Where do I get good sales leads for my small business?

Leads mean sales, but leads can cost, and some leads can downright suck.

Let me start by stating that not every business needs to ‘buy’ leads – retail storefronts attract customers by signage and location while some industries (like local Government-related contractual work) match vendors by public postings. But there are still many small businesses (like mine) that need leads of potential customers who are interested in my products and services.

Word of Mouth MarketingThese are the 3 types of lead generation campaigns I’ve done in the past with some degrees of success.

1) Word of Mouth AKA “Lazy Marketing”

Yes, I’m bubbly and personable and like to network – but if I only relied on that, I’d be growing my business at a snail’s pace. Which is fine with some people, but not for folks like me. Fortunately, for the lazy person in all of us (I have one too) there’s Facebook.

Facebook, with over 500 Million registered users, has such a loyal user base that the average person spends 4.5 hours per month on Facebook, and makes an average of 3.5 recommendations of businesses or products to their friends each month.

You can create a Facebook “Official” Page for your business and start the process of letting folks find you on Facebook and recommend your business to their friends. Be patient, as it will take time to grow, but keep posting helpful tips (as I try and do here) on your Facebook page and your audience (and word of mouth) will grow over time.

2) Buying e-mail and phone numbers

While companies such as Dunn & Bradstreet and Hoovers will sell small businesses leads by NAICS & SIC codes (industry codes for the kind of business each listing is in), the amounts they charge can be expensive for many sole proprietors and the minimum number of leads one is required to buy can be high.

Others, such as SalesGenie, will allow folks to buy lists in smaller amounts and download them online.

My personal favorite though for calling on B2B leads is Jigsaw. Jigsaw, which was recently acquired by Salesforce.com, allows you to upload your list of contacts in exchange for downloading the contacts of others. Or one can simply pay a low fee for each contact.

Jigsaw works remarkably well and the contact information of B2B professionals is fairly accurate. In fact, Jigsaw is the one sales leads vendor I recommend that most people just tend to keep using. Try it yourself, its easy!

PS – you can look up your NAICS and SIC codes.

3) Pay-per-Click ads

This has come to basically mean Google AdWords. If you’re looking for leads of people in your e-mail inbox who have already decided they are interested in your product and service, than AdWords is for you. Just follow these general guidelines or you’ll blow your budget – quickly!

a) Create your AdWords account and when creating your first Campaign, be sure you choose the “localize” option so your ads only appear in your local area.

If you serve the nation, than you need to think carefully about testing the waters within a city you think you have the best chance of winning new customers at a reasonable cost.

b) Think about your keywords in 2 to 3 words or more.

For example, choosing “dentist” as a term will cost you much more money than choosing “dentist San Francisco,” which will in turn, cost more than “Pediatric Dentist San Francisco.”

And the more descriptive your keywords, the more likely you are to get better, qualified leads and spend less money doing so. Get it?

c) Landing pages mean higher conversions.

In an earlier post, I defined and mentioned conversion rates as meaning the amount of visitors or phone calls that turn into paying customers. When conducting pay-per-click ads, be sure you have dedicated pages for which the ads resolve to when users click them. These landing pages should be designed with conversion principles in mind and while all the details of what makes effective landing pages is too exhaustive for this post, my favorite website that can teach you these guidelines (for free) is Marketing Sherpa. Check them out and educate yourself!