Building your prospect database is hard work. It takes time, effort, and a systematic approach. In order to generate leads, your organization must first have an audience and that audience grows when your database grows.
Both businesses and non-profits should make growing a database a high priority. Businesses convert prospects to customers while non-profits convert prospects to donors or members. Sometimes organizations build multiple databases depending on context and channel, and can include email lists, online communities, CRMs, social media profiles, and customer profiles.
The bigger the database, the more people you can talk therefore increasing the number of potential leads you may be able to acquire. Obviously, building and growing a database is a good thing. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations resort to tired techniques like shouting “please please please like us on Facebook!” or dumping every business card they get from networking events into their email newsletter (spammy) or worse yet, dumping their local chamber spreadsheets into an email marketing system (really spammy). While these techniques can provide some value, they are not sustainable and can sometimes backfire (getting blacklisted as a result of spamming people can be a pain).
So how do you effectively and aggressively build a database of leads? Better yet, how do you build a database of people who actually want to hear from you?
1. Maintain an e-learning portal. Set up an online community of video content and boldlygive away lots and lots of free information. You heard me: give it away. Set it up so that people need to register in order to view the content and then fill it with useful, full-length webinars and videos that teach your constituents things of value that will help them. Give them a 30-second preview first so they get a sense of what their getting. A lot of people get freaked out by the concept of giving away so much information but in order to attract subscribers, you need to provide a lot of value. Take a look at SpinWeb’s Learning Centeras an example. We post recordings all of our live webinars there and a lot of people find value in this content. Yes, it takes work. Jump in.
2. Consistently publish a great blog. Create articles that teach, educate, and inform and then publish them on your blog for free. Yes, you guessed it: boldly give away free information. Then make sure your readers have an easy way to subscribe to your blog via email. If the content is good enough, your readers will join your mailing list and now you have permission to talk to them. Yes, this also takes work. Jump in.
3. Give away services with live webinars. Running a webinar series is a great way to find new prospects. Create high-value presentations that teach and inform and give away all your secrets. Yes, you are still hearing me correctly: give your knowledge away for free. Then, at the end of each webinar, make an offer to give away even more stuff. Set up a form and invite people to fill it out to get a free consultation, audit, or report. Offer it to the first five people who fill it out. Make sure the consultation is a true consultation, not a sales pitch. These people will end up in your CRM and will develop the most loyalty to your organization. Yes, this takes even more work. Jump in.
So why am I advocating that you give away so much stuff for free? Because this is how you earn your audience’s trust. This is how you encourage more and more people to subscribe to your content. The people who are do-it-yourselfers will not hire you anyway. The ones who see value in hiring an expert will seek you out. If this make you uncomfortable, go read Permission Marketing and then come back and read this again.
This is how you can grow your database. Now, you can (gently) promote other things in tandem with these methods. When you publish your blog, you can place an announcement for your next webinar in the sidebar. When you publish a new video, you can generate a preview and share it on social media to invite people to register. Now you can cross-promote channels and encourage others to share your content, which builds your database even more.
The nice thing is, you are building a database of quaified prospects who already like you and enjoy your content. How nice is that? Does it take work? Yes it does. Once you develop a system, however, it will run much more smoothly (or you could outsource it).
Be bold. Make your content great. Give away so much free stuff that it makes you uncomfortable. Then watch your database grow.
Jamar Cobb-Dennard is a sales and marketing expert who helps companies without a sales force have a sales force. To receive your free trial of a software that will track your referral revenue, centralize social media updates, and automate email/text/postcard marketing, click here.