Small businesses advertising in their own local market often operate under the “big local lie.” It’s common to see small business owners who have tricked themselves into believing that they don’t need to advertise at all and can rely solely on referrals for lead generation and repeat sales.
These small businesses will quickly discover that relying on referrals alone will cause them to get stuck in a growth holding pattern.
Let’s look at six ways smart local businesses can get more leads. As you can see, it doesn’t take a big marketing budget for small businesses to increase new leads and get more referrals.
- Focus on Lead Capture—Establish a standard process for your business to capture lead information during any interaction with a potential customer. Train employees on the process and emphasize its importance for future business growth. When you’re interested in direct responses, you need to ask the right questions. You need to gather useful information that allows you to make business decisions that add up to profits. Coupons, discounts and trials are effective offers for capturing lead information in person. Forms, white papers and demos are effective ways to engage with your website audience and capture useful information.
- Use Local SEO—Establish a Web presence for your business and optimize your website. Tools like Google Places are essential for getting listed and found online. Use the Google keyword tool to research common phrases people use to find your product or service. Make sure your page titles use those key words, and write page copy with those key words. Also, find and engage with local, influential bloggers. Build a relationship with them, or even offer to write a guest blog post twice a month. It’s never too late to get involved in social media and use it as a mechanism to drive traffic to your website. Make sure you’re using lead magnets across your social properties to capture information.
- Segment Your Contact Database—Get the right message to the right person at the right time by tracking behavior. Monitor who visits your website, what Web forms they fill out, what emails they open and what links they click. Demographics and psychographics allow you to target your message and offering. Clearly outline the benefit your product or service offers based on your potential customer’s needs.
- Create Partnerships—Build relationships with businesses that offer complementary products and services. Build your partner’s business into your business and yours into theirs. Make lead capture and your partner’s offering part of the entire sales and delivery process. The key to a powerful partnership is to create added value for your customers.
- Promote Local—Local consumers want to benefit their local community. Consumers will buy local when it is convenient, when they have a relationship with you, and when they are informed. Consumers will even be willing to pay more for a product or service once they are loyal to a local business. There are numerous coalitions and organizations that support locally owned businesses, which form the backbone of the local economy. Join your local chapter of Local First  and chamber of commerce to stay informed and visible to local consumers.
- Develop a Referral Strategy—Create a methodical way to generate referrals. Outline a systematic referral process and incentivize your employees for collecting referrals. The best time to ask for referrals is at the time of purchase, shortly after a recent purchase or after a customer satisfaction survey. Caution: Never ask for a referral when a customer is not happy. Track referral volume and conversion rate month-to-month.
Lead generation does not have to break the bank. Established processes and focused execution have the power to grow and sustain a small business. To hear about more strategies for increasing local lead generation activities, check out this previously recorded webinar.