Generating leads for your business is the fundamental criteria for success or failure. However, it is all about quality leads not just quantity. There is much more sophistication in the art of the various lead processes in terms of generation, nurturing, demand, qualification and conversion. Marketers have to combine strategic planning with tactical execution and focus on progressing new prospects to delivering sales-ready leads. So before marketers get stuck into the array of lead generation possibilities, you must have the following in place: 1. agreed company objectives including target markets and measures; 2. the appropriate systems eg prospect database, CRM, marketing automation; 3. cohesive teams with the same aims and understanding especially sales and marketing; 4. plans to progress leads down the marketing funnel and towards sales conversion; Next it’s down to the marketing team to plan the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ in terms of targeting, promotions, messages and execution. Below is our top list of recommended ways to source new leads. These are by no means exhaustive and each must be considered as to their relevance and value in accordance with the set objectives and type of market. Referrals: Even a young company will have some kind of customer or associate relations which they can utilise to leverage potential new leads. Tap into existing contacts who you can trust and who will positively promote your business in order to open a few new doors. Linked In is a great B2B network for quality professionals who can help you ‘connect’ with potential new customers. For more established companies, hopefully with some solid customer relations, ask them to give their testimonials and refer possible contacts who they believe could benefit from your services. Peer reviews go a long way to adding credibility and reassurance for prospective customers. Choose your advocate clients who you know can champion your company and products and would be willing to make the effort to refer you to others. Reward schemes can help incentivise customers to ‘refer a friend’, but monitor and assess the quality of the lead referred to ensure they are relevant and not just a way of accessing the reward on offer! Alliance partnerships: Similar to referrals in a way, by joining up with business partners who compliment and don’t compete, you can generate leads both ways to help each other. It does depend on mutual trust and willing, but it makes sense that both parties can benefit if the customer is relevant to both companies. For example, in the wedding industry, bridal wear shops can refer to florists and cake makers without competing, in the agreement, that they will refer them as well. Events: These are the opportunities to bring your company to life and give a face to the brand. Not everyone enjoys events, so it’s important to select the right person to represent the company in the best way and to achieve the desired result. Networking groups help both new and established companies, whether you are just starting to promote yourself or targeting specific types of contacts. (See our blog on Top Tips for Successful Networking). Not everyone enjoys Tradeshows can be hit or miss and it’s all about the preparation and execution. Ensure the right type of prospects will be attending so that it’s not a complete waste of time and effort. Exhibition stands are only successful if they have skilled people manning the stand who know how to attract visitors among all the other stands fighting for their attention. Once a visitor has engaged, it’s all about having the right message and promotion. A great way to convey your brand as a voice of authority and as an industry expert is to give a specialist talk either at a trade seminar or by creating your own session. Choosing a topic that will advise or give insightful detail and opinion will hopefully generate new interest and therefore potential new customers. Whatever your approach to events, make sure you have contact capture forms ready and follow up post event with email, call or meetings as agreed. Search traffic: How often do we all go straight to Google when first looking for a product or service? Whether it is searching locally for a company or fact finding for specific details, the search engine is the major source of potential online prospects at the very beginning of the ‘lead funnel’ for marketers. You have a choice of SEO, SEM and PPC, but in order for you to attract quality traffic, it is essential to use specific keywords and terms that will match what your prospects are using when searching for your type of product. Avoid generic terms that will only cost you more, compete with the big players and not necessarily deliver qualified leads. Include details that will help produce the best result and match for the prospect in search, for example product specifications and location of company. Ensure you have the matching content ready and in place on your website including tailored landing pages. Visitors want to be able to click on a link that takes them directly to the information they are searching for (and not the homepage), otherwise you will lose them very quickly. Content: Great content can be used in many ways to attract new leads. By writing and/or speaking about topics which leads are interested in and searching for, you can become the source for fact, opinion, advice and the latest developments for your market. As long as the content is relevant, of value and targeting the specific type of leads, your content marketing plan can be very powerful as a lead generator. (See our blog on How to write content for your audience.) Social Media: Integrating your social media messages and promotions with great content can help drive traffic to your site and generate new leads. Getting likes, shares and +1s will build your audience organically. Remember to be creative and use visuals and videos as well to stand out, attract attention and even go viral. (see our blogs on Google +, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and video.) Use social media as a way to monitor discussions and get involved with your expert input, so that you can build your profile and raise awareness. You can then attract new followers and start customer interaction to nurture new leads. This takes time and effort so use a dedicated resource to keep track of any leads generated and how to progress them further down the ‘marketing funnel’. Contact details: This includes both yours and your leads. First make sure that you have company contact details at all lead touch points, so that they are able to get in touch should they have any initial fact finding questions or enquiries. Include as many ways for the prospect to make contact eg email, tel, online form, and ensure you respond in time with at least an acknowledgment or with the full details to their query. Make sure you also have data capture points for all new leads, whether that be online, face to face at an event or with a telephone enquiry. Start with the minimal basics and grow the details as you have more interaction. Offer incentives for leads to give more details eg to download information or for certain promotions. The idea is to build profiles and intelligence about your leads in order for targeted marketing. Automated email marketing is a good way to filter leads and build intelligence by a sequence of emails which contain specific information. Different emails are triggered according to how leads respond to each email and thereby tailoring content to their needs. It is essential to keep all captured contact data up-to-date so that you are able to manage your marketing effectively and segment the leads according to their specific needs and requirements. Once you’ve done the hard work in generating a new lead, you can then progress the lead according to your nurture and conversion plans.