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How Do I Lead Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

by Todd Kasenberg

Lead generation is on everyone's mind these days.  It showed up as a top priority of business just before the onset of the recession.  (Hmm, a leading indicator?)  It peaked, of course, during the recession.  And it remains on our minds as we move past the recession into a new, more cautious equilibrium.

I've done a quick study on the web about lead generation.  When you do, you often get bogged down into notions about CRM software (yikes!) and "The Sales Funnel" (super-yikes!)  But to my read, and I was looking for specific "ideas" for sources of leads, there really wasn't much quality content on the web besides one good article.

So - I thought I would begin the process of creating... wait for it... the ultimate list of where (and in some cases, how) to get leads.

  1. Complementary or Partner Referrals - You ask the folks who partner with you, but who don't compete with you, if you might have names of some of their great clients in return for a trade from you.  Dave Lakhani gives intelligent pointers in his book "How to Sell When Nobody's Buying".
  2. Telemarketing - You call the folks who you think will be interested in your solution and invite their interest.  (Sounds simple, but isn't... my favourite resource is Art Sobczak when it comes to cold calling, although Little Voices training is also of some practical value.)
  3. Direct Mail - You send letters and flyers and brochures to the people you believe are suitable targets.  Like telemarketing, it is more complex than it sounds; there is a whole body of research out there addressing the design and execution of good direct mail.
  4. Email Marketing (+/- newsletter) - You can use email with your clients to prompt referrals, or you can send out industry news and educational tidbits.  The tough part is knowing whether your message got through junk mail filters... and I am convinced more and more folks have become blind to the email marketing campaign.
  5. Search Engine Optimization Activities - You can make your website tasty fodder for the search engines, and move up the Google and bing ranks so that your website shows up at/near the top when people search.  A tricky business best suited for expert advice and support.
  6. Advertising - In all of its myriad forms, advertising remains a player.  The real key is to know where your prospects "hang out"; what do they read, what do they watch, etc.  Too often it is like shooting a fly with an elephant gun.
  7. Event Marketing - Can include being on the floor at tradeshows, networking events, and online or telephone seminars as a value-add through which you stir up some prospects to become interested.  Event marketing warms up the lukewarm - the folks met are already interested in the "area" in which you work, which can be a blessed starting point.
  8. Report/Article Marketing - Sometimes, your unique insight into your solution can lend itself to the creation of reports or white papers which themselves can become a commodity.  If offered, be sure you can trap the names of those who "take it" so that you may follow-up.
  9. Current Client Upsell - Alright, maybe this is cheating - but your current clients should be like the old friends who are "gold".  There are opportunities with your current clients to sell more or different solutions.
  10. Media Activities - Yes, media and public relations activities can still drive some interest in what you are offering.  In the global environment created by the Internet, it is very possible to get a media release out there in cyberspace; the challenging part is to place it so that it gets attention and draws interest. Publishing a media release with each new product or solution launch is just good practice.
  11. Public Speaking - Making presentations to captive audiences that show your passion and understanding of a market can create leads and drive sales.
  12. Free Consultations - Offering a free expert consultation allows your targets to get a sense of who you are... which is important because people buy from people through relationships of trust.
  13. Cultivation Program - Sometimes, potential targets come to your attention from media about them, etc.  Cultivating them through a program or a campaign that generates periodic contact can powerfully influence them down the road.  It is, however, a waiting game.
  14. Sphere of Influence - The simple exercise of reviewing who you know, and sending them out correspondence about your solution, can work wonders - because it harnesses existing relationships.  Network sales organizations have been doing this for years!
  15. Business Card Giveaways - You've seen cards at the hairdresser (or the restaurant).  Get your cards working for you by paying these folks a small stipend for giving away your cards, and better yet, offer a small commission on each sale that results from such a channel. And work your business cards everyday by giving them out to people with whom you have contact.
  16. Work at a Client's Office for a Day - Show real commitment - and win not just loyalty, but insight into who your customer's customers are.
  17. Blog - If you've got a unique viewpoint and expertise and a way with words, you can create a channel to leads on the internet.  It does, however, usually require some patience.
  18. Social Media - LinkedIn exists to help business people network.  Why not leverage it?  Many LinkedIn folks are just like you - they want to meet new people and explore new business opportunities and possibilities.
  19. Give Value First - Sometimes, reaching out to your targets and offering them something of value can open up that relationship - which is so important in driving sales.
  20. Video Marketing - The fastest growing media solution on the web is not blogging, but video.  People just love being voyeurs, and looking in on the lives of others.  So - give them something big and juicy to contemplate, make an intelligent or charming or funny video, something that can go viral!

These are from my bag of tricks... I certainly welcome feedback and thoughts to build what I hope is the best list on lead generation on the web.


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