So, you want to expand your business, but you don’t know where to start. You’ve tried to rely on word-of-mouth, but your mother’s recommendations of your business to her neighbors can only go so far. You’ll have to look for people who don’t know you already, and that’s where leads come in.

Leads are a measure of how much attention your business is getting. There is a difference of importance between the quantity and quality of your leads, but the first thing you should know is that leads will always be a vital part of your business.

Now, what are leads, and how do you chase them? Here’s what you should consider:

Whether leads are important.

Your business can’t rely on word-of-mouth alone. As a small business owner, you bear the responsibility of growing your list of clients. Leads are prospective clients who are actively looking for someone to hire for a project. Leads begin when a client clicks on an advertisement or link to your business. Much like someone entering a store in person, they could be doing anything from browsing the internet to actively searching for a contractor for a project they need done next week. In any case, they’re a lead.

It’s important to note that most leads don’t close, or end up in a deal. That’s ok. It’s better to be pursuing more leads at once than it is to be scouring the internet for a few. Even if a lead doesn’t work out, it can still benefit you by giving your business more recognition.

Ultimately, leads are the key to building your business because they focus on reaching out to clients who don’t know you yet.

How you want to grow your leads.

You should strategize how you want to build your leads. Similar to building your marketing plan, lead-chasing is a deliberate process that must be watched over consistently, as it is a reliable measure of growth.

The contractor advertising website Webrunnermedia.com has some helpful guides on how you can build a strategy for leads. Here are three notes from them that you should be aware of:

  1. Reaching out and responding to leads is vital. One rule of thumb: make contact with new leads as soon as possible, usually within 1-5 minutes of them viewing your site.

  2. 80% of sales require at least 5 follow-up chats/touchpoints that you should instigate.

  3. Create a follow-up process for leads. Make sure to use helpful technology, like SMS texting released on a consistent schedule to follow up.

Is it better to use a third party?

The short answer is yes. There are a variety of third-party lead websites out there, but the bottom line is that they are all meant to help you as you juggle your regular schedule to manage your business.

Essentially, these platforms will create a page for your business, and try to set you up with clients who are searching for a service that you offer.

But be aware: you don’t want to choose every platform out there. Pick the best one for you and your business. Some of them will charge membership fees, and others will be free. Some will give you as many leads as possible, while others will tailor leads more towards your business. Most importantly, some will focus on the number of leads, while others will prioritize their quality, like how many will result in deals.

What you should be focused on with a third-party generator is two things: budget and lead closing rate. Your budget determines how much you’re willing to spend on membership and advertising fees. Your closing rate, meanwhile, is a measure of how many leads turn into deals.

In a perfect world, you would be getting a third party lead-generating platform that is cheap and will offer you a high lead closing rate. But often, there is a trade-off.

Where are the best places to generate leads?

While there is no perfect lead generating platform, there are some options that are more promising than others. Instead of overwhelming yourself with choices and memberships, you should focus on 3-4 systems that you’ll rely on to generate your leads. Here are some of your best options:

  • Google MyBusiness: As a small business owner, you can set up a profile on Google MyBusiness for free that gives consumers everything they need to know about your basic info (phone number, address, services offered, etc.) Leads will come from people finding your business on a Google search for a specific service. MyBusiness pages are easy to set up and manage, and are necessary to generate leads. If you’re looking to improve your standing on search pages, however, you will have to start paying for ads on Google.
  • Angie’s List: Even though Angie’s List was bought by HomeAdvisor, businesses advertising here perform well on search algorithms. It’s more likely that someone searching on Angie’s List is looking to start a project than someone searching on Google, which raises your chances of developing a lead. All types of contractors are listed here, from electrical to plumbing and landscaping. You pay for Angie’s List on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis, which means that you pay for every click on an ad for your business. This roughly comes out to an average of $200 a month, though prices vary.
  • Yelp: While not the giant it used to be, having a Yelp page is a free option that’s worth your time because it still holds up on most search algorithms. Like Angie’s List, Yelp also charges on a CPC basis. While they don’t announce their prices publicly, you can find out the average cost to advertise your business on Yelp’s free online calculator.
  • Houzz: Houzz is the best for tradespeople who work specifically in the residential sector. Creating a profile is free, and it lets users share their work and projects with the public. This is probably the best site for finding specific leads. If someone is searching for a particular type of remodeling that you offer, it’s more likely that they’ll come to your business here. Contractors can also list specific services they offer, as well. Creating a Houzz Pro + profile starts at $59/month, which gives you access to their lead management system, proposal services, online payment systems and more.
  • Facebook: Almost everyone is on social media, especially Facebook. As we have mentioned before, creating a Facebook page for your business is essential, and it can be a great tool for staying in contact with leads, as well. Creating a page is free, and advertising will cost you some money. But it’s more likely that a client has a Facebook profile than they do an Angie’s List account. For that reason, even though it’s not what Facebook was geared for, it can be used as a tool for pursuing leads because you can engage and connect with people who are browsing your services. You can also target ads for a specific zip code, which is useful as well.

If it isn’t apparent by now, you should be at least be partially invested in chasing leads. They’re your key to growth as a business, and you have little excuse not to when there are so many third party options available at your fingertips.