The business world is difficult especially for small businesses.
The big guys have large marketing budgets and room to push others out of the way.
But the Internet is the great equalizer. With online marketing efforts the small guys out there have an opportunity.
If you’re looking for ways to generate leads online then we’ve put together some ideas.
These are 10 ways you can generate leads online. Some take a little time. Some take a little investment. Each takes hard work that will likely pay off in the long run when you start taking leads away from your slow competition.
1. Business Website
The first thing small businesses need to do to find leads online is to create a business website. You can get away without one for a little while, but if you want to earn respect and trust from your potential customers you need a legitimate business website.
Investing your time and effort into a single social media profile like Facebook or Google+ is risky. You don’t control those platforms. With a website you are in control.
On your website you control the content, the design and the calls to action that turn visitors into leads into new customers.
I come from the direct mail world and the catalog industry. There was a saying that the money is in the list. It was true, but you could only generate money from a list if you had the right people.
The email industry has gotten in a little trouble with generating leads over the last 10-15 years. So many emails today are all about discounted prices. Look at your inbox and count the number of discount emails versus regular emails.
You can’t just giveaway things to build an email list and even a social media following.
What I like to do is offer content, which I consider part of the product a potential customer buys. At GBW we offer the content on our blog up front to earn trust with prospects. It’s the early part of the service.
Over time those subscribers turn into leads and customers, but it starts with something substantial and not something that’s discounted.
I’m really starting to come around to the idea of video as a lead generation engine.
A friend of mine, as I’ve said before, has had great success with YouTube videos and generating leads for his small business. It’s time for GBW and another one of my companies to start using video. I’ll keep you posted on the success.
The videos don’t have to be Hollywood movies. Keep it professional and to the point and things should do well.
You’re looking to tap into the large audiences on video channels like YouTube. Those videos are seen by millions of people searching for info on YouTube and on Google.
4. Content Marketing
Content marketing is a pretty broad term encompassing a lot of things. For generating leads online I consider content marketing to be what HubSpot and their clients are doing with downloads.
You’ll see pages all over HubSpot with forms for downloading studies, guides and all kinds of things. This is content aimed specifically at capturing a targeted audience.
HubSpot doesn’t necessarily ask for a sale right away. They put the leads into their sales process and eventually turn those visitors into clients.
It’s a great strategy, but again, it takes time to build all the content, but once it’s done you can use it for the long-term to generate those leads online.
I separate blogging out from content marketing most times. You could put them together, but I think blogging should be high up on the priority list for your online lead strategy.
The blog here at GBW has been the biggest reason we’ve been successful. People find the posts through search and social. They read the blog. They subscribe. They learn what we’re about and they learn about business blogging.
After some time those new visitors turn into new clients and GBW grows.
Partnerships is another area where businesses – both offline and online – have been able to generate leads.
By teaming up together to create service packages or even content packages the two parties can combine their audiences and help each other grow.
You’re seeing this a lot today with guides and webinars where two businesses come together to share knowledge with a target audience. It’s a great strategy to grow an audience.
Sponsorships are nothing new. They’re quite common in the offline world and even in the online world. The idea is simple. It can cost a little bit of money, but you can find some good deals online.
What you’re looking for is an online community full of your target customers. It could be a blog or a forum. Seek out the person in charge and work out a sponsorship deal. Find ways to promote your brand and associate it with the community.
You’re looking to tap into the trust of the community so they trust you by association leading to new customers.
Some brands have even started their own communities using this strategy (American Express OpenForum, etc.).
We’re going to separate LinkedIn here from social media because I’ve been seeing some real benefits to generating leads with LinkedIn. You can do al the usual stuff that social media experts talk about like connecting, chatting and sharing information.
But it really does work over time. If your customers are business professionals just look to make as many connections as you can. Start sharing your blog posts and send regular messages to people and over time they’ll trust you and reach out requesting information about your company.
Start by connecting with people that fit your idea target customer.
9. Guest Content
Guest blogging is getting a bad rap lately. You could see it coming for a while because so many were guest blogging for the SEO benefit. Well, that was never the real reason to guest blog.
But guest content can do well if you approach it as a way to get exposure to other audiences.
You’re looking for that exposure and nothing else. Pick your places correctly and it can work great to build website traffic and leads.
10. Social Media Connections
LinkedIn is working out great for GBW and Twitter has done well to generate a few leads. The other social networks offer the same opportunities to generate leads online for small businesses. Find the ones that fit your target customer profile and get to work building an audience.
Make connections and share content from your blog and content marketing strategy.
Over time it can earn trust and build leads.
Now, the items listed above are not easy. That’s not the context of this post.
Each of these strategies presents an opportunity for your small business. You will probably get lucky a few times and have something happen overnight with a strategy like Twitter or partnerships, but these strategies are built for the long run.
The good news about that is once you start seeing success you’ll be years ahead of the competition.
If you start right now you get a head starts. It will be difficult for others, even the big players, to catch up once your inbound lead strategy is working to get you leads online.
Are you willing to invest the time?