10 Ways to Generate Leads Online

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The Internet offers countless opportunities for building your professional network and generating leads for your business. Especially for those on a tight budget, it’s important to focus on making the most of lead generation tools and techniques that are readily available on the Web. This article will provide you with ten simple ways you can generate leads online for your business.

  1. Send Out Monthly E-newsletters — Email marketing is hugely effective when it comes to converting leads into customers over time. To maximize your email marketing efforts, it’s essential to keep in touch with your audience using an e-newsletter. Your e-newsletter should contain valuable, timely and relevant content that is intended to keep your audience interested in your organization and what services or products you offer. For more information on writing and distributing e-newsletters, please see our article, “Why Your Business Needs an E-newsletter.”
  1. Offer Free Content in Exchange for Contact Information — By offering valuable content such as guidebooks, e-books and other free downloads on your website and in your advertising, people will be more likely to give up their contact information. Even if it’s just a name and email address, this information is essential to generating leads and future customers or clients. Over time, engaging these leads with credible, valuable content can lead to long-term buying relationships.
  1. Host Webinars — Webinars are online seminars offered by a company to replace an in-person business conference, lecture or presentation. When people want to attend your webinar, they’ll have to enter their name, email address and other contact information, if necessary. This is excellent for businesses because, for every webinar participant, you’ll gain a new lead and a potential customer. The stronger your presentation is, and the better you promote your upcoming webinar, the more leads you will generate.
  1. Advertise Using Pay-Per-Clicks — Pay-per-click advertising is an excellent way to generate qualified leads. Pay-per-click advertising outlets, such as Google AdWords, allow businesses to market to people who are already actively searching for their products or services. Users who click on your ad will be delivered to a custom landing page where they can enter their contact information in exchange for the content or service that was advertised. For more information on pay-per-click advertising, please see our articles, “Interest-Based Advertising,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Google AdWords,” and “An In-Depth Look into Google AdWords.”
  1. Create Effective Landing Pages — A landing page is a single Web page that appears in response to a reader clicking on an advertisement. Landing pages are often linked from social media ads, email ad campaigns or pay-per-click ad campaigns. Landing pages should include brief descriptions of the downloadable content and services your business offers, as well as an image of the content and a short form for contact information. A well-designed landing page is essential for generating qualified leads for your business. Marketers can even measure the effectiveness of a landing page by analyzing the activity generated by the linked URL, such as click-through and conversion rates. For more information on creating effective landing pages, please see our article, “Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.”
  1. Submit Your Website to Web Directories — Web directories provide valuable backlinks that will improve your business’ visibility and search engine optimization. By listing your business in accurate categories, people who are already looking for information regarding your industry or service will be directed to your website, making them more qualified and targeted leads. For more information on free Web directories and other submission sites that offer backlinks, please see our article, “Why You Should Take Advantage of Free Submission Websites.”
  1. Distribute Press Releases Online — Every time you distribute your press release online, that site will provide backlinks to your main website. This will further direct interested readers directly to your business. Keep in mind that, for SEO purposes, it is vital to distribute press releases that are optimized for your target keywords. For more information on press releases, please see our article, “5 Tips for Writing Effective Press Releases.”
  1. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile — When used properly, LinkedIn can be a great tool for business networking, developing professional relationships and generating strong leads. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking site. The first step is to make sure that your profile is as close to 100% complete as possible. Next, it’s important to boost your visibility and credibility on LinkedIn by contributing to group discussions on the “Discussions” and “Answers” boards. For more information on LinkedIn, please see our article, “Making the Right Connections with LinkedIn.”
  1. Share Documents, Slideshows and Presentations — By sharing your presentations or slideshows on the Web, you can not only boost the credibility and popularity of your business online, but you will secure valuable backlinks to your website. Websites such as Scribd and SlideShare not only rank high with major search engines, but they provide backlinks to lead readers directly to your main website.
  1. Maintain an Active Blog — According to a study done by KBK Communications, B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those who do not. Blogging is essential to any successful marketing and communications strategy, especially in regards to lead generation. Include a clear section for readers to subscribe to your blog via email or an RSS feed. For more information on blogging, please see our article, “Should My Business Have a Blog?

For more information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com. You can also visit our blog for more valuable articles, advertising spotlights and more.

Marketing in a Recession Revisited

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12 Tips to Help You Survive and Thrive in a Double Dip

I thought it might be helpful to revisit an article I wrote on the “Top 10 Tips for Marketing in a Recession” in January of 2009. While many of the suggestions still apply and I remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for the U.S. economy, I believe that the economy of today is the new normal in the face of a number of economic hurdles, including high unemployment, international financial unrest and a depression in the real estate market. It is my personal opinion that things won’t change significantly, at least until business confidence can be restored with the election of a new President and Congress in the Fall of 2012. These recommendations suggest that while it is necessary to market, you must do so with the idea of slowly maintaining and growing your business, while continuing to overcome a myriad of external challenges.

Starting a Business in a Recession — If you are thinking about starting a new business in a recession, you are not alone. Small businesses are often the greatest generators of new jobs. This is one of the reasons why the unemployment rate remains high in the United States. Often, when people are laid off, they take the opportunity to start their own business. However, think hard before you start a business, especially if it is a restaurant or a retailer. For example, the highly competitive restaurant industry sees 27% of restaurant startups fail within the first year, according to a 10-year study by Cornell University and Michigan State University. If you are looking to open a restaurant or retailer, make sure that your business will be unique and that you are confident that there will be a demand for your product or services. Think along the lines of necessities, including health care or products like coffee. For example, think of the Dunkin Donuts and 7-Eleven franchises. Another essential point to keep in mind is that before you start your new business, you must set aside plenty of money for marketing. For more information on this, read our article, “If You Build It, They Won’t Necessarily Come…

One of the first overall suggestions I can make is that when choosing whether or not to start a business in a recession, you must identify what the most profitable businesses are and which ones can give you the most competitive advantage. In a recession, consumers require value more than ever. Just look at Walmart, Target and McDonalds. These companies have done relatively well during the recession because of the value they offer consumers. However, there is an exception with high end luxury markets. Although these markets did take a hit early in the recession as real estate values and stock market portfolios declined, they did bounce back. If you can effectively market to wealthier geographies and demographics, you should do so. If your product is a necessity, for consumers or for businesses, then say it is and why it is. For example, Apple did very well during the recession because consumers viewed their products as necessities. Also, if you have products that appeal to children, then make sure you market them effectively. Parents will be more likely to self-sacrifice than to deprive their children, especially when it comes to their education, health and development.

1. Focus on Your Customers — If you already have a business or non-profit organization, focus on your current customers and clients. Continue to do what you can to keep your current customers returning and always make sure they are satisfied. If you are a retailer or restaurant, send your customers a gift card or special offer to show your appreciation. If you are a professional, hold the line on your rates, provide volume discounting or some other type of acknowledgement of their patronage. From a marketing perspective, you should periodically send your clients e-newsletters, newsletters, use direct mail and engage them in social media to communicate special offers or news to keep them in the loop. Your next step in marketing your current business should be to focus on your website because this is the online hub of information and content for your organization.

2. Develop Your Website — Since you may have extra time now, it is time to focus on your website. Ask yourself: What do I need to do to get higher search engine rankings? The answer is to make sure you have a strong public relations and content creation program, develop your website’s on-page optimization and utilize off-page optimization techniques. For more information on on-page optimization, read our article, “On-page Optimization and Keywords.” For off-page optimization tips, read our article, “No, We Can’t Get You Those Results Overnight.” One tip is to incorporate microsites into your Web strategy. Microsites are essential to maximizing your Web presence and boosting your organization’s search engine rankings. Consider building microsites for specific products or services that your company offers. To compliment your website, you may also decide to create a blog. You may need some development help, but once your blog is created and your new sites are set up, you can use your CMS system or Adobe Contribute for sites created in HTML to make changes yourself. The goal for your blog should be to develop excellent content that will compel visitors to return and share with others. We highly recommend providing downloadable content on your site that visitors will be willing to give up an email address or other contact information for.

For more information on developing your website, read our article, “A Practical Guide to Developing Effective Websites.”
For valuable tips on Web optimization, download our free guide, “Web Optimization Tips.”
You can view examples of websites that The Public Relations and Marketing Group has created on behalf of its clients here.

3. Build Your Social Media Presence — It is crucial to share your content and communicate with your audience on appropriate social media platforms. Communicating with friends and followers through social media will help build your networks and engage your current customers. If you’re just starting out with social media, focus on the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If your business is B2C, focus your efforts more on Facebook and Twitter. For B2B companies, LinkedIn should be your first priority. Developing a strong presence on social media websites does require time but it can prove to be an extremely cost-effective way to market your business, which is especially helpful during rough economic times. For example, create a Facebook fan page for your company to communicate with customers and share photos and news. Twitter, the immensely popular micro-blogging network, is an excellent communication outlet to send short messages to a huge audience. LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows users to rapidly build their connections, browse and post job offerings and share industry expertise with other professionals in their field. Determine which of these social networking sites you should devote your time to and build a strong presence there.

Beginners can learn how to create a social media presence for their business by reading our article, “Getting Started with Social Media.”
For more information on building a strong presence on Facebook, read our article, “10 Steps to Getting the Most Out of Facebook.”
To learn how to make the most of your Twitter account, read our article, “Secrets to Twitter Marketing.”
For more information on using LinkedIn effectively, read our article, “Making the Right Connections with LinkedIn.”

4. Network — Old-fashioned networking may also help you build professional contacts and reach potential clients at low cost. If you are a professional, attend networking events in your industry and other trade groups where you may find prospective clients. To demonstrate your position as an expert in your field, professionals can hold original lectures, in-house if possible, to keep costs lower. Retailers and restaurants can hold product demonstrations or workshops. Always promote these events to the public using press releases, social media and e-blasts.

Everything up to this point can be done at low cost. However, often this may not be enough and you will also need to advertise to successfully market your business. In a recession, it is often cheaper to advertise and you may have more leverage. However, always keep in mind that you should never advertise in something solely because it is cheap or within your budget. It is always better to spend more on something that is more likely to work for you. For example, your organization may benefit from targeted ads placed in print outlets, on the Web, through email or on television.

5. Focus Your Print Advertising — When using traditional print advertising outlets, make sure that you have the budget to sustain your advertising efforts. If you have a local business, consider using D-Cards and high visibility print ads. To ensure that your advertisements are reaching the right audience, micro-target your ads by placing them in specialty publications. For example, you may want to target a local community by using the front pages of Pennysavers or local newspapers, as well as D-Cards. If your services or products appeal to a specific trade group or demographic, consider specialty publications that service that group. If you need to advertise in a daily newspaper, be sure to put together a catchy ad that is in a high visibility location. In addition, Newsday’s daily deals are often good for retailers and those in the hospitality industry.

6. Target Your Web Advertising — For those on a budget, I would strongly recommend using Web advertising. As studies repeatedly show, more and more people are turning to online sources when searching for products, services or information. This is why Web advertising is so important when marketing your business. Popular Web advertising outlets include Google AdWords, social media ads, landing pages and daily deal websites.

7. Use Google AdWords — Google AdWords lets you create and run text, display or video ads for your business with a custom budget. This is good for marketers on a budget because you will only pay if someone clicks on your advertisement. These ads are displayed under “Sponsored Links” beside search results when someone searches Google using one of your listed keywords. Google AdWords is so effective because you are advertising to an audience who is already interested in what you have to offer.

8. Advertise with Social Media — Social media websites offer highly quantifiable and cost-effective advertisements. Like Google AdWords, you will only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Through social media advertising, you can control your budget, build fans, drive traffic to your website and micro-target based on user demographics, gender, age and interests. For B2C companies, use Facebook Ads to reach your audience. Facebook is able to micro-target based on what users have listed as interests. For B2B organizations, LinkedIn advertising can be effective. LinkedIn offers rich display and text ads that can reach millions of active business professionals. LinkedIn advertising is unique because it can target based on job title.
To learn more about Facebook advertising, read our article, “Interest-Based Advertising.”

9. Create Landing Pages — A landing page is a single Web page that appears in response to a reader clicking on an advertisement. A landing page is little more than a Web page that contains specific content and can be used as part of an effective Web advertising campaign. When used in a Web advertising campaign, landing pages should provide access to your entire website but the goal here is for the visitor to interact with the content on the page. By offering downloadable content, you provide your audience valuable material in exchange for their contact information. This will help you generate business leads and build your email lists. For more information on landing pages, read our article, “Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails.”

10. Use Daily Deals Websites — Daily deals websites and phone applications are immensely popular, especially for those with smart phones. These websites and phone apps cater to a vast audience that is interested in obtaining new deals and visiting new venues. Daily deal marketing services such as Groupon and LivingSocial collect users’ email addresses and send them a featured email every day, offering a heavily discounted deal from a local business. Recipients may buy the coupon, redeem it at the local business and get the product or service they paid for. For example, on Groupon, you and the daily deal site will split the revenues from coupon sales and you will pay nothing upfront to Groupon. Running ad campaigns on sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial can prove to be hugely beneficial in attracting customers to your business, especially if you are in the restaurant or hospitality industry or offer some kind of service to your guests.

11. Use Take-Over Emails — Your business can benefit by using take-over emails in your email advertising strategy. Take-over emails allow you to take advantage of another organization’s broad email list. For example, Newsday and other publications offer take-over emails for $50 per thousand, meaning they will send out your email for you to their audience. When creating your email advertisement, make sure that the most important information appears at the top, under the fold of the email, and that you have a compelling title that will encourage your readers to read more. Include links to landing pages, your website, social media profiles and contact information.
To learn more about email advertising and take-over emails, read our article, “Web Ads, E-newsletters and Take-over Emails.”

12. Advertise on Television — Sometimes, you may need to reach large numbers of people in a short time frame. Under these circumstances, I would highly recommend considering television advertising. When advertising on television, it is important to narrow your target audience by using specific programming. Consider upcomers like FiOS, for example. If you are looking to reach businesspeople or wealthier viewers, consider advertising on CNBC or news channels. If your business’ product or service is catered to women, choose to advertise on channels such as Lifetime, WE or HGTV.

Five Steps to Generating New Business through Web Advertising, Landing Pages and Emails

At the Public Relations and Marketing Group, we pride ourselves in providing integrated services to our clients. With this in mind, I wanted to share with you how we have been doing this through content creation, Web advertising, landing pages and email marketing to develop and nurture leads for clients leading to new business. While these techniques are highly applicable to any professional service organization, they are adaptable to just about every business.

Step 1 – Create Your Content

The first step is to create compelling content. For professionals, this often takes the form of a free report or guidebook that will provide the reader with valuable information, which they will be willing to give up an email address for. The content should be mostly informational and not a sales pitch. There should be very little mention of the organization, perhaps with the exceptions of authorship and contact information at the end of the piece. Very often, this takes on the form of a downloadable brochure, white paper or eBook. The material should be written with the end-user in mind and not be overly technical (unless of course this is your target market). Some examples: for attorneys, it could be a guidebook on “What I Need to Know before I Purchase a Home”; for an ophthalmologist, “Will I Benefit from Laser Eye Surgery?”; for a home health care provider, “The Advantages of Using a Home Health Agency”; for a retailer or restaurant, you could just offer a coupon.

Step 2 – Set up Your Landing Page

A landing page is little more than a Web page that contains specific content. Landing pages can be built into websites, but they can also be used as part of Web advertising campaigns. When used in a Web advertising campaign, it is suggested that they provide access to your entire Website, but the goal is for the visitor to interact with the content on the page. To accomplish this, we suggest not having navigation links, but instead a text link in the body of the text inviting the visitor to visit your site. The landing page should also include brief descriptions of the downloadable content and the services of your organization, as well as an image of the content and a short form. You may also want to include a video, such as a TV commercial. The contact should be kept to a minimum and ask for just a name, company (if B to B), email address and phone number. It should also have a check box asking if the visitor wants to be contacted to set up a free consultation or meeting. However, we recommend that the only required fields be the email address, perhaps also a phone number if the visitor requests a meeting.

Step 3 – Advertise on the Web and Monitor

Use Google, Bing or Yahoo! AdWords or Facebook to bring traffic to the landing page. Target your demographics and keywords like you would for any other AdWords campaign. However, in this case, the ad should promote the availability of the free download. Monitor the ad’s performance using the advertising platform and Google Analytics. Test different offers to achieve the best results and to maximize your costs per click.

Step 4 – Integrate with Your Email Program

As visitors interact with your landing page, you will receive a form indicating that someone has downloaded the content or requested a consultation or meeting. You should then contact anyone requesting a meeting immediately. For the most efficiency, you want to program your contact form to dump information into an email program. (Our firm uses StreamSend.) You can also do this manually. We would then recommend that you set up Triggers. Triggers are e-mails that can be programmed to send automatically based on a database field, such as the date/time when an entry is created. This allows you to send out an email to a lead 24 or 48 hours after they have downloaded your content, providing them, for instance, additional content they may be interested in or a sales offer. Multiple Triggers can be set up.

Step 5 – Nurture Your Leads

Not everyone makes buying decisions at the same pace. Someone may have visited your site very early in their buying process for the purpose of researching the problem they have. Other visitors make buying decisions very quickly. The goal is to interact and nurture your contacts over time. For instance, on the initial landing page, we provide an opportunity for someone to contact you by phone or email to request a meeting. We use Trigger emails to provide automatic follow-up shortly thereafter. We also recommend that you develop an e-newsletter that you send out to clients and prospects at least on a monthly basis. This will help you to ensure that your leads are nurtured over time. You can invite these leads to connect with you using social media.

We hope this article was useful to you. As always, if you have any questions or would like to see samples of our work in this area, email johnzaher@theprmg.com or call us at (631) 207-1057.