The Art of Lead Generation: What Top Business Owners Do Differently

The art of lead generation

I talk to business owners every single day. Sometimes they own product companies. Other times they run agencies. But they fall into two categories. The first want to keep growing their business but they're not stressing over lead generation. The second struggles with not stressing about lead generation every waking minute. So for a few minutes tonight, I thought I would dig into the topic of the art of lead generation.

Notice what I'm not calling this post. I'm not talking about the science of funnels.

I'm not against funnels. And I value a sequential strategy for moving people from one place in the lifecycle of a prospect to another spot, as a customer.

I'm talking about the art of lead generation because I think there's a non-science component to it all, and frankly, that's where I see the difference between these two camps.

The two parts of lead generation

First, can I pause for a second and highlight why I'll never become a famous best-selling author? Because I'm writing in one post, likely under 1000 words, what someone else, far better than me, can turn into 150 pages of a book. Ok, let's get to it.

When I talk about lead generation, there are two parts: the strategy and the system.

The Strategy

When we talk about strategy, there are tons of ways you can generate leads. Each approach helps you build authority and grab attention.

  • Public Speaking
  • Blogging
  • Videos
  • Live streaming
  • Webinars
  • Online courses
  • Ads & landing pages
  • Low-priced initial offerings (tripwire marketing)

I'm positive there are many more approaches that we could put on this list. But you get it, you have a lot of different ways you can build trust and authority. And in the end, the art of lead generation is the art of attention management.

The System

The second part of the equation when we're talking about becoming a lead generation engine, is the system you use. It's not enough to pick one of the approaches listed above.

You need operational efficiency. You need the tools in place to help you drive your effort to a whole different level than the people around you.

In other words, no one builds a lead generation engine without a system.

This is why people spend so much time and money on tools like:

  • Marketing automation systems
  • CRM solutions with tags & segments
  • Email platforms

It's why you find people writing comparisons like this one, and why I wrote my own version of the same article.

What do the top business owners understand that others miss?

When it comes to the business owners that I know and interact with, who are successful, I notice four things they have in common. And these four things separate them from the rest. In other words, I'm not just saying they think and work a certain way, I'm saying that the results of these differences is the success that puts them at the top of their game.

First, they don't shy away from promotion.

Here's a crazy thing about many of the folks I connect with: they want a lead generation strategy that doesn't feel like they're selling. The business owners that are at the top of their game don't feel like selling is a bad thing.

In fact, they equate what they're doing as “helping” more than “pitching.”

But they don't wait for others to ask them super pointed questions like, “Hey is there any chance that you do exactly what I need right now?”

Instead, they are ready to turn just about any comment into a segue about how they've helped others in similar situations.

In other words, they're not scared of promotion.

And when you watch them work, regardless of the approach they take, you feel immediately comfortable because they're comfortable.

I know when I was uncomfortable talking about how I help companies, it made everyone else uncomfortable too.

I bet you feel similarly.

Second, they don't just have a system for outreach. They have a system for follow up.

The other day I got a request for my upcoming conference, CaboPress. I was able to research the candidate, determine if they were a fit, and follow up – all in less than 30 hours.

A couple weeks ago I got a request for my coaching. I was able to reply and start the dialogue in 8 hours.

This isn't because I'm amazing. It's because I've copied what I've seen others do.

The first time I experienced an incredible automated system for follow up it was almost ten years ago. Jennifer Bourn turned all of that into a product called Profitable Project Plan – that hundreds of agencies have learned from and use.

Before I put systems in place, a lead might show up and it might take me weeks (or even months) to respond. It was horrible. And I would likely not even respond out of shame that I hadn't followed up quickly.

Have you ever been in that situation?

Third, they understand that the art of lead generation is art.

I know. It's meta. But hear me out. You know what the rest of us do when it comes to lead generation? We read the articles, buy the courses, consume the books and attend the webinars. And all of them are about the science – the specific steps to follow – that will help us build a lead generation engine.

The problem is that the example we're watching, reading, or seeing isn't exactly ours. And the system that's being presented to us works for that person, but not necessarily for us.

I wrote about this on Twitter the other day. It doesn't matter if a super cool lead generation system sounds amazing. If it's not something that you can adopt, it is worthless.

The art of lead generation is that it has to work for you. I don't mean your company. I mean you – specifically. You, your experience, your skills, what you're comfortable with.

I have no trouble making cold calls. It doesn't stress me out. I told you the other day about my early jobs going door-to-door and doing phone calls during dinner.

But one of my buddies runs a very successful agency and hates cold calls. He won't do them. No matter what. Ever. It's just not him.

I don't have trouble writing – every single day. He doesn't press publish more than once a year. Yet his business is thriving, mostly because he's a networking genius.

Different approaches for different people. Like I said, it's art.

Let me dig into this for another second. Because I'm not sure I've made this point as explicitly as I need to.

Copying others won't turn you and your business into a lead generation engine, any more than going to one of those painting classes where you paint Van Gogh's Starry Night turns you into a painter.

You have to test different approaches until you find out what works for you.

Fourth, lead generation is about consistency.

The business owners who are at the top of their game understand that lead generation is about the numbers. You need the at-bats. If you don't get them, you can't close.

That's why I wrote what I did in that tweet. There were two parts to it – first, you need to find what works for you, and second, you need to be comfortable doing it over and over again.

Consistency is the critical component to finding success.

I write every day. Not because every single post will suddenly make you decide to hire me as a coach for your product business or agency. No. I write every day so that you learn my voice and understand my thinking. The more you read posts, the more we develop trust between each other.

But that's not the only way trust is built. It's how I build it. Others do it other ways.

Case studies, referrals, content, speaking on stage – there are so many options to choose from. But whatever you choose, you have to understand that one of the most important aspects of any lead generation strategy is the development of trust.

All things being equal, people like to buy from their friends. So first, make things as equal as you can. Then, make as many friends as you can.

So what is the art?

I'll wrap up by giving you the science equation for the art of lead generation:

consistency + trust  = leads

The crazy part is that consistency goes a long way to developing trust. Which means that once you pick your strategy – one you're comfortable with – you might discover that consistency = leads.