You might be surprised how similar selling online is to selling in person offline. Yes, the actions are different between these two places, but the principles are the same once you understand the principles of converting a lead. By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly what to do to locate leads, get them interested in your company, and have them coming to you to purchase your product or service.

How Not To Generate Leads

If you were to market offline (in person) you would go to a networking with people who fit your customer avatar. But it’s not as simple as just showing up, there’s an art to the sales process.

Here’s an example of how not to network with a guy we’ll call Anthony. Anthony walks into a room and recognizes a sea of potential buyers like they are his prey. He goes from person to person bolstering about how great he is and shotguns as many business cards as he can. Anthony isn’t listening to the people he talks to, but instead tells them he is the solution.

If Anthony is remembered, it won’t be for anything positive, but rather for being “that guy” at the networking event who everybody wanted to avoid. Despite all the charisma, it doesn’t mean people want to work with him, and the hundreds of business cards he distributed slowly make their way to the forgotten corners of wallets, or worse, the trash can.

Why wasn’t Anthony successful? Well putting aside fundamental rules of human psychology, all the people at this networking event are what would be considered “cold leads”. These are people who don’t know you or your product – they likely don’t even know their need for it – and thus have no reason to pay you any attention. It’s your job to show the potential customer their need and how your product or services can fix it.

There will be people who already know their need and are looking for a solution, but you still want to make listening a priority so that you can identify the details that will allow you to provide a solution better than your competitors. Building a relationship first will make you stand out among the sea of alternate solutions.

This is called a “marketing funnel” in the internet world. Due to the figurative funnel’s wide top, many people will fall into your funnel, but as the funnel narrows, fewer people will make it through.  Don’t worry, this is good, as only people who are a right fit will ever see your product – remember our talk about the value of specifically focusing on your customer avatar before?  This means better conversions as leads go deeper into your funnel and avoiding those bad egg customers who cause trouble because they aren’t a good fit.

How To Find Your Leads Online (Without A Budget)

In the physical world, the proper way to network and secure connections is to build a relationship, and the best way to build a relationship is to provide value to the other person.

You can provide value by taking interest in them; ask questions about their business, goals, and needs (and of course, listen). As the relationship grows, soon they’ll be asking what you do, and if what you do is what they need, you probably just made a sale! (Even if they don’t need your product, if they like you, you can bet they’ll recommend you to their friends).

How do you “network” online and provide value to people in the enormous internet world?  Well, luckily it can be done much more passively than attending network events.

Think “what can I do to provide value?” Commonly this is done through an information blog or series of training videos. Whatever you create to deliver value, you don’t want to half-ass it. The majority of people on the internet don’t know who you are yet. For this reason, you really want to focus on providing the best quality content so people not only remember you, but like you. Quality over quantity, however, you’ll also want to make sure to have enough valuable content to leave an impression. You’re an expert in your field, so this should be easy!

So once you go about creating content, then what? If you think about Anthony, it’s pretty easy to imagine what not to do with your content. You don’t want to be pushy – the value you provide to the internet world is unconditional and shouldn’t be steeped in “buy me” pitches. We’ve all been to those websites that are littered with pop-ups and have a “buy” button every few lines on the page – no thanks!. Instead, you want to be more discreet about the products you have.

There are a couple ways to get started, the first ( free and most time-consuming method) is to seek out online communities, such as Facebook or LinkedIn groups. Here you’ll want to become one of the tribe – consider everyone here a potential friend – listen to their needs and contribute to the discussion. You wouldn’t sell your friend something they don’t need, and the same rule applies here. But as people begin to recognize you as a contributor, they’ll want to know what you have to say – this is where your valuable content comes into play.

As your community develops, there will be opportunities to provide value and convert cold leads to warm leads. This occurs in a more literal sense when you capture somebody’s email address. Such as, when this somebody enjoys what they read on your blog and opt-in to discover future posts.

However you don’t sell to warm leads just yet, you do what is called “indoctrinating” them with your brand. You keep producing quality content of value and people grow to like you more and more, so much that if you were to offer them a product they would be 100% on board (this is a hot lead).

As the content you provide will only be valuable to certain people, you don’t need to worry about attracting the wrong would-be customers – those people will fall out of the top of the funnel and only those who are a good fit will flow deeper in.

Using Advertising to Find Your Ideal Customer

But what if I can’t find these groups or don’t have time? Well, that’s where advertising comes in handy. You can use advertising online to present your content to people in need – keep in mind, your ad should be about providing help, not selling. Many of our clients will offer free video series through Facebook ads, and only after the person has gone through the video course do they even discover the offer to buy a product.

Remember these people from the group who checked out the brand, you can use advertising on them as well. Thanks to internet technology, you can put a tracking script on your website to know who visits, and then retarget them with advertising. This means if someone displays interest by checking out your website, you can pinpoint them to receive ads in the future with the goal of getting them to know, like, and trust you.

People who are cold are likely uneducated towards their need for a product or service solution – they know they have a need, but they don’t yet know how to solve it. These people are searching and to put an offer on them without them identifying their need would be out of place. That’s why offering value is so important. It will awaken them to their need. It’s only after they are aware that you want to start treating them like a warm lead.

Warming Up Your Cold Traffic

So now the lead has become aware of you and has opted into your funnel. Now you want to nurture them, sending them ongoing educational material, through an email sequence, and eventually integrate a small product offering. This parallels the way a relationship in person grows over time – as you express interest in others, they eventually express return interest in you.

But just because somebody asks about you doesn’t mean it’s time to get on one knee. Your offer is only in proportion to the stage of the funnel they are in, when the traffic was cold your offer was to trade their email for education – taking them from the cold stage to warm – and now your offer will require a bit more action on their part, such as offering an ebook for sale. These are typically small, psychological purchases that build up trust, and in doing so, helps to potentiate the conversion from a warm lead to a hot lead. Your offer may even be a free trial of your product or service. Regardless, you’ll want to capture more information about your lead in the process, such as payment info or other means of contact.

If you’re not sure about what product to offer, we will be releasing a customer value ladder post soon to explain the natural progression of product offers. So stay tuned and share your email at the bottom of the page!

Whatever your small product offering is, it should continue to educate and provide value to the point that it starts to point the person in the direction of recognizing you are their solution to the problem they recognized as a cold lead. You can keep this relationship going for a while by simply providing quality content, so even if they don’t take you up on your warm offer right away, no problem. But when they do, you’ll want to consider them a hot lead and present an equal offer.

Winning That Customer

This is the golden hour, you’ve built a connection with someone, they’ve taken you up on a small offering and you’ve gained their trust, and now they want to buy from you.  These leads are considered “hot” because they are ready to buy. It may take several viewings for the lead to actually purchase, but if they are following you this far, it’s pretty much inevitable.

You can make your offer to them any way you like, email, blog post, or advertising. But you’ll want to make sure you are just targeting these hot leads especially, as to not alienate other leads who aren’t quite ready yet. But if you have the hot leads info from the small offer you provided, it will be easy to retarget them.

Congratulations, you’ve found a spot to generate leads, you’ve provided value to build trust with your leads, and served the people in need who fit your avatar. Rest assured, if you know how to handle yourself in networking settings, you’ll be well on your way to an abundance on sales. We’ll be making more posts in the future about the specific usage of Facebook advertising and how to create your offer, so share your email below if you want to stay in the loop.