As business owners, the issue of lead generation and client acquisition is always on our minds. Sure, we have a few steady clients generating revenue for the business, but in order to keep growing the business, we have to expand and diversify our client base.
The question then becomes: How can we get more leads? Where can we find more paying clients? In the first years of business, this may seem like a huge (constant!) challenge, but with the right strategy, lead generation doesn’t have to be another item on the anxiety list.
Tap Into Your Network
When it comes to lead generation, a powerful but often overlooked force is your own personal network. There’s a certain truth to the saying, “Your network is your net worth.” Most people don’t think to do this, but letting everyone in your network know about your business is one of the best ways to generate new leads.
Reach out to everyone in your network—family, friends, former colleagues—and let them know that you’ve started a business. Share with them what you do, who you do it for, and share a link to your website. Chances are, someone in your network either needs your services, or knows someone who does—but if they don’t know about you and your business, they can’t work with or refer you.
A word of caution: Avoid spamming your network! It’s a fine line to tread between letting people know about your business and constantly flooding them with unwanted and irrelevant information. Be careful not to become a nuisance to your network.
In-Person Networking is Key
In this digital age of email and social media messaging, what people really crave is personal connection. That’s why in-person networking is so important to create relationships with potential clients and build that foundation for working together.
Attending an event in-person once a month is a good starting point. Whether it’s a professional conference, a dedicated networking event, or informal meetup with an interest group, being present at a face-to-face event is a great way to form connections. Make the most of attending these events by exchanging cards and contact details, and then following up after the event. Remember to focus on quality over quantity—collecting fifty business cards isn’t going to do as much for your business as making five deep and meaningful connections.
In-person networking helps you build rapport with potential clients, showcase your personality and deepen existing relationships. People work with people they know, like and trust, and that is so much easier established in-person and face-to-face than online.
Take online relationships offline by inviting potential leads to coffee or lunch, and always focus on creating value for them. Rather than trying to sell them your service or product, approach them from a place of wanting to help them in their business. Instead of pushing your own interests, lead with, “How can I help and support you in your business?” Showing that you want to build a mutually beneficial relationship will help bridge a connection and they will be more willing to reciprocate.
Networking events are also a great place to find other business owners you have synergy with to co-sponsor joint initiatives and leverage other audiences and relationships. When you create partnerships with business owners in complementary fields, you both enjoy the advantage of gaining access to a wider audience and reach.
Offer Free Speaking Events
Another great way to generate leads is to offer free speaking events. Research and connect with organizations that tie in with your areas of expertise, and propose to do a free speaking event. Your local Chamber of Commerce, business organizations in related fields, and networking groups are often on the lookout for speakers for events, and a good place to start sourcing for speaking events.
Besides increasing your visibility among your target audience, you also establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. People are more likely to trust and work with someone they see as an expert in the field, and speaking at events is a great way to set yourself apart from your competition. Even if your preparation for the event takes some time, you most likely will get at least one client out of it, and establish yourself as an expert in the space at the same time.
Volunteer, Get Involved In Your Community
Get involved in your community with a cause you care about, and volunteer at an organization where the audience or network would also be a good fit for your business. Not only will you be giving back to your community, but you will also be putting yourself in front of people so they can get to know you. This is a great way to increase the visibility of your business and grow your network.
Don’t Get Too Caught Up in Social Media or Your Website
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on social media marketing or designing the perfect website. While these are important aspects of marketing your business, the truth is that people don’t usually generate a lot of business or leads from these avenues. Trying to sell to strangers just doesn’t work for most businesses; social media and your website are great for maintaining relationships with your existing audience, but not so much when it comes to generating leads.
Leverage Relationships; Generate Leads
When it comes down to it, lead generation in your first years of business really comes down to relationships. Whether it’s tapping into your existing personal network, cultivating new partnerships through in-person networking or making yourself known by volunteering or speaking at events, you have to leverage relationships to generate new leads for your business. Forget about getting a thousand followers or a million likes on social media—those are superficial relationships that likely will not translate into new business opportunities. What you should be focusing on is cultivating deep and meaningful relationships to generate leads that will help you grow your business and take it to the next level.