Generating sales leads on a small budget. Every start-up that wants to sell something runs into this challenge.
Uncovering Qualified Leads without a Big Marketing Budget
It is hard to debate the fact that leads are the lifeblood for virtually every sales organization. Without qualified leads, scaling a business can be a tricky thing to maneuver. For large organizations with big marketing budgets, there are many options at your disposal – trade shows, conferences, SEO, social media, lead lists, outsourced sales and webinars to name a few.
But for startups, early stage companies and small/medium businesses, uncovering qualified leads on a tight budget is a very different situation, and one that many organizations struggle to figure out. While I am not suggesting we have discovered the holy grail here at SalesZip, I am going to share some of the more effective methods that we have used, and look forward to additional comments on what this readership finds successful.
“Calling All Customers”
One of the easiest and most accessible sources for new prospects resides in an all too often untapped source; existing customers. What we have found in our organization is that there are networks and friendships that extend well beyond the walls of competition. If you are doing a sound job of servicing your customers, they will happily (in some instances eagerly) share the success with their peers; even those that work for a competitive organization. Asking your customer who else they can recommend can uncover a bounty of qualified targets for your sales team to go hunt. The obvious caveat here is knowing when you have earned the right to ask for referrals and recommendations.
A great example was a recent trip we took to visit a customer in a major metropolitan location. The customer was so impressed with our software and team that when we asked her if she knew anyone else she could refer us to, she picked up the phone and called her colleague at another company right on the spot.
Leverage the Marketplace
Recognizing that not everybody has access to an entire marketplace that they can tap into, there are countless ways to leverage the same “crowd” dynamics. Whether you sponsor a specific user group in your community, get active in a local “meetup” or become a visible member of a relevant organization, you can successfully create trust and credibility. Having others sing your praises will drive interest in you and your company after all, word of mouth is some of the most effective marketing available! Volunteer to host or chaperone a session, moderate an interesting discussion, or present on a topic of interest at a trade show or event. People will not only approach you to get your perspective on what you presented, but they will be more inclined to invite you into their office to learn more about your organization (and you) since you have removed the threat that you are simply contacting them to “get the sale”. And, they will willingly share your information with their peers if you are providing them with content and direction.
Get Social with “Social Media”
I am not proclaiming that you should create a Facebook page to drive inbound interest (since this is an obvious solution). But there are a variety of professional tools like LinkedIn and Twitter that will enable you to find out who your customers are connected to and what their interests are. Too often, people are looking to link with others simply for the thrill of accumulating contacts or to help them get a job. But, by reaching out to your customers and partners and explaining why it makes sense to truly network via LinkedIn, you will have visibility into who they socialize with and open doors to a vibrant community of constituents.
Similarly, by using Twitter to communicate relevant articles, blogs and data to your community, potential customers will start following you and be more receptive to your overtures if they perceive you as a contributor and expert in their field. Creating a corporate and individual brand are vital to differentiating yourself. In our organization, we try to share content about contingent workforce topics, associated companies and pertinent data to our followers every week and have built a strong brand in the process.
Generate a Newsletter
At Sales Zip, we strive to educate our customers and prospects on a variety of issues, including product updates and new feature releases, ways to improve and scale contractor business, customer success stories and case studies, as well as industry topics.
In addition, there are plenty of wonderful, low cost tools that let you email your prospects and understand their open and clickthrough rates, survey them to gather feedback and opinions and have visibility and transparency into exactly what messages are resonating. You can then share this information with your sales force and arm them with a more precise, targeted message to serve as catalysts for powerful conversations.
Outbound Calling Team
To be clear, I am not saying that outbound cold calling is a “new” strategy, but I am shocked at how many people have proclaimed that using the telephone to source opportunities is dead. We have proven this model to be extremely successful, and have tied incentives to ensure that we are promoting the right behaviour. For instance, we reward our inside sales team for setting up qualified appointments and provide an additional bonus if their appointments turn into closed deals. Lists on the internet are in abundance, and should be leveraged to their fullest capacity. In my experience, if you are calling a prospect with genuine intent to uncover whether a problem or pain exists, and are respectful and intelligent in your dialog, you will uncover great opportunities at every turn.
I am sure that there are dozens of other ways that people get effective leads without spending big dollars for them and I am looking forward to hearing more! Please share your thoughts.