Every company wishes it had more customers, and there are only two ways of making that happen. Either you reach out to potential prospects or people come to you.
Over the last 10 years, the latter option has become more and more interesting.
The benefits are huge with inbound sales, and one of the biggest advantages is that the person who contacts you is interested right now.
Everyone who runs a sales organization knows the importance of budget, authority, need and time. Do the customers have a budget? Does the person you talk to have the authority to buy? Do they have the need? And, last but not least, is it the right time? When you contact people, they may seem to be a perfect prospect, but very often the reply will be, “Now is just not a great time.”
The three great ways to attract new customers, and they all require you to use your brain instead of your wallet:
1. Content marketing
When I say content marketing, I mean non-interactive content — things like blog posts, videos, info graphics, podcasts, etc. These are great tools, and if they provide useful tips and information for a sizable audience (don’t just write a glorified advertisement for yourself and your product) it will be shared a lot. And people who want to know more will look up your company.
Sometimes, you might find that you don’t have a unique viewpoint or in-depth level of knowledge on a particular topic. That’s OK, because you can still do podcasts, videos or blog interviews with others who are leaders in that particular field. Or even host a Q&A on Twitter.
Or, maybe you start with data. You are an industry insider and have a wealth of raw material. If you have ownership and access to that data, you can compile it into infographics or industry overviews that few people would otherwise have.
2. A honey pot
Some people are better at coding than writing and talking. If that’s you, then a great strategy is to find small unsolved problems adjacent to your product or even in your industry. Next, build small products or even just chunks of code and share them for free online. Now people can use your slack plugin, ruby gem or spreadsheet script and they will love you for it.
One great example of a honey pot is Hubspot’s Signals. This is a small app that tells you if someone opened your email. It’s not the most complex or revolutionary technology, but it sure can be interesting and useful. Because of that, a lot of people try it out, and establish a first relationship with Hubspot.
You don’t have to be a big corporation to be able to afford to build a honey pot. I would say it is easier as a startup, because in a big company, people are afraid to hurt their brand and publish things that might confuse their target group.
Last but not least, another effective strategy is to make part of your real product free. You might try this for a limited feature set or select number of users, but preferably not for a limited amount of time. Again and again, you will see in freemium a dramatic pickup in usage after a seemingly random number of weeks. A good mantra is not to try to make money on people using you as a toy, but rather on those who use your product as a tool. Of course, being freemium requires you to have more or less zero duplication and distribution costs which makes it impossible for certain companies.
All in all, most startups and smaller companies should seriously consider improving their inbound lead generation and think long and hard about if this could be their route to market. If you are able to find a way to make it work, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step.