02 Mar 21 Lead Gen Ideas for Social Entreprises
The more I chat with social entrepreneurs the more I hear that their first concern, especially when new to business, is to generate leads, or as we often refer to it, lead gen. So I have decided to write a long list of ways you can find customers, both online and offline. First, though, let’s define what a lead is. A lead is a potential customer – not just anyone who hears about you, but someone who might need your product or service, now or in the future. Quality is at least as important as quantity, if not more, when generating leads.
Before delving into my list below, take a moment to reflect on the following:
- do you know who your ideal customer is?
- do you understand how your ideal customer shops, makes decisions, researches products?
- what are their values? This is even more important for social enterprises
- how many customers do you really need? 20 a year? 2,000 a month?
- what is your budget?
- what resources can you devote to lead gen?
If you are not clear on the above, it will be difficult to choose the right strategies to generate leads. I will delve into buyer’s personas and customers’ journeys in the following weeks, for now, take a few minutes to note what you already know about your potential customers, so you can pick and choose the best ways to connect with them.
Keep in mind that you only need to use a handful of the ideas listed below – even just 2 or 3 might be enough. It is better to market consistently and well through a few channels, then to spread too thin. Ready? Let’s delve right into 21 lead gens ideas for social enterprises!
1. Tap into your immediate network
Your first step should be to let everyone you know about your company. Your friends want the best for you, and trust you already. They might also have a really good idea of what makes you a great entrepreneur and a few of them might be your biggest fans. Share about your social impact enterprise when appropriate, keeping it light and positive. If your friends are interested in hearing more, they will ask you for additional information. Be sure to have a one-sentence explanation of whom you’d like to meet. Next time your network hears of a potential lead, they might just refer you!
2. Join Facebook Groups
Depending on your industry and location, Facebook groups could be huge! Here in Los Angeles, I often see opportunities posted exclusively in some of the most popular groups. Share your wins, help other members of the group, and build relationships with fellow entrepreneurs. Chances are a fellow group member will need your help, or will share your contact with someone who does.
3. Leverage LinkedIn
There are many different ways to leverage your network on LinkedIn. Post updates and content often, expressing what you need and do. I am connected to a recruiter who often posts the positions she is looking to fill, or asks for referrals to companies who might need some of her top candidates. You can be sure that after months of her updates, she is the first person I think of when someone asks me for a recruiter, even though I am connected to a bunch of others.
Another way to leverage LinkedIn is to keep up to date with your network’s job changes. Someone you know might get promoted to a new position in charge of working with firms like yours. Or your old buddy might now be connected to a decision maker you’d like to be introduced to – your LinkedIn’s 1st degree connections can become powerful allies.
Lastly, LinkedIn has a ton of groups you can join. To generate leads, don’t just join your industry groups, also join the groups your potential clients would most likely be part of, to better understand their needs and wants. As with everything else on this list, never act spammy, and don’t just focus just on closing sales – connect and be helpful, build relationships instead.
4. Practice collaborative marketing
Sometimes less is more…and sometimes more is more! Join forces with other complimentary social enterprises and run a collaborative marketing campaign, short or long term. Create a group together, offer a joint opt-in piece to join both your mailing lists, etc. You will not only gain by reaching more people, but you might enjoy the added creativity and energy that come from working together rather than alone.
5. Choose a referral group
There are quite a number of referral groups – do a quick search in your area to find the most popular. Meetup is a great platform to find like minded individuals, we even have an Interconnected Strategy group. There are also organizations whose only job is building referral groups. One of the most established (and not cheap!) group is BNI. Each BNI group is made up of non competitive businesses, all focused on referring each other potential clients. BNI is very time consuming, when I was in a group years ago, I calculated it took me 5-10 hours a week at the beginning to fully take advantage of it, but if you find the right group, you can get a sizable percentage of the leads you need from it. If you decide BNI is for you, look for a group that has been around for a few years and makes over a million dollars a year in referrals. Or start your own group.
6. Meet your direct competitors
Counter-intuitive, I know…and yet, often your bigger, more established direct competitors can be a great source of mentorship and business opportunities. I am a big fan of having an abundance mentality, and looking for opportunities to grow and learn from each other, instead of being afraid of the competition. The key here is to have an open and positive attitude – never make friends to “steal” clients. And of course reciprocate if a lead comes your way and you can refer work as well as receive it.
7. Blog consistently
Do it well, or don’t do it. A pet peeve of mine is to see blogs written just for SEO. This is not a good approach in the long term. Write helpful content, and then optimize it for SEO. Start by choosing a few topics your potential customers are interested in, choose a few long tail keywords to focus on, and write great stuff. Then optimize it even further for SEO, e.g. make sure the keyword is in the blog post’s url, in the filename of any image or video uploaded to the blog, etc., but keep an eye on how it reads and make sure it works as content for human beings first and foremost.
8. Be a guest and host guests
I am not suggesting throwing dinner parties…I am talking about blogging 🙂 Invite other social entrepreneurs to post on your blog, and pitch relevant content to other bloggers. This is a great way of co marketing, see #4. Start by connecting with lesser known blogs and move up the ranks after you refine your approach. Sharing a guest blog post by a very well known writer, or being published on a widely read blog can skyrocket your business overnight.
9. Show off on Instagram
If you sell beautiful products, or provide a very thoughtful service, Instagram can give your company a powerful boost. Not only this platform does great organically, it also offers plenty of options to run ads. There are also third-party apps to give Instagram e-commerce capabilities. And Instagram influencers have some of the biggest reach, but will also expect commensurate pay for the exposure they can provide.
10. Don’t Dismiss Twitter
Twitter takes a bit of work and automation to work for you, but it is still a wonderful way to find movers and shakers, especially in technology and media. Use platforms such as MeetEdgar and Hootsuite, and research the heck out of the most used hashtags in your field. If you or someone on your team has a gift for witty words, you could have found your place in the social media ecosystem.
11. It’s not your parents’ PR
PR is not what it used to be – it now encompasses blogs, online as well as print publications. Although pretty much every social enterprise can benefit from a mention in one of the top publications in the country, it could be easier to pitch to a very niche, but targeted publication your potential customers read. Work on understanding the habits and psychographics of your leads, and go where they will find you. If you want to establish your expertise, join HARO for daily emails with reporters’ requests.
12. Contribute to online forums
Consider joining very specific forums to learn who’s who in the industry you want to be known in, and to learn about what your potential customers worry and talk about. Then be helpful, and share your knowledge. Look for an online forum that has consistent activity, and it is easy to navigate. A great example of a forum that is very popular with technologists, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, is Quora.
13. Teach a workshop
Teach free or paid workshops to get your and your company’s name out there. If you have a physical location, you can also host classes to attract new visitors to your store or office. Be very clear what you want to gain from teaching: is this a lead gen class or are workshops your final product? ImagiKnit in San Francisco is a wonderful knitting store that also holds classes for beginner and advanced knitters. This way it attracts potential customers, retains its loyal fans, and builds community.
14. Host a Webinar
Just like with workshops, you can offer free or paid webinars, or a combination. Make sure to pick topics that appeal to your potential customers, and to have a system in place to follow up with after they register and watch your webinar. Even if free, your webinar should be helpful and deliver value, people hate feeling taken advantage of, so don’t give a webinar that is 70% about you and your pitch and 30% helpful. Aim for 80% helpful and 20% pitch. Experiment with live webinars and pre recorded ones – and with live Q&A sessions.
15. Record videos or podcasts
This is not a short term strategy, but one that can turn out incredibly lucrative over the long run. There are pros and cons to each option, make sure to choose either video or podcast and stick to it. If you are selling visually appealing product, video will probably be your best bet. YouTube marketing is a highly specialized field, and you can also use videos on Facebook, and a host of other platforms. Podcasts on the other hand only require sound, and can be easier to produce and edit. Either way, there is already a ton of content out there, so make sure to do some research and niche down. Then aim to be the best.
16. Stay in touch with your own email newsletter
Depending on what you sell, a few or even all your leads will need to hear from you many times before deciding to buy. Gather email addresses by offering an opt-in piece of content, e.g. a free guide or checklist, and then keep in touch and convert your leads into paying customers with email campaigns. Don’t spam people by emailing only promotional, click-bait and useless stuff, keep your content helpful, and email strategically. This is also a great way to be top of mind of past customers. And don’t buy lists or randomly add people you know to your mailing list. I know it’s tempting, but it can lead to a lot of trouble and even be against the law.
17. Conquer your fear of public speaking
Position yourself as an expert and overcome your biggest fear! Hire a coach, take a class, or join a Toastmasters group to learn how to be a great public speaker, and then find opportunities to showcase your knowledge and inspire. Choose topics that will appeal to your potential clients, and always include a call to action at the end – e.g. sign up now for a free consultation, etc.
18. Showcase your testimonials
We are all psychologically wired to want to agree with the group, and testimonials count on this part of human nature to draw people in. It is well documented how positive testimonials have a powerful influence on the mid of the consumer. Share the positive feedback you have received on social media, and on your website, to attract more potential customers. Amplify positive word of mouth.
19. Support a non-profit
Whether you want to volunteer, or offer support in the form of donations, or co-marketing, giving back can connect you with people who share your same values. You might also be able to work on press-worthy projects or experiment with new ideas. And all while doing good. What’s not to like?
20. Invest in online advertising
Advertising is not just for big companies, and a budget of $10-20 per day can deliver good results on Facebook or Google ads. Both platforms can be very effective, especially when set up to retarget your website visitors or mailing list. Other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest also offer paid options, so make sure to be clear about your goals for the ads, and then work with a professional to test different approaches and gather results.
21. Use the Power of Influencers
While you can still forge great relationships with influencers without spending money, now there is a whole subset of marketing dedicated to placing products and brands with famous YouTube and Instagram stars, among others. If paid, the campaign will not be cheap – make sure you partner up with a influencer who is particularly strong with the demographics you are targeting. And don’t dismiss smaller players, who might have less mass appeal, but be more affordable while still well known in your niche.
Ready to generate new leads to grow your business? Before delving in, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and download the Roadmap to Create Your Marketing Plan.