Lead Generation For Small Businesses In Slow Times

Lead generation is a key activity for virtually every business, no matter the size. And in times such as these, when the economy is on a downturn, it is even more important that companies apply time and attention to new business lead generation.

Here are some tips which small businesses could find useful in driving those revenues up:

1. Get creative and effective in generating more from your existing customer base. I know this has nothing to do with new business lead generation, but it is far easier to accomplish and quicker to earn payback. Current customers will be far more inclined to buy from you than brand new, un-developed contacts. You could ring up customers who’ve stopped doing business with you.

Based on their past buying profile, you could create a special offer package for them. You could invite them in for a special event. You don’t have one planned? Plan one. Reward them with a bundle of specially priced items, perhaps available only to selected customers to celebrate your xyz anniversary. (Replace the xyz with something appropriate like, years in business, since opening of new store, birth of first child, launch of major product etc.)

Think about how you can approach those old friends, and you could earn instant additional income for your business.

2. Make it a habit to ask your latest customer if they know of anyone else who would benefit from the product or service that you offer. Most business or geographic markets are small worlds’ unto themselves. Now some of your customers won’t want to give you any names, particularly if your product or service has provided them with a competitive advantage. But you will be surprised how many customers will be happy to furnish you with names of their contacts who could be in the market for what you offer. While we’re talking about this technique, don’t forget to apply it to point 1 too.

3. Review you. What do I mean by that? Well, you could start by refining your positioning. Take a close look at your company, your product, your competition and your customers. Identify and define your ideal potential customer. What problems are they experiencing which you have the means to help them solve? Why should they go for your solution instead of your competitors’. Now, communicate this competitive value message to your prospects.

4. Manufacture yourself some media coverage. How do you do this? It’s all in the story. Create a Press Release and have a story with human interest at the centre. At least some of the media will be interested in covering it, giving you free publicity along the way leading, we hope, to new business. So where’s the human interest if you sell product x, or service y?

Well, do you have anyone in your business who is well known and successful in another field, like sport or the arts? Has anyone in your business won any awards? Has your business, product or service won any awards? Have you received some great testimonials from existing customers following the special event you organised for them during point 1. If they haven’t given you their testimonial, it’s probably because you forgot to ask for them. Right?

Survival could soon be the name of the game for many small businesses. Lead generation is essential, and can be tackled in many ways. In today’s economic climate, it’s down to you to be as creative as you can.

Website Design Tips – A Small Business Road-Map to More Online Leads

Designing a website when you’re a small business is different than what a Fortune 500 company would do. While large companies may have the nationwide brand recognition and many people linking to their site, you probably do not. This poses a challenge in ensuring that visitors to your site are well informed, they are directed to what they need to see on your site, they can easily subscribe to your site, and they leave with the impression of a very professional company As a small business owner myself and a website designer, I’ve compiled the following critical tips on designing your website.

Overall Design

– Clean
– Uncluttered
– Light-weight

The overall design of your site should be clean, uncluttered, and light-weight. By clean I mean that it should be a more simple design as opposed to lots of shapes, contrasting colors, and unreadable fonts. You can still have a very unique design but your customers will thank you for keeping it clean. This also leads into keeping it uncluttered. Have only the essential links, pictures, and widgets on your web page. The days of providing a real service by having the local weather or a dancing baby on your home page are over. Keeping your page uncluttered will let visitors focus on what is really important. If you have too much for one page, split it into two pages and use a call to action in the original page to direct the visitor. You also must keep your design light-weight as in smaller pictures, no crazy flash/animation, and use of background colors as opposed to images. This will ensure your web page loads quickly on a visitors browser and will make it much more accessible.

Content – Content Formatting

– Quality, Original Content
– Direct and to the point
– Small paragraphs for easy reading
– Easy reading font
– Font to background color contrast

Content is critical for a small business. Your web design must account for showcasing your content and providing good content for search engines like Google. This will definitely help with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ensure that your content is original quality content that doesn’t have too much fluff and gets to the point. I have been to websites before where after a couple of minutes of reading, I still don’t know what they do. Be direct and your visitors will thank you!

For formatting your content, you need to ensure that you have at least a 12 point font, which isn’t a crazy unreadable font. Stick with the basic fonts for your main content. Color is important so make sure that the contrast between your text and the background doesn’t make it unreadable. You don’t want too similar of colors so it’s hard to read and you don’t want a contrast that hurts your eyes to read (i.e. neon green on a black background).

Call to Action

– Include on every page
– Ask for what you want
– Explain the benefits

If someone is coming to your website, make sure they do what you want them to do. Many small business websites forget about asking the customer to buy a product, sign up for their list or whatever else you want them to do on your site. Be specific and include a call to action on all of your pages. If I want you to sign up for my newsletter so I can provide you with information and market my products to you, I need to sell you the benefits of being on my list. My call to action might be “Sign-up Today!” after explaining the benefits. If you don’t ask them or get them to take action, many times they won’t.

Capture Leads

– Capture an email address
– Entice with free products
– Low barrier to entry

If someone is visiting your website, you need to capture their information. They are obviously on your website for a reason and you need to give them the opportunity to learn more by capturing their information. Good website design for your small business should account for how you will capture their lead information. I like to make it a low barrier for entry for my visitors. You sign-up for my newsletter by providing me with just your email address in the side bar or the hover page that I display after you’ve been on my site for 7 seconds. I sell the benefits of getting free information and I make it easy. I will also offer a free product like a free report but I make the barrier to entry a little higher. If you want my free report, in addition to your email address you will also have to provide me with your name and phone number. Guess what makes great leads to call on?

There are many aspects to great website design for small businesses and I’ve really only scratched the surface. I suggest doing a lot of research on the subject so you can end up with an online presence that sets you apart from other businesses in your industry. There are many professionals that do a great job with the design and professionals that do a great job with the optimization and lead capture. Not many do both so make sure you do your homework.

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.

3 Free Ways To Market Your Small Business Online

Most small business owners know they need to be involved in online marketing but many are at a loss on simple free steps they can take to get started or grow their internet presence. It’s unfair too because many small businesses are stuck buying expensive print ads in newspapers and the yellow pages.

So, in this short article, we’re going to learn 3 free ways to market your small business on the internet. With no further ado, let’s do it!

Free Marketing Method 1: Create a Facebook Fan Page

Facebook Fan Pages are not just a novelty anymore. If you look, most “big brands” aren’t even advertising their own websites these days, they’re advertising their Facebook page. You’ve probably seen ads for companies like Ford and at the end it says “visit us on Facebook” or something along those lines.

Why is Facebook so important for small business marketing? To answer that question, let me tell you a story. Imagine you go to a party and when you arrive first. While you’re waiting for everyone else to show up you look around the room. Sure, there are beautiful pictures everywhere and you can read all about your host and even learn a little about why the party is happening.

After hours and hours of waiting alone, you finally figure it out. No one else is coming to this party. So, why am I talking about parties? Because that “party” is your website (if you have one). Websites are good to quickly give information, but there’s no space for interaction. And even if there is, it’s not in real time.

Facebook practically allows you to communicate in real time with your customers, and it allows them to interact with each other. Your best customers will help spread the word about your business and help the “newbies” who have questions. To go back to our party example, it’s like being at a party with all the cool kids – and they all want to talk to you!

So, if you don’t have a Facebook fanpage yet… now is the time.

Free Marketing Method 2: Blogging For Your Business

Besides a Facebook fan page, you need to be blogging. A Blog is simply a type of website that allows you to post articles or posts in order. They aren’t too hard to setup and you can get free blogs from sites like Blogger.com or WordPress.com. Although, I think it’s best to install your own custom blog software.

Blogs are really important because they allow you to create fresh content which in turn get your site ranked for better terms. This is especially important for local businesses because it’s a lot easier to rank for keywords when you have a local phrase. For example, if I wanted to rank for Tarpon Springs Internet Marketer it wouldn’t be that hard because:

1) There’s not a lot of competition
2) I have a blog and can write a blog post all about that topic

Google loves stuff like this because the page that my blog creates is completely optimized for the phrase Tarpon Springs Internet Marketer. And blogs also help solve the “party scene with no guests” scenario because you can actually include Facebook comments in your blog. This is a bit complex, but most web designers can do this for you if you ask.

Free Marketing Method 3: Find Free Small Business Leads Using Twitter

This is a great little tactic for small businesses, especially if you don’t mind reaching out and looking for customers. So many local business owners just wait for someone to walk in the door… so by getting out and looking you’ll be 10 times better off than other business owners.

Here’s how this strategy works. Many people are on twitter. It’s a micro-blogging site that allows people to post short updates about what they’re doing. You can sign up for Twitter by going to Twitter.com. It’s always best to use your name so you appear to be more real. And don’t worry, it’s free to sign up.

Anyway, when you register you can now communicate with other people on Twitter. So, who are you going to talk to on there? Easy. You’re going to go here:

http://search.twitter.com/advanced

Search for words or phrases people might say who need your product or service. The good thing about Twitter is that people love to complain on there over mundane things. For example, someone might write, “dang it! My brakes are going out. This sucks!”

So, imagine if you’re an auto-mechanic you could contact that person and offer them a free check-up or whatever. And the best part is, before you do your search, you can actually type in a zip code area to search in. That way, if you’re in Dunedin, Florida you are going to be seeing updates from people in a different state.

Small Business Internet Marketing: Start Now

You’ve just been given 3 great ways to get stated marketing your small business online. But the real key is to get started now. Don’t wait another second. Your competitors are either already online taking your customers or getting ready to be. One of the real keys to the internet is that the early bird gets the worm.

So, take what you’ve just read and put it to work now.