You are in the business of making money (unless you are a not-for-profit or philanthropic). If you aren’t, you should be. As a business owner, or potential business owner, turning a profit should be your primary goal. If you’re not keeping an eye on your bottom line, then you soon won’t be in business at all, no matter how revolutionary or innovative the products and/or services you offer may be. The most successful entrepreneurs understand and embrace this concept. They never shy away from the chance to turn an opportunity into a profit.
Effective lead generation is one of the most important elements of any successful business. When you are able to generate leads you are able to generate sales, and sales equal money. Therefore, learning the how to successfully generate leads, time and time again, is the number one way to ensure that you are in, and remain in, the business of making money.
As the title suggests, this article is about learning the most innovative, as well as the most effective, ways to generate solid leads. Good leads equal good prospects. Good prospects equal sales opportunities and the more sales opportunities you have, the more actual sales you will generate. However, before we get to the specifics of lead generation, let’s take a look at a couple of the primary concepts that quality leads depend upon.
Lead Generation – What Is It?
Lead generation, at its most basic, is the process of creating interest in and/or awareness of a product or service offered by a business among the general public.
This awareness and interest can be created to directly generate sales. An example of this is television and print advertising. Here, the business directly solicits the general public with information in an attempt to generate sales.
Alternatively, awareness and interest can be created to indirectly generate sales by first directing a consumer to free content which, in turn, will lead to more awareness and interest.
As this dynamic between the potential consumer and the business grows, the consumer’s trust and confidence in the business increases. At the appropriate time, the business solicits the potential consumer with a direct offer. Because of the pre-existing trust-based relationship, the likelihood of the consumer responding positively to this offer is greatly increased. In this way, the indirect lead generates a sale.
The bottom line is that understanding what a sales lead is, and how it works, is the first step to profitability for any business. Speaking of profitability, let’s take a look at the next concept.
The Importance Of Lead Generation
No matter what the method, lead generation is the fuel that fires the engine of any business.
Without interest and awareness on the part of the general public of what a business is, does, and sells, there can be no sales. Without sales, there is no business. It’s that simple. It really is.
Some business owners fail to fully understand the importance of this extremely simple concept. They tend to treat profit as an afterthought. They make the mistake of assuming that they are in the business of “fill-in-the-blank,” whatever that “blank” may be. Making that assumption is often a fatal mistake.
There is not a single successful business in the world that is in the business of manufacturing a product or providing a service. Instead, successful businesses are in the business of attracting interest in and awareness of what it is they do. Some people may refer to this as marketing, but lead generation is a very specific form and far more direct. The businesses that implement lead generation out-compete the competition precisely because of the level of interest and awareness they generate. They understand they are in the business of making money and they make that money by generating solid leads.
The Sales Funnel
A clear understanding of the process involved in getting potential consumers to become paying customers is essential to understanding how to generate leads.
This is because the concept of generating leads is intimately tied to the concept of the sales funnel.
Your sales funnel is one of the most important tools you have as a business owner to increase profits.
How your funnel is constructed determines how your potential customers approach your product or service. If the funnel is too wide, too many potential customers end up being exposed to your sales pitch before they are ready. If your funnel is too narrow, the opposite occurs. You end up sacrificing sales because solid leads can’t get to the products or services they need.
The goal is to develop the perfect funnel for your particular business.
The funnel your business needs is unique to your business and the product or service for sale. There is no template, or one size fits all solution. Every different offer requires a different funnel.
A funnel that is too wide for one can very well be too narrow to another.
The Difference Between A Prospect And A Lead
What’s the difference between a prospect and a lead?
It depends on who you ask.
A prospect is sometimes a good lead. Other times a lead is a prospect who expressed interest. Sometime a prospect and a lead are exactly the same thing. This confusion breeds a complete lack of clarity. The answer is simple. A lead is someone who has contacted you, while a prospect is someone you have corresponded with. Although not always this simple, using, and keeping to, this definition allows you, as a business owner, to use these sometimes confusing terms more clearly and with some consistency.
In the typical sales funnel, leads provide contact information in return for content. This is the initial contact. These leads become prospects when a lead expands the scope of this initial contact by expressing further interest in your product or service. This can occur, for example, when they take advantage of an offer for additional content farther down your sales funnel. In sum, leads become prospects and prospects become opportunities for conversion into sales.
Inbound Marketing Vs. Outbound Marketing
Today, there are two basic approaches to marketing your product or service. You can outbound market or you can inbound market. While the choice is yours, a clear understanding of the differences between inbound and outbound marketing will help you to decide which method is right for you.
Outbound marketing is the type of marketing we grew up with and are familiar with. A business sends an unsolicited offer about a product or service to a segment of the general population. The business selects this market segment based on some relevant criteria, usually geographic for a brick or mortar company. Some percentage of the market segment responds to the offer and sales are made.
Inbound marketing is, as the name implies, the opposite of outbound marketing. With inbound marketing, a business makes content, usually informational in nature, available to anyone in exchange for contact information. This contact information is then used to direct interested consumers to a further level of product engagement. The goal of inbound marketing is to find those potential customers who have an interest in, or affinity to, a product and develop an ongoing, natural dialogue with those people. This dialogue then results in sales.
In short, a business using outbound marketing attempts to actively find a market segment for its products, usually through one time, unsolicited, offers. A business using inbound marketing, on the other hand, lets a market segment develop an interest and need for products through an ongoing informational dialogue that develops a trust relationship in the business and what it sells. One actively grabs for a market segment through monologue. The other cultivates that same segment through dialogue.
This article was written by Susan Gilbert from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.