Top Ten Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes

Doug Staneart  |  September 2, 2022
last updated

Ten Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make (and How to Avoid Them) Small Businesses are always looking for new lead generation ideas. But many of the things that entrepreneurs do before they even make their first cold call or before they attend their first business card exchange practically ensure that they actually fail in the Lead Generation department.

So, before you spend hours cold calling, create a lead generation strategy, hire a sales team, or do a lot of content writing, review this quick guide. Even if you have the best lead generation tools, your marketing efforts will flop if your online content makes you look small time. The good news is that making minor changes in your marketing campaigns help you get new customers into your sales pipeline.

The marketing strategies below can help.

In this post, I’m going to give you my top 10 mistakes that small businesses make when trying to find new customers. In addition, I’m going to give you a couple of simple solutions to each. Just follow this guide, and customers will actually come to you!

Below are The Top Ten Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make Related to Lead Generation for Small Business (and How to Avoid Them).

Mistake #1: Hiding Your Company from the World.

Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes The internet is a great equalizer for small businesses. However, you have to make it easy for people who are looking for your products or services to find you on the internet. Search engine optimization (SEO) should be your top priority as a small business owner. You have to make it easy for people to find your website when they search Google. All it takes is a bit of research and learning.

The keywords and phrases you use on your website are vital. When you design your content, you have to focus on what your customer wants. For instance, instead of writing content about being the best endodontist, write about straightening teenage teeth. If you create informative content, search engines will send people to your website.

Google picks top websites based on the frequency of people clicking on and staying on certain sites. It’s almost like a beauty pageant judge. Your pages are ranked based on how often they are picked by searchers. That rank determines your “findability.”

One of the easiest ways to rank better is by starting to post your knowledge. Share with the world what makes you an expert! Write some blog posts. Spread free knowledge. If it’s worth buying or saves people time, they’ll investigate your company further. The more you share, the more people see you on social media platforms and learn about you. The more they learn, the more they’re likely to become qualified leads and soon-to-be customers. If your content is worthwhile, your customer base will seek out more. Give them a web form to offer their contact details. Definitely, collect their email addresses. If you also collect a phone number, though, you’ll increase your closing ratio dramatically.

Mistake #2: “I’m a Really Small Company” Website.

I am a Really Small Company Website Ever had a person hand you a business card with rough edges from separating it at the perforation? A cheap, printed at-home business card says, “small time.” Similarly, a homemade-looking website is a neon sign saying, “I’M A SMALL BUSINESS… Don’t trust me.” Small business owners have a better chance of gaining new clients and sales by creating a facade of being big.

Let’s say that you meet an ideal customer at a business function. You have a fantastic discussion, and this new best customer likes what she hears. You hand her your business card. Then, the next day, you follow up with her and just get her voicemail. Your emails go unreturned as well. What happened?

If your website doesn’t leave a great first impression, she may have been turned off by it. Your website should showcase your accomplishments. It should also provide potential customers with valuable content to help them solve problems.

If the site is too slow or complicated, your potential customer says “nope” and leaves.

However, if your website is professional, easy to navigate, and helpful, potential clients will stay on it longer. (This boosts your rankings on Google as well!)

Your target audience has a short attention span. So your site has to meet those needs. Make it easy to find what you’re selling or what answers their questions. Find a balance, too. Give your prospective customers some intellectual credit. They don’t want a super easy site either. Think about your go-to shopping sites (Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc). Now, think about what you like about them. Those same ideas or looks shouldn’t change just because you’re a small business.

Mistake #3: Creating a Confusing Perception in the Marketplace.

Confusing Perception in the Marketplace This mistake made early in a business’ history can follow you for years. Customers who see you promoting dissimilar product lines will wonder what exactly it is that you do.

The old adage is “The riches are in the niches.” Don’t try to solve every problem for every customer. Instead, figure out what you do better than anyone else. Then, focus on doing just that thing. Once you make a name for yourself in that specific area, then expand.

When Amazon first started, it sold books online. In fact, for the first four years, all they sold was books. Amazon got so good at selling books that Barnes and Noble struggled to keep up. Books-a-Million went out of business.

So, next, they started selling everything, right? Well… no. Next, they bought a few online bookstores in Europe so they could become the best in the world at selling books online. Only then did they dabble in other similar products starting with music and software.

One of the first major consumer staples outside of books and music was… wait for it… shoes. Amazon bought an established company called Zappos to do it, though. Zappos already had a bunch of customers. Amazon didn’t try to sell shoes to their book customers. Instead, they added to their brand by purchasing an established customer base.

Remember, the riches are in the niches. Get really good at a niche. Then, expand when it makes sense.

Mistake #4: I Can Do It on My Own Mentality.

Small Business Lead Generation Mistake I Can Do It on My Own Mentality We become entrepreneurs because we are experts in a specific industry. And we know that we can do that thing better than our competitors. However, we are never going to be experts in EVERYTHING. So it’s important to surround yourself with other experts in different industries.

You can contract work out through subcontracting or joint ventures. Or you can create alliances with other companies who support you but don’t compete with you.

A friend of mine in Austin used to work for Southwest Airlines. He worked his way up to the executive level. Because of this background, he is an absolute expert at building a fun team culture. When he retired, companies began hiring him to help them create this team culture. For the past few years, he has coached executives from a number of different industries.

From time to time, these customers would want help with creating a human resources department as well. Instead of researching HR department creation, he reached out to a friend with an HR background. She now pays him a commission whenever his customers hire her to help them as well. It is a great partnership.

Mistake #5: Offering Something that the Market Doesn’t Want.

Offering Something that the Market Does Not Want You might have a great product or service that people actually want to buy, but if you are promoting that product or service to a marketplace that doesn’t want it, you’ll go broke. If you are networking with other entrepreneurs and your services are for prime contractors, you’ll just become very frustrated. Find where people in your market gather and promote your company there instead. Meet your potential base where their specific needs can be met by your company’s products.

When I first started The Leaders Institute ® I had good expertise but no customers. I knew that my ideal customer was businesses with 10 to 20 managers but without a formal management training system. My thinking was that networking with small business owners would be a good source of customers. So, I went to every Chamber of Commerce meeting, small business breakfast, and Rotary club I could find. After six months, I was frustrated and still had few customers. (And none of the customers came from these meetings.)

Eventually, it hit me that the people who attended these meetings were salespeople. They weren’t executives looking to find a training company. My first big break came when I joined an association of business owners in the area. The members of this group were my ideal customers.

So, find out where your potential customers meet. Find out what they read. Then, promote yourself in these venues.

Mistake #6: Salesperson Fangs.

Salesperson Fangs This mistake is the absolute most annoying and will drive customers away in droves. It occurs when someone, out of genuine interest or, in some cases, just kindness, asks a question about what the person does for a living. In response, the person spends the next fifteen minutes talking about himself and how the listener really needs his product or service.

Just because your job comes up in conversation doesn’t always scream CLIENT or SALE! Oversharing about your company can actually turn people off and leave them with an awful impression of you and your business. Smaller businesses may be desperate for customers and business, but never let other people know that! Your client base and network will grow in time. Stay confident in your venture, and everything else will follow (with hard work).

Instead, become genuinely interested in the people that you meet. Let them do a lot of the talking. Let them tell you about how great they are. Take note of what they tell you. You may find the owner of the next Zappos or Amazon. As you network more, you may also find prospective customers for your new contact. Now, just introduce them to each other.

As Zig Zigler said, “If you help enough other people become successful, you can’t help but become successful yourself.”

Mistake #7: Casting Your Pearls before Swine.

Lead Generation for Small Business Mistake-Casting Your Pearls before Swine Just so you know, I’m not calling your prospects swine. I’m just saying that most small business people spend way too much time with people who they think are prospects but who have absolutely no chance of ever buying something from them. In order to be a good prospect for you, the person needs to have the resources to buy from you and the authority to buy from you. Don’t spend a lot of time and effort building a reputation amongst people who aren’t in and will never be in your market. Find where your market gathers and build your reputation there.

Back before the pandemic, I spend the last few weeks of 2019 analyzing my company sales leads from that year. I made a fascinating discovery. My sales team had a conversion rate of over 80% for teams of over 150 people. In contrast, we were only closing about 14% of inbound marketing leads with group sizes of fewer than 30 people. However, we were spending most of our time each week trying to close small deals. Once we found this out, we started using our CRM software (like Constant Contact) to automatically follow up with this type of request. Once we did, our revenue increased dramatically.

Our sales team now uses their time to follow up with customers who are most likely to buy from us. If the small group requester wants additional information, he or she can respond to one of the CRM emails. Now, our sales team is only working with the small groups that are likely to turn into more business.

Mistake #8: Giving a Pitch Instead of Solving a Problem.

Solve Problem not Sales Pitch Most people walk into a sales meeting with a pitch in mind. The meeting sounds like this…

“Thanks so much for meeting with me today. Let me start by telling you how we can help you because my company is the best at…

Before the prospect even identifies a problem or a need that she has, the pitch starts. We verbally jump all over the person with features and benefits about how great our product is.

Remember that a successful entrepreneur is one who solves problems for clients and customers. So, spend less time talking about yourself and ask more questions about the prospect. You’ll gain the best results by listening instead of talking. The more you let your prospective customer talk, the more you can learn. You will also be able to tweak your sales pitch to fit their needs. If you demonstrate how your company can solve her problems and fit her needs, she’ll buy from you.

Try this opening instead…

Thanks for meeting with me. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so we have a better idea of what we should be talking about? What are some of the frustrations that you currently have with your…?

Get your prospective client to tell you about her problems. Then, once you have a list of these challenges, now show her how she can eliminate those challenges if she works with you.

A Good Example of How the Right Questions Can Get a Prospect to Identify Problems He Didn’t Even Know He Had.

A few weeks ago, I had a custom suit salesperson call me. Now, although I have been a professional speaker for a couple of decades, I have never purchased a custom-tailored suit. Typically, I go to the department store, find a suit in my price range, wait for someone to measure me, pay for the suit, then wait a few weeks to pick it up. Inevitably, something will be not-quite-right, so I will have to wait a few more weeks for the corrections. The process is expensive and time-consuming.

So, this salesperson started the conversation by saying, “Just out of curiosity, are you to a point where you are beginning to wear suits more when you go out and speak?” During the pandemic, I wore blue jeans most days. However, now, I;m beginning to speak more in front of professional groups again. So, her first question hit home with me.

Next, she said, “Many of my customers have had changes in their body type and size during the pandemic as well. Do you happen to be in a similar situation?” I was. The point is, I bought a custom suit. I saved myself about three hours of time and ended up with the best-fitting suit I have ever owned.

She asked questions to get me to see that I had a problem that I didn’t even know that I had. Then, she offered me a solution that reduced my risk of making a change.

Mistake #9: No Follow-Up (Web Visitors and Leads).

Make Sure to Follow up With Every Potential Customer This has always been a big problem with face-to-face meetings. An entrepreneur collects a business card from a prospect and then just doesn’t do anything with it. You’d be shocked at the number of people who think that the value of going to a business card exchange lies in the number of cards you collect.

“Look, I’ve collected over 1000 business cards.”

“Really, what did you do with them?”

“Oh, I put them in this nice box. Some day, I’m going to go through them.”

I had a guy start up a conversation with me on an airplane once. He was a special forces guy who now works as a consultant for foreign allies of the US on protection details. He had a fascinating story. As I told him what I do, he mentioned that once he officially retired (later that year), he would love to be a speaker for my company. We exchanged business cards. I never heard from him again.

Many businesspeople fall into this trap.

In the digital age, though, this mistake is even more challenging. When website visitors request information, they expect instant gratification. The faster you follow up on website requests, the more customers you will work with.

For instance, if you look at most website statistics, you’ll see a number of “page views,” which is just the number of pages on your website that people have looked at in a given month. This number is almost always a BIG number, but then if you compare it with the number of people who actually request information from or buy from you, the latter is microscopic in comparison. More often than not, the big difference in numbers comes because we don’t make it easy for people to request information from or contact us.

Mistake #10: Slow Follow-Up.

Slow Follow-Up If you don’t follow up within 24 hours, your prospect will likely forget about most of what you talked about. People are extremely busy. If you follow up a week after you first speak, you will spend most of that time refreshing the memory of your prospective customer. You may also have a tough time getting them to return a call or respond to a text or email.

I call this the “enthusiasm lag.” When you speak with a prospective client and identify a challenge, the person is excited about the solution you offer. However, the moment that you end the conversation, the excitement starts to lower.

The longer you wait to follow up, the lower the excitement will be. During your conversation, the person is at a 100. Once you leave or hang up the phone, the enthusiasm level drops to 70. By the time you call in the morning, the person has dropped to about 50. The next day, the person is at 20, then 10, then 1.

So, if you catch the person at the 50 level and reiterate what you talked about the previous day, you may get her back up to an 80. However, if you catch her at a one, you will have a difficult time getting her back to even 50.

Website visitors are even less forgiving. Remember that people have a short attention span. If you don’t respond to them within a few minutes, they will forget about you. When we surf the internet looking for solutions to our problems. We want instant gratification. If we don’t get it, we just move on to the next site. Follow up quickly with your prospects, and you’ll increases sales dramatically.

One of the best ways to gain new customers is to use speed to your advantage. Our instructors often catch people off guard by how fast they turn around and reach out as soon as their lead hits our system. Your rapid connection is a great tool to gain new and potentially repeat business.

Solve Just a Few Small Business Lead Generation Mistakes, and Increase Sales Quickly.

If you solve just some of these challenges that many small businesses face, you’ll increase your income potential. Your company growth rate will also improve very quickly. The main thing to consider, though, is to become a problem-solver for your customers. If you can identify challenges and offer solutions for these challenges, you will generate a ton of new customers!

Don’t sell. Instead, be a respected consultant for your clients and customers. They will love you and refer you to new business.

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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