9 tools for getting better business leads

Contrary to the belief of some GSA Schedule holders, GWACs do not automatically cause an influx of qualified inquiries. You need to generate leads.

There is a common misconception on the part of some new contractors that governmentwide acquisition contracts sell themselves. And contrary to the belief of some GSA Schedule holders, GWACs do not automatically cause an influx of qualified inquiries. If you have any GWAC (SEWP, GSA Schedule, ECS, etc) you need to generate leads.

Although some traditional lead generation methods might still work, they are probably more expensive than they used to be. For example, direct mail was popular from the 1970s through the early 2000s, but the price has skyrocketed.

So, what still works best?

Trade shows, in-agency events and other events: Events, when properly selected to match what you do with what the attendees buy are still among the top performers. If you select the wrong event for what you offer, you waste both time and money. Speaking as well as exhibiting allows prospects to find you. Simply attending offers a much smaller opportunity to be found. Caveat: there are a number of events that promise much and deliver little. Do your homework, ask questions, and check the pedigree of the event producer.

White papers: White papers have been around a long time, and they continue to produce qualified leads. They can be placed on your company website, on websites where your target audience traffics (such as Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week or Washington Technology), or they can be promoted in other ways.

Email: Email remains a productive way to get messages to targeted audiences as long as you remain well inside the “do not spam” rules. Federal agencies were among the early adopters of spam filters and black lists, and many people choose to ignore this and email with any list they can get their hands on. Simply having an email address is not permission to use it.

eNews programs: e-Newsletters or ezines are another popular way to share information about your company, products, services and general industry information. Done well, they are excellent customer and prospect communication tools. Although it may take a while to build a subscriber base, the “opt-in” nature of ezines is a major part of what makes them work. Also, news releases disseminated directly through the web using tools like PRNewswire are another avenue.

Webinars: Among the fastest growing of all marketing tools is distance learning – sharing information through platforms like webinars. Webinars have several appealing aspects. You can attend without leaving your desk, you can ask questions if you attend the ‘live’ version (KZO Innovations offers a tool so attendees of archived webinars can ask the questions), they are available on-demand, and they are much less costly to produce than in-person events.

Social networks: social networks like LinkedIn, TFCN and GovLoop are among my favorites. LinkedIn has over 55 million business professionals as members, and among them are tens of thousands of federal, state and local government officials. If you learn how to properly use these valuable platforms, prospects will begin to find you. TFCN and GovLoop both have fewer than 20,000 members, but they focus exclusively on the government sector.

Blogs: Blogs are a great way to share your expertise with the world, get higher web rankings, attract partners and prospectsm, and gain recognition. Done well, they are more than worth the time and effort; done so-so or poorly, you can destroy your reputation.

Podcasts: Podcasts are usually eight- to 15-minute audio programs addressing a single topic. Think of them as audio white papers and the value should become apparent. People digest information in different ways, and fewer people seem to be reading as much as they once did. So it behooves you to make your information available in as many formats as necessary to reach the broadest possible portion of your niche.

Videos: YouTube has gained enormous popularity and many businesses (including government providers) are issuing pithy videos to gain attention.

Too often senior management is reluctant to try anything but the “tried and true” methods by which their business was built: space ads, events, face-to-face networking at association meetings, and the like. While these are still valid, the new methods of public relations and marketing are rapidly surpassing the older ways. Market share can be gained or lost if you do not reach those most likely to want your products or services through their preferred methods of receiving information.

You don’t generate leads simply by wishing that yesterday’s methods still worked.

Mark Amtower can be reached at Mark@FederalDirect.net