Sales lead generation is necessary for businesses that want to keep expanding their customer base. The Internet is a useful tool for reaching potential customers, partly because the costs are lower than telemarketing or postal mailings, but also because you get better results when you refine your target group with criteria related to their likely interest in your product rather than criteria based on geographical area. (Our page on using targeted mailing lists gives more information.)
The first step for any company planning to generate sales leads online is to invest resources in a good website. As explained in our page on writing a direct mailing , if you gain the interest of potential customers while they are sitting at their computers, they will want to find out more without moving from their computers. It is essential to make further information easily accessible, or you will lose potential sales.
However, websites are more than a resource to back up email marketing campaigns. They are also a useful tool in generating leads for email marketing campaigns. The easiest way of gleaning sales leads from your site is to have a registration form on the site requiring visitors to provide a valid email address (and occasionally other contact details) in order to access site content. This tactic can backfire, however. If you pique someone's curiosity with a well-written direct mailing, they may be curious enough to head to your website, but not curious enough to give away personal details or wade through a tedious form. You should be rewarding potential customers with instant access to the information they need, not demanding work from them. The best way of using registration is to require contact details in exchange for "extras"; not basic information about your product, but newsletters, quizzes, games and interesting articles. Quizzes are especially useful in obtaining valid email addresses, because you can send the quiz results by email. If someone provides a fake address, they won't get their quiz results. Weekly or monthly newsletters are good too. Sell sign-up as a time-saver: signing up for the newsletter means that you don't have to keep checking the website for new content.
Of course, the most obvious sales lead generation method is to keep the contact details of people who have ordered your product or service from your website. These people are hot leads. People who have purchased from you before are more likely to use your company again. However, you need to avoid advertising overload. Don't bombard them with daily email messages. Otherwise, you're not gaining a sales lead, you're losing a customer.
Other online sales lead generation tactics include buying mailing lists for online campaigns (see our page on where to buy mailing list s for more information) and taking out advertising. However, advertising in high-return spots is very expensive. There isn't enough space to discuss the pros and cons of Internet advertising here, but smaller companies would be well advised to concentrate on making the most of their own websites before looking into other methods of online sales lead generation.