And in order for a business to develop you need to increase leads, contacts and partners as well as customers. Growth can often slow down when you can’t find anyone else to sell to and if you produce something hardwearing and durable your business can come to a grinding halt if you can’t identify and introduce yourself into new markets.
Advertising your company and the products or services you provide is certainly one way of increasing your business, using search engine optimization techniques to improve your position when people search for what you do, producing TV and radio commercials are all tried and tested ways of reaching customers. Lead generation and business expansion on the other hand are processes which can’t be so well served by a months’ worth of radio spots and an Adwords campaign. This aspect of growing your business takes leg work but where do you start?
Let Your Fingers Do The Virtual Walking
One way to identify potential contacts is to use resources such as directories. Obvious but still the best way of finding out who’s currently in business, what they do, where they do it and all of their contact details. Of course there is the Thompson or Yellow Pages but there’s also the Institute of Directors’ directory, your local Chambers of Commerce and national Trade Associations whose directories are often free to search making finding all your potential customers simple to find.
Once you’ve interrogated these directories and built a spreadsheet using the contact details which they provide then setting up a list of people to contact is simple . Of course when you go in this way you’re calling cold but it’s still a nice way to find out who decision makers are, identify requirements and introduce yourself so next time you call it won’t be so cold.
Another way to find out who is doing what in your area is to attend networking events and breakfast meetings. Networking events often have a guest speaker who gives an entertaining speech to attract a broad spectrum of local business representatives and guests or they can be business specific training, such as using Twitter for Business, for example. These events then allow the audience to mingle and meet one another, swap cards and hopefully forge new business contacts. Breakfast meetings are usually a relaxed affair, people are welcome to turn up, introduce themselves and get to know one another. Breakfast meetings are usually more frequent than networking events and regular attendees are always welcome. Regular attendance at either networking events or breakfast meetings will alloy you to get to know many of the people in your area, the business they do and vice versa.
If you’re networking why stop in the real world? Networking online, particularly through resources such as LinkedIn allows you to find all sorts of people, companies and businesses registration is free and you can submit all the details of your enterprise. Once you’re a member you can search individuals or companies, join discussion groups, reconnect with former colleagues and invite people to join you so that you’re able to see their updates and news. In many ways LinkedIn is like Facebook except it’s designed particularly toward the business community. No privacy issues or constant sharing of pictures of cats here! Once you have found your way around the site, found people you have worked with or currently work with you’re able to see what other people are doing, offer expertise and advice in the forums, connect with people who work in the sectors you are interested in and receive news specific to your particular interests
Don’t Be Shy, Make It As Easy As Possible For People To Find You
Now we’ve looked at finding new business relationships, how can you make yourself as easy to find as possible online?
As well as looking outward to find business contacts there are a number of things you can do to improve your presence on search engines. If you’re a micro business it’s quite likely that much of your client base will be made up of people who live nearby. Making yourself even more findable is key if your potential customer’s search criteria is qualified with the name of your town. If you’re a small business and you offer a local service you might already have the name of your town in your company name. If you don’t and you would like to be among the top search engine results when people search for your business in your town. The most easy way to get found is to tell Google where you are! You can do this by getting on Google+ local. Just go to google.com/places and inform them of your business name, location, all the usual directory details plus business hours, photos, videos, payment methods you accept, whether customers can come to your premises or not. Once you’ve completed all that information, when somebody finds you on Google they will see a pin on Google maps with a letter on it corresponding to your business, clicking the pin will give them all the information and photos you submitted and they can even use street view to see your shopfront for themselves.
Ensure Everything’s Accurate
Of course being on Google is important as it’s one of the west’s most ubiquitous search engines, however, to add strength to your entry it’s also a good idea to register with as many other local directories as you can. Powerful directories such as the aforementioned Thompson and Yellow Pages are still popular as means of finding out about companies, however, you should also register with smaller directories. When you start looking you’ll probably find that someone has already done a lot of the work for you, very badly. Which is why it’s important to clear this data up, to stop it providing the wrong information about your business. When these sites were set up they took data from anywhere just to populate the directory as quickly as possible so you’ll find that old business might still be shown at your address, there may be an old telephone number, an old contact, email of fax number, all of which should be corrected to prevent any future confusion.
Appearing on social media is also an outstanding way to find and be found. Facebook has resources specifically for businesses and you can have your tweets go directly through to your Facebook page, meaning that people who have liked you will receive your twitter feed without having to follow you on Twitter. This level of engagement is an industry expectation now that it’s considered that everyone is on social media all the time what with mobile devices being constantly connected. Using social media to befriend and follow people and businesses you would like to do business with is an easy way to introduce yourself, share ideas, ask and answer questions or offer deals and incentives instantly. While GooglePlus didn’t take off as well as it had been expected, it is still an important resource as the news you share publically not only appears in all of your Circles but it improves all other Google placements too.
Know Your Generations For Lead Generation
Don’t assume that social media is just for the young either. It’s a common mistake to think that older people don’t understand computers and so don’t bother. Many ‘Silver Surfers’ use email and social media to keep in touch with family members who’ve grown up and moved on. It’s important therefore to know your demographic and make sure your online presence is of interest to them. Tying in your social media presence to your advertising and marketing means that you can find out who is looking at your page, who’s converting and who’s not. By using Facebook’s API you can find out an awful lot about the people who are visiting and tailor your content to suit. Use that information to create conversions and increase your customer base.
How could you generate new leads for your micro business in 2013? Which ideas from the ones described above could you implement? Take some time to brainstorm some ideas today.