For all of us who were relying on conferences, event hosting, office park drop-ins, and other in-person tactics to generate sales leads, COVID-19 has obviously thrown a massive wrench in those plans. While some regions have partially opened up, and while some vendors are going to extremely creative and/or resource intensive ends to make events happen, the truth is the majority of large, in-person sales and marketing activities have been canceled or gone virtual.
Add to that the fact that summer conferences are the main source of lead generation for many MSPs for the entire year and you’ve got quite a lot of businesses struggling to keep sales steady with a lot of uncertainty still ahead.
But what do we in the channel do when sudden changes and adversity strikes? We come up with new ideas. We adapt. To help our MSP community jump-start that process, we recently hosted a live brainstorming session with OITVOIP CEO Ray Orsini, and invited all the attendees to help us come up with a list of new lead generation ideas for MSPs that don't require them being in person.
The collaboration was fantastic, and together, we and the attendees came up with the list of ideas you'll read below. For more commentary and discussion, you can catch a recording of the full brainstorming session here, or read up on the session notes here,
We hope these will help spark your own ideas and help keep your business thriving in the new norm.
Strategy #1: Reconnect with contacts who have fallen through the cracks
Like loose change between your couch cushions (or a Cheeto or two #quarantinelife), it’s easy for opportunities to slip through the cracks — especially during times when you’re flush with work and aren’t actively thinking about generating leads.
But in times when leads are harder to come by, follow Kevin Clune’s advice to uncover great leads that might be hiding in plain sight.
1) Check your website form completions
Does your website have a contact form? When was the last time you checked it for new entries? Are there any entries you never followed up with? This is a great place to start when it comes to building a list of leads that actually want to hear from you.
2) Review your appointment systems
You might not remember all the appointments you had over the last year, but people you’ve talked to in the past and never closed a deal with are a great resource when looking for hew business opportunities. Double-check your Calendly profile or whatever appointment system(s) you use to see if there are any old conversations worth reviving.
3) Revisit your e-signature software
Similar to your appointment systems, there are probably connections you almost closed a deal with hanging in limbo in your contract-signing program. Revisit old contracts that were never signed to see if those businesses could be useful leads now.
4) See who’s lingering in your email inbox
If you’re anything like us, you’re probably inundated with emails pretty regularly. It’s not unusual for emails that don’t catch our eye or slip “under the fold” to go unnoticed and unanswered. Dive deep into your email inbox to see if there are any messages from viable leads that escaped your notice — or opportunities for conversations that can be started up again.
5) Don’t neglect your social media channels
If you don’t regularly check your social media channels, now is a great time to breeze through old notifications to see if there are any comments or private messages from possible leads that you missed the first time around.
6) Rifle through old business cards
Finally, it’s time to make use of that stack of business cards you’ve been holding onto since your last conference. These should be full of leads who are familiar with your business and likely to be interested in your services.
Strategy #2: Ask existing clients for referrals
You already know that client referrals are a great source of valuable leads. We aren’t here to tell you that — we’re here to tell you that it’s ok to ask for referrals again.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, it was all many companies could do to stay afloat as they reinvented their business and operational models to perform in a drastically different world. Even if you were asking for referrals from clients during that hectic time, chances are many of your requests might have gone unanswered.
But now that many businesses have settled into their new norm, it’s ok to reach out to those clients you helped the most. Here’s how.
7) Focus on clients you’ve interacted with the most lately
Right now is the time to reach out to the clients you helped the most and helped the most recently. While you’re checking on their business and general wellbeing, ask if they know of any other business that you can help the same way you helped them.
8) Ask for specific referrals
If there’s a specific industry in which you’re looking to build leads, don’t be afraid to mention it when talking about referrals with clients. Ask questions like “Do you know anyone at an accounting firm/marketing agency/other specific business that would be interested in my services?” This level of specificity will help your clients more effectively evaluate their contacts and provide valuable referrals.
Strategy #3: Leverage centers of influence
Centers of influence (COIs) are your contacts or clients that are especially well established and respected, skilled at networking, and able to use strategies like referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations to connect you to leads that fit your needs.
9) Build your COIs
Deepen your relationships with your most valuable clients and/or local connections — who already work with ideal targets such as lawyers, accountants, etc. — to build COIs upon which you can rely when ramping up efforts to generate high-value leads.
10) Join networking groups
We know, we know — joining a “networking group” sounds about as exciting as being quarantined in your house for months on end (wait a minute…). But when you can’t network in person, networking virtually is a decent backup plan.
11) Try out virtual networking
Many networking groups, including Business Networking International, are still hosting (virtual) events where you can connect with other owners to generate lasting relationships, growth, and of course new business opportunities. If you’re already part of any smaller or local networking groups that aren’t hosting virtual events, offer to start facilitating them to really boost your connections (more on hosting your own virtual event later in this piece).
Strategy #4: Learn the List Building Basics
Now that we’ve tapped into many of the resources for generating warm leads, lets branch out it the basics of building a cold leads list.
12) Try “near me” Google searches
When you start thinking about all the cold leads out there that you could possibly add to your list, it can quickly get overwhelming. Instead of trying to boil the ocean, focus on your own pot first with a “[target industry] near me” Google search. Use the results to compile a list of all the local businesses that might be interested in your services.
13) Use ReferenceUSA
ReferenceUSA is an excellent source of business information that can be filtered to find businesses that match any kind of specifics you want — size, location, IT spending, and more. The best part is you can access it all using your local library card. Get started here.
Strategy #5: Employ LinkedIn Tactics
It’ll probably come as no surprise that LinkedIn is a great place to find leads and make business connections. The following tactics will take you from the least to the most advanced strategies for employing LinkedIn while building your leads list.
14) Mine your LinkedIn connections
Connect with your best current clients on LinkedIn and have a look through their connections to identify new prospects. When the time comes to do outreach, you can ask your client to make the introduction for a warmer starting point.
15) Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a paid feature that grants access to powerful search capabilities, gives you deeper visibility into extended networks, and uses personalized algorithms to help you reach the perfect leads. Here’s how to use it to prospect effectively.
16) Automate your LinkedIn outreach
Dux-Soup or a similar LinkedIn lead gen tool can automate the time-consuming process of sending connection requests and messages to your ideal prospects — helping you build a list of leads with lightning speed. Watch the video from CharTec in this article to see it in action.
17) Add a personal touch to LinkedIn outreach
If automation isn’t for you or doesn’t seem to be working for your ideal leads, hire a virtual assistant or use a service like Cleverly to scale up LinkedIn outreach without losing the personal touch.
Strategy #6: Host Your Own Virtual Events
In case you’re new here, we’ve been having a blast hosting our own casual, virtual chats for the MSP community. So, of course, we highly recommend this strategy as a way to support your clients and establish yourself as a leader among MSPs. The warm leads you’ll get from the attendee list are the icing on the cake.
18) Host valuable virtual events
Valiant Technology’s “Open for Business: New York” webinar is a perfect example of an event that brought together various experts to provide valuable advice for businesses facing the “great reopening” of New York City following the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
19) Facilitate digital happy hours
What better way to end a long article, a long week, or a long quarantine than with a happy hour? When it comes to MSP sales and lead generation, it doesn’t always have to be all about work. Try facilitating a virtual happy hour where everyone’s invited to blow off steam, trade stories, and maybe even develop ongoing business relationships in a no-pressure environment.
Now that you've got more ideas for generating leads, next week we'll share tips on how to reach out and convert them into actual opportunities. In the meantime, see what other great discussions and topics you may have missed in our MSP Live Chats series.