The Biggest Marketing Challenge Small Businesses Face

Every business owner faces different challenges, wears many hats and makes many decisions each day. Although we typically share similar goals, some businesses are stuck on hiring the right people, increasing sales, making payroll, filing taxes and providing remarkable customer service.

Whatever the case may be, there’s always at least one area that you can stand to improve.

According to a survey conducted by Alignable the biggest marketing challenge for small businesses is that they don’t have enough leads, and getting more leads is also their number one goal.

These results aren’t at all surprising to me as I hear this all the time. For business owners of small companies the two biggest concerns in lead generation are cost (as free cash is comparatively limited) and return on investment (as ineffective strategies waste significant time and resources). That’s why I’ve come up with this list of three effective, and proven lead generation strategies any small business owner can use to increase leads.

1) Strategic Networking

I know everyone tells you that you must be networking today, but simply attending any event on a Thursday and fumbling through your first impression is what leads to ineffective networking. You must network, but you must do it strategically.

The truth about networking that no one wants to admit is that it’s hard work. While the barrier to connect today is low, the barrier to trust and attention is high.

To succeed at networking you must consistently engage with 3 defined groups:

  1. Prospects – These are the people who connect with you personally first, and then in some way raise their hand or show interest in your firm, product or service. This may be in the form of asking for your business card, setting up a time to connect outside the networking event and/or asking specific product/service related questions.
  2. Strategic Partners – These are companies you don’t compete with but both target and call on the same type of ideal client. If you’re a merchant services firm targeting medical practices, then your strategic partners might be medical office cleaning companies, printing supply companies, HR companies, group benefits companies, marketing companies, payroll companies, etc.
  3. Existing Clients – These should be happy clients that are willing to go out of their way to make strategic introductions for you. Also, engaging existing clients at networking events should be viewed as another customer touchpoint that can build trust (or erode it) and help reaffirm the smart choice they made by hiring your solution.

Identify five people who you know you can help and would appreciate your help, then reach out and offer to do something very specific to help them . Super success comes from engaging these groups in a way that provides and contributes value, relevancy and meaning. The bonus would be to achieve this without adding costs to the others.

2) Answer Prospect and Client Questions

The reality is that prospects are becoming more self-educated and complex, requiring more educational points of contact and information as they move from a “suspect,” a member of your target market you suspect needs what you offer, into a prospect – one you know needs and wants what you have to offer.

To make answering questions pay as a lead generation source you must first understand that when a prospect needs to solve a problem today, they search online proactively gathering information and you must show up there; leading the competition in the search results – just waiting to be clicked so you can deliver your offer to a prospect.

Here’s the easiest way to go about doing that. Search your requests and emails, then make a list of the top 10 questions you get asked from prospective and current customers. For an example, here’s the top questions I get on Quora:

  1. Does social media really help small and medium sized enterprise increase their profits?
  2. What is the best scalable way to give a business maximum visibility?
  3. What are the best customer acquisition channels for b2b?
  4. What are some common beginner mistakes in content marketing?
  5. How do I generate leads with content marketing?
  6. Does telemarketing still have a place in B2B lead generation?
  7. Relative to other forms of marketing, how effective are physical events in retaining clients or generating new leads?
  8. What are good ways to approach companies personally?
  9. What approaches exist for social media marketing?
  10. What are the best lead generation tactics you can use with inbound marketing?

Now, go about planning the resources needed to turn each of those questions into a piece of content – blog post, workshop, seminar, FAQs document, marketing material, or newsletter topic.

3) Teach and Educate

For many service based business owners, the most effective lead generation strategy involves workshops, seminars and webinars. Teaching and educating requires that your organization give and in doing so build the trust needed for your target market to take a step or action that essentially signals you have permission to sell to them.

During this time, you need to tell stories, share examples of other people’s success and start to paint a picture of how you can solve your customer’s problem. Teaching and educating is a great way for prospects to relate to you as someone who delivers value, without the exchange of money.

When you develop a reputation for being someone who can teach people, then you get invited to places where you have the opportunity to sell.

P.S. Good blogging is a form of teaching.

The real point here is that you’ve got to execute a variety of different lead generation strategies, working together, in order to create a lead generation snowball effect.