Friday, September 16, 2011

Looking for Leads? Ask your neighbor.

Who doesn't need more leads? We all need to look at lead generation as our #1 priority.  In a down economy, generating sales leads is the key to survival.  The future of our business depends on it and all it takes is a walk around the block!  What I mean is we all have a virtual gold mine of opportunities right in our own communities.   Recently one of my client, a small business owner,  told me he was having difficulty generating new leads for his company.   When I asked him how he was looking for those leads, he explained that he had purchased a list of phone numbers for homeowners in his county, and had given it to his assistant to call when she was not busy with other tasks.
Now I could have spent the rest of our coaching session on writing and practicing a script for his assistant to use - I knew she was basically going to say something like, "We are XYZ company, this is what we do....  Do you need us?"  But my real objective was to help my client understand the power of true lead generation and networking by personally reaching out to your own neighbors right in your own community.  It was time to be more direct.  And I know these suggestions work because I have seen the results.  I am not in favor of buying leads.  Those leads are anonymous.  We do not know each other.  They are ice cold.  And I know from experience that people will do business with people they like, people they have come to know, people they trust to bring value.  How can you possibly convey all of that in a 3 or 4 minute phone call to a group of people you have no relationship with?
This is why networking within your own community can be so powerful.   These are people you know; people you have some common interests with.  People, like you who want to keep business local.
So here are just a few of the ideas I shared with my client recently:
  • Get out and walk!  (or hire someone else to do it!)Walk your neighborhood(s) or hire someone to blanket your area with postcards or brochures in mailboxes.  Or use door hangers — those die-cut flyers that hang on doorknobs — instead. They are one of my favorite promotional items, because homeowners can’t miss them.   Think about a special offer to promote.  If you offer something irresistible, like a free yard clean up or a free Pilates class, people are far more likely to respond.
  • Network locally. Community organizations like the Rotary or Lions club  and business networking organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce, offer excellent platforms for finding sales leads.  So can community activities like fairs and expos as well as religious institutions and your children’s schools and athletic teams.
  • Put your name on the back of shirts. In other words, sponsor local sports teams, events, charities and causes.   These traditional strategies still provide good lead-generating returns.   Even in this age of electronic marketing, they have not outlived their usefulness.
  • Ask non-competing companies in your area to exchange their customers’ contact information with you. If you specialize in wood floor re-finishing, meet with a General Contractor for a cup of coffee to brainstorm ideas on helping each other through referrals.
  • Teach a class at a local adult school or community college. This is a great way to get out and meet people in the community and share your knowledge.  Demonstrating your expertise makes you more valuable.  Just be sure to make it an educational experience full of value added content not a sales pitch!
  • Ask your vendors and suppliers to recommend potential customers. The wider you spread your net and ask for sales leads, the greater your chance of identifying likely prospects and making sales.

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