by Michael Harrison
The rise of the Internet has irrevocably altered the world. Today, we shop, communicate, socialise and find entertainment in the online world. For businesses, the growth and spread of ecommerce has had a tremendous effect, enabling small businesses to compete with major international firms.
Of course, all the capabilities and potential of the Internet are wasted if you don’t know how to generate leads online. Marketing online is similar to marketing offline, but there are some differences. The most important thing is for you to be aware of the tools available to you and what they offer. So, how do you generate leads online?
Start a Blog
If your company doesn’t have a blog yet, it’s past time. You’re dawdling and letting your competitors not only catch up, but overtake you and begin leading. Blogging is one of the most interesting ways to generate leads online. It’s a unique communication platform that helps you give your business a “personal” face. Not only that, but you’ll find that blogging helps you position yourself as a thought leader and innovator within your industry. It’s a great way to boost influence with your target audience. However, don’t be surprised if your blog builds leads slowly – that’s the nature of the beast. If you lack a blog, start one. Engage with your audience. Offer up interesting, relevant posts that invite readers to comment and share through social networks.
Social media has taken the world by storm and if you’re not using these platforms, you’re missing out on some very powerful lead generation tools. Facebook is the king of social media, and you must harness the immense potential offered by this network. One of the best things about Facebook is the fact that there are so many potential lead generation tools here, many of which are free to use.
Posting regularly on Facebook offers quite a few advantages. First, it gives you the means to get your message out to those who have liked your page. From that point, they can like and share your posts with their own audiences, expanding your reach exponentially without you doing anything extra. In addition to generating leads this way, it also helps you build your brand and influence in the online world. You’ll find that many “fans” can become brand advocates, especially if you regularly post interesting updates, valuable coupons or incentives and encourage them to share your posts.
Facebook ads can also be good options. The network offers quite a few ways to target your marketing so that you reach exactly the audience that you want, and eliminate ineffective marketing methods. Targeted marketing is vital – anything less is really just tossing your marketing budget into the trash bin.
Twitter is a very different beast from Facebook, but no less vital. In many ways, Twitter is an ideal marketing tool. It starts with the tweets – messages – you can send out to your followers. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which forces you to keep things short, sweet and relevant. In addition, you’ll find that the network makes sharing your tweets as simple as possible. All a follower has to do is click the “retweet” button and your message goes out to all of their followers. It can be very easy to have a message go viral and reach tens of thousands of users that you have no connection with. Each of those individuals can become a lead.
Another interesting thing about Twitter is that you can include links in your tweets (use a link shortening service like bit.ly to help cut down on the character count), so you can direct your followers (and their connections) wherever you might want them to go. Twitter works very well as a traffic generation tool, and you can send followers to your website, to your Facebook page, to your YouTube channel, to your blog or to a special landing page that is offer-specific. Anyone, or any company can make use of Twitter with significant results. However, it does take time to build your audience, so be prepared to invest some effort here.
YouTube might not seem like the ideal place to generate leads, but it can be very effective if you use it correctly. In fact, this social network is an excellent place to start building influence by offering significant value to your customers or clients. How might that work?
Let’s say your company sells a unique type of vacuum cleaner. You can easily create a video demonstrating just how powerful your cleaning tool really is. Alternatively, you can highlight something else about it – how to clean and maintain it, how to use it correctly and more. The key is to offer value in exchange for nothing. The cardinal rule of all social media is “give to get”.
While the Internet offers myriad ways to enjoy free marketing, you might find that paid advertising is a better solution. PPC (pay per click) marketing is one of the most effective forms of online marketing, and you’ll find that it can even be relatively affordable if you target the keywords correctly. When it comes to PPC, Google’s juggernaut AdSense is the leading platform, but there are tons of others available that might work for you.
The key to using PPC programs effectively is to target accurate keywords that have a relatively low rate of competition. The more competition there is for a keyword, the more you’ll end up paying per click. In fact, you’ll find that high-competition keywords can be extremely expensive. Target related keywords that have a lower rate of competition and you’ll see better affordability as well as better lead generation from your efforts.
There are many other ways to generate leads online, including direct email marketing, newsletters, email lists and more. However, those items listed above should be considered vital weapons in your marketing arsenal. If you’re not currently harnessing their potential, you should be. A little effort with these tools can have considerable results.
Michael Harrison is a consultant, marketer, and business generation specialist dedicated to assisting professional services businesses to grow and increase revenue, margins and profits. He can be contacted at Strategies Plus