Fish where the fish are: How to hook more prospects

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When looking for fresh leads to keep your business swimming, don't fish in a dried-up mud hole.

It's time to work smarter, shift your thinking and drop a line in a new stream.

(1) The targeting power of LinkedIn

First, a wake-up call to take this social network seriously. Ten years after its inception, LinkedIn boasts 200 million users, 35 percent of which check in every day. A whopping 81 percent belong to at least one group.

For business-to-business companies, LinkedIn can be an excellent channel to disseminate your thought leadership, drive prospects to your website and lead them through a conversion funnel.

Every time I write an article like this one, I share it with my network and the eight groups to which I belong. According to LinkedIn, my 526 connections link me to more than 6 million other professionals. Couple this with the people who aren't connections but are members of the same groups, and we're talking considerable reach.

LinkedIn advertising also is a powerful tool when used effectively. You can select who to target by title and by company, zeroing in on the people you want to reach. You pay for clicks – not impressions – so even if someone doesn't click through, you're gaining valuable impressions.

(2) Paid search – hook 'em when they're looking to eat

You have a much better likelihood of success of capturing a prospect's attention when he or she is actively looking for what you're offering.

But cries of "I've tried Ad Words and it didn't work" ring throughout the B-to-B world. Given the complexities that go into researching, testing and maintaining a successful Ad Words campaign, I'm not surprised at the level of skepticism.

Success in paid search is both a science and an art, requiring expertise and best practices.

You need to run a rigorous test. Do your research. Compare the keywords you think make sense to data that show how many people are actually searching for those terms. See what other terms Google recommends based on search volume.

Then set up several ad groups, each with multiple ads. In most cases, ads should lead to a specific landing page on your website, tailored to align with the ad.

Create landing pages with variations in messaging, imagery, offers and so on. Test which landing page produces the best conversion. Then, focus on the best-performing ad copy.

Continuously monitor the sets that are performing the best – and cut off the poorest performers.

During the testing phase, an Altitude client was getting 40 percent of its clicks between 1-4 a.m., but these clicks were among the worst conversions. We turned off the campaign during those hours.

While the volume of clicks went down, costs decreased and overall conversion rate went up.

(3) Remarketing – if at first you don't succeed …

Let's suppose your LinkedIn efforts sent an ideal prospect to your website but they didn't convert. Sometimes you need to recast your line a few times before you hook anything.

When prospects visit your site, place a cookie on their browser so the computer remembers they visited your site. Then, by partnering with one of many ad networks out there, your ad can (legally) appear wherever this prospect goes on the Web. Recently, I visited Zappos.com. Two days later, a Zappos ad with the shoes I was looking at appeared on www.boston.com while I was reading about my beloved Red Sox. I clicked through and bought them.

One caveat: Don't remarket to someone more than five times – otherwise, it can become downright creepy.

(4) Don't cold call

How many decision-makers do you think are going to take a cold call?

People are busy. Decision-makers often have gatekeepers – or at a minimum caller ID.

This is like fishing for wild salmon long after they've jumped the falls upstream. The odds are against you, so spend your time elsewhere.

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