Prospecting Tips For Your Small Business

Are you in the dark about how to start small business? The very first item on your to do list should be prospecting leads.

With the dozens of details to consider-finding a location, appealing to investors, choosing the right suppliers, and hunting for employees-it can be easy to lose sight of what should be your most important focus: the customer.

After all, without customers, you haven’t any business.

You might have the best product or service anywhere, but if you have not drawn up a marketing plan outline for prospecting leads that can benefit from your new business idea, you’ll be struggling with how to start your small business.

The good news is, lead generation doesn’t have to be rocket science. With the right combination of research, planning, and execution, you can increase your market presence and make yourself known to your target demographic.

Top 8 Prospecting Tips

1. Create a concrete plan. Before you start prospecting leads, spend some time formulating a realistic, workable plan of attack.

For example, if you’re marketing a product or service to businesses, create a list of target companies along with the name of the department and person you need to reach. Determine how you’ll attempt to contact them (phone, email, or a face-to-face visit at their office or at a networking function).

2. Become an event junkie. Conferences, trade shows, and seminars can be gold mines for prospective customers. Look in newspapers and online for event calendars.

If you run a wedding planning business, invest in booth space at a bridal show. If you sell landscaping services, contact the coordinator of an upcoming home and garden show and offer to give away a free lawn treatment in exchange for prime advertising placement. Attending industry events is also a great way to build a network of professional associates in the industry.

3. Peruse the papers. Take a few minutes each day to scan the local headlines. Be on the lookout for new businesses opening up, awards or promotions that have been bestowed, and any developments related to your product or service. Drop an email to the people mentioned in the articles letting them know you saw the piece and subtly upselling your offering.

4. Watch your competitors. While you’ll want to develop your own unique approach, studying the competition can help you stay up to speed on the latest industry trends and developments. If your biggest rival is offering free shipping during the holidays, you may want to follow suit to remain competitive. It’s also a good idea to place advertisements in the same publications and venues as your competitors.

5. Don’t be afraid to follow up. One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is pay a single visit to a prospect and then sit back and wait for them to come knocking. After the initial contact, it’s essential to follow up to gauge their level of interest, answer any remaining questions, and attempt to close the deal. If they aren’t ready to buy, ask if they know anyone who may have a need for your product or service.

6. Use the power of referral marketing. One delighted customer can lead to dozens more. Why wait for word-of-mouth advertising to happen on its own? Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. Chances are they’ll be delighted to see their associates reaping the same benefits they’ve enjoyed.

7. Sample your way to success. Who doesn’t love a freebie? Giving away a complimentary sample of your product or service is a great way to demonstrate its benefits and encourage future sales. If you sell bath and body products, include a small packet of lotion with your marketing postcards. If you’re an IT consultant, offer businesses a free technology assessment.

8. Partner with other businesses. Nearly every industry has parallel providers that cater to the same group but offer different products or services. Forming an alliance with people in the same market can be mutually beneficial. If you sell custom stationery, contact a local bridal gown boutique and ask if you can drop off some business cards. If you provide consulting services for small businesses, ask a local office furniture seller if you can post a flier. Offer reciprocal exposure in exchange.

Remember, prospecting leads isn’t a one-time excursion. To sustain the profitability and branding identity of your business, you’ll need to devote time and resources to ongoing prospecting campaigns.

Small Business Lead Generation and Why It Works So Well

Small business lead generation is one of those things every small business owner talks about but doesn’t really know how to do properly. This is a shame, because using lead generation for a small business is one of the easiest ways to increase revenue and make more profits. It does take some work, but the concepts are so simple any business can start the process right now and begin to see more sales in a matter of months.

Effective Small Business Lead Generation

Here is why using the lead generation approach is such a powerful strategy and why every small business should use it.

1. It sets your business apart from all the others in the same market. Being different to your competitors is essential if you want to be a success, and concentrating on the lead-generation approach will do just that. Most business don’t actually concentrate on getting leads, even if they say they do. They actually concentrate on making sales, which means trying to sell to a prospect immediately. Effective lead-generation means getting a lead, and then building a relationship with that prospect over time. This could be weeks or months, but it almost always leads to more sales in the long term.

2. To follow on from the point above, this strategy of looking at the long term is one of the best things you can do, because your prospects often don’t want to buy from you just yet, and when you try to make the sale immediately, they tend to walk away. Building a relationship means your prospects don’t buy from you when you want then to, but when they want to, and that makes the whole process smoother and more pleasant for everyone.

3. You have more chances to close the sale. This is something most small business owners never understand, but by concentrating on building a relationship you actually get many more chances of actually selling something.

So how do you start to build a relationship with your prospects? You simply give away something for free (a free report with good information, or perhaps an entry to a competition) in return for the prospect’s contact details. These should include email, postal address, phone and even fax. Email is the best of these, because it’s so quick and personal.

Be The Expert

In most cases the free report is the best way of collecting prospect’s details, because it has the added advantage of making you appear the expert in your market as well as starting to build the relationship. Once you have the contact details, you simply keep in touch with your prospects, giving them more information and sometimes telling them about the stuff you have for sale. Essentially it’s a numbers game, and a large percentage of people will buy from you when they’re ready. The great thing about this method of making sales is that most small businesses won’t try it, and that puts you right at the front when it comes to making more sales in the long term.

As I said, it does take a bit of work to put into practice, but the rewards are huge.

Small Business Lead Generation Web Sites

Everyone is familiar with e-commerce web sites where people can make purchases through a shopping cart and a check out area. There is another style of site that might be useful for local small businesses. These are called lead generation or business development web sites, and it is particularly effective if the product or service offered has a high ticket price, like real estate sales, for example. Also, if the long term value of the customer is high because the customer needs to use the product or service many times over a long period, then this type of business would benefit from having one of these as well. Examples of this case would be a local chiropractor or dentist.

These sites can work in conjunction with the small business owner’s regular site, which might feature the name of the business the URL in many cases. So having a lead generation web site is not an either-or situation, and the small business owner can have a couple of web sites working for him. The lead generation site might have a URL that is general in nature, like “San Diego Dentist” for example rather than name of the business.

Many small business owners are intimidated, however, with the price of having a web site built for them. This can easily cost from $2,000 to $8,000. Unless your enterprise is gushing money, that can be a hard pill to swallow for an individual real estate agent or other small business person.

Pay-per-click advertising can be used to bring in web traffic, but these types of sites work best with generic traffic that comes from search engines which is of course free, if you know how to get this traffic. So this means that the web site developer needs to really know something about search engine optimization. A lot of site developers will say they know what needs to be done, but most have little experience with actually getting onto the first page of search engine results.

If you do succeed in generating traffic then bona fide leads and real prospects need to be developed. The technique here is to interest visitors in the offer such that they will sign up on an email list to get more information about the products or services. A series of automatic emails is then sent to the prospect giving solid and useful information that the prospect can actually use. This helps build trust and a relationship between the prospect and the small business person, hopefully leading to sales.

Direct Response and Web Sites-Small Business Lead Generation

One of the most important elements to small business success is lead generation because without leads you can’t increase sales. So where do you concentrate your lead generation efforts?

Get Qualified Leads One at a Time with Direct Response

I’m going to make a bold statement: Direct response is the most effective and affordable ways to generate leads on a one-on-one basis. Let me qualify that statement. Direct response is the most effective and affordable way to reach clients one-to-one if you:

  • know your target market
  • attach benefits to your features
  • understand your competition
  • identify your competitive advantage
  • can write your direct response package in a clear and convincing way

Understanding all that means you can have an effective direct response campaign. No doubt, knowing a few tips about direct response copywriting will help by boosting your response rate. For instance, your heading makes or breaks your campaign. It’s the biggest predictor on whether your prospect ill read it or toss it in the garbage.

Forget about where you’re located or how many year’s you’ve been in business, or describing every detail about your product. Yes, your potential consumer clients want to know a little about the features, but for every feature your product or service has, they want to know far more about the benefit. They consistently and continuously ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

A specific call to action, and creating a sense of urgency helps too. It seems most of us are basic procrastinators. If you don’t tell us what to do, and you don’t make us believe we need to do it today (with specials, limited-time or quantity discounts, etc.) we probably won’t do anything at all.

And by the way, a P.S. increases response rates too. It’s the second most-read line in your direct response copy. It should restate your main benefits, call to action and special offer.

Generate Masses of Leads with a Small Business Web Site

But direct response isn’t the only effective way to reach clients affordably. It may be the best way to reach potential clients on a one-on-one basis, but did you know a small business web site is one of the best ways to reach masses of potential clients?

Affordable? That depends. Some small business owners I know personally have paid lots of $$ for their web site. It may be a mistake to pay big bucks for a small business web site when a simple 5 page static site will do. After all, it’s not the design that produces results but rather the copywriting.

Copy for your web site follows the same basic rules as direct response copywriting, but with a few important differences:

  • web site copy is shorter because internet readers are generally impatient
  • include lots of free information because readers are searching for information
  • avoid the hard sell–it doesn’t work online
  • write with your readers in mind, but take search engines into account as well
  • include a way to capture email addresses as lead generation

Effective? That depends too. A web site is only effective if it can be found. And to make sure it’s found you need to know a little about search engine marketing (SEM). A good discussion about SEM is beyond the scope of this short article. But, here’s a few tips:

  • write web site copy around keywords, including headings and titles
  • promote your web site online by publishing articles, joining forums, and listing in business directories
  • try Google AdWords
  • promote your web site offline
  • content, content and even more content
  • update content often

Increase Their Interest Level with Direct Response Pointing to Your Web Site

So, direct response generates leads one-to-one, and a web site reaches the masses. What if you combine them?

Direct response and web sites work very well together to generate leads and close sales. You could create your direct response with a call to action to visit your web site rather than asking directly for a purchase. Your web site includes copy that is different from, but related to your direct response package.

Your web site call to action could be any of a number of things. You could use it simply to generate more leads through capturing email addresses. Or you could be the “information guru” on some subject your direct mail recipients would be interested in. Or your web site call to action could be directly asking for sales.

The point is that the purpose of both is to generate leads and to have some way to convert those leads to sales. There are many different ways to close sales. Follow up brochures can be very effective for instance. But possibly using both direct response and your web site solely to generate leads is less effective than using one to supplement the other as a sales tool.