Acquiring new clients begins with your lead generation strategies. In the absence of a plan built with a solid lead generation strategy, you are at the mercy of chance. And that is not the best way to build your firm.

In fact, our research of high growth, high value professional services firms shows that they are more likely to have a plan and they are more focused on attracting new clients within a well defined target audience.

Lead Generation Concepts Defined

Lead generation is the process of establishing contact with potential new clients. It is the start of your business development funnel.

Lead qualification is the process of screening leads to determine if they would be good clients for your firm. Sometimes you may use global criteria such as potential client size or industry. Other times the criteria are more related to a prospect's readiness to buy your service now, such as the availability of a budget.

Lead nurturing is the process of building a trusting relationship with the potential client until the time is right for them to enter into a business relationship with your firm. This is usually concluded by the emergence of a specific opportunity for which your firm will prepare a proposal.

Lead generation strategies, as we use the term here, is how you will generate, qualify and nurture leads to the point where a legitimate opportunity emerges.

A Spectrum of Lead Generation Strategies 

Some lead generation strategies are so common among the professional services that they have achieved an almost mythical stature. Face to face networking and referrals are two that come to mind. Trade show exhibiting is also nearly as common. Some professional services marketers have almost come to believe that these are the best — or even the only — strategies to develop business.

There is another group of strategies that are also very common and are oriented toward making a specific offer to potential clients. The offer may be for a specific service or for a piece of useful content, such as a white paper or a seminar. Examples of these approaches include cold calling, direct mail, advertising in trade publications and email blasts. These are also commonly referred to as outbound marketing or push strategies.

Another related set of strategies offers intellectual content that might be useful to people. This is often referred to as content marketing. If the content is of sufficient quality, some potential clients will contact you when they need services. Common content strategies include speaking engagements, publishing articles or books, video, newsletters, blogs and webinars.

Finally, there are strategies that rely on leads finding you. They are commonly labeled inbound marketing or pull strategies and are often closely paired with content strategies. Search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click (PPC) are the most notable. Social media may also fit in here as a way to distribute content. Of course you can think of social media as another form of networking. In that regard, perhaps this is not so much a spectrum of possibilities as a circle!

With such a wide range of available strategies, the question becomes which ones are right for your firm? Here are some guidelines for selecting a balanced mix.

Selecting Lead Generation Strategies

When selecting your strategies, you must start with a clear idea of your ideal target client. The clearer you are about who you are trying to attract, the easier it will be to generate, qualify and nurture the lead.

Here are five principles to keep in mind when selecting your lead generation strategies:

  1. Make sure you cover all three phases of the lead generation process. You need to find, qualify and nurture the lead. SEO or PPC, for example, can both be used to find prospects. And by offering content relevant to well qualified prospects you can at least indirectly qualify the lead. But you need to use other techniques to nurture the leads, such as an e-newsletter or other educational content.
  2. Use techniques appropriate to your target client. Some simply may not fit. Others can be ruled out because they don’t align with your brand. Cold calling often is ruled out for this reason.
  3. Consider cost. Different lead generation strategies have different cost profiles. According to Hubspot, leads generated from inbound campaigns such as SEO, PPC or blogging cost 62% less than leads coming from outbound sources such as direct mail, telemarketing or trade shows.
  4. Diversify your lead generation strategies. Testing multiple strategies can help reduce the risk that a single approach fails to work. We also know that professional services buyers often check multiple sources when searching for a firm. Being visible in multiple channels is a plus.
  5. Balance traditional and digital approaches. As we have blogged about previously, traditional and newer online approaches each have their strengths and weaknesses. Balancing the two can make for a more robust lead generation strategy.

To learn more about lead generation, you may also want to review recent posts on lead generation ideas and building your lead generation plan.