What is a lead?
Leads represent the first stage of the sales process. In its simplest form a lead is any “person or entity that has an interest and authority to purchase your product or service.” Or in other words: someone you can sell to. Lead generation is the process of collecting leads, ideally high quality, relevant leads.
Sounds good. So, what information do you need about that person or entity for it to be an actionable lead? A good rule of thumb is to look for the information that you would find on a business card, i.e. their name, associated company, and contact details.
Where do leads come from?
The most traditional way to get leads is by buying databases of telephone numbers, email addresses, or mailing addresses. As you can imagine, these lists are immense, which gives you a high quantity of leads, but the quality is notoriously very poor.
Alternatively, you can attend trade shows and other industry events and collect business cards the old fashioned way. Or you can stalk people on social media and try to get in touch with them that way through channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Leads generated in this way usually have great quality, but come with a high time-cost which limits the quantity that you will be able to generate. Digital marketing can also provide lead generation, but it can come at a high cost depending on which platform you use. And depending on the content you promote, you may not get high quality leads this way.
How do you find good leads?
I want to share with you a new approach to lead-generation that will deliver both quantity and quality – it is based on web data. This approach was developed by some of our earliest users, and it is both ingenious and simple:
- Find a website where your ideal user can be found
- Build an API to that website (using import.io naturally) and extract as much data about each lead as you can
- Pull that data into a spreadsheet
That’s it. Three simple steps and it takes about 10 minutes, after which you will have thousands of quality leads to work with.
Contact those leads
Use the data you collected to create a conversational, extremely personalized message to send to each lead. Seriously. Make it freaking personal. I CANNOT emphasize this enough. Something like this should give you an idea of how to begin:
Hi [first name], I was browsing [website name] and I came across your profile. I noticed that you mentioned [profile keyword], and I thought you would be interested in what we do….
Then start sending out your messages. Be creative about the channels that you use – email isn’t the only way to contact people – try other channels like Twitter, text message, etc.
It’s fine to automate your messages, but don’t send out too many at once – you want to avoid appearing spammy. And remember that you are starting a conversation with a real person and you need to be able to respond and engage as people start replying to you. If you send out 1,000 messages and you get 1,000 responses you will be swamped.. Ten messages a day is a good start and go from there.
It really works!
At import.io, we actually followed these exact steps to bring in new users. We’ve created a platform that allows anyone to turn a website into data without the need to write any code. A key group who benefit from our platform are developers, they can save a lot of time and effort using Import.io instead of writing code to get web data.
There are lots of developers on oDesk, so we built an Extractor to all 13,000 who mention “scraping” as one of the services that they provide. We pulled this list of users into a spreadsheet. Then, we created a personalized message template inviting them to apply for a real job on oDesk that requires the use of import.io. The message also quickly outlined the benefits of using our platform over traditional methods and included a link to our website.
Quick tip: use Google URL Builder to send out your link so that you can track how well each different campaign is doing. You can also shorten the link using the Google URL Shortener. If you are using Google Apps for Business you can use your own domain name, which makes it look less spammy.
Next, we built a connector to oDesk, this time to the messaging system. The API logs into oDesk, navigates to an individual user’s profile and sends them the personalized message. Every time a user follows the link to our site, we can follow them all the way through to account creation on our platform in our own analytics.
Using this method we have begun experimenting with getting 1,000s of quality leads to our site.
Props to Matt Ellsworth from Storefront who pioneered a lot of these methods for lead generation. If you want more information on how to use his methods for your business, you can take his Udemy course.