There are multiple factors that play a role in successful lead generation. From converting contacts into leads and nurturing those leads into profitable opportunities, attracting the right clients for your business doesn’t need to be a struggle. While some attribute the challenges to the always changing economy and the competitiveness of their industry, the root of the problem typically lies within creating and maintaining an effective lead generation program.

Lead generation is the process of attracting the interest of prospects to increase sales and grow profit. This is the first and crucial step of the sales process where both quality and quantity need to be considered. While it’s vital to generate an adequate amount of leads, ensuring they are ones with a high chance of closing is even more critical.

Where to Start?

A lead is a person or business that has shown interest in the services or products that your business provides. Often handled by the marketing team, an effective lead generation program warms up the potential prospects and guides them on the initial path to eventually buying. The biggest challenge facing most business is targeting the right prospects. Salespeople run out of momentum because they feel they’ve hit the limit of people and businesses they can reasonably expect to be interested in purchasing their product or service. More often than not, this happens for three main reasons:

  1. they are looking in the wrong places or audiences for new business;
  2. they don’t have a process for qualifying or disqualifying leads; and
  3. they don’t have their buyer personas identified properly.

Generating the Right Leads

Implementing a lead generation program by itself doesn’t automatically mean you will gain quality leads and increase sales. The initiative takes time and effort to maintain. More importantly, it must nurture the right individual or business into one that expresses interest in engaging your sales team.

Before someone becomes a lead, they begin as a simple contact. You will be able to determine each lead’s potential based on their interest levels from your marketing efforts. From there, you will want to put forth a communications strategy to cultivate that lead. Be sure to categorize that person or business as a hot, warm or cold lead depending on the their response to the promotional material. Leads that have taken an action, whether that’s asking for a call back or engaging with your firm, should be marked as hot leads. Hot leads are your highest chance of closing, warm leads are secondary only needing a little more interaction to convince them to buy and cold leads have shown minimal interest but aren’t completely disqualified.

From here, your marketing team or lead generation manager will outline who will follow up and how they will follow up with each category of lead. Most often, sales takes over the hot leads first and then moves to the warm leads. While marketing nurtures the cold leads though promotional campaigns to keep your firm in the forefront of their mind.

Leads to Opportunities

The process doesn’t stop after categorizing the lead. Qualifying, nurturing and transferring these existing as well as new contacts into leads takes sustained effort. The more qualified leads you gain through this process, the stronger your sales will be with selling opportunities to those leads.

For most small businesses it’s ideal to review your lead lists a minimum of twice a week. This way you can remain on top of nurturing those warm leads into hot leads and those hot leads into revenue for your business.

Developing a lead generation program that best suits your business isn’t always the easiest project. It’s essential to have sales and marketing supporting each other to increase the success of your program. Your team needs to follow through in maintaining and overseeing the leads process. We recommend working with a business advisor who can provide clarity and guidance along the way. When you’re ready, we’re here to help grow your business.

Don’t Outsource Your Online Identity

Social media is an incredibly powerful and dynamic tool. Regardless of the business you’re in, your customers can be found and reached through these online platforms. This makes marketing via social media essential – a fact that successful business owners today understand and build into their communications strategies.

What is less understood is how to effectively harness the power of these tools within your business. This is understandable since this new and rapidly changing space can be a challenge to navigate. As a business owner, your inbox is likely full of solicitations from gurus, wizards, and experts in social media marketing. Some are better than others, but often the best solution is to bring someone in-house.

Managing your social media presence means creating and disseminating content over Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and, if appropriate, Instagram. It also means communicating with people through these channels and driving positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Google.

For the large majority of small businesses, this is probably a five-hour-per-week job. However, it’s an important one that needs to be done by someone who understands your brand, your voice, and your values. The likelihood of an outside agency, with hundreds or thousands of clients, truly understanding your business and being invested in its success is marginal.

How do you find someone willing to work just minimal hours per week? An internship is a win-win solution. Social media marketing can be an ideal opportunity for an undergraduate marketing student studying the evolving world of digital media communications. Students will be excited to put into practice the skills they’ve been developing, and you’ll have a knowledgeable social media expert in-house.

Having someone who represents your business in the digital world physically in your building has a distinct advantage. Ongoing, in-person communication with your social media intern will help accurately portray who you are as well as your target audience. You’ll also gain a more complete understanding of the communications tactics and how they impact your business.

Having an in-house social media intern will help establish an online presence that comes across as genuine and authentic. Often, when a small business employs a social media marketing agency, the material is formulaic and generic. It’s almost always too “safe;” it doesn’t stand out in a crowded landscape, resulting in ineffective outreach efforts. Working with an in-house intern, even for a few hours a week, can help you craft a unique online brand.

A social media internship presents an advantageous opportunity to find and groom a young person for a more permanent position in your business. Marketing graduates can do more for your business than just manage social media channels. As your business grows and their skills develop, five hours a week may very well turn into 20 and eventually a full-time position.

To find a social media outreach intern, contact the business or marketing department at a local university. Contact individual professors who are easily found on university websites. Inform the professor what you do, what you’re looking for and ask if they would pass along the opportunity to some of their top students. Universities also have online job boards, and many student newspapers accept internship advertisements.

While the upside is tremendous, keep in mind that a student intern is also a responsibility. It may be the first time they’re in a professional situation and they could require training and more attention. As with any other hire, interview a few candidates, check references, and bring on the person who best fits the culture of your business.

The business world is constantly changing with the impact of social media being one of the most disruptive and powerful forces propelling that change. Be smart in building and maintaining your social media presence by employing, training, and developing a social media outreach intern.

It’s important to understand and obey the labour laws of your state and country in regards to internships, as well as the regulations and requirements of the university if the internship is intended to earn college credits. Offering minimum wage for just a few hours a week should yield a great return on investment and will guarantee you stay on the right side of the law.