Small Business Lead Generation. Spam & Cold Calling Don’t Work. This Does

Doug Staneart  |  July 2, 2023

Small Business Lead Generation Techniques that Actually Work Small business lead generation can be tough, time-consuming, and expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Once you identify who your top target audience is and what problems they have, you can get potential clients to contact you when they need help.

Every small business is the proverbial “Needle in the Haystack,” so small business lead generation is critical to an entrepreneur’s survival. And the better your sales team gets at lead generation, the faster your small business will grow into a big business. You need to create a strategy for finding new leads that become new customers.

Remember, it is a lot easier to turn a prospect or lead into a customer if the lead calls you versus when you call them. It cracks me up when I hear titles of articles, seminars, or books about how to “Make Effective Cold Calls” or how to “Warm Up Cold Calls.” Below are a few best practices that each is a great way of generating leads without an email list, a newsletter, or really, without ever having to make a cold call.

However, just like we covered in How to Network at Business Networking Events, business-to-consumer sales and business-to-business sales are totally different. So, developing qualified leads for consumers is totally different than generating qualified leads that are other businesses. So, as we go through the process, I’ll give examples of each type of lead generation strategy.

Here is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process for Small Business Lead Generation:

  1. Before You Spend Time or Money on Small Business Lead Generation, Identify Who Your Target Market Is and What Problems They Have.
  2. Create Brand Awareness by Posting Your Solutions to These Problems in Blog Posts and on Social Media Platforms.
  3. Catalog Your Small Business Success with Case Studies and Sharing Customer Successes.
  4. The Generate New Customers for Small Businesses, Focus on Referrals and Repeat Business.
  5. If You Have to Cold Call in the Digital Age, Call to a Targeted List Who Already Knows You.

Before You Spend Time or Money on Small Business Lead Generation, Identify Who Your Target Market Is and What Problems They Have.

Identify Who Your Target Market Is The first step in small business lead generation (or any lead generation campaign) is identifying your target market. All your marketing efforts will fall flat if you try to sell to everyone. The more vague your target market is, the harder it will be to find out what problems you can solve for them.

For instance, let’s say you are a Realtor. If your target market is “anyone who wants to buy or sell a house,” you will fight for scraps against every other realtor. However, if you focus just on rental houses, that is a more niche market. By making that slight alteration, finding new potential ideal customers is much easier.

Here in Texas, homeowners can apply for a Homestead Exemption to reduce their property taxes. They can only use that exemption if they live in their own home, though. So, getting a list of homeowners who don’t live in their homes is pretty easy. Making that slight alteration to the target market allows for a whole new marketing strategy.

​Another example might be a web designer who just finished a new website for an event venue. He may have had to do a lot of custom coding to allow the venue to sell show tickets. So instead of marketing to other industries, he could target other event venues in cities worldwide. The best part is that each additional website gets easier and takes less time to develop. So profit goes up.

Once You Identify the Target Market, the Problems Solved Are Easier to Identify.

For each of these examples, the problem solved got easier once the market became more targeted. When the realtor focused on rental properties, the problem solved was keeping rental tenants and collecting rent. With the web developer, the problem was keeping track of sold and available seats in an event venue.

Years ago, my wife and I bought a duplex. After a few years, the whole process became a real pain. We had tenants who sometimes didn’t pay rent. We had to evict someone once. In addition, every time someone moved out, we had to remodel the place. It was a hassle. Eventually, we sold the house for a profit. But the memories of all the challenges still lingered.

​Years later, we bought another piece of rental property. This time, though, I found a realtor who specialized in rental properties to find tenants, collect rent, and clean and remodel the place between leases. He was solving specific problems for me, and I happily paid him a premium fee to do it.

The same goes for the event venue owner. Selling the same event ticket to two different people is a huge challenge. A venue owner who can avoid that challenge will pay a premium fee for that service.

The key to this step is putting yourself into the shoes of your prospective customers and figuring out what challenges do they hate the most. Once you figure those challenges out, move on to step two…

Create Brand Awareness by Posting Your Solutions to These Problems in Blog Posts and on Social Media Platforms.

Create Brand Awareness by Posting Your Solutions The Internet is the great equalizer for small businesses. Big businesses have websites. But their bureaucracy forces them to implement new technology very slowly. They can easily miss new opportunities. However, a nimble small business can capitalize on these opportunities immediately. So once you identify these potential challenges for customers, write blog posts about the solutions. Then, once you have a well-written blog post, share a link to the post on social media. No need to create a “landing page” that promises the world and collects email addresses. Instead, just put a form at the bottom of the post so prospective customers can request information.

This is really the best way to increase your customer base. If potential customers in your target audience go to Google or other search engines and look for a solution to this problem, they find your information. This valuable content increases the conversion rate of generating new customers exponentially.

Logically, this is why this is your most important goal for your small business. When someone has a question, where do they go for an answer now? In decades past, if you had a challenge or a question, you might ask a friend or coworker. Or if it was a really big problem, you might go to the library and search for an answer. Today, though, people go immediately to Google. The listings at the top of the first page have a lot more credibility than the ones on the second, third, or four-hundredth.

If your small business is listed at the top of the results when they enter their question, and then they click through to your website and get the answer to that question, your small business is now at the top of their shortlist for solution providers.

In Digital Marketing, How Do I Make Sure My Target Audience Gets Access to My Post with the Solution?

The number one rule for content marketing is to create good content. Web developers use search engine optimization techniques to get blog posts to rank higher in search engines like Google. And good websites that load quickly, use dependable servers, and are optimized for the user always rank higher. So a high-quality web developer can be an asset for business owners. Let’s assume that the website itself is of the highest quality, and we just want to focus on how to write a post that ranks well.

Search engines use three things to determine webpage rank. First, they look at how many other web pages on the internet are linking to that website. When another website links to a page on your website, it is saying that you are a credible source. Second, they look at how long it takes the page to load and become interactive for the user. Slow webpages are annoying for users, so they don’t rank as well. Finally, they look at how long someone stays on a webpage before hitting the back button and searching for something else. This is the big one when you are posting solutions to problems.

The longer you can keep someone on your webpage, the higher the page will rank on Google. We’ll cover more tips to get to the top of search engines in future posts.

Getting customers to find you on the internet is critical. If your prospective customers call you, you have a higher chance of turning that lead into a customer. In contrast, if your small business is listed at the top of page two in search results, to have someone contact you, they will have already looked at listings from at least 10 other competitors. Most potential customers will not be that thorough.

Catalog Your Small Business Success with Case Studies and Sharing Customer Successes.

Your happy customers are your best lead-generation tools Your happy customers are your best lead-generation tools. Thanking your customers in social media posts can spur them to share the post, comment, or just talk about it to friends. This can create the elusive word-of-mouth advertising that we all covet.

Since we sell out team-building services to other businesses, our case studies can be an effective marketing tool. For instance, we lead dozens of activities like this every week. So, we have hundreds of case studies posted on our website. (See Team Building Case Studies.) Since we have so many, we can now target them for specific types of clients. For example, if a client shares the post on their Facebook page, Instagram feed, or LinkedIn profile, now other departments within that same company now see the post.

My wife, Laoise, owns a bakery. (See Emerald Door Bakery.) When someone wants custom cookies for a wedding or special occasion, she always posts the completed order to her Facebook page. Within hours, she gets additional orders for new versions of the same type of cookie. Keep in mind that the social media accounts are her only lead-generation channels. She spends no money on Google AdWords or any other type of advertising. So if you have the right kind of business, your customer success stories can be one of the best lead generation tools available.

The Generate New Customers for Small Businesses, Focus on Referrals and Repeat Business.

Focus on Referrals and Repeat Business According to Harvard Business Review, it costs up to seven times more money to find a new customer than to resell an existing customer. So looking for repeat business is way more profitable than trying to find new customers.

For the last couple of years, one of our biggest clients has been JP Morgan Chase. It is a huge company with hundreds of thousands of employees. However, because they have so many employees, it is very difficult to find the appropriate title or department to market our service to.

However, my instructor who works with them noticed that one of the locations has hired us for three consecutive meetings. The woman who organized each of the events had a specific title, “Senior Administrative Assistant.” He also knew that she was an assistant to a specific title in the organization as well. So, we just went to LinkedIn Navigator and searched for everyone with both of those criteria. We ended up with 97 people. This was a much easier list to market to than the hundreds of thousands of employees of that company.

In the old days (pre-smartphone,) pizza companies and hair salons figured this out. They gave everyone a punch card with a get your 10th pizza (or haircut) free. Now with mobile apps, it is even easier. Between you and I, I use two fast food apps all the time — McDonalds and Chick-fil-a. If you want to pattern a repeat business app for your small business, look at these two apps. They know how to get people to come back over and over.

If You Have to Cold Call in the Digital Age, Call to a Targeted List Who Already Knows You.

Cold Call to a Targeted List Who Already Knows You Cold calls, email spam, popup windows, forced “opt-in” subscribers, etc. just don’t work very in this digital age. (I’m not sure any of them ever worked very well for very long.)

For instance, I get blast email spam from companies guaranteeing they can get my website to the top of Google in 48 hours. Seriously? Do you think that if they could actually do this that they would be wasting their time spamming millions of people trying to beg someone to buy their service?

Last month, there were 165,000 people who went to Google and searched for the term “Google search optimization.” If they could get to the top of Google with just that one term, they would have about two million people potential leads coming to them every year. So why would they need to spam people?

If you are so good at what you do, why are you spamming me? Why are you cold calling me? Why are you trying to force me to subscribe to your newsletter? The truth is that cold calling and spamming people shows desperation, not success.

So, instead of cold calling or sending out email blasts, look for patterns from your buyers. Then, once you find that pattern, a more targeted list is much easier to use as a small business lead generation tool. For instance, the JP Morgan Chase list that we found is an ideal cold-call list. First, we have conversation starter — the administrative assistant who has bought from us over and over. Second, we know what the specific needs of the new potential buyers are because of the other contracts we have already fulfilled.

So if you have to cold call, do it in a smarter way. If you do, you’ll have much more success.

So If You Own a Small Business and Need to Generate New Leads, Follow These Simple Steps.

So forget the cold calls and spam, use your website to get more leads to call you. First, identify who your target market is and what problems they have. Next, post solutions to these problems on your website and social media. Share your customer success stories with the world. Focus on referrals. And finally, if you do have to cold call, make your calls to a targeted audience.

If you do these things, you generate tons of new customers!

author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
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