Customer Leads in the modern age
Times have changed a lot since I was out banging on doors and selling vacuum cleaners to Housewives in the early 80’s.
Technology has certainly changed the way we do many things. Yet the basic principles of how business find new customers has not changed that much. People still need to trust you and feel they know you, and that has not changed one iota over centuries.
Canvassing, which was a big part of my weekly tasks as I progressed into B2B sales with a company car and expenses in the mid 90’s, where you would turn up unannounced at a company’s reception with a spiel like:
“Hello I was just next door with so and so and I thought I would pop my head in say Hi and ask who is the person I would need to speak to regarding…..OK, may I have a compliment slip so I remember who I called on and I’ll give him a call soon. Thanks Bye”
This practice has mostly long gone, and you are more likely to get arrested wandering around in office buildings without a badge these days.
One of the key elements of any business is new client acquisition. Whether you are a start-up or a fortune 500 stock traded behemoth, you will still have weekly meetings about where your next new client is going to come from. Sure your profit is in your existing clients, but the future of your business is the people you have yet to meet.
So if you can’t knock on doors anymore, and the idea of cold calling leaves people with absolute dread, how do businesses thrive?
We asked our Biz-find members how they find new customers and this is what our survey said:
Customer referrals are an organization’s best friend, yet many businesses know they are leaving bundles on the table! It seems to be a lost art of asking our clients to refer us to their colleagues and friends when you are with them and when they are happy to help, your current clients will find it harder to remember to refer you when you have not been in touch for some time.
An existing customer knows what you are offering and probably has a good idea of what the referred prospect needs, and this is the best warm call you can make, and an appointment is quiet easy to organise.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Traditionally the first place modern business look for new service providers and products is Google and other search engines.
Back 30 years ago it was the big Yellow pages book and getting in Yellow pages was expensive, it was as much a science back then as in; what fonts to use, what size of ads and where to place your advert.
If you think Search engine optimization and website design is tricky now, spending an hour with the Yellow pages sales rep in the 80’s and 90’s was a tedious education in itself.
Online marketing has changed dramatically over the last 5 years let alone the decade. Google, the biggest search engine, has been trying to fight the manipulation of its search engine pages by tech people and trying to give more of an education to their surfers, by rewarding blog sites and websites with more wholesome information.
So herein is the opportunity for writers and passionate companies to gain the top ground on sites like Google; as generally their online presence will make a reader stay to learn from them.
Google is striving to be a portal to answer questions, and not a site full of links to businesses with bland websites just hawking products but are top of Google because of black hat SEO manipulation.
Search engine optimization still exists, but it is more a case of basic meta titles and descriptions to help a search engine along and learning how people search on the search engine’s advertising platforms, where they have a database of currently searched keywords with their alternatives which may surprise you.
Sometimes in this research we can find just the plural of a keyword can have a dramatic difference in numbers of people searching. You can base your website and content marketing strategy around these keywords, but you should never lose the feeling of what you are trying to say, how that piece you are writing will benefit the reader, and endear you as an expert to them.
According to Google, tech buyers consume an average of 14 pieces of online content before making a buying decision.
Companies that produce educational or informative content can establish thought leadership and generate leads earlier in the buying process, setting the stage to ultimately win the business, the key is to avoid selling. By offering prospects helpful information in the form of blogs, whitepapers, e-books, webinars, case studies or demos, you can win their trust and their business.
Getting an article in a magazine, the newspapers, or putting a hand written card in your local grocers or news agents was social media in the 80s-90’s.
Now people are getting run over glued to their phones, and sadly a whole new culture of bad manners when using phones has emerged, nevertheless; business must use and get used to this new technology
Search engines reference the number of likes you have on your site’s content, and if you are registered on Facebook as a business and have a Twitter feed, this will all count towards a positive signal to rank your website.
By sharing good info to a large social media reach, then you have a free way to advertise to a wider audience.
You need to grow you followers and likes to get a decent spread, and with Facebook and other social media sites recently curtailing the use of free organic reach in favour of their paid services, this is when a decent number comes to play.
This again all takes time, it’s not an overnight job by any stretch of the imagination, and paying for some dodgy company to provide you with likes or followers is foolhardy at best, as these so called members won’t stay long or engage in anything you have to say.
Twitter and LinkedIn, with Facebook the runner up, have started to outperform other social media as the top sites for sending traffic back to your content, saying this however we would never forget Google plus, as they are the big Daddy of the search world and whatever they say,- we do!
PPC (Pay per click)
If you have online marketing people working for you who are good at PPC, they will be worth their weight as it is a science to create a landing page that corresponds with all the rules of Google to be anywhere near the top, paying per click does not automatically mean you get prime top spot, you may be down the right hand side, 5th one down, this will be due to some under-performing keyword or text on your landing page. You do need to learn a lot about Google PPC before you start to see ROI.
Trade shows, conferences and industry events
Fantastic way to get leads but only if you understand the follow up process
Speaking at an event immediately gives prospective clients a name to a face, literally separating and elevating you from the hundreds of other vendors or service providers trying to get noticed. By following up with people you meet at shows in a timely fashion, you stay top of mind.
Booking and running a stall for a few days at an exhibition is not the cheapest way to brand your name, and with the freebies you have to give away you had better have a press release ready and do something spectacular to go viral on social media to have a decent ROI.
Back in my day business networking was called Church and it was worth going just to let people know you were a God fearing family man (even if you were a Jedi) as it built trust and people won’t buy anything until they have convinced themselves you are trustworthy first.
Since the 90’s many people saw business gatherings as a great way to bring business face to face so they can see the colour of your gib and leverage the oldest adage that; people buy from people.
Ivan Misner is probably the leader of this bunch of networking entrepreneurs who created Business Networking International (BNI) who have chapters in many countries and most groups meet at ungodly hours of the morning, drink copious amounts of coffee, and have a strict format to encourage customer referrals between their members.
Now most commercial cities have many networking events, all the chambers of commerce in most countries hold regular events, and it works for most business people as they are relatively affordable to attend an event or join a club. You should however take some consultancy in learning how to network or you will flounder. Events are usually held before or after work time so you will pay with your time as well.
Pain and solution sales
As a sales rep for many years it is interesting to see how we are using Psychology more and more in sales, Nuero Linguistic Programming (Hypnosis) is often taught to reps now to get the sale.
One would argue that if you have to use mind games to the hilt to manipulate the buyer to believe you offer a good service will soon mean they won’t trust you later, when your spell has worn off, and the longevity of your business is ultimately flawed.
As a rep, when I was looking for a new position. all I needed to be sure of was that the product sold itself, then all I had to do is see how much of the product the customer wanted.
One thing I still use today is the pain and pleasure sales model. You meet your prospect and you are a sympathetic ear to their issues and you are there with the solution to their problems.
Pay for leads
One new way you can find a new customer today instead of doing all the above, is to have a look at the business leads we have today. We have created an online directory free for business so they can advertise their products and services on our site, then we ask our members what they are buying and we have a list of all our members wants, so pop along to the leads page look for your category of business and see what we have for you in terms of customers who want to buy what you sell today!
Wish I had that in the 1980’s