In the endless pursuit of ‘new leads’, far too many business owners and professionals in the B2B space overlook the obvious. That’s what this CHEAT SHEET is all about. It’s about embracing proven and often overlooked strategies for generating B2B leads.
1. UNLOCK YOUR INFORMAL NETWORK
Did you know that you already have a list of potential prospects right under your nose?
We all have informal networks and that includes informal lists of potential future clients or dormant past clients.
That’s right. Some people might need a gentle reminder that you still exist and that you are still available to help.
Here are FOUR examples of ‘INFORMAL’ networks:
#1 EMAIL CONTACTS
How many people have you swapped emails with over the past 12 months? More than 500? Export your contacts from Gmail or Outlook. Use a batching tool or CRM, like Ninjodo, to send a reminder that you still exist, featuring a clear call-to-action, such as an invitation to book a strategy call.
ACTION: Make sure that the first email you send is not trying to blatantly sell something. Instead, be generous. Give away a free report or invite your audience to complete a useful diagnostic. Maybe tie-in a significant event that’s happening in your business, like a re-brand, new website or new direction. A significant ‘event’ can also be just that… an event.
HOT TIP: If the call-to-action in your email is something specific to your target audience, like a free report, a helpful diagnostic, not everyone on your database will be suitable or interested in your offer. That’s why it helps to include a sentence or two in your copy, like this: “What has this got to do with you? If you’re not the time of person who would benefit from [this free thing], you might know someone who is. So please don’t be afraid to forward this email. Thanks in advance!”
#2 ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE
If you use accounting software to issue invoices, such as Xero or MYOB, you also have access to another, often neglected list of past clients. Export this list or ask your accountant/bookkeeper to provide you with a list.
ACTION: Once again, use a batching tool or CRM to send an offer. But what will be your reason for reaching out? Maybe host a lunch bringing all your current and past clients together? A gift is better than a pitch, especially if you haven’t been in contact for a while.
HOT TIP: What is ‘batching’? You are probably familiar with email broadcasting tools, which are designed to send a mass broadcast to many people simultaneously, such as an email newsletter provider. Batching tools, on the other hand, make it possible to send individual emails, directly from Outlook or Gmail in bulk. These emails are sent and arrive as an individual email, which means that they seem more personal and the deliverability of these emails is extremely high. Batching has the benefits of sending an email to one person, but with the time efficiencies of sending a broadcast.
#3 LINKEDIN CONTACTS
While I’ll be talking about LinkedIn options in greater detail in this CHEAT SHEET, it’s currently now possible to extract the email contact details of all your LinkedIn connections using a tool like this: LINKEDIN AUTOMATION TOOL.
ACTION: Could you send personalized emails, using a batching tool, to your LinkedIn contacts? The first step is to export this informal network, using an automation tool, like this one here. The alternative is to send messages to your 1st Degree Connections in Bulk. This is something that is addressed later in this CHEAT SHEET.
#4 BOX OF BUSINESS CARDS
Yes, we all have a big box of business cards or a bunch of small piles, sitting on desks, side-tables, filling up purses and coat pockets.
ACTION: These cards can easily be scanned using a smartphone app, for the purposes of creating yet another short list of potential clients. Simply go to your smartphone AppStore and conduct a search using these words: Business Card Scanner. Too easy!
HOT TIP: If you plan to export, scan, consolidate lists for the purposes of sending a personalized ‘batched’ email, you better have a solid offer. Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. Offer something helpful for free, as a way to re-ignite dormant relationships and start new conversations. Examples could include a free Report, a helpful Diagnostic or invitation to book a strategy call, and NOT a free trial or a discount.
2. YOUR NETWORK CON LINKEDIN
LinkedIn is the most powerful social media platform if it’s your job to connect with business owners or senior decision makers in commercial organizations.
Yet most people still use it as an extension of their CV!?
No-one cares what Diplomas you have or whether you claim to be a ‘a highly dynamic and innovative leader’. It’s your LinkedIn profile but make it about them… your future customer and clients.
Here are THREE ways to get future clients OFF social media and into your business:
#1 DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
And do this is a way that LinkedIn will understand. There’s no point claiming that your target audience is made up of ‘socially aware business leaders’. How will Linkedin be able to find these people? Use words that reflect LinkedIn’s search categories.
ACTION: In any given day, LinkedIn will allow you to send 20 to 100 invitation requests. If you have a clear understanding of your ideal customer or client, this is a fast and easy way to boost your network and, therefore, your funnel. Or, you can use an AUTOMATION TOOL to do this for you. But, this will only work, if you have clarity about who you want to target. So, how do you do that?
HOT TIP: The most effective LinkedIn searches are made up of terms like INDUSTRY and TITLE and LOCATION. This is also helpful because it will force you to talk about your audiences in ways that THEY will understand also. It will also help others refer clients your way. For example, I’m not immediately sure whether or not I know any ‘socially aware business leaders’ but I do know a few CEOs who work for Charities? See the difference?
#2 GET THEM OFF SOCIAL
Once you have connected with a prospect, the next step is to get that potential client OFF social media and INTO your database or ONTO the phone. But, that’s easier said than done!
ACTION: What could you possibly give to a new lead? Maybe a free guide, like this? Could you ask them to complete a helpful diagnostic? Do you have a reason to connect that offers to deliver a clear outcome? These are all ways to get lead OFF social media and into your world. Make a decision and start offering that gift in new conversations with your new connections.
HOT TIP: Don’t ask strangers to marry you on the first date. This happens on LinkedIn all the time. You accept an invitation to connect, and they lead with a pitch. “Let’s get together to discuss ways that I might be able to help your organization.” Whaaah!? Instead, give them something to make them aware of the value that you are able to offer.
#3 LINKEDIN ADVERTISING
Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, its ability to reach highly targeted audiences extremely cost-effectively has improved dramatically.
ACTION: Invest in a ‘micro-gamble’. Run an advertising campaign to help identify easily accessible audiences on LinkedIn. A small investment of $400 should be enough to attract 20 leads, at $20 per lead. If you sell a complex service and target hard-to-reach decision makers, this option offers outstanding value for money.
HOT TIP: In order to succeed with LinkedIn ads, you will need a few ingredients: 1) A clearly defined audience, 2) An Optin Gift likely to be of high appeal to that audience. 3) A landing page to collect the lead. 4) An email autoresponder to deliver on the promise and follow up. Ads with an offer to ‘Call Us’ or ‘Click here for a free consultation’ almost never work. Remember, don’t ask as stranger to marry you on the first date. Buy them a coffee first!
3. STRATEGIC MARKETING ALLIANCES & PARTNERSHIPS
Forming alliances is all about leveraging the audiences of others. Who else in your industry has access to a large audience of people who represent your ideal customer or client? How could you work together to amplify your combined reach?
Some alliances are simple in nature and structure (E.G. “You promote me and I’ll promote you.”) Some are more complex and take the form of a stronger, ongoing partnership.
Here are THREE ways to forge alliances and start harnessing the audiences of OTHERS for mutual benefit:
#1. BEFORE AFTER GAME
One of the greater stumbling blocks when forging alliances is the initial identification of potential partners. Who should you partner with? Who are typical ‘complementary but non-competitive’ organizations?
ACTION: Write a list of the products and services that your typical customer or client is likely to need BEFORE they need you. Then, write a list of products and services they are likely to need AFTER they need you. This will help you map out a typical client journey and identify they products and services they will need WHILE they need you. Any one of the industries you identify BEFORE, WHILE and AFTER could have the potential to become a rich vein of STRATEGIC MARKETING ALLIANCES & PARTNERSHIPS.
HOT TIP: When you perform this exercise, it’s likely that you will already know decision-makers from this industry. If not, who do you already have a relationship with, someone who you perhaps regularly see at networking events or chat with on social media? Friends with potential benefits. Write a list!
#2. AUDIT YOUR ASSETS
Before seeking out potential alliance partners, it helps to have an idea about how you can help ‘them’. Long-term SMAPs need to benefit BOTH parties. That’s why it’s worth auditing your own assets. What could you bring to the relationship?
ACTION: Write a list of your obvious assets, like the size of your own network. But don’t forget the ‘skills’ you possess. Sometimes a skill is worth more than an obvious asset. I have forged alliances where my partner has supplied the list, while I have hosted the webinar. I have also assembled ‘surveys’ and then invited multiple partners to promote the survey in order to get the data.
HOT TIP: Personal assets often are more valuable to a partner than a business asset. For example, a larger business won’t be excited about the size of your list. But maybe if you could attach your personal brand to their content, that will turn the tide?
#3. BD 101
The next logical step is to reach out and meet with potential alliance partners. If you have a good idea who would make a logical partner, if you already have a basic understanding of your assets, the next piece of the puzzle is to gain a better understanding of their ‘deficits’. What do they lack in their business? The best way to find this out is to propose a meeting.
ACTION: Possibly the fastest and easiest path to reach potential alliance partners is via LinkedIn. Run a search combining industries and decision-maker types that you want to connect with and simply propose a meeting. Don’t provide too much detail when suggesting the catch-up. The offer to forge some sort of alliance or referral relationship is usually enough to grab someone’s attention. Then, suggest a brief 25-minute phone chat.
HOT TIP: Spend the meeting asking questions, and NOT proposing ways to work together. What are their goals? What’s holding them back? What do they want to achieve in the next 12-months? How could you fill any marketing gaps? Then, after the meeting, email a sample of ideas.
4. LEVEL UP THE LEAD GENERATION POTENTIAL OF YOUR WEBSITE
If you operate a business in the B2B space, it’s unlikely that your website will generate a lot of traffic.
And that’s simply because most people don’t naturally search for solutions to complex problems on Google. They are looking for solutions to simple problems and immediate headaches.
This means that it’s even more important to do more with the traffic you get by maximizing the lead generation potential of your site.
Here are THREE ways to level up your website and collect more leads:
#1. WHAT IS THE HEADACHE ‘BEFORE’
Once again, if you sell a complex product or service, most of the people you serve are unlikely to be searching for your solution on search engines. In fact, they might not even fully understand or appreciate how a product or service like yours could solve their many headaches. Yet, the do, indeed, have headaches. Therefore, if you want to harness the power of search engines start producing content about the headaches they have BEFORE they need you, because these are the topics they are actually searching for.
ACTION: Do you have a blog? Do you create content for your site, in the form of whitepapers or ebooks or free downloads? Make a list of all the common headaches shared by your target audiences BEFORE they need your product or service and what other options are they searching for to solve their problems. For example, while I would almost never recommend that a B2B business invest in Tradeshows as a form of lead generation, my audiences are often searching for ‘better ways to generate leads at tradeshows’. They are not thinking about my products and services because they might not even be aware that cheaper and faster options are available.
HOT TIP: Don’t just create ‘blog posts’. Create more meaningful and in-depth items of content that can be repurposed in many ways. For example, this cheat sheet could be published, in full, as an article on my site AND as an article on LinkedIn. I could also cut it into five parts and create a series of articles, or a series of emails. I could shave off 80% of the words leaving only the key points and use that shortened version to create an infographic. One item if content, when structured appropriately, can be used to create many more, even slidedecks, videos, podcasts and social memes.
#2. TRANSFORM YOUR SITE INTO A LANDER
Did you know that the best websites in the world, on average, only convert at 2%. Only 2% of visitors result in a sale or a lead. However, the worst landing pages convert at 10%. That’s because a landing page is a distraction free page, featuring only two options: 1) Take the next step; or 2) Leave.
ACTION: There are two ways to transform your website into a landing page. The first option is to dedicate all content above the fold on your homepage to the promotion of a single call-to-action, like the promotion of an optin gift or an invitation to book a meeting. However, this can often require the involvement of your web deliver and can become a costly exercise. The second option is to simply add an entry or exit pop-up, sometimes called a ‘lightbox’. Based on your own preferences, a lightbox can be set to appear and take over the page when someone arrives on your website or leaves your website. It can be used to target on new visitor or repeat visitors or only after a certain number of visitors or seconds on the page.
HOT TIP: Most people hate pop-ups, and that’s simply because they often don’t relate to the content on the page or they appear at the most intrusive time (e.g. halfway through reading an article). But, once again, if you can identify they headaches of your target audience BEFORE they need you and create a pop-up printing an optin gift that solves that problem, you will dramatically increase the number of leads your site collected in any given month.
#3. ‘WE’ v ‘YOU’
Most websites are loaded with the word ‘We’ and ‘Our’. They mostly talk about the business rather than the needs of the visitor. “We are leading specialists.” “Our team is made up of award winning professional.” “We work with market leaders.” “Check out our case studies.” Of course, high performing websites find ways to upend the conversation and make it about the headaches, obstacles, aspirations and desires of the visitor.
ACTION: Audit your web copy and count the number of times that the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ appear. Find ways to replace these with a ‘you’. For example, “We are chiropractors” would logically be replaced by “Do you have back pain.” Language about awards and certifications can become, “Do you want to work with someone you can trust?” Testimonials can be transformed into case studies (e.g. “How would these services apply to you and your circumstances?”) and so on and so forth. This is marketing 101.
HOT TIP: Every time you engage with a future client, whether they are visiting your website or whether you are connecting face-to-face, they will be invariably asking themselves that usually unspoken question, “WIIFM?” (i.e. “What’s in it for me?”) Always be answering that unspoken question.
5. CREATE AN INDUSTRY DIAGNOSTIC OR INDEX
While very few people enjoy completing surveys, most people are curious about how they compare or ‘stack up’ to other people in their industry.
If they have a problem, they will often also be interested in getting a ‘diagnosis’. While a survey just takes, an Index or Diagnostic collects information but also delivers an outcome.
It answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” There is a quid pro quo. An Index or Diagnostic can be used to generate leads, segment, pre-qualify and provide a better understanding of your target audiences.
Here are THREE ways to generate more leads, while positioning you as THE PRIZE:
The purpose of a diagnostic is two-fold. It collects data (for you) and diagnoses a problem (for the prospect). A diagnostic doesn’t need to be complicated. Rather than invest in complicated software, we usually simply involve just one question for the purposes of making a diagnosis and then redirect participants to a set of recommendations based on their answer to this one multiple-choice question. That’s usually enough.are actually searching for.
ACTION: What should you call your Diagnostic? Here are some templates that you can use: 1) “Do you have what it takes to [INSERT OUTCOME]? Complete the Diagnostic.” 2) “Do you know the Top 5 [OUTCOME] Killers? Take the test.” 3) Do you qualify for the [INDUSTRY SPECIFIC PROGRAM OR REBATE]? Complete the checklist.”
HOT TIP: As Warren Buffet once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” When you create a Diagnostic, try to include questions that identify people who are NOT a good fit. We call these ‘Redflags’ and ‘Deal Breakers’. Establish who you do NOT want to work with.
#2. INDUSTRY INDEX
The purpose of an Industry Index is, again, to collect data. But it can also be used to capture trends and insights that affect your industry as a whole. Other benefits of hosting an Industry Index include its ability to attract the input of industry leaders and its ability to position you as an industry leader, because you are the big thinker who instigated the initiative. You become recognised as a driver of change in your space.
ACTION: First identify what are the questions that your audience want answered. For example, in most industries, most players want to know how they ‘stack up’ against other participants, including their competitors. For example, in our industry, I am often asked ‘what’s normal’? How much traffic is normal? How many meetings should I book in order to close one client? How much should I pay to acquire one lead? What’s normal?
HOT TIP: Include questions that relate to the PAINS shared by your target audiences. This is information that most industry players want to know. In other words, it’s always good to discover that ‘you are not alone’ and that others face similar challenges.
#3. CREATE A CONSORTIUM
If you are a small business or just starting out, it can be hard to collect enough data to make your Index worthwhile. You will need at least 400 form completions if you would like to identify trends or gather insights that meaningfully reflect what’s happening in your industry as a whole. That’s why it sometimes helps to involve other industry leaders in the creation and promotion of your Index.
ACTION: Which industry leaders or industry associations would benefit from the insights that your Index is likely to generate? Who else might benefit from the leads? An Index can be co-branded and supported by multiple players. Indeed, it gains additional credibility with every industry association or industry leader involved. When multiple players start promoting your Index simultaneously, this is good for the Index, it’s good for the industry, it’s good for the participants, it’s good for you!
HOT TIP: Perhaps involve a media organisation. They have the reach but they do not have the technical abilities or the time to assemble an Index. (At least, that’s what most think.) You, however, have both. The media organisation can get the data as an ‘exclusive’. However, this should not prevent you from distributing the outcomes to media outlets more broadly and generating additional coverage for you and your Index, should you so desire.
James Tuckerman is one of Australia’s most accomplished digital publishers. He launched his first media business at the age of 26, Anthill Magazine, named Best Small Publisher in Australia twice. He has since gone on to start, grow and support numerous ventures, including B2B School, where he designs and hosts courses to help business owners find leads, secure clients faster, elevate their authority, improve their rates and do less better.