Leads — the lifeblood of every business.
It doesn’t matter how many clients you currently have, you need to constantly prospect for more.
For one, no client will work with you forever. They might decide they don’t need your help anymore, run out of resources, or you two might fall off.
And, your clients have only a limited capacity to grow your business anyway.
SEO is a very specific industry. A typical contract often exhausts what customers can purchase. Writers for instance can write various copy for the same client – web, print, ads, landing pages and much more. As an SEO, you can perform many tasks too but typically they fall under the same project. And surely, SEO contracts run for months but their ability to grow is limited.
Therefore, the only way to build your business is by bringing new clients. And that won’t happen without leads.
Generating quality leads isn’t simple. In fact, according to B2B Technology Marketing Community, doing so is the biggest challenge for B2B marketers. As a result, half of those marketers, according to the same source, said they will see their lead generation budgets increased this year.
This can mean one thing only — the competition for leads is only going to get tougher.
How you could generate more leads
I am sure that’s what you want to ask about. Well, there are many ways in which you could do so. Here are some of them:
I am not a big fan of calling businesses out of the blue to convince them to hire you. It is, however, one technique some SEOs I know use successfully to gain new business.
Email cold calling
If you don’t feel comfortable phoning someone who is not expecting your call to initiate a conversation, emailing him or her might be a way to achieve this goal.
Email cold calling is becoming a widely popular method of approaching potential clients and introducing yourself in an unobtrusive way.
I wrote about email cold calling here at Ahrefs already, check out my post.
Speaking at Conferences
Have you ever wondered why so many SEOs speak at conferences, regardless how big or small they are? Yes, to position themselves as expert in the industry and gain authority status but that’s not the only reason.
Many big-ticket clients either frequent SEO conferences in search for potential vendors or check speakers lists for the same reason. In their eyes, presenting at an industry event is a sign of knowledge, power and authority, traits they often look in people they want to hire.
Going to a networking event with a solid elevator pitch ready, pack of business cards, great attitude and will to meet new people can go a long way in building future business relationships.
Networking is a long term marketing strategy though. You can’t expect any results from a single visit to an event. Constantly showing up, connecting and building solid relationships with other people will eventually result in many new business opportunities.
Local community involvement
Often your best leads are right in front of you, yet how often do you seek them in the far corners of the Internet?
Getting involved with local community, perhaps through doing some pro-bono work for a local charity or aligning your business with a local cause (like some companies with my local “boomerang café” – an initiative aiming to get youth off the streets) can provide publicity to put you on local businesses radar.
Column in Local Papers
Similarly, writing an online marketing column for a local publication can provide you with exposure, too. Even if it doesn’t translate directly into sales, it will open many doors (i.e. local businesses will have already heard about you when you email them or approach them at a networking event for instance).
I am sure there isn’t a person reading this blog who wouldn’t be converted to the effectiveness of content marketing. But, if you are one of those who still don’t believe in it — according to MarketingProfs, 71% of your marketing colleagues use it already to generate leads.
Free downloadable resources
Here is the thing about B2B audience – these people want to be educated before they make the purchase. But that’s not only to learn the information they lack but also, to make them look good in front of their superiors, business partners or whoever else they need to show they know what they are talking about.
Therefore, lengthy, detailed and highly educational content is ideal to attract and engage this audience.
What offers a better chance to deliver on all 3 requirements than creating a free, downloadable resource?
Free downloadable resources (like ebooks, reports, whitepaper, cheat sheets, etc.) are one of the most effective ways to generate qualified B2B leads online.
Whitepapers and Other Reference Materials
According to Business.com report published last year, more than 50% of its respondents qualified whitepapers as valuable or extremely valuable source of leads.
By definition, a whitepaper is a form of a report or a guide that solves a reader’s particular problem and helps them to make a decision. My friend Chris published a great course on using whitepapers to generate leads. Check it out.
Slideshare is often considered as a great tool to showcase your knowledge and build an expert status. This is true but it can also be a powerful lead generation tool.
Slideshare offers the option to embed a lead generation form right on your presentation page turning your presentation into, yes, a killer lead generation engine.
Next to whitepapers, eBooks are by far the most common free downloadable content used to generate leads. But they can be used in a multitude of other ways, too. Unlike whitepapers or reports, you can use them to gain authority and expert status, gain publicity and even use as a proof of expertise and experience.
Online educational resources
Remember how I said that B2B audience wants to be educated? You can bank on this by creating online educational resources. QuickSprout does it with their University or Content Marketing Guide and Distilled with DistilledU. It doesn’t matter that some of these resources are paid. They still work as great ways to generate leads.
Sometimes you don’t have to win new leads by yourself and let others do it for you. Affiliates are often associated with products but you can offer a reward for referring a business to you to entice people or businesses you know to help you grow your business.
Similarly to affiliates, you can form business partnerships with other companies whose competencies compliment yours: web designers, copywriters, business mentors, traditional marketers and so on to refer business to one another or even go as a partnership after bigger projects.
Seminars / Webinars
Educating others is by far one of the most effective strategies to gain new clients in B2B. Creating online resources to help prospects gain new knowledge is one way to do so. Nothing beats building a personal connection through delivering a training session personally. You can do this by running seminars, perhaps in connection with your local chamber of commerce or networking group or delivering online webinars.
Weekly tips email
Not everyone is ready to become a hot lead straight away. Some people need nurturing before they even get to a point to want to discuss your services.
Sending them a short but regular email with tips or advices gives you a chance to get your leads to a point at which they will want to speak to you.
Brochures might seem like an outdated form of marketing. After all, who’d want to use them to promote a business anymore? The fact is though that many of your potential leads will not be making a decision by themselves. And thus they will need some form of a reference material to present to whatever group of people they need to convince of contacting you.
A brochure, even in a PDF format which they could download from your website (ideally without having to fill in any form this time) gives them a chance to achieve just that.
Publicity in local press, an interview or a feature article about you is a surefire way to gain exposure to the local business market. Just like with writing a regular column, even if it doesn’t generate leads directly, it might open many doors previously closed to you.
SEO and PPC
OK, I probably don’t have to convince anyone here of the benefits of each.
Networking groups like BNI exist to provide their members with an environment to build and grow business relationships that can result in passing business and referrals between members. Even though the way they operate might sometimes feel too formal, these organizations do work. Joining a local BNI chapter might help you develop connections and gain business from where you would least expect it.
Start your own networking group
Regardless of whether there is an active networking group in your area or not, you can still start your own. Invite local businesses to come over. It may go slow for you at the start but if you are consistent, the room will start filling up.
Gaining referrals is by far the best way to win new business. But, referrals don’t happen by themselves. For most part, you need a solid referral strategy to ensure that customers refer new business to you.
White label service
As an SEO consultant, you can work not only with individual clients but also marketing or web firms who might want to offer SEO to their clients without having to invest in a full-time staff. By white labeling your service you can form partnerships with them resulting in more work for you.
Sponsor competitions or local events
This could become an expensive strategy. If you can, however, sponsor a competition or a local event to gain publicity for your company.
This is by far the most overlooked marketing strategy of all – following up with your connections. A quick phone call or even calling in personally to their office will first of all show your commitment but also, allow to build a connection which usually results in a new business. Just ask any sales person, next time they follow up with you 🙂
No consulting business can exist without new leads. Regardless of how many clients you currently have, you need to constantly prospect for more to ensure a steady growth of your business. By using a multitude of lead generation strategies, you can ensure a constant flow of new contacts, some of which might turn into new business.