You’ve got a loyal following of delighted customers. Now it’s time to grow. But to do that, you need leads.
The question is, how do you go about getting them? What techniques and approaches will help you generate a consistent stream of leads this year and beyond?
In this blog, I’ll share five simple lead generation methods and the techniques that will help you generate new customers over time. From content creation to face-to-face events, you’ll learn the most effective and affordable ways to expand your audience and generate qualified customers for your small business.
1. Start Using Video
Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world? With over 1.9 billion users and one billion hours watched daily, it’s almost certain that your customers are active there. Video marketing has other benefits beyond distribution and traffic generation. By telling stories, sharing value, and getting in front of the camera, you’re creating a personal one-to-one connection with your customers.
So, how should you use video in your marketing?
There are several frameworks you can use, including:
- Show what you do: Create detailed videos about your products or services. How do the features help customers overcome their challenges? What desires are you helping them to fulfill with what you offer?
- Introduce yourself: You can also use video to introduce your brand. These sit well on your home page and can help people build a more personal connection with who you are and what you believe in.
- Education: Are you an expert or thought leader in your field? Use video to educate your audience on key and trending topics. Show them how to execute as well as actionable steps
- Celebrate your customers: Video testimonials can be huge social proof points. But you can also go one step further and make your customers the star of your video marketing. Use video to tell their story.
- Share your culture: Is your company a great place to work? Does what you believe attract similar customers? Share what happens behind-the-scenes to attract talented new hires and customers who share your vision.
Let’s look at some examples of these principles in action, starting with Dollar Shave Club:
With over 25 million views to date, these guys did something right. How? Simple: they put their founder in the spotlight and let their humorous side come out. It was an introduction to their brand and story, sure. But it was also a highly entertaining piece of content that took the internet by storm. Everyone was talking about it because it was raw, honest and genuinely funny.
This entertaining form of video content works gangbusters. But video can also be useful and educational. Take Seattle Coffee Gear, for example:
Here, they don’t talk about their products. Instead, they show their audience the easiest way to make a delicious mocha.
What challenges are your audience trying to overcome? What are their goals? Help them alleviate pains and achieve those goals with value-driven video content. You might be thinking “this sounds expensive.” But it doesn’t have to be, especially in the beginning. You can shoot simple videos for social media platforms right from your smartphone. Even higher quality productions need not be expensive. You can find talented and affordable freelance filmmakers, editors, and animators on websites like Upwork that sit within your budget.
Ultimately, it’s not about the equipment you use, but the story you share.
2. Create a Content Marketing Funnel
Many small businesses rely on paid media to attract new customers. Social media and Google Ads make this easier than ever, with business owners and marketers alike looking to make a positive ROI from their digital advertising. But you don’t need to rely purely on outbound methods. Using inbound marketing principles, you can attract a wider audience and nurture them into new customers over time. It all starts with creating good content.
For example, pet insurance company Petplan use their blog as a hub to provide practical advice for pet owners. They rank for various pet-related keywords, such as “lionhead rabbit” and “why do cats have 9 lives?” that generate between 600 and 20,000 searches a month.
People searching for these keywords may not be looking to buy from them right away. But they can capture their attention, deliver continuous value and drive them down the sales funnel. When they are ready to invest in pet insurance, it’s likely they’ll consider Petplan.
Here’s a simple content marketing process for you to follow when you’re just getting started:
- Uncover customer challenges: Send out email surveys asking your customers about why they buy from you and what their pet-related challenges and needs are. Look for product-related and non-product related topics. Speaking to customers face-to-face allows you to dig deeper into their motivations.
- Select your topics: Find topics for content that resonate with your brand. For example, Petplan writes about rare dog breeds, information on specific animals and provide pet care tips. These are the topics that interest their existing customers, which is why it attracts new ones too.
- Create a lead magnet: Once people read your content, you’ll need to capture their details to nurture them into customers. You can do this with discounts, prize draws, ebooks, and webinars. Anything that delivers something of value up front.
- Nurture with email: Now you have their details, it’s time to build the relationship. Use email marketing principles to “drip” more content and add more value over time. Do this with the content they care about most.
- Convert leads into customers: Once in a while, it’s okay to send an offer to convert these leads into customers. For example, an ecommerce brand may hold a limited sale or entice first-time customers with discounts. Figure out the offer and call-to-action that works best with your brand.
3. Don’t Neglect Traditional Media
Yes, digital marketing must be a part of every small business’s growth plan. But traditional media still works wonders, especially “local businesses.” However, these mediums only work if your customers are consuming them. Yes, it’s great investing in an ad for a local magazine, but only if your customers are reading it. Earlier, I mentioned that email surveys are a great way of uncovering the right topics for your content efforts. They’re also effective for discovering where your customers hang out online and what publications they read. Use these surveys to see if they consume traditional media.
Print ads can be incredibly creative and inspiring. For example, this ad from Kentucky for Kentucky that was printed in Oxford American magazine used a creative way to get readers’ attention: with a great big typo in the headline:
Luckily, the editors of the magazine found it funny, as did their readers.
Here’s what Kentucky for Kentucky did well here:
- They targeted a magazine who had a reader base which included their ideal customer
- They used humor to get their attention, not just another boring print ad
Direct mail is another medium that still works wonders (as long as you consider your local and state laws). Take this example from Neville Medhora, where he dissects a direct mail piece from a real estate agent:
In his guide, he shows exactly why this works so well as this ad:
- Includes a list of events in the area, providing practical utility for the recipient
- Provides all contact info the recipient needs to get in touch
- Asks a relevant, persona-driven question
- Showcases some example properties, along with their prices
If you’re targeting specific geographic regions, then consider testing direct mail. Make sure you include one offer, make it super clear on what action they should take and provide some kind of value. This should be the philosophy you use in all of your traditional media.
4. Create In-Person Events
Event marketing is another initiative that can seem expensive. But it doesn’t have to be! Indeed, if you select the right format and execute properly, it can be an affordable way of getting in front of your customers face-to-face. Take pop-ups for example. By setting up a pop-up in the street (or within another businesses’ physical location), you can affordably get in front of your customers without having to pay expensive venue costs.
For example, BarkBox took to the streets for a week with their pop-up shop “Barkshop Live.” Here, they fitted visitor’s dogs with an RFID chipped vest and let them play with their dog toys. The vest then displayed to owners which toys their dogs played with most. They could then buy these toys on the spot if they wanted to.
As well as the real-life exposure and press attention, they repurposed content for the event into a video (as seen above). Not only that, but I would hazard a guess that they used the data collected from the RFID chips to inform their product strategy. The lesson here? Squeeze as much value from every event as possible. Then there are networking evenings. Again, instead of hiring out pricey venues, simply get together with other organizations in your market/region and put on a networking event together. Hold speaker sessions, workshops, or panels that allow each business to put their expertise forward. This way, everyone brings their audiences into one place, working together to expand their audience.
For example, Lean Startup Circles bring startup founders together to discuss existing challenges, share ideas, and network with their peers:
Can you bring your industry together to share challenges and new ideas? Use networking events to facilitate new partnerships and business opportunities.
5. Build Your Personal Brand
Often overlooked by small business owners, there’s much power in a strong personal brand. Take the likes of Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk, for example. They’re constantly in the limelight, which in turn brings a huge amount of attention to their companies. Not to mention extending the longevity of their careers, bringing new opportunities outside of their businesses.
Here’s a quick four-step framework to building and maintaining your own personal brand:
- Build your platform: Create a website to act as the “hub” for your content. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk uses his website to blog about relevant content he believes in, lists the events he’s attending, and direct visitors to his social accounts:
- Define yourself: How do you want to be perceived? Are there any topics you want to be known for by your audience? Define the goals for your personal brand, as well as your values and the “role” you want to be known for.
- Create content: Ultimately, your content should share your story and focus on the topics that matter most to you. Seth Godin is an excellent example of creating value-driven content: Don’t forget about social media content. Focus on where your audience is and create content that works on those platforms (e.g., short-form video and photos on Instagram, long-form video on YouTube).
- Schedule: Your personal brand isn’t something you can show up to when you feel like it. Just like a business, you need to consistently show up and create great content. Will you create content once a week or daily? Pick a cadence that works for you.
How are you currently growing your small business? Have you found any surprising results from your marketing activities? Join the conversation in the comments below.