Man holding tablet pc and credit card indoor, Shopping onlineLead generation can be one of the most frustrating parts of having a business. Finding the key to what gets people to click on your site, or visit your storefront, is a feat not easily mastered by any business owner. To help ease that frustration, and get the ball rolling, here are six solid ways to generate leads both online and offline:

1. Search Your Circle

The best place to find business leads and referrals are in your circle of friends, family and colleagues. Talking to people is a good way to find a segway into talking about what you do and what you can offer. Beyond just getting names and email addresses for your leads database, you may learn some valuable insight about industry trends and other information.Sociable, not pushy, people are attractive. Showing interest in other people and their work makes them more readily willing to connect with you.

Additionally, Include social selling as part of your strategy. KiteDesk is a great lead generation tool that exposes hidden and untapped leads from your online social connections.

2. Offer an Exchange

Offering an exchange is something that can be used both online and offline. Instead of handing on coupon codes as an afterthought, or with the hopes of future business, be upfront and get something in return. Exchanges build relevancy and purpose in the transaction, something that goes beyond random discounts or disassociated asking for business or referrals. Just be sure that you follow up with your end of the deal, as this encourages the other party to be just as faithful on their end.

3. Give Free Seminars and Classes

Another lead generating tactic that works both online and offline is to conduct free seminars, webinars or classes. Establishing yourself as an authority in your industry builds trust in you and your brand. There are several ways to implement this, including offering a free webinar via your website, offering an email series on a particular subject or even offering classes to people to learn or perfect new skills. Social Media Examiner exploded with popularity and got their start when they started offering free seminars. It helped them grow to become one of the top 25 business blogs in just a few months after starting from scratch.

Don’t think that giving people a bit of knowledge will make them no longer need your services or product. As an authority, you’ll gain credibility and your subscribers or students will likely come to you when they need professional services.

4. Gather Leads with Guest Blogging

Solidly written, useful guest posts add value for the reader with care to high-quality content. Guest blogging also creates curiosity. Regular readers of the blog you’re guesting posting on will be curious to know who you are and what authority you have —really good for website traffic and lead generation. Generally, you’ll want to work out guest posting on a blog that is in your industry or closely related industry for it to generate any leads. Address a topic that you get lots of questions about or that provides insight into specific audience needs. You might even be able to give them something new to consider or shed the light on a problem they didn’t know they had — perhaps one that your brand can solve. But be sure not to get too salesman on them in the way you write. Remember that blog readers want to gain information, not just hear all about your business.

5. Offer Visitors a Freebie

 Everybody loves getting something for nothing, especially something valuable. A good and proven way to generate leads online is to offer a free e-book, product or discount code in exchange for contact information. If a potential client is interested in the free offer you have, they’ll likely be interested in your company and won’t mind getting occasional emails from your business. Make sure you are upfront, and let your leads know exactly what they’re signing up for.  Distilled does a great job offering free marketing guides and tutorials. Check out their hand free information on how to pass the new Google Analytics test.

Once you have a potential customer’s attention with the freebie, keep their interest by making subsequent emails relevant and beneficial. Don’t go overboard and send out emails too often or oversell yourself. Relevant, engaging information will turn leads into customers.

6. Attend Conventions or Trade Shows

 Conventions and trade shows are a virtual goldmine for lead capturing. People attending conventions and trade shows are there to learn about the businesses that are there. Ask upfront for contact information, and let them know you can email them with updates and other valuable information periodically.

Of course trade shows and conventions are also great for meeting new people, making new connections, and gaining valuable information and referrals. Attending a well organized, well-attended niche event is definitely worth the investment.

Remember that your lead capturing strategy should be well rounded.  Involve both online and offline methods to generate leads and convert them into customers.

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger. He lives in Pennsylvania and with his wife and son, writing about social media and doing research for UB Solutions. Follow Scott at @SMHuntington. 

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