How to Generate Leads Online and Turn Them Into Customers

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Last Updated: Sep 1, 2018
How can you generate leads online and turn them into customers for your small business? Learn from these lead generation and conversion strategies other businesses are using successfully.

Are you getting leads online for your business? If you’re not, it’s likely you are losing customers to your competitors. 

Small businesses often think that you have to be a big business or have a big advertising budget to generate leads onl the Internet.  In a recent Business Know-How survey, for instance, one respondent wrote, “I skip the articles about online marketing because it doesn’t work for small businesses.”

But the fact is, Internet marketing can and does work for small and micro-sized businesses. The Internet and related tools like email can help your small business locate new leads, convert leads to customers, drive traffic to a brick and mortar location and sell directly online if you know how to use it. And you can do those things without having a huge budget.

Here are several example of how small businesses are using the Internet to acquire leads and convert the leads into paying customers. Chances are your buiness can benefit by using similar strategies to capture leads online.

Colton Devos is the Marketing Specialist at Resolute Technology Solutions, a full-service IT company located in Winnipeg, Canada. The company provides consulting, managed IT support, application development, and IT staffing and recruiting for companies of all sizes. 

As part of their ongoing inbound marketing efforts, the company did a lot of SEO keyword research and content creation to help get their site found in search engines. “It drove a lot more visitors to our website,” Devos says, “but that didn’t translate into new sales.”

To solve the problem, Resolute Technology Solutions implemented a number of lead generation and conversion optimization strategies to make it easier for visitors to their site to contact them.

“We started by adding a contact form in the sidebar of each page,” Devos says. We also added an eBook offer that leads to a landing page, a hovering live chat icon that allows people to connect with a team member instantly, and a contextual pop-up for a free consult based on the page the visitor is on.”

The efforts paid off, says Devos. “With the combination of different elements we’ve seen three times the number of leads coming in.”

Devos’ advice to other small businesses: “If your website is getting a lot of traffic but you’re not seeing a lot of leads, purchases, or new inquiries – one element to look at is your web page layout and making sure there are enough opportunities for your website visitors to reach you or take that next step in their buyer’s journey.”

Claudia Montez, owner of Isabelle Grace Jewelry in New Bedford, MA, knows that visitors don’t always buy on their first visit to a website. To maximize sales, you need to get leads from your website as well as sales. In other words, you need to find a way to get visitors to give you their email address so you can contact them again and get them to come back. 

One way Montez addresses that problem is by using an app that displays a contest wheel to new visitors to her site. Next to the wheel there are instructions to enter your email address to spin the wheel for a chance to get a discount.

The app, which is available to owners of Shopify ecommerce sites, has increased the number of people signing up for the company’s newsletter. “We put one of our pieces on a special JUST4ME discount and advertise it in our newsletter and to our social media followers each week,” Montez says. “Not only has this resulted in new purchases, but it has also helped us really grow our email list.” 

Dan Goldstein is the president and owner of Page 1 Solutions, a Lakewood, CO firm that has been providing full-service digital marketing to lawyers, doctors, and dentists for more than 17 years. The company uses live chat on its own site and on its clients’ sites to initiate a dialog with site visitors and increase lead generation.

“The immediacy of everything online, especially users’ expectations, requires digital marketers to provide greater access to a business, even during non-business hours,” Goldstein explains. “We started using live chat several years ago and found that overall, lead generation doubled as a result. This had a particularly big impact during weekends and after hours. Simultaneously, it did not have a negative impact on priority telephone lead generation.”

Page 1 Solutions offers live chat services to their clients on a pay-per-performance basis. Clients only pay for chat sessions where prospects provide contact information with the expectation for the client’s daytime staff to follow up. It excludes customers of record, vendors, and sales inquiries from the leads sent to clients.

Amanda Abella  is a finance expert, business coach, and the owner of Make Money Your Honey at AmandaAbella.com. In marketing her business, Abella’s goal is “to be everywhere so we get new leads, nurture social media followers and eventually they turn into buyers.” 

To keep “being everywhere” from becoming a huge time drain, and to be sure that leads are responded to and nurtured in a timely fashion, Abella uses several online automation tools.

She uses Edgar for most of her social media scheduling, and like it better than other social media schedulers because it lets you set up a library of posts, and then automatically pulls from that library to post to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter based on whatever schedule you set up. “It saves us loads of time from having to manually load up and schedule posts,” she explains. 

Most of her social media posts point to a freebie where someone enters their name and email in return for a worksheet or webinar. “This automatically puts them on a list of leads for my products and services,” she explains. Follow-up email marketing to get the leads to either join a class or sign up for a consultation, is done automatically, as well, she says, “So my team and I can focus on other things (like creating products, sales, negotiations).” The tools she uses to automate these two functions is Leadpages (to capture leads) and Infusionsoft (for email marketing.) Other email services such as Constant Contact that include autoresponder services and the ability to set up sublists can be used in much the same way.

Abella produces a podcast, and yet another automation tool gets put to work whenever she has a new episode to share. Instead of posting each episode of her podcast to multiple sites, she uses Libsyn, which automatically sends the episodes to Apple Music, SoundCloud, Stitcher, iHeartRadio and Spotify.

Sumit Bansal credits email automation with helping build his business as well. Bansal is the founder of Trump Excel, an online platform that trains people to use Excel spreadsheets efficiently. Bansal segments his list and then sends automated email to his subscribers.

“As soon as someone subscribes, I ask them whether they are basic or advanced Excel user,” Bansal explains. “Based on this, I send them a sequence of emails that are more suited to their level. Once I have provided value through 7-8 emails, I pitch them my courses. Since this is all automated, I end up getting sales on autopilot.”

Email automation tools also allow Banal to keep his subscriber list clean. “Anyone who doesn’t open my last 15 emails is automatically sent a reminder that they will be removed (unless they click and let me know that they want my emails). Those who don’t click are automatically removed.”

Bansal says that “what I love about this is that this is all automated. I invested a few hours in setting it up and now it keeps on working in the backend.”

Bansal, who is recognized by Microsoft as an Excel MVP (Most Valuable Professional), started the Excel training website in 2013 when he was a marketing manager at IBM and noticed his team members were asking questions about Excel that he could answer. When the site started gaining traffic, he launched an online Excel course. He quit his job in 2015 to work on the site full time.

Phrases like “Act Now!” “Only Two Days Left to Save,” and “Limited Supply – Order Now,” are common in online advertising and offline ads as well. The reason phrases like these are so common is that most marketers know that if a prospect puts something off until later, it usually doesn’t get done.

The problem, however is that phrases like that are used so frequently, the sense of urgency they are meant to convey gets ignored.

James Pollard, owner of TheAdvisorCoach.com, a marketing consultancy that works with financial services professionals, has found that one way to get immediate attention and boost responses to leadgen offers is to include a countdown timer in the emails he sends to his mailing list. (The countdown timer he uses is Deadline Funnel.)

Adding a countdown timer wasn’t enough for Pollard, however. As an experienced marketer, he realized he needed to analyze results and test different options until he found the optimal combination to use.

“I used to have a countdown timer only on the sales page,”  he says, “Then, I added it to the end of my email and said something like, ‘When the clock stops ticking, it’s over’ and saw a big increase in sales.”

Not satisfied, he tested further. “I went ahead and split-tested including the countdown timer at the bottom of my email vs. the top of my email and I found that having the countdown timer right at the beginning of the email resulted in the highest number of sales.”

Although just about every business can benefit in some way from the Internet, there’s no one magic button you can push to suddenly generate hundreds of qualified leads and get them to buy. As the small businesses in this story show, there are many different approaches you can take. But the key is to  you start  with a professional-looking website, work at building an email list of people who want to hear from you, and then test various strategies to get leads, convert them to customers and then get those new customers to make repeat purchases.

© 2018 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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