If cash is king, then customers are what keeps the kingdom fed. Without customers willing to pay for your product or service, you simply don’t have a business. So how do you create those all-important leads in a crowded B2B market, with little or no budget?
I’m a huge fan of the classic film Glengarry Glen Ross, and while much of the lessons for salespeople are more ‘how not to’ do something rather than ‘how to’ do something, there is one aspect of the film that is true. It is much easier to be successful in the marketplace if you have good leads. However, if you don’t have a big marketing department or budget, how can you create good leads? Below, I’ll give you some advice which should hopefully help you generate B2B leads, whatever business you’re in.
Firstly, a couple of basics to get right
Know who your target audience is. The key word here being ‘target’. Please don’t try to be all things to all people; put simply, it doesn’t really work. I see this more and more, having a long list of targets actually decreases your chances of being successful. It will create confusion for your customers and will most likely lead to a decrease in leads. Have a clear idea of the industry sectors and organisations you want to talk to. Then within those, know the job functions and most importantly, the people you want to talk to.
Understand your message. This is really basic, you need to understand how what you do helps people. For example, your product or service might solve a problem they have, it may help drive their business growth or it might help mitigate their risks. If you don’t understand this, then you’ll struggle to articulate it. If you can articulate your purpose clearly, it will help in two simple ways:
1. It will help you to make your website and other marketing material clear, that is, you’ll be giving a clearer message about what you offer
2. You’ll be able to answer the question about what it is that you do.
Then get your online presence right
Update your website / social media e.g. Facebook / LinkedIn company pages – This is really key in the B2B space. If you’re looking to buy or find out about a product or service, what is the first thing you do? No doubt you Google or search Facebook. This is why it is important that your digital presence reflects what you do. Make sure it is up to date and talks to your customers, not just about how great you are. Have some client quotes and testimonials on your website / social media pages too as this great article by fellow contributor Ingrid Moyle explains superbly.
Consider investing in a simple landing page – If you have any great content or a straightforward guide or toolkit that people will find useful then give it away on your website in exchange for someone’s email address. Landing pages can be bought for a small fee and are simple enough to use, you’ll usually get a free trial from people like Unbounce or Instapage amongst others. This will give you some contacts to follow up. All these products typically integrate with most marketing email providers too (e.g. MailChimp) if you want to set up some automatic email responses.
Update your personal LinkedIn profile – Whenever I work with clients, I ask them what they do before they meet someone for the first time. The most common answer I now get is that they look at their profile on LinkedIn, and maybe their company website. Your personal brand is massively important. Make sure you have a good photo, a headline which states how you help your customers, and a good bio which gives a succinct overview of what you do and the benefits your product or service can bring. If you’re looking for some simple tips on this, then you may find it helpful to listen to this from Flying Solo’s founder Robert Gerrish.
Next generate your own leads
Please don’t just sit there waiting for the phone to ring because it won’t. Don’t let a lack of budget or brand be a barrier to going and meeting people. The reality is, people get the greatest value from engaging in strong relationships that are founded on trust. Therefore, it’s your job to go out and try and build these relationships. Here’s a few tips on how to do it:
Network with consistency – Firstly, get out into the market place and meet your potential customers and attend to the things they find interesting, it will help you understand them and their market better. Secondly, if you regularly attend the same industry events it will help you look like the ‘go to’ person for whatever product or service you provide within that sector. This really works! Years ago I worked with a very introverted accountant who was struggling to win new clients. One thing he agreed to do was to regularly attend the same bi-monthly industry networking event. After about nine months he started to get people approach him when they needed some accountancy help, as they assumed he was an expert in that field – which luckily, he was.
Make those cold approaches – Personally, I don’t mind if you do these by phone or by email, that’s a debate for a different day, the main thing is, however uncomfortable it is, do them. When you look to book a meeting make sure you don’t try to pitch your service or product, instead offer to provide value to the other person in the time you propose to spend together. If you do this right, it should help you get that all important first meeting. To help you, try and say something more like:
“I was looking at your industry and wanted to share some insights on how we’ve seen others grow, perhaps you can let me know a bit more about what you’re trying to achieve and then hopefully at the end of our meeting I may have at least given you a couple of ideas that will help you.”
Now the above needs to be more specific to them but it gives you an idea of a better way to make the initial approach. When you get that meeting it is a great idea to plan properly for it, and this article Ben Paul wrote for Flying Solo may be helpful in that.
Make time for your sales / lead generation activities – This is simple and yes, it’s effective. I’ve known a very successful relationship builder in the services industry who had a regular Tuesday 10-10:30 am sales focus, re-occurring appointment in their diary. This appointment never moved and so the momentum was never lost. It works, whatever industry you’re in. Set yourself realistic targets to do two to three actions as a minimum in this time slot. Like the gym, once you’ve done this for three months or so it will become part of your work routine.
Hopefully the above gives you some useful hints and tips to create and generate your own leads on shoestring. Like many things, it comes down to being disciplined, not giving up and working hard at it.