Small business owners are always looking for the most efficient ways to find new business leads. Lead generation falls into two main categories: outbound lead generation (cold calls, direct mail, advertising and e-mail marketing) and inbound lead generation (SEO, social media, PPC). You might be wondering which type of lead generation to focus on or how you can decide where to allocate more time and resources to get the most out of your lead generation activities.
In general, here are some ideas for how your business can decide which types of lead generation are best for you:
What kind of customers are you trying to reach? Social media marketing gets a lot of hype, but many customers are still not on Twitter. If they do use social media, then they don’t necessarily use it to make purchase decisions. Social media is great for B2C products and services, but it may not be the right for many B2B product categories. If you are selling a breakthrough accounting system for financial companies, you might not find a lot of CFO’s using twitter as part of their job function. Before you make the efforts and develop a comprehensive social media strategy, ask yourself if your decision makers are there?
Are buyers searching for you? In general, there are certain products and services that buyers shop for online and others that they don’t. A CIO might search online for networking gear to replace outdated products, but there is a good chance they aren’t searching for “managed IT providers” or “IT consultants”. Often these types of services come through referrals or old fashioned business development through networking and cold calling. If you are doing keyword research and not seeing a lot of searches for your service, then it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth going after, but rather it requires more of an outbound lead generation approach.
How do you want to allocate your marketing budget– “paid” media or “owned” media? With traditional outbound lead generation, you have to pay every time you market your business – whether it’s buying a mailing list to send direct mail or whether it’s buying an advertisement or Pay-per-click ad campaign. These types of advertising are “paid media” – you pay to play, so to speak. With inbound lead generation, you also have to invest money and/or time setting up your website, writing website content, and building an audience on social media.
Instead of “paid media” where you are basically “renting” someone else’s audience, inbound lead generation is “owned media” where you have a lasting platform to generate audience attention and get more sales and leads over time. If you have people on your team who know how to write good web content and use social media the right way, then inbound lead generation can be a cost-effective marketing tool for the long run. This strategy takes a lot of up front efforts and can take months to generate leads; whereas, with let’s say cold calling, you can start generating leads the same day.
Ideally, your business should try to strike the right balance between inbound lead generation and outbound lead generation. While not all aspects of inbound lead generation or outbound lead generation are right for every business, most businesses need a mix of both. If you have a strong outbound marketing program, then you can identify prospects and proactively reach out to customers who are the right fit for what you sell. If you also have a solid inbound lead generation platform, then you’ll get a steady stream of new prospects finding your website and approaching you. Working together, both types of lead generation will help result in more sales.
image credit: Shutterstock