The foundation of lead generation is a solid marketing plan. After all, customers can't buy your goods or services if they don't know you offer them. Your success in marketing your business, and thereby generating leads, depends on your ability to define precisely what it is that you sell and to whom you're most likely to sell it, and then to communicate the benefits of your business to your potential customers.
Define your business in a single sentence. Generating leads requires marketing messages that communicate what it is that you do, make or sell. The more succinctly you can define it, the more effectively you can communicate it.
Determine your target market. Marketing to everyone doesn't work, because no product or service appeals to everyone. If you provide housecleaning services, for example, your market is people who lack the time to clean their homes themselves and can afford to have someone clean for them. Moms who work outside the home and single professionals are more likely to meet those criteria than are young, stay-at-home moms.
Think of how to reach your target. Where do they spend time? What media do they use? Where do they live? What are their hobbies and interests? Taking the previous example a step further, the single professional you'd target for housecleaning services often can be found at the gym. Working moms use day care centers.
Distinguish yourself. What makes your business different, and how do your customers benefit by your uniqueness? There are a lot of housecleaning services out there. Few of them use green products exclusively, despite potential health benefits and the preference of many customers for environmental friendliness. That kind of niche can catapult you clear ahead of your competition.
Plan how to reach your target. What methods will you use to get your marketing messages out? Ideas for the housecleaning business include posting flyers on supermarket bulletin boards; going door-to-door in your targets' communities to pass out flyers and introduce yourself and your products/services; running ads in the local paper; and creating discount coupons for your services and delivering them to day care centers and gyms.
Be persistent in your efforts. A single contact with a potential customer is unlikely to result in a sale. Ongoing messaging breeds familiarity that, in term, greatly increases the likelihood of turning a potential customer into a regular customer.
Tell everyone you know that you're in business and ask for referrals. Realtors rely heavily on "spheres of influence" for lead generation. The same method is relevant for business of all types. Spheres of influence include everyone you know, from family, friends and social acquaintances, to the providers of goods and services you use regularly, to co-workers (your own and your spouse's).
Develop a professional network of owners of business that are compatible with yours. For a housecleaner, a network could include realtors, builders, home improvement contractors and the like. Some of these people might use your services themselves; all likely would have occasion to refer you to their customers.
Use social networking to increase your visibility and accessibility. Popular social media sites as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter make it easy to keep in touch with your sphere of influence. They also provide an outlet for your messages.
Establish yourself as an expert. Blog about subjects related to your business. Post tips on your social networking sites. Write articles for local and online media. Create a monthly newsletter. And then cross-promote, so that the article you write for the local newspaper appears on your Facebook page and your Facebook page is mentioned in your newsletter.
Use a system for organizing and managing your contacts and leads and the marketing efforts you use to reach them, and use it daily for planning and follow-up. Have records of every inquiry and every inquirer. Touch base with those who haven't yet been converted into customers (and customers you haven't heard from in a while). Offer something of value with each contact, such as a newsletter subscription or a coupon.