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How to Generate More Sales Leads

November 30th 2022

Most business owners know that marketing is critical to success. Marketing is essential because it connects your company with potential customers and helps persuade them to spend money on your products or services. Marketing is what leads to sales, which is every company’s life blood.

There are two basic types of marketing methods—outbound and inbound. 

Outbound marketing is essentially outreach. It is sharing information about your business with as many people as possible, in the hopes that in doing so you’ll connect with people who might be interested in learning more about your products and services. Outbound relies more on mass marketing tools, like advertising, sponsorships, and email blasts, that are designed to get your offerings in front of the greatest number of people possible. It’s a numbers game you’re playing with outbound marketing.

Where outbound marketing uses more of a push strategy in marketing, which attempts to push information out to potential customers, inbound marketing uses pull methods, which aim to attract just the right customers. Inbound tactics aren’t designed to reach everyone. They include methods such as targeted social media posts, blog posts, and digital downloads that are relevant for your company’s target audience.

Hubspot estimates that businesses today spend 90% of their efforts on outbound marketing and only 10% on inbound, when, really, they should reverse those percentages.

So, what, exactly, are the best inbound marketing tools?

Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler, authors of Predictable Revenue have identified nine inbound marketing methods that work, ranked below from most effective to least effective in terms of generating leads:

  1. Referrals. When a customer is so happy with their purchase from you that they feel compelled to tell everyone they know about it, your odds of landing some business from that unprompted testimonial are high. Sometimes customers share their delight through online reviews, or they may make a recommendation when one of their friends or colleagues asks for suggestions. These are the very best sources of leads. And one of the best ways to encourage others to refer business your way is to refer business to them. 
  2. Free trials. Very common today in the online software business, free trials are a great way to allow a potential customer to sample what you offer without a long-term commitment. If they like your product, they’ll pay to stick around. Free trials or samples also work for online groups or subscriptions. You could offer a free consultation, a free product, or free content to demonstrate your expertise, to encourage your prospect to spring for a full-priced product.
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO). To achieve positive results with SEO, you need to research what keywords and phrases your customers are using to look for the products and services you sell, and then attach those keywords to your website, so that your company’s site comes up higher in search results. The more time and energy you invest in applying keywords to your webpages, web content, and blog posts, the better your ranking—meaning the closer to the top of all listings you will appear. This is useful because many buyers only look at the first few results search engines like Google provide them.
  4. Blogging. Writing blog posts that you publish on your company’s website is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, position yourself as a resource, educate potential customers, and help prospects get a sense of what you’re like in person, among other things. This can be especially useful if you’re selling personal services or consulting. The best blog posts encourage a conversation, Ross and Tyler say, such as by asking a question or inviting input from your audience.
  5. Email newsletters. Although you may feel overwhelmed by the number of email newsletters that land in your inbox, the fact is that they work. Sending out an electronic newsletter once or twice a month using an automated system provides a way for you to remain top-of-mind to your customers and prospects. You can share ideas, promote products, educate buyers, and offer special deals or discounts that may spur a customer to make a purchase.
  6. Webinars. Online seminars are a terrific tool for reconnecting with customers, by inviting them to a scheduled event where they can learn something new from you. Ross and Tyler say that 80% of webinars are focused on teaching, rather than selling, and to make the most of the opportunity, you should consider approaching your webinars as educational opportunities, too. Demonstrate a skill or a product, share industry information, or update participants on information they need to know, but whatever you do, do not use hard-sell tactics to make a sale. You’ll only turn potential customers off.
  7. Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Paying for leads through online ads, where you are charged only when someone clicks on it, works well in some businesses. However, “the more trust-building and education your prospects need, the less likely PPC leads will convert into customers,” Ross and Tyler claim. That may be because many buyers are skeptical of paid ads. However, PPC has been found to work for some businesses, just be conscious of how much money you’re investing and confirm the sales that are resulting more than pay the cost of the ads.
  8. Affiliate marketing. Partnering with other businesses that are willing to promote your products or services in exchange for a commission is how affiliate marketing works. And affiliates can help attract new customers, especially when they have huge or loyal social media followings. Think about complementary businesses or colleagues who might be willing to tell their audiences about your company and earn a small payment for each sale you make. Those are often the best affiliate partners.
  9. Social media. Social media platforms can be useful tools for introducing yourself to potential customers, through images and video they can’t see anywhere else. That glimpse into your life or your business helps build trust and familiarity that can lead to a purchase at some point. However, social media alone is generally ineffective. If you’re going to invest your marketing resources in a social media platform, like Instagram or TikTok or LinkedIn, use them to drive traffic to higher value inbound tools, such as your blog, or to your website to sign up for a free trial, or to register for a webinar. 

Although each of these methods is separate and distinct, they are also complementary and can work together to amplify a message. But don’t try all of them at once, the authors say.

Instead, pick three tactics first and get some momentum with those before branching out any further.

By investing time and money in finding customers who have an interest in your business and who then take the initiative to gather more information, either through a free trial or visiting your website, your odds of success rise significantly, all without having to invest heavily in expensive promotional tactics. In fact, the best marketing tactic of all, referrals, can cost you absolutely nothing.

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