Create a lead generation strategy in 7 steps

7 min read
Jen Roney

With business owners confronting sudden drops in revenue due to the effects of COVID-19, many are scrambling to find new customers. In this post, we’ll talk about how to make up for some of that lost ground with lead generation.

Whether your customers are other businesses or consumers, the first step is to understand what lead generation is and how it works.

Related: Small business survival guide for weathering the coronavirus

7 steps to find new customers

We get it: until recently, things have been going so well that you don’t even have a lead generation strategy. That’s okay because this right here is all you need:

  1. Set a goal.
  2. Decide on your target audience.
  3. Prep your website.
  4. Provide information they want.
  5. Build your email list.
  6. Get active on social media.
  7. Close the sale.

It’s smart to have a lead generation plan, regardless of whether sales are up or down. Now that life has been turned upside down by the coronavirus, it’s more than smart — it’s vital.

How can lead generation help my business?

A lead is a potential buyer who is already interested in what your business has to offer, and who shows a good possibility of becoming a customer.

There’s no point in chasing a person who has no interest in what you sell.

It’s literally a waste of money. But if you can catch the attention of someone who already needs what you offer, there’s a better chance you can turn them into a customer.

Fortunately, online marketing makes it possible for businesses to bring potential customers right to their digital doorsteps. Understanding how this works can help you open up previously untapped sources of sales.

A quick guide to finding new customers

When times are good, it’s tempting to overlook lead generation. But when times are less than good, tapping into new customers could make all the difference to how well your business weathers the storm. Here are the steps:

1. Set a goal

It’s important to set a goal so you can measure your efforts later on. Perhaps you’d like to increase the overall number of leads you bring in to your business every month, or maybe you’d like to bring a smaller number of better-qualified leads in (i.e. more likely to buy from you). Either way, put an actual number on your goal. This may feel like guessing at first but with time and experience you’ll get better at it.

2. Decide on your target audience

Lead Generation Closeup of a Human Eye]

Before you start chasing leads, it’s a good idea to slow down and make sure you know who you’re after. Who is your ideal customer?

You may want to consider who your best customers are right now, which of them return to your business to become repeat customers, and even develop buyer personas to help be sure you have an accurate picture of who they are. This is a good way to make sure you’re really addressing your efforts to your most likely customers.

Related: How to identify your target market

3. Prep your website

So the ultimate goal of lead generation is to bring likely customers to your website, where they can learn more about your business and possibly even place an order.

But before you start actively trying to bring people to your website, you’ll want to make sure it’s ready for them. This is an important step to be sure you are offering new leads the warmest online welcome possible.

A few questions to guide you:

  • Is your website optimized for SEO and page loading speed?
  • Have you checked the mobile experience by bringing your website up on your phone? Many customers may only visit your website from their phones.
  • Is it easy to quickly spot the information customers need and want?

Reviewing your website before you drive people to it will ensure a better experience for them and more clicks or calls for you.

4. Provide information they want

Lead Generation Gentlemen Plumbers Facebook

The key to attracting attention online is to consider what kinds of information your target audience needs, wants and is willing to spend their time on.

  • People searching for plumbers, for example, might be drawn to tips on keeping drains clog-free.
  • Those looking for an attorney will likely be looking for articles on the legal issues people are most concerned about now.
  • Businesses looking for manufacturing suppliers might scan their LinkedIn feed for information on availability of materials.

This doesn’t have to be hard — start by answering the questions your customers ask over and over. What matters is that you’re sharing information your target actually needs and wants and is therefore likely to click on. Learn more about how content marketing works here.

5. Build your email list

Once your website is ready and you’re sharing valuable content online, start collecting email addresses where you can. You’ll then be able to legally email these people to:

  • Offer coupons and discounts
  • Let them know about service options
  • Generally keep your products and services top of mind for them

The easiest way to gather email addresses is by adding a newsletter signup form to your website. You can also collect them in exchange for a downloadable guide or other resource your target might want.

6. Get active on social media

Once you know you have great content that will appeal to your potential customers, consider where your customers are and which social networks they use.

Repost the same messages across all the networks your customers spend time on.

If you can show up in meaningful ways where they’re already spending significant time each day, that’s a win. Even better? Social media marketing allows you to make sure your posts are seen by readers with particular characteristics (age, location, buying behavior, etc).

Related: What is social media marketing?

7. Close the sale

Don’t forget that your goal in generating leads for your business is to turn them into actual paying customers! Have a plan for how you’ll nurture leads as they come in to be sure you are:

  • Answering their questions quickly
  • Offering value by providing information — even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate sale
  • Building relationships

By the time they’re actually interested enough to reach out to you, make sure they know you’re eager to serve them.

Measure results and adjust as needed

Lead Generation Laptop Showing Analytics Screen
There are many tools you can use to track your efforts, starting with Google Analytics.

Remember the goal you set in the beginning? Take time to regularly look at what you hoped to achieve, and the results you see now.

This could be monthly or quarterly, but do it often enough that you can put more energy/money into things that are working, and discontinue the efforts that haven’t brought you the same results.

Fresh leads — now more important than ever

At the best of times, you’re probably only ever reaching a fraction of the potential customers out there for your business. Which is good news, because that means all you need to do is find more of them.

While lead generation tends to start as a trickle and grow gradually, the sooner you start the better. Just remember to set a goal, try something, measure the results and keep adapting.

Lead generation is key to ensuring your business can not just survive the current crisis but thrive over the long term. As in all seasons, persistence pays off.