Lead generation is one of the most important tasks for any entrepreneur or business.
In fact, lead generation is one of those skills that can seem very complex at first, but which will eventually become second nature, something you do without even thinking about it. Most budding entrepreneurs have at least a vague notion of what lead generation entails or can deduce the thrust of it from the name alone. But if you find yourself completely clueless in this pursuit, do not despair! Let’s take a look at lead generation, what it is, and how you can perfect your abilities in this regard.
What is a Lead?
Put simply, a lead is any person who has an interest in doing business with you. In some cases, a lead might not be someone who will directly buy from you. Rather, they represent the interests of someone who will. For example, many businesses have a single individual, or a small team, who are responsible for buying particular product lines.
There are also cases where the lead is someone who, rather than offering your business money directly, can help you save money on some common expenditures. For example, an individual with the right personal or professional connections might be able to help you secure some advertising space at a reduced rate. This marketing lead would never actually give your business money, and yet by following the lead, you could end up with more money than you would have otherwise.
What is Lead Generation?
Other than simply stating that lead generation is “the process by which an entrepreneur generates leads” (you hardly need a whole article to tell you that, right?), how can we best define lead generation? It is actually helpful to think more about our definition and to consider the nature that lead generation techniques often take. One of the most common mistakes people make is in assuming that leads are people who already have something to offer their business, as in the example of the marketing lead above.
On the contrary, someone who has never heard of your business before can quickly become a lead if you engage them in the right way. In this sense, generating leads can be thought of as the process of attracting people to your business, and converting them into paying customers. This could happen simply because you engage them in conversation, because they fill out a job application for you, or because they stumble across your digital marketing online.
Why do You Need Lead Generation?
From the above description, you might wonder why you need to put special effort into lead generation. After all, leads are generated as a result of your marketing, word of mouth, and of a variety of other passive sources. These passive sources of lead generation can be thought of as “fire and forget” methods. For example, when you launch a new advertising campaign, it is reasonable to assume that some of those who see it will go on to spend money with your business. In this scenario, the lead has been both generated and followed without any specific action on your part.
However, not all lead generation is passive. Active lead generation involves a representative of your business making contact with specific individuals or groups with the explicit intention of nurturing them as leads. Active lead generation is an essential part of the puzzle, especially when you are looking for leads to less tangible outcomes than just money. Again, to return to our marketing lead from earlier, if you or someone in your business knows that this person has the connections to be able to sell you discounted advertising space, it would make sense for you to actively pursue them.
Learning how to identify and pursue leads is a very powerful skill for any organization to possess. Doing so will enable your business to acquire skill, manpower, and access that would otherwise be difficult to come across. Lead generation is a fantastic embrace of the power of the individual, even within large corporate entities.
How to Generate Leads
There are four stages to generating leads:
Attract or Pursue
In passive lead generation, potential leads will be attracted to your business and will initiate their relationship with you. This includes people responding to marketing, or to your business’ reputation. If you are looking to approach potential leads yourself, you will be pursuing them, rather than have them come to you.
Once contact between you and a lead has been established, the next part of the process is conversion. This is simply where you and the lead discuss how you think they can benefit your business, and why they should do so. Naturally, some leads come at a cost, and you will need to weigh up what they can bring to the table with what they are asking for. In the case of a passive lead, this conversion often happens through marketing. In fact, a passive lead might be attracted and converted by a single commercial.
Closing a lead means that you have pursued it, or it has pursued you, to the end. Whether this means that they now make a purchase with you, add you to their list of trusted suppliers, or set you up with some discounted advertising space, closing a lead should result in some benefit for your business. There are even cases where closing with one lead means being introduced to a new one. Lead generation, therefore, goes hand in hand with networking as a business task.
Closing a lead and bringing benefits to your business is not the end of the equation. This final stage is about reinforcing the connection that now exists between the lead and your business. Many leads will have numerous contacts of their own that could be useful to your business. If you can maintain a good relationship with them, they are more likely to send these contacts in your direction.
Time to Start Generating!
Lead generation is something that every business should be trying to work into their overall strategy Just as every business likes to attract the best candidates to apply for jobs, you should also be looking for ways to attract leads amongst your customers. By utilising a combination of email marketing, a social media presence, and an online blog, you can attract potential leads to your business. Once you start developing a lead generation strategy, it will all become second nature.