Last week I spent some time looking at how to generate leads for the lowest cost possible.
Many small businesses rely entirely on word-of-mouth and physical networking to generate new business, which is by far the most powerful way to reach people. We are all people after all, and the human connection means everything.
But what do I do? I’ve only just started my business, so there’s no question of “word-of-mouth” for a while.
Networking is vital, and indeed I’ve found myself enjoying talking and listening to people from all walks of life in the past couple of months, and long may this last. But what about all the other small business owners (my target market), whom I’ve yet to meet? Whom I may never meet in person?
I’ve done some research and discovered that there are about 4,000 businesses of the right size in my area. How do I build a database with companies, people and contact details without investing thousands of GBP?
What will I do with this data once I have it? bulk emails?
Hmmm, I’m not a fan of those. From my experience, I’d need to email thousands of people to get a handful of responses. Unsolicited emails, even if B2B, are after all a form of spam. Don’t get me wrong, every business I’ve worked for in the last 10 years has used and abused this method of marketing to the extent that they ended up alienating prospects. And yet we continue to do it day in, day out, for years, until one of these days people will say: no more.
When this day arrives, perhaps email correspondence will become a little bit more like social networking – businesses would have to send a request to connect before being allowed to communicate their marketing messages. Bring it on I say (from the perspective of a customer/prospect). Here’s some interesting statistics about spam complaints and how many of them relate to innocent and well-meant marketing communications, from e-Consultancy.
So what shall I do with my own lead generation and marketing strategy?
If I decide not to send unsolicited emails and/or cold call small businesses, I should still get a database together of my market – there’s no doubt about that. I’ll learn a lot about it, I’ll know who the players are, and I’ll figure out where is best for me to concentrate my networking and advertising efforts.
OK I’ve decided, Digital Heart is only going to email people who’ve opted in. Simple. But I still need data.
There are data providers like Expedia, Hoovers and many others who can give access to this data for limited periods of time. You will pay £500-£1000 for 1000-4000 records (depending on the type of licence you get e.g. single or multi-use, and the number of fields the records contain). Besides the issue of not owning the data, the records you get in lists may not be exactly the types of contacts you need, and they are likely not to include the contact’s email address. This is a major problem for me because I have a tiny budget and anything I invest must be 100% accurately fitted to my needs. Buying lists as a lead-generation solution is good for big businesses that can afford to buy data from various sources to add to a very big pile of data they already have.
If I had two or three weeks to spend on it, I would simply do the research myself. There are business directories like Duedill available for free on the web, which may not contain the right types of contacts but do allow to search and find relevant companies by location/industry, and even turnover and other such information to help me build up on my understanding of my market.
Step 1: outsource the data-entry to someone else!
First published 22nd July, 2013