How to Get More Customers: Lead Generation Blueprint for Local Businesses

One of the things I love about the Oahu Online Business meetup group is when a member receives a lot of great advice from fellow members on how to boost his business. We’ve got a smart and generous community.

For example, we had a new member named Matt who was planning to start a limo company. He was open to suggestions, and boy did he get it. Let’s get into it.

Partner with Related Businesses

A member suggested that Matt try to partner up with dress shops that sell and rent prom dresses. Since these shops get a lot of customers looking for clothes for high-school proms, they’d be hot prospects for limo rentals too. Matt could leave a stack of flyers and business cards that advertise his limo service at each dress shop.

James Clear at the Passive Panda blog refers to this as “The Remora Method.” A remora is a type of fish that swims with sharks. After the shark eats a meal, the remora goes in and picks out the food scraps from between the shark’s teeth. It’s a win-win deal: the shark gets his teeth cleaned, and the remora gets free meals.

In the business world, you would join up with a bigger business that can send referrals to you. They’re already getting customers, but can’t serve all of their needs. So they’d be happy to send a customer to someone who can.

For example, this happens in real estate all the time.  You just mention you’re looking for a new place, and suddenly you’ve been referred to a real estate agent, mortgage broker, appraiser, interior designer, contractor and anyone else who works with homes.

Partner with Competitors

This seems counter-intuitive at first. Why would your competitors want to help you? But you’d be surprised. Successful businesses get more customers than they can handle, and often feel bad about having to turn people away. They might actually be happy to know someone they can recommend to customers, and reduce their own burden.

I’ve seen this first-hand with web designers. The best are always busy with projects, and often reach out to fellow designers when they’ve got a client they’d like to help but are too busy to handle themselves.

Write a Blog

A blog is a great way to promote your business, especially if it’s a service business. What should you write about? Think of the most common questions that customers ask, then write out answers to them in blog posts. They could become the headlines and topics of future articles.

For example:

How much do limo rentals cost?

How to find limo companies in your town

5 signs of a bad limo company

Pimp Rides: Limo features that hot women love

This is the exact approach used by River Pools and Spas to promote their pool business.

People don’t look for ads–they look for information. By creating educational content, you can become seen as the expert.

How-to content works really well. A common doubt is, “But if I teach my customers how to do it themselves, they won’t buy from me!” This does happen. But sometimes customers would rather save their time and hire the teacher instead.

Make Videos

Similar approach as a blog, but taken to the next level. A great example is Gary Vaynerchuk, who used videos to turn his family liquor store into a multimillion-dollar business. He created informational videos at Wine Library TV. By teaching people about wine, he built a relationship with an audience, who then wanted to buy from him.

I’ve written a ton about video on this blog post: YouTube Video Marketing for Entrepreneurs.

Do Local SEO

Search engine optimization is a huge topic, so I’ll just give some tips.

  • Register your business at Google Places.
  • Create a profile on Yelp. Encourage happy customers to write reviews for you on the site.
  • Build a website that’s SEO-optimized. Easier said than done, I know. Read The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

Do Public Speaking

There are groups that are always looking for speakers and presenters to liven up their meetings. For the prom-night limo niche, I imagine speaking at PTA meetings could work well, by giving talks to parents.

For example: “Safe Prom: Simple Tips to Make Sure Your Child Comes Home Safe.”

Speak to their concerns, than have a mention of your limo business at the end. If you were a parent, who would you want driving your daughter to the prom? Some random limo company, or the company with the guy who talked about how to keep your kids safe? People would pay extra to hire that guy.

Teach a Class

I’d say to target adult continuing education classes. If you get working people who are looking for experts to help the companies they work for (or their businesses), you could score a lot of customers. By “class,” it doesn’t have to be for a whole semester or academic year. One-day, even one-night workshops can work.

For example, I’ve been to workshops on search engine optimization (SEO), and the instructor often gets new clients that way.

When I’ve gone to WordPress web design classes, sometimes I’ve gotten enthusiastic about recommending good WordPress plugins and tools. Classmates have come up to me asking, “Hey Marcus, can you help me build a WordPress site?” I wasn’t even trying to sell myself.

Buy Local Advertising

I know we’re all about the Internet in our meetup group, but for some niches, traditional advertising still works really well. If you’re an offline, local business that’s targeting older consumers who aren’t really on the Internet, don’t rule this out.

A member shared a story about a friend who opened a new restaurant. In the beginning, the manager and staff would sit around watching TV, waiting for customers to come in. The place was dead.

Finally, the owner bought some TV spots from a local news station. The quality of food and service did the rest. Now, the place is packed. People can’t get parking on-location, they have to park one or two blocks away and walk in. Despite that, they still get tons of business.

Organize an Event

I put this one last because it takes the most work and could be expensive, but could also be the most rewarding long-term. By throwing an event, you position yourself as being the big player in your niche. You can also get free press coverage from local media outlets. Reporters are always looking for something to talk about.

Instead of chasing customers, you throw an event that draws customers to you instead.

For example, imagine an attendee raving about a party, saying, “Meet Matt. He’s organized the Pimp Lifestyle Summit for three years now. It’s crazy awesome! Limos, top-quality liquor, designer clothes, hip-hop DJs and dancers. The most fun I’ve had spending money. I can’t wait for next year! By the way, did you know he rents out limos? At last year’s event, Jay-Z rolled up into the summit in one of Matt’s limos!”

By the Numbers

Here’s a PDF report with statistics: Lead Generation Lessons from 4,000 Businesses.

photo credit: Diana Parkhouse via photopin cc