If you’re serious about growing your business, you’re going to need new clients—and to get new clients, you’ll have to generate leads. Simply stated, a lead is a referral to a potential new client. This referral may come from a colleague at work or in your professional or social circle, or it may come from a current client who appreciates your work and knows someone else who can benefit from your services.
Leads will also come your way through your marketing efforts, such as your website, articles in trade publications, presentations at meetings and conferences, direct mail, email and social media. Marketing is all about lead generation, and a good mix of these approaches—in tandem with other marketing tactics—is the best way to multiply your connections with potential new clients.
It’s important to note that marketing mix is not static; it can and should change according to your current marketing goals. For example, if you’re trying to get a new practice area or product line off the ground, you’ll probably want to look at such marketing vehicles as direct mail (yes, snail mail still works!), email, social media and your website.
Before you launch headlong into lead generation, however, take a moment to look back. What marketing activities have you done in the past? How effective was each one? What could you have done to make these efforts pay off better? Questions like these will help you set the stage for successful lead generation in the future.
You’ll also benefit from acting on the following 15 lead generation tools. Anyone can accomplish the activities outlined here; they are designed for lawyers, CPAs and other professionals who are short on time but long on desire to improve their business. Take time to really work through this list; the time you invest now will help you as you prepare for your best year ever of securing new clients.
Five ways to rev up your marketing
- Take small steps. We all have goals—and a few of them will be “big, hairy, audacious goals.” The only way to achieve success with this type of goal is to break it down into manageable units. Once a week, make a list of what elements of this goal you will accomplish during the following week. It is absolutely critical that you make these incremental goals reasonable and achievable. Think about how busy you are going to be the next week, and if you need to scale back your weekly goal, do so. Success breeds success: When you repeatedly apply time—week after week—to your goal, you will reach it.
- Repurpose your content. “Content” is the informative, valuable and educational material professionals intrinsically possess from their career experience. Whether you realize it or not, you have knowledge that potential clients are interested in. Don’t worry—you can share information that will demonstrate your expertise and draw leads without giving away the “secret sauce” of your success. When you package this information into an article, a lecture, a social media post and so forth, it’s important to also consider how you can gain the maximum value from that information by repurposing it. If you give a talk, rewrite it into a blog post. Summarize a few bullet points from the talk and distribute them via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Or turn the information into a guide you can provide in a webinar and in a white paper. Make your content work for you on as many different platforms as possible.
- Reconnect with acquaintances. Put together a list of five to ten prospects you talked with in the past 18 to 24 months but haven’t spoken with recently. Maybe you were a finalist for their work but they eventually went with someone else, or you had a very productive mealtime meeting that ended with a pledge to “do business together sometime.” Before you get on the phone, however, Google those prospects and also look at their LinkedIn profile so you’ll know what they have been doing recently in their professional lives. If you happen to have an upcoming webinar or professional association meeting where you’ll be speaking, be sure to invite them to attend.
- Update your own LinkedIn profile. Just about every lawyer, accountant and other professional has a LinkedIn account, but many don’t give their profile the attention it deserves. An up-to-date, comprehensive LinkedIn profile helps your business climb the list in Google searches. Make sure you have the keywords in your headlines and descriptors that best describe your firm—your unique and dynamic qualities, the things you do that set you apart from every other firm. Make it clear who you are and what services you offer. Also:
Stay in the game. Frequency is a key predictor of successful lead generation. How often do you send out your email newsletter, write a new blog, check your LinkedIn account, reconnect with old acquaintances, attend networking meetings, and so forth? Marketing is not a one-and-done game. You must stay focused and involved. Commit to sticking with your lead generation goals for the long term, and you will find that your efforts will pay off.
- Evaluate the premium features LinkedIn offers, such as lists that target the types of potential clients you seek.
- Review your LinkedIn network and link with everyone on that list.
- Complete all the tasks needed to be rated a LinkedIn “All-Star”—the highest level of profile. A box on the right-hand side of your profile page will tell you when you have reached that pinnacle of success.
Five marketing building blocks that you can’t live without
- Build your database. When it comes to your marketing efforts, the database you should be concerned with is a complete, up-to-date list of email addresses of current and potential clients, as well as people who can send potential clients your way. The “up-to-date” aspect is critical. Use this test to determine if your list is good to go: If the New York Times or Wall Street Journal published a glowing article about you or your firm today, could you get an email about it to your contacts by this afternoon? If the answer is no, start by going through that stack of business cards that all of us have in our desk drawer. This is a good project for a Saturday morning. Once you’ve keyed in all of your contacts’ email addresses, all you have to do is go through the list periodically and refresh it. If you’re tempted to let social media substitute for your email database, consider this: Email enables you to quickly target only the people you want to reach with each particular message.
- Create a leave-behind. Also called a one-sheet, this is a flyer or brochure that provides a summary of who you are, what your business does and how someone can contact you. Be sure to create an electronic version of this valuable resource, too. Your leave-behind doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be attractive and well written so it doesn’t go straight into the trash. Don’t forget to take your paper version to networking meetings, speaking engagements and so forth. Are you tempted to pass on this resource and just tell your leads to check out your website? That’s not a great idea. A one-sheet is an immediate answer to their request for more information, and it’s more respectful than putting the onus on your lead to make the effort to learn more about you.
- Measure results. Marketing results are notoriously difficult to measure because, very often, there’s not a clearly identifiable cause and effect. Nevertheless, it is important to measure what you can in order to know which marketing efforts are paying off and which you should consider modifying or dropping altogether. If you’re tracking where your business comes from, that’s fine. However, you should also be tracking leads, because that is the only way to get a true understanding of the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Also keep track of conversions—the marketing prospects you actually get signed on to do work for. Don’t gauge your marketing results from your sales; you may be doing a great job marketing, but if the sales side of your business is not doing a good job of closing, it may look like your marketing is to blame for low conversion rates. As you continue tracking, you’ll eventually learn how many leads, on average, you’ll need to get one conversion. That kind of knowledge is golden in terms of marketing planning and optimizing your business development work. Electronic communication affords you the opportunity to easily measure your marketing efforts. You can track how many people opened your e-newsletter. Using a tool such as Google Analytics, you can see which pages on your website are the most visited, how long visitors stay on that page and so forth. Remember, though, that for these tools to be effective, you have to use them. Don’t just put measurement strategies in place; take the time to review and analyze the results, and then adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.
- Prep your “elevator speech.” Schedule time to write a few succinct paragraphs that describe what you do. Take whatever time you need to really put thought into this. Prepare both a short version and a long version of this document. Having it always at the ready will prevent the awkwardness of trying to come up with an answer on the fly when someone—maybe a potential client—asks “What do you do?” This description is also valuable for your LinkedIn profile, press releases, your website and other social media.
- Put your best face forward. A professional photo—also called a headshot—is an essential accompaniment to your marketing materials, both online and printed. It will also come in handy when you’re asked to provide a photo for a speaking engagement or other presentation. You should have a headshot taken at least every two years. Your goal with the headshot is to look professional but also approachable—someone a potential client would want to work with. Both men and women should have appropriate makeup applied by a professional for this important photograph.
Five marketing actions to accelerate your results throughout the year
- Never miss an opportunity to market. Just like the Boy Scouts, you should live by the motto “Be prepared.” Successful marketers are ready to take advantage of every opportunity, such as a lunch date with a prospect who asks “What’s new?” or a networking event where you have a captive audience of people who are interested in learning about your business. Whatever your situation, think beforehand about what you want to communicate, and anticipate the outcome you are working toward. Bring your one-sheet handout, and have the description of your services memorized.
- Practice the art of listening. Listening well will give you an advantage just because most people are not good at it. Our clients tell us listening is one of the things they yearn for from the people they work with, and it’s one of the things they usually don’t experience. A rule of thumb is to listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time. When you do speak, be sure to not interrupt the person who is speaking. When you listen without interrupting, you transform the interaction for the other person—and that can be the critical difference between attracting potential clients and repelling them.
- Debrief, review and revisit. Every time you return from a meeting with a prospect, get the team together and discuss what you could have done and said differently, what you should you bring with you the next time, and so forth. This is the way your marketing efforts improve over time—yielding more conversions with less effort. None of us has enough time to do everything we think we need to accomplish, but taking the time to refine and revisit will set you apart from your competitors.
- Strive for imperfection. Too many times, that one-sheet or article or web post never gets finished because you just can’t let it go until it is “perfect.” As a result, time passes, the item you’re working on becomes stale—and something you had put a lot of time and effort into can’t be used. Instead of requiring perfection, create something that is the best it can be right now. Get it out the door and then pay attention to the feedback, which will guide you to do it better next time.
- Be consistent. The winners of the marketing race are not the most talented or the ones who create the biggest splash. Instead, they are the ones who are consistent and steady. You win when you send emails consistently, make phone calls on a regular schedule and go to the meetings you say you will attend. Consistent attention to your marketing goals enables you to build your campaign in layers. The first layer might be to call a meeting with your colleagues to discuss which line of business you should pursue next. Second, you write a descriptor about who you are and the type of clients you serve. The third layer might be the creation of a Facebook page, and so forth. In not too long, you’ll discover you have built a substantial and effective marketing program.
While it can be daunting to look at your marketing goals and plans at the beginning of the process, when you apply time and effort—and maximize that investment by following these 15 tips—you can and will increase the number of leads you develop and new clients you convert. Remember: Start as small as you need to, and build from there. Most important of all, start.