Most local businesses sell directly to their customers. They depend on a steady flow of new customers as well as vital “repeat business” from satisfied past customers. The challenge we face as business owners is where to invest our important marketing dollars to both find new customers and nurture our relationship with our current customers.

If you and I were having a personal conversation, I wager that between the two of us we could identify at least 50 different marketing channels to help accomplish this goal. But which will resonate most effectively with your customers? Which can you afford at this time? 

In this article I want to share five of the most powerful tools for lead generation for a small business in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Over the 19 years that Alchemy has been working with local business owners, we have seen a steady evolution in how we reach customers, clients, and patients. What I share today is different than what I would have suggested just 24 months ago. 

What Is Lead Generation for Small Business?

At its most basic, lead generation for small business is a process of attracting and converting strangers into customers or leads. In other words, lead generation is the process of turning prospects into qualified leads. A lead is a person or organization who has an interest in what you’re selling but isn’t yet ready to buy. Leads need to be nurtured until they are ready to make a purchasing decision.

While each lead generation method has its own merits, not all methods are created equal. In order to maximize your chances of success, it’s important to choose the right mix of lead generation strategies for your business.

Pre-requisites For Successful Lead Generation

Before you decide on a marketing channel and start spending your money, I always want to be sure that you have a solid foundation in place. That is, that your business is ready for the influx of new customers and that you have carefully thought through the buyer’s journey that is unique for your business. Here (in brief) are the three components of a business that is ready to invest in marketing:

1. You know who your customer is and can provide a detailed demographic and psychographic profile of that person. We call this a “customer avatar” and it is a critical first step to designing a marketing campaign. Too often we talk with well meaning owners who believe that their product or service “will appeal to everyone.” Even if that were true, do you have enough of a marketing budget to reach “everyone”?  Doubtful.

There is an old saying in marketing that goes like this: “if you want to know why John Smith buys, you have to see the world through John Smith’s eyes”. The better you understand the “John Smith” of your business, the higher the return on your marketing investment will be.

2. You have a website. It doesn’t have to be 50 pages in size or cost $10,000. In many cases, a simple brochure style site that is just ten pages will suffice. This is critical because prospects today will go to the Internet and look for you. A website proves that you are a ‘real’ business.

Your website must clearly define who your ideal prospect is, and the value proposition that you offer them. A site with a lot of platitudes and generalities about how wonderful your company and product are will not answer any of the questions your prospect has about your product or service. If you do this with short video content on your website, even better.

3. You have a good reputation online. The search engines express this as your ‘star rating’ with a 5.0-star reputation being the best. Today’s consumers are reading reviews. More than 87% of them are looking at these according to the latest statistics. You should have a standard process in place that makes it easy for your customers to leave a review.

5 Key Strategies for Lead Generation

To reach new prospects and turn them into customers today, consider adding some or all of these channels:

1. Social Media. I know that right now some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking about how much you despise social media and the time it takes. That can be true, but doesn’t have to be. The essential thing to understand about effective social media marketing is to tailor it to your customer avatar. (Remember how important that definition was? This is one reason why!)

social media marketing

I recently spoke about effectively using social media for business owners. You can watch a short video here:

2. Invest in Mobile First Marketing. The world is moving in a mobile-first direction. Many people don’t own laptops or desktop computers anymore. They do all of their computing via tablets, phones, and even watches. That’s why it’s critical for direct to consumer marketers to adopt a mobile-first strategy. Figure out how your content will appeal to your audience best on mobile devices.

mobile marketing

It starts with a responsive website. As recently as just a couple of years ago this meant that web developers used a compression algorithm to “shrink” pages for display on a smartphone. That is no longer acceptable as the user experience on a phone or tablet must be as good as on a laptop or the prospect will jump away from your site and visit a competitor. Test all of your web properties on several phones, as display screens vary widely. A properly designed site built in the last 24 months should display equally well on all devices.

Text messaging, ringless voicemail, apps—these are all examples of mobile marketing that must be considered by business owners.

3. Local Influencers. No, you don’t have to hire a rock star to promote your company. There are at least several of what we call “micro-influencers” in your community right now that you can engage with in a cost-effective way. 

There are two types of these micro-influencers that you might consider. Depending on your product/service there may be several social media personalities who have a large following in your niche. Their messaging can influence these followers to search for and buy from your company.

local influencers

Micro-influencers from your community can have a significant impact on your business. Radio personalities, particularly morning or evening drive time people, will frequently have a devoted following. Using them as your “celebrity spokesperson” in radio campaigns will enhance the impact of your advertising. We did this for a client where we retained the services of the color commentator on radio broadcasts for the local NFL team. He would be the voice of the company in all of their ads. We provided the scripts, he did the voiceover. The result was an average of 300 calls a month for mortgage information for the company.

Retired athletes, well liked former politicians, high school coaches—there are quite a few people in your own backyard that could be low investment micro-influencers for your business.

4. Membership and Affinity Programs. You have probably experienced this more than once. The place where you get your automobile oil changes gives you a punch card and you get a free oil change after buying eight. Your local pizza restaurant probably does this as well. This is a great way to create customer loyalty. Of course, you have to make sure you are providing great products and services, as a punch card alone will not create lasting relationships.

membership program

Another application of this strategy is what the airlines do with their frequent flyer programs. In addition to potentially earning a free trip, as you accumulate more miles you are offered perks like upgrades or free seats in the premium area of the plane, or even merchandise. As your customers build their relationship with your brand, you can offer advance sales available only to members who have achieved a certain level. 

The key principle to remember here is that it is much easier and less costly to retain an existing customer than go find a new one. 

5. Retargeting. I like to describe this as the one marketing strategy that makes all of your other marketing more powerful. First, a definition. Retargeting is the process of taking anyone who visits your website and “pixeling” them with a tiny piece of html code. You can then offer them ads on other websites they visit reminding them about your company.

If you’ve ever shopped on Amazon or eBay, not made a purchase, but then seen ads for that item for the next couple of weeks then you’ve been retargeted!

retargeting marketing

What makes this such a compelling marketing channel is that it can be customized to individual products, pages on your website, seasons, or just about any criteria you can imagine. It is also quite inexpensive. You pay per thousand impressions, not for each click. Just like other paid advertising this is an auction marketplace, so having a series of unique ads and a delivery strategy is critical to getting the best return on your investment.

As I said before, there are many other effective ways to accomplish lead generation for your small business. These are five that are working quite well right now and are also easily affordable for just about any business.

Here at Alchemy Consulting we have been helping local businesses grow since 2003. Our team is focused on designing a program that will meet your company’s budget and growth goals. You can reach us at 877-978-2110, or visit

business website