ideas have proven to generate leads for small businesses.
As you know by now, each requires time and effort, but nothing or very little in terms of money. For a small business owner with a tight marketing budget it requires time to build each of these strategies, but that work will develop the channels into long-term lead generation machines.
Once you’ve built each channel into consistent lead generators you can start getting those free small business leads and you’ll start approaching your large competition.
They’ll still be paying for leads and you’ll be getting them for free.