As you attract more customers to your business, you'll want to make sure they don't leave and forget about you.

Once you've identified your target market and worked to attract the right audience, it's time to either make the sale or get contact information to follow up. After all, what good is all that work to attract customers if they simply forget about you?

The key to capturing leads is providing prospects with something of value in exchange for their contact information, like a free trial or sample of your product or service--what we call a lead magnet. Build trust and give your prospects a reason to opt in. E-books, podcasts, videos, webinars and downloads are just a few content assets you can offer to build trust with your audience and establish credibility for your brand. Make it easy to opt in with the right lead capture tools, like a Web form on your blog or website.

Sounds like any easy plan of attack, but the devil is in the details. Here are three things to remember when capturing (and keeping) leads.

1. This is a contact sport

I tell entrepreneurs this all the time, but you can't simply collect leads. You have to capture them. You have to consistently offer people reasons to show interest in your business. So much so that prospects choose to provide their contact info and give permission to interact with them. When businesses do that, the leads flood in.

Sharing expertise is critical here. Businesses can give that in exchange for contact info or engaging on a blog. It gets prospects involved in the conversation, and offers them value to show them you can help with their problems.

Don't be shy. This is a battle for attention.

2. Organization is key

Larger businesses generally have very sophisticated ways via software to organize leads, but many small businesses don't. That service is a key focus to everything we do at Infusionsoft, but many small businesses and entrepreneurs fail to organize their leads once they capture them.

The missing step is often organizing leads based on the interest a prospect expressed when his or her info was captured. This is a continual challenge whether we're talking online or offline lead capture.

For example, an entrepreneur could talk with a dozen different people at a networking event and get their cards, but it's highly unlikely that those people are all interested in the business for the same (or even similar) reasons. The key is organizing those people via what they want of you and the company, and then following up in a timely fashion with exactly that.

The best way to manage this is through software such as Infusionsoft, where much of the work becomes automated once you put systems in place. Leads can be organized as you wish, and follow-up messages customized and automated.

3. Close the gaps in lead collection

The first step here is identifying the communication points with potential customers, and then asking whether prospects provided permission for you to engage with them.

Most times when an entrepreneur does that, they quickly notice that there are many leads slipping through the cracks. Examining the lead capture protocols at the communication points (phone, web, and social, for example), often exposes problems that can be easily fixed. For example, are your people on the phone trying to capture new leads asking the right questions, or is the same script from a six months ago?

Businesses tend to not look at where the interactions are happening, whether it's a booth at a trade show or online via a web form. It's not always easy to capture those leads elegantly, but you absolutely have to ask for the contact info and permission to contact every place you can. The worst they can say is no.

Leads are the soil that sales grow from, but like in any garden, if you have the wrong mix of soil, not much will grow. At the same time, that soil can be cultivated until you see the results you want it a bumper crop.

It's no different with leads. If you take care of them and give them what they need, you're sure to have a fruitful harvest in the form of sales.

Published on: Apr 7, 2016