Lead Generation from Cold? What's Your Best Shot...

No list? No website visitors? No social media traction? That's where we all started. So how to you get those first leads as fast as possible?

With so much hype around about SEO and social media and funnels and automation and content marketing and pay-per-click and all the rest, it's easy to get swept away by the hype. So let's take a step back and see if we can apply some common sense...

If you're a business owner, like me, then your Holy Grail is to get to the point where your pipeline starts to be filled by repeat business and enquiries from referrals!

That's the dream. When you get to that virtuous circle where your clients not only come back again and again, they actually become your sales force. Where they recommend you to their friends and colleagues. It's like perpetual motion, only better - the wheel doesn't just keep going, it accelerates!

That's the dream. And it emphasises the point that looking after your clients, keeping them happy, engaged and committed, is the most important thing you can do in your business. It's about the relationship.

The question is, how to get started. How to prime the pump. How to generate business from cold when you have no list, no website visitors and no traction on social media.

Of course, if you ask a web marketer, they'll say "it's obvious. website and search engine optimisation and pay-per-click search advertising driving traffic to an automated funnel".

And if you ask a social media marketer they''ll say "it's obvious. Engaging social media content and pay-per-click social media advertising driving traffic to an automated funnel".

And they will both have stories of clients who have succeeded hugely using either of those strategies.

Here's the thing, though. I've talked to many business owners who have been seduced by those stories only to find they've poured sometimes tens of thousands of pounds away with nothing to show for it.

It's so tempting to assume that these digital marketing strategies are the only answer. The panacea. The answer to all our problems.

Sadly, that just isn't true.

If you want proof, then go to any business networking meeting. The curious thing is that you will be highly likely to meet social media marketers and web marketers competing with each other to generate leads by leaving the digital realm and meeting real people!

So, what can we understand from this?

Well, the main thing is that these digital marketing strategies simply don't work for every business. If web marketers and social media marketers feel the need to leave the virtual realm and actually meet people, then we have to question the effectiveness of digital strategies for their particular type of business.

There's no doubt that these strategies can be incredibly successful as cold lead-generation for specific types of business.

But -  will they work for yours?

Maybe yes, maybe no. The important thing is to ask the question and be real about the answer.

And remember, we're talking about priming the pump here. Getting those leads from scratch, with a zero client base, no list, no social media presence and no website traffic.

I came across an interesting idea the other day, and I want to share it with you.

Let's imagine you are offered a branded high-street shop front, free, for your business. How much would that generate in the way of new leads?

If the answer is 'loads', then perhaps a search engine strategy might be the best starting point for you because we can assume people are saying 'I want one of those - let's get one while we're in town'.

Or let's imagine you are offered a free leafleting campaign and flyers left in shops, surgeries and leisure centres in your area.  How much would that generate in the way of new leads?

If the answer is 'loads', then perhaps a social media strategy might be the best starting point for you because we can assume people are saying 'ooh - that looks interesting - let's check it out'.

But what if neither of those things is true? What then?

Well, then the game changes because you are probably in a realm where business is done on the basis of the sort of real-life relationships you can't expect to develop through those sort of digital channels.

We need to step away from the screen. We need to show up in real life. Meet real people.

And that could be anything from connecting on LinkedIn, writing letters, making cold calls or joining networking groups.

Here's the thing, though. The action is not the outcome.

The desired outcome, remember, is a genuine, productive business relationship.

And that means the actions need to be purposeful. The number of LinkedIn connections means nothing. The number of letters you send means nothing. The number of calls you make means nothing. The number of business cards you collect means nothing.

The only measure that matters is the number of successful working relationships you create.

I'll say that again. The number of successful working relationships you create.

And that means following up. Meeting. Talking. Listening. Inquiring. Listening some more.

Your aim is to make a name for yourself as being the go-to person for what you do.

Even if the people you reach out to aren't always the 'right' people, they know people and they know people and, if you get the relationship right, the referrals will come.

Naturally, people will check out your website and your social media, so they need to be 'alive', but perhaps they shouldn't be your primary lead generation strategy, in which case you can take yourself off the hook of endlessly stressing about stories and reels and blog posts and all that. Just make sure your website is OK, your Google My Business profile is OK, and your social channels are OK.

Keep this in mind: word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing there is, and for many businesses the online stuff is just validation.

So always remember: it's horses for courses, and don't get swept away by the hype. Think it through and make up your own mind. Make sure you know what your best shot is before you commit to it.

I'm Jim Pirrie and I hope this has given you something to think about! Let me know in the comments.

That's it for now and I'll see you again, next time.