Finding people has never been easier. Social media has made everyone more accessible and email addresses have become the currency of the internet. But combing through vast numbers of contacts to generate qualified sales leads? That’s another story.
Boil down any successful lead generation strategy and you’re basically looking for ways to find and reach people who are most likely to buy from you. But how exactly do you find them?
That’s why before diving into the ways you can generate sales leads, you must first define your goals.
Is it quantity you’re after, or quality? What does that quality look like? Who are your ideal customers?
Quantity vs quality
Depending on your product, you might consider different approaches to generating sales leads. Some products benefit more from a quantity-focused approach while others require a quality-driven approach. Here are the perks and drawbacks of each:
Quality leads to higher conversion, while quantity can increase consumer awareness.
Here are a few scenarios to consider:
Company A: Ice cream
If you have a product that has mass appeal like ice cream, you might simply choose to play a numbers game and generate the most leads possible because the product isn’t niche enough that you need to spend a lot of time nurturing the lead.
Everyone knows what ice cream is. You don’t need to explain the product, nor is it restricted to a specific demographic. Anyone can enjoy your product as long as they’re not allergic to the ingredients. Purchase decisions are usually made on the spot and customers don’t need to think long and hard about whether it would be a good investment or not.
A quantity-based approach can work for this kind of product because almost anyone can be a potential customer. You don’t necessarily need to go to a specific place where ice cream lovers hang out in order to generate qualified leads. Anyone can give you an opinion on their favorite ice cream flavors or brands.
Because the barrier to entry is so low, your strategy can be to get the word out about your product to as many people as possible by:
- Providing free samples or coupons
- Talking to consumers on social media or in person
- Sending cold emails
Unless you spend time talking only to lactose-intolerant or vegan consumers, the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to increase sales.
Obviously, this is not to say that quantity should be your only focus. Targeting specific demographics does come into play because if you don’t have lactose-free or vegan products, your targeted customer demographic becomes slightly narrower. But compared to other products that have less mass appeal, focusing on quantity can be a good lead generation strategy.
Company B: Software
In contrast, if your product is software that helps businesses streamline their internal processes… even this description of the product feels jargon-y and the language definitely isn’t relatable to everyone.
Your customer segment becomes much narrower because not everyone needs your product. You’ll also likely have to spend more time nurturing a lead before they make a purchase as it’s a big decision for the company.
There are more hurdles to think about even after identifying potential leads:
- What if they’re already using similar software and don’t want to switch?
- What if your pricing falls outside of their budget?
- What if your pricing is not a problem for them but then there’s a budget cut that changes that?
- What if the person you contact at the company no longer works there?
Even after the lead moves to the next stage of the buying process, what if you spend a lot of time on the demo and trial period, answering all kinds of questions and scheduling multiple calls, only to have them decide not to buy?
In this case, generating as many leads as possible becomes less important than identifying people who would actually be interested in your product. Qualifying leads should be a priority in order to waste as little time possible reaching out to people who probably won’t make a purchase.
Compared to the ice cream example, even the same lead generation strategies need to be much more focused and discerning from the start. Cold emails sent to people who have no need of your software is a waste of time. Free trial periods will be disregarded if they have no interest in your product. Landing one solid customer is more important than generating a lot of low-quality leads. If you land a big enterprise company, not only does that generate a lot of revenue, but it can also lead to other referrals or smaller companies taking that as a sign of trust for your product.
Company C: Automobiles
Most products can benefit from an approach that combines both quantity and quality. A car is a product that does have mass appeal but requires much more investment from the consumer, both in terms of money and time spent researching the product.
A product like this might have multiple target demographics. For example, a company selling a car like a Honda Civic might want to reach:
- High school or college students who don’t have a lot of money to spare on cars
- People who are just getting their first car and don’t want anything too fancy
- Other budget-conscious consumers who want the most value for their money
While you will want to generate as many leads as possible, those leads must also fit your target demographic to ensure that they’ll actually convert and become customers. Even if you target people who are thinking of buying cars, someone who really wants a hybrid or luxury car is not your ideal lead.
Compared to the other examples above, a careful balance between quantity and quality here is your best bet in generating qualified sales leads.
Now that we’ve established some pros and cons of quality vs quantity-based approaches, we’ll go over a few key lead generation strategies and tactics that fall under each.
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Use your customer network through social listening.
Chances are if your customer appreciates your product or service, they know people like them who would also benefit from it.
According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising study, personal recommendations from people you know is still the number one most trusted method of making buying decisions (83%). This makes sense because as consumers, we’ve learned to become hyper-aware of the constant bombardment of ads from people trying to sell us things.
People trust personal recommendations more than any other form of advertising.
Now that there are social media ads in addition to TV and print advertising, it’s more important than ever to drown out the noise and go to a trusted source.
Many businesses use customer referrals as incentives to get more leads. If you’re in sales and you want to generate more qualified leads, using your customer network is one of the surest ways to bring in more warm or hot leads. Although you may have to rely on more one-on-one interactions, the leads you’ll get from that exchange can be more valuable than ones you get from an ad or cold outreach.
Of course, there are ways for customer referrals to lead to quantity as well as quality leads. A referral from someone with a large reach like a big brand or an influencer can generate many sales leads you might not have been able to generate on your own. But these leads should theoretically be better from ones you can get from a cold outreach because it’s still a referral from a company or person consumers trust.
Whenever you establish a relationship with a customer, ask them if they know anyone who might be interested in your product or service. But don’t just stop there. Go a step further and personalize the appeal. Tell them you’re trying to reach certain types of customers and would like to talk to some to get their insight or opinion on your product or service.
If you’re just being sales-y and clearly want referrals to reach your sales quota, customers will pick up on it right away and it can negatively affect your relationship with them. But if you’re authentic in your approach and genuinely wanting to receive their thoughts and ideas, they’ll appreciate your sincerity and be more willing to help you out.
You can do this by engaging them in an actual conversation rather than just asking for referrals. For example:
A: “If you know anyone else I should reach out to, please let me know. I’d really appreciate it!”
This doesn’t engage your customer at all. Why should they help you do your job? What’s in it for them?
B: “You mentioned that your biggest pain point is X. This is actually something we really care about improving for our customers, and why we built our product. Do you know anyone else we should reach out to that has this specific problem?”
Now you’re demonstrating that you want to have an actual conversation. What’s more, you’re engaging the customer by making them feel like they can also help others who are in the same boat while making it clear you empathize with their problem.
Let’s compare two different ways––one physical, one virtual––to use your customer network to generate leads:
See who’s attending trade shows and conferences.
Attending a conference guarantees that you’ll be in a room full of people who are already interested in a specific field. To generate sales leads, you need to be in the spaces where your customers hang out. Ask them if they’re attending any industry events in the coming year and see if you can benefit from attending them as well.
Events like this can be time-consuming and costly to attend, but leveraging this opportunity even just once a year can be a way to snag some quality leads. Because people who attend these events are proactive, looking to connect, and even authorized to spend on behalf of their companies, they’re great leads to build relationships with. Even if they don’t end up generating direct sales, they can be a source of referrals.
Here are some conference networking tips:
Can’t attend the event? You can still check out which conferences your customers are attending and collect the contact information of attendees in your target audience on conference websites or registries by signing up for the conference or looking up attendee/speaker information.
(Often if you’re registered for a conference, you might get an invitation to join an app, group, or other way to network so you can connect with other attendees.) If this isn’t an option, most websites will still have information on the companies and buyers who’ll be either speaking, attending, or sponsoring the event. You can use this information to look up their contact information on LinkedIn or social media.
Think of it this way. Someone already has a list of people who would benefit from your product. The bigger the conference, the bigger the list. Why not use it as a source for quality leads?
Listen in on social media conversations.
Social media is the newest and perhaps easiest medium for generating leads because you don’t have to go anywhere and it’s easy to see how many people viewed your ad, retweeted your tweet, or watched your video.
If you want to focus on quality on social media, you need to spend more time listening than you do talking. Sure, publishing an ad with relevant algorithms can reach a wide audience, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any closer to understanding what customers need and want.
Social media can be a great place to find out what conversations are happening in your industry or field. This leads to opportunities for social selling because you’re engaging with your customers, their networks, and a potential audience in your target demographics.
Each medium has slightly different ways of engagement. For example, let’s compare how to do this on Twitter and Facebook.
To discover the spaces where you want to be, find out what hashtags on Twitter (this is just one way of finding them) are the most popular for a specific demographic or industry and join in these conversations to see who’s participating.
Find out the most popular hashtags in your space to join the conversation.
To make the most of these hashtags, remember these tips:
- When tweeting, make sure to use these hashtags so people can discover your tweets and account.
- Participate in live Q&A’s or discussions that are often promoted with a relevant hashtag, or host one yourself.
- Monitor your @ mentions and respond in a timely manner to any questions and concerns.
Example of how to host a live Q&A on Twitter
Facebook groups can be just as effective, if not more so than engaging on Twitter. These are online spaces for people to hold longer discussions about topics they’re interested in.
If you’re a real estate agent, join Facebook groups for people looking for housing. These are engaged consumers who will likely appreciate your personalized outreach and can help you connect to even more leads.
University of Washington housing Facebook group
There are groups for just about any interest or locale. These are also great places to announce any events you’re hosting, whether it’s an actual physical event or a webinar. You have a few different options for how to do this:
- Create an event on your page, then post it to your group.
- Create an event directly through the group page, allowing you to invite everyone in the group.
Example of an events page on Facebook
The important thing to remember is that you do this in a way that’s authentic and not obviously self-promotional. Most Facebook groups have community rules against excessive self-promotion so if you keep posting about an event even though no one’s interested, you could get banned.
Instead, join the discussions in the group to see what people want to see and find a helpful way to provide solutions for their needs, e.g. if you notice that a lot of people are looking for 1-bedrooms in an area where there aren’t many available, direct them to a page for 1-bedrooms in the area or invite them to an open house.
Become an authority in the field through ebooks and webinars.
Today, consumers can easily turn to the internet to Google your company and read up on reviews. You’re competing with a lot of noise—not just from your competitors but also from consumers who are actively writing online reviews or personal blogs.
Luckily, it’s easy for you to set the tone by contributing quality content to help people perceive you as a trustworthy source of information and solutions. This way, you’ll become an authority and an expert, able to generate leads through email newsletter signups, or social media follows from those looking to you for useful advice.
The idea behind authority marketing is that consumers are more willing to trust experts in the field who have proven experience to truly speak on the subject with confidence. In other words, it’s not just another person telling you about a product; it’s someone who has invested the time required to get to know this topic deeply.
Adam Witty, the author of Authority Marketing: How to Leverage 7 Pillars of Thought Leadership to Make Competition Irrelevant, describes the importance of authority marketing like this:
So how do you establish authority to generate quality leads?
Create and promote ebooks.
Ebooks are a great source of quality leads because most people aren’t going to download and read an ebook if they’re not already interested in its content.
By collecting the emails of people who download your book, you can grow a targeted list of leads. You can do this by adding a signup form to your ebook’s landing page so that anyone who wants to download the ebook has to provide their email address in order to get the download link.
An example of an ebook landing page
Ebooks establish authority perhaps more so than a blog post or even a video because books are a type of long-form content that involve a lot of research, statistics, and survey results. And if your company produces an ebook that contains research in the field, people are even more likely to view you as an expert.
This gets people to come to you for further information on the subject and even turn to your products as a solution to their needs.
When InsideSales asked B2B businesses to name the most effective lead generation tactics, 75% identified webinars as generating the most high-quality leads. Webinars were behind only small executive events and trade shows as a source of quality leads.
Like with ebooks, people won’t spend time listening to someone talk about a topic they’re not interested in for an hour. Webinars are a source of information for people who want to learn something. Because they’re mostly free and easy to attend from anywhere in the world, it’s relatively easy to get people to sign up.
An example of a webinar landing page
Using the list of webinar attendees, you can reach out to targeted leads who’d benefit from your product or service. On the landing page, you can ask attendees for specific information like their timeline to purchase or similar products they’re already using to gain more insight, then contact them after the webinar.
To set up a webinar, there are tools like GoToMeeting that will schedule a time and let you present information on the screen. You can test it out by doing a practice run before making the event public, and also record the webinar to make it permanently available to more people who weren’t able to attend the live screening.
To generate qualified sales leads, first be clear about your approach.
When you feel like you’re not generating enough leads, it can be easy to come up with short-term solutions to fill up a list. But lead generation without a targeted approach won’t lead to conversions. Remember that the goal of generating leads is to convert as many of them as you can into sales.
This means that before you start applying strategies for lead generation, you need to be clear about your product, your ideal customer, and how a quantity- or quality-based approach can help you reach more qualified leads who will actually buy your product. Once you’ve defined these goals, you’ll be able to apply the tactics that’ll help you the most in reaching out to consumers who are actually interested in your product.