smb-tech-trendsReferrals from customers and partners  are a great source of new business leads for your small business, but are they enough?  Most small business owners realize at some point that they need to do more than count on others to sing their praises. When you get to that point, if you haven’t already, you know that it’s time to put an active lead generation strategy in place. Even then, the goal is not about getting lots of people to get in touch; but getting qualified leads to convert into customers.

Before you put a lead generation plan into place, keep two things in mind about what motivates people to take action.  People respond to things that affect them directly or align with their interests. By the same token, people increasingly want useful information to help them make a decision. While there’s no shortage of content available – and you can access it anywhere and anytime on mobile devices — not all of it is reliable and quality. That creates an opportunity for your small business to fill the void.

Here are several steps to take to take to boost your lead generation:

Social Media PosterGo where prospects are: Social media provides a powerful channel to engage with your potential customers.  But don’t put all your eggs in the social media basket in lieu of more traditional marketing channels like attending networking events, participating in trade shows or seminars and advertising in vertical market magazines. The key is to identify where your prospects go to find solutions and make sure you have a presence there. If you can’t afford to do it all; focus on top channels.

Have great content: Create compelling content that engages, educates and generates enthusiasm among your targets. White papers, Slide share presentations, podcasts, articles and blogs position your small business as a thought leader; customer testimonials convey what your products and services can do.

Implement a lead capture process:  Don’t miss any opportunity to capture leads when you engage with a potential customer.  Leverage your content to capture leads from your web audience or ask prospects to sign up to receive your newsletter. Also provide a process for your employees to capture leads when someone calls, and make it a priority.  For face-to-face interactions, you even can  use your mobile device to capture leads through the Bump app or take a picture and use CardMunch to upload to LinkedIn.

Create powerful calls to action: Support your lead capture efforts with a strong call to action, which I’ve addressed before in “Write a ‘call to action’ that clicks with your audience.” Use strong clear language, for example ‘download now,’ create a sense of urgency; and make your call to action stands out.

Validate and score leads: Time is money so you don’t want to waste your time or your sales team’s by following up on leads that aren’t real or not a good fit. Set criteria for validating leads, including fit, budget, and time involved. You also might want to establish a method for scoring leads. Examples are size of opportunity, potential to take your small business into a new market, or opportunity for growth. Your team can help your determine what leads are more important to pursue than others.

Follow up:  While some leads are hotter and more compelling, follow up with all legitimate ones. Sometimes all it takes is quick follow-up to land the business.

These are just some things to do boost your lead generation to build your customer base. What would you add to the list?