Lead GenerationEvery small business journey begins with an idea, some hard work and the dream of what might be achieved. As entrepreneurs and small business owners, you’ve worked diligently to realize the success you’ve attained since your journey began. From the very first step, you’ve refined your products and honed your services to make them perfect for prospective customers.

But there’s more to lead generation than simply developing a great product. You’ll need a strong offering, of course, but more often than not the deciding factor when making a sale comes down to one factor: timing. Knowing when to reach out to a customer matters. And, just as you once learned how to time traversing a traffic light, you must also learn the more nuanced rules of how to approach timing with your lead generation. Let’s take a look at how to move from the red light to the green light of increasing traffic for your business.

Red Light: Stop and think

Before you jump into marketing strategies and sales pitches, stop and ask yourself, “Has this customer bought from me recently?” A solid tool or strategy for effective contact management is going to be your secret weapon to reviewing crucial customer information, and nearly 30 percent of marketers use a software like this to generate their leads. It will allow you to record and keep track of information on new customers or those loyalists who have returned to your business or maintained their relationship with you. The management system will also save valuable time by organizing all of your important customer data and sending you reminders about when to review the relationship and make a move. Pausing to categorize and arrange your contact information is the first step to knowing the right moment to approach a customer and secure a lead.

Yellow Light: Pick up the pace

After you’ve taken the time to stop and review the level of interaction the prospective customer has had with your company in the past, you can take things a step further by determining which specific products they have purchased or what services might benefit them the most—and when they might need them. Take the time to analyze key factors like seasonal needs or upsells. Perhaps they purchased equipment that can be paired with another item in your inventory, or it’s nearing time for a service update. You can make insightful decisions based on this kind of anticipatory service. You’ll want to compare past and present behavior in order to predict the future of your relationships. This is when you’ll be able to start picking up the pace by developing actionable strategies based on the information you’ve evaluated.

Green Light: Take action

Once you know if you are dealing with a new customer or an existing customer and you have identified what they are looking for, you will be ready to take action. You have the necessary information about what the customer has purchased from you, now build on that relationship by reaching out in a way that will give you the best chance to connect with that customer. When asked what their most effective lead generation channel is, 42 percent of businesses named email. However, some customers prefer to be reached by phone. Others prefer to be contacted through social media and still there are those who appreciate good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Take the time to monitor and understand which method of communication leads to the best conversion results for your company, both in general and specifically as it pertains to current and prospective customers. Pay special attention to what frequency of outreach yields the best results as well. Doing so will pay dividends over time.

You are now on your way to increasing your number of actionable leads. Getting a product or a service in front of the customer at just the right time will significantly increase the interest you receive and improve your opportunity for success. Following this process is going to help you reach your customers on a personal level because you will know who they are, what they are looking for and the best way to connect with them. It can be challenging for entrepreneurs and small businesses to compete with larger players for customers, but making the effort to understand your customer and the timing of how to move through the process of lead generation can make a world of difference.