Can a business grow in a quarantined world?
The answer, we’ve found, is a resounding yes.
But that doesn’t mean that your lead generation is going to look the same as it did in January. We live in a different world right now, and no one is certain what our world will look like in our new definition of “normal”. If your brand isn’t ready to adapt to new methods for lead generation, you may find yourself wondering where the customers and clients are.
Here are some ideas for keeping up with the best possible lead generation practices, even in a quarantined world:
What’s Not Going to Work Today
Let’s be clear: we aren’t sticking our heads in the sand. The COVID-19 pandemic is going to make it nearly impossible to generate leads if your primary sources of leads have been any of the following:
- Cold calling. You may find that some of the businesses you planned to call aren’t at the offices anymore. And while it’s possible to reach some people via cold calling, the process isn’t going to be as simple as looking up phone numbers and dialing.
- Networking and events. Even if you wanted to meet new people at conferences and networking events, you can’t. They’re all closed. Below, we’ll include some tips for finding the virtual substitutes that can keep you in contact with people from your industry.
- Local ads. Do you have a lot of local print ads that rely on people being out and about, like billboards or drivetime traffic radio? The roads may not be completely shut down, but you’re likely paying for ads that have seen major declines in traffic. If so, you’ll need alternatives that keep you plugged in with your local market.
That’s what you shouldn’t do. And if you’ve relied on those channels for lead generation, the news about COVID-19 might seem grim. But there are plenty of valid alternatives for lead generation if you’re willing to embrace digital tactics:
Emphasize the Existing Lead Generation Channels that Don’t Require In-Person Interaction
Don’t burn your bridges. Even if your lead generation is primarily focused on one of the categories from the previous section, you’ll find there are digital alternatives that can serve as a lifeline for your business. Here are some of the most popular:
- Search engine marketing. If you run a brand that emphasizes local business, you may find that search engine marketing makes for a nice safety valve. These days, people use search engines even for local purposes, including 86% of customers looking up business locations with Google, and 78% of local-based mobile searches resulting in purchases that occur offline.
- Content marketing. People are shuttered indoors, which makes content marketing more relevant than ever. Even before COVID-19, almost half of all consumers would read 3-5 blogs from a company before ever reaching out to them. With more people indoors and on their devices, effective blog content just got a lot more important.
- Email marketing. If you haven’t adopted email marketing strategies into your lead generation guidelines, now’s the time. According to HubSpot, 93% of B2B marketers already incorporate email marketing. It also provides some of the best returns on investment, with $38 to every $1 spent.
This is also the time to look through your existing digital channels for lead generation opportunities. Where have the leads been coming from—even before the pandemic—that you can now invest more time and energy into optimizing?
Take Your Existing Lead Generation to Virtual Communication Whenever Possible
Even with much of the in-person lead generation tools no longer at your disposal, you’d be surprised at how many alternatives are available. Conferences are canceled, events are postponed, and people are staying indoors—but it doesn’t mean they’re giving up on networking. Here are some opportunities you can explore:
- Virtual conferences. Just a few short months ago, “virtual conferences” scored an index of “0” against the search term “conferences” on Google Trends. It shouldn’t surprise you to see that “conferences” took a steep dive in March, while searches for “virtual conferences” have seen increases as high as 90-fold.
- Virtual trade shows and fairs. For some lead generation strategies, there can be no replacing trade shows and fairs. But virtual opportunities—while not replacing them—can help keep your name out there while the world slows down.
- Webinars. Webinars are already popular, bringing in about 50% of those who register. Like many other virtual substitutes for in-person interaction, they’re more popular now—so don’t be surprised if your numbers beat the industry averages.
- Video calls for sales, using tools like Skype or Zoom. If you’re used to making sales calls in person, this is the next best thing: you can meet with potential clients and still give them the personalization they need.
Don’t Forget How Much Business is Still Up and Running
Adaptation is important. Those who adapt can survive. But overreaction can be dangerous to your bottom line.
How do you identify a middle-ground? Don’t forget that many businesses are still up and running.
You may be pleasantly surprised to find out how much of the world is still spinning. One firm switched to an all-email model for lead generation, anticipating that offices would be closed and that there would be “no one” at “the other end of the phone.”
Despite these assumptions, they found that much of the business world was still running. Some 40% of their meetings were still arranged via phone.
The bottom line? Test your assumptions and don’t be afraid to diversify your lead generation strategies. You never know which channels might surprise you—and which ones might continue to bring in new business.
Find the Silver Linings
Make no mistake: COVID-19 is a serious pandemic and a lot of people are suffering. There’s a loss of life, loss of quality of life, and a whole lot of economic losses.
But there are silver linings to every dark cloud. While the world is shut down, there will be increased demand for new content, new businesses, and different ways of working. As Amanda Milligan writes for Moz, there will be new demand for content “in every niche.” That even includes travel, one of the hardest-hit industries. Key phrases like “virtual travel” and “travel insurance” are now seeing spikes in interest.
In work and education, homeschooling is gaining more interest, as are video education platforms. In personal finance, interest is still there, but it has shifted to focus on unemployment and budgeting tips.
There are silver linings with every challenge, and with COVID-19, they represent unique new opportunities for content aimed at lead generation. Explore your niche using tools like Ubersuggest to see where peoples’ interests have shifted. Then create the content designed to capture them.
Utilize the Offerings Made Available During the Pandemic
The good news about the pandemic is that there are organizations, both public and private, that are willing to help. The CARES Act, passed by Congress, has made it possible for small businesses to seek out bridge loans that keep payrolls alive.
But what about opportunities in lead generation? You’d be surprised. For example, HubSpot is offering reduced costs for its Starter Growth Suite and also suspending its marketing email send limits for its Marketing Hub Professional and Enterprise Customers.
A word of warning: not all discounts are legitimate. Forbes has noted that other types of entities have seen opportunities in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s not for the better. Be wary of sketchy emails making bold promises about discounts in lead generation services, especially if they come from domain names you don’t recognize.
Create a Lead Generation Plan for a Quarantined World
Let’s distill these lessons into simple strategies you can implement immediately:
- Prioritize digital lead generation strategies. If you already have a successful email marketing system set up, then you’ll likely find that you have a nice buoy for bringing in additional leads. Give priority to the digital strategies that are already working for you—and which already bring you a solid ROI.
- Don’t rely on one channel. Even if you get great ROI from one type of lead generation system, don’t be afraid to diversify across multiple channels. You don’t want one problem to completely cut off the supply of new potential leads.
- Find alternatives to in-person networking. If your business depends on face-to-face meetings, there is still a lot you can accomplish when you look at the alternatives.
- Try something new. Never ran a webinar before, but need a way to reach a lot of people in a hurry? There’s no time like the present to get your brand into a new lead generation stream.
- Make plans for the recovery. We’re on a tricky timeline, and no one quite knows when the world will be ready to get back to normal. We don’t even know when we’ll get to 90% of normal. But recovery will happen—and it helps to have a plan in mind for adjusting your lead generation strategies when it arrives.
The world may be shutting down from the outside looking in, but the good news is that there are still businesses and customers in need of brands like yours. COVID-19 won’t prevent you from finding them.