Industry experts share insights to help small businesses capture lead opportunities.
- Audience research helps you generate leads and create a conversion plan.
- Persistent follow-ups are important. Researchers say that 80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact.
- Pay attention to more than just the content on your business's website. SEO, keywords and calls to action often point leads in the direction of a sale.
Generating leads for your small business can yield great results, but only if you can turn potential buyers into actual customers. Without that, any leads gained through lead generation services, direct mailing efforts or any other marketing campaigns won't add up to much.
To better understand how to convert leads into sales, we spoke with experts to find actionable tips that you can apply to your small business's lead generation strategies.
1. Offer a freebie or discount.
Getting something for free always feels good – whether there are conditions attached or not. Giveaways are a solid way to get people interested enough in your business to potentially make a purchase.
The free item doesn't have to be particularly lavish or expensive, but it should remind people of your business. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, told The Atlantic that the concept of freebies and samples work because "they give you a particular desire for something. If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving."
Along with turning your leads into sales, Ronald D'Souza, a content marketer at angeljackets.com, said giveaways can also help your business home in on what gets the most brand engagement from customers. Once you have that information, you can then personalize future communications and deals to convert your existing leads into more sales.
"Personalize your email and make it appear as if the discount is only available for them," D'Souza said. "You can do this by generating a unique coupon code only for your email subscribers."
2. Research your audience.
Information is key. The knowledge of what your customers want and how they like to engage with companies can be a powerful lead conversion tool.
Pedro Campos, founder of PedroConverts, said both generating and converting leads rely on similar sets of "core fundamentals."
"Oftentimes, when I see entrepreneurs having a hard time converting strangers into leads or leads into customers, it all comes down to the quality of their offers," he said. "If you have a bad offer, what that tells me is that you don't know your ideal client well enough."
The solution? Research your target audience and get to know them. Once you have the appropriate data, create offers that entice them to make a purchase with you.
"Remember that nobody has ever succeeded in business selling something that people don't want," Campos said.
3. Always follow up.
This may seem like it should go without saying, but following up with potential leads is extremely important. Just a simple email or call asking a prospect if they have any questions can often kickstart a sale.
Just one follow-up likely won't be enough, though. According to a study by Propeller, "44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up," while "80% of sales require five follow-ups after the initial contact."
"Follow-up is the best way to make your prospects feel important," said Hima Pujara, of Signity Solutions. "Regular emails related to your service will leave a brand impression in their mind, and later, when they need a related product, they will surely consider your business."
If you call your leads for follow-ups but they're not picking up the phone, Anthony Martin, owner of Choice Mutual, said leaving a 15-minute gap between calls often results in people picking up the phone.
"Lots of people won't answer phone numbers they don’t know. However, when they see you call back again, they'll suspect that you're calling for something important," he said. "You would be amazed at how regularly people answer when you call back 15 minutes later."
4. Use calls to action.
Sometimes, all it takes for people to act is a slight nudge in the right direction. A definitive call to action in your marketing efforts encourages potential clients to make a decision.
Without a decisive call to action, OptinMonster co-founder Thomas Griffin warned earlier this year, new visitors to your website "don't know what the next step to take is and have to guess on their own." Regardless of your end goal, interesting calls to action that use certain verbs or phrases can lead to conversions.
"We don't just place verbs like 'download now,' "act now' or 'get free' – you must admit that sounds like an order," said John Breese, founder and CEO of HappySleepyHead. "We use a combination of idioms and call-to-action verbs – for example, 'first come, first served,' 'contact us today' or 'buy it off the shelf' – and we use this combination on every page of our site."
5. Optimize your web experience.
If your business has a website, it's imperative that you employ good keywords and SEO best practices to convert your online leads. If you know your most effective keywords, clustering your point-per-click campaigns and managing your Google Analytics score can be easier, explained LegalAdvice.com CEO David Reischer.
"The keywords selected for each ad group should be based on a narrow category to be targeted so that the campaign can more easily be monitored," he said. "We carefully monitor all campaigns and either tweak or discontinue those keywords that do not convert."
Other things to keep in mind are your website's bounce rate (how many website visitors leave after only one page), session duration and average number of pages visited. The longer a user is on your website, the more likely it is that they have reasons to make a purchase from your business.
"Organic traffic is heavily influenced by user site experience," said Earl White, co-founder and online marketing manager of House Heroes.
If you're using paid traffic to generate leads on your site, White suggests directing paid and organic traffic to different landing pages. "You can then optimize SEO pages and pay-per-click pages without the purposes of each page competing against each other."
6. Utilize social media.
Regardless of how proud you are of your business's website, it's not the be-all and end-all of your online presence. Customers of all walks of life turn to social media to get their news and keep up with trends, so your business should be there too.
To that end, Iryna Shevchenko, a Facebook Groups expert, said creating a social aspect to your business can easily turn leads into customers. "I usually encourage leads to join my private Facebook group where I share deals and free information of high value to select members. It is there I can get instant feedback from customers to help me better serve them, and it's also a much better converter of sales when given the opportunity to buy. Once someone has converted, they will also usually share their positive experience in the group in real time, thereby encouraging other leads to convert."
It's important to consider which social networks are the best fit for your brand. For example, if you're a company that sells boutique stationery, Instagram may be a major conversion driver for you.
"You don't have to market on every platform out there – just carefully select a few channels that your audience uses," said Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of the personal finance site Money Done Right. "The most efficient way to do this is to build buyer personas based your target audience. Identify their age, gender, the type of content they prefer and the networks they use most."
7. Use CRM methods.
For many businesses, customer relationship management tools often help turn leads into clients. Implementing one that allows you to automate your text and email communications can streamline the entire conversion process.
"Some people respond to texts, some to phone calls, and some to emails," Martin said. "Hitting prospects with all three mediums gives you the best chance possible to get them to respond. You cannot do all of this manually, because your employees will never 100% follow through. They are only human."
While setting the logic in a CRM automation platform can make it easier for your sales team to reach potential customers, Joe Goldstein, director of SEO and operations at Contractor Calls, cautioned that automation can work against you.
"One of my favorite ways to boost lead conversion is to ditch marketing automation as soon as the prospect requests a free consultation," he said. "By cutting out most forms of marketing automation from our mid- and lower funnel, we're able to connect with leads on a more personal level, qualify good leads faster, convert them more often, and keep them longer."
Editor's note: Looking for the right CRM software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
8. Consider the buying funnel.
In sales, there's a marketing model called the sales funnel that visualizes a potential customer's path from just learning about your brand to making a purchase. To properly convert your leads into revenue, Megan Meade, a marketing specialist at Prospect Path, suggests becoming familiar with this sales process.
"Recognize where your prospect is in the buying funnel, then tailor your interaction with them to reach the conversion," she said. "Converting a lead is as much about recognizing when someone is ready to make a purchasing decision, then reaching out to them at the exact right time to close, as it is bringing them into your funnel to begin with."
The middle of the funnel, where leads are generally considering your business and becoming more intent on making a purchase, is the prime place for your company's sales reps to focus their efforts, said Meade.
"By addressing this area, you can see stronger intent and purchasing signals, which will help you determine the best approach with the prospect without wasting time on people who aren't yet ready to purchase," she said. "Having a solid middle-of-funnel strategy improves conversion as leads are nurtured through the buying process and given actionable content that is useful and relevant to them."
9. Be flexible.
Ultimately, what works to convert leads for your business may not be what works for others. If you're confident going into a lead conversion campaign and it doesn't generate the results you're looking for, you may just need to rethink your approach.
"The single best piece of advice I've ever heard when it comes to online lead generation came from Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson," said Dan Grech, founder and lead instructor of BizHack. "When he was a wrestler in the WWF, one of his signature slap-down phrases was 'it doesn't matter what you think!' That's actually fabulous marketing advice, because you can spend forever trying to make your digital marketing campaign just so, but once you put it in front of an audience, it can still fall flat."
You may think you've come up with a perfect plan, Grech said, but if your audience doesn't respond, then it doesn't matter much.
"Better to put out something that makes you a bit squeamish and see if it sticks," he said. "Test and learn, and don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."