Using Offline Tactics to Generate Leads For Your Online

According to Borrell Associates, estimated local advertisers spent $7.5 billion on the Web in 2007, up 31 percent from 2006. This year's outlook is even brighter with a projected increase of 48 percent to $12.6 billion. Local search is the key driver of that spending.

by J. Quipp

"About a year ago, we were thinking 2008 would see 20 to 25 percent growth," said Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell. "Now we are saying this thing is not slowing down. It's erupting again. Something very dramatic is happening that has gone beyond anything anybody expected in terms of Internet advertising."

The next 12-18 months will see the tipping point for our industry. Marketing Departments face increasing pressure to improve targeting and accountability. As a result, budgets are poised to shift out of traditional advertising into SEO & SEM in a big way. The local SMB market is going to lead the way however it's the most difficult to reach. What are you doing to get your piece of this market?

Every SEO firm should have a lead generation, contact, closing and lost deal process. I believe that there?s more business to be had by reaching out to those who are interested in search rather than just waiting for them to find your website or blog. Below are some helpful tips.

Marketing Plan: We spend our days asking clients what their marketing objectives are however most of us don?t have any of our own. Every SEO Agency should have a written marketing plan, with a budget! Your plan should address strategies for pricing, promotion, differentiation & product strategy and market segmentation.

Marketing Material: Create and consistently update your marketing material in order to make them relevant and remember to revisit after each call and make improvements based on questions asked during the call. Try to add industry specific news to make it more personal.

Natural Market: Do you have a prospect list, with contact names, of local businesses within 2-5 miles of your office? This market is made up of your best and most profitable clients. If you want to meet your local business colleagues, join your local Board of Trade or Better Business Bureau. It?s a great way to get started!

Monitor Your Market: You have a number of Google alerts set up, but are you tracking specific industries or potential clients on your prospect list or accounts you?ve bid on but lost? Gaining valuable information can help you in a conversation, sales call or follow up!

Prepare an elevator pitch: Can you effectively describe the unique value of your service in 30-60 seconds? If not, you may be losing out on some phenomenal opportunities. You only have one chance to make a good first impression so prepare your pitch anad know when to use it! Remember to always pitch the problem, not your product!

What goes around comes around: Try and use your client?s services wherever possible and take them to lunch quarterly. Often times you can learn more in those 60 minutes than you can during a formal meeting. Most importantly, as your relationship strengthens, referrals will come your way.

Lost Deals Process: Each account lost is a major opportunity.?if you stop long enough to learn something from it. Always follow up with these accounts. Initially, you?ll want to find out why you lost out and secondly, you never know if the winning vendor will still be considered a strategic partner 3, 6 or 12 months down the road. I?ve read about some companies who?ve won back up to 20% of their lost deals after implementing a follow up process.

Leads are endless; we?re fortunate to work in a pressurized market, so harvest them! Continue to seek out new local clients by establishing a proactive offline sales approach. If we as an industry don?t, we may lose out to industry giants whom, according to Borrell, are all planning to turn to local ad sales to bolster flattening sales of national ads.

About the Author: