4 Lead Generation Strategies That Surprisingly Failed – Local Service Business Case Study

Most of our blog posts quite naturally focus on things that work.

But it can be just as useful to find out what doesn’t work.

Especially when they’re strategies that you’ve probably been recommended.

The company in focus this week is an interior design company based in the UK called Design By Deborah and what their testing has revealed is very interesting…

And will apply to many local service businesses.

So let’s get into it…

#1 Networking Groups

I know this will surprise a lot of you.

I need to clarify…

Most local service businesses get going purely from the owner’s network…

And some continue to rely on it for years to come.

The owner of this interior design company has been able to generate leads and clients through her EXISTING network and that is a valuable lead generation strategy.

But what’s not worked for this company, is attending networking meetings.

She found out the hard way, and attended weekly BNI meetings for over 2 years with 0 results before she threw in the towel.

Here’s my take on networking groups like BNI…

All these companies will tell you (often in a creepy culty way) that you’re pitching your services to the NETWORKS of the people in the room…

Not the people in the group itself.

That sounds great in theory, but from my experience referrals are few and far between.

It seems to me that the real value is in selling you services to the rest of the group.

Which is why you’ll always find accountants, bookkeepers, IT consultant, lawyers, etc in these networking groups…

And they rave about the results they get.

But if you get to know the group, you’ll most likely find that more than half of them use the bookkeeper, the IT consultant, etc.

The local service businesses that crush it at networking meetings provide services that every other small business owner at that meeting needs.

If your business fits that description, then go right ahead and network away.

But if you don’t (that will be a lot of you) then it’s probably not worth your time.

The issue with networking for an interior design company is…

If someone isn’t building an extension, redecorating or moving house…

They are not going to become a customer, no matter how amazing the interior design company is.

People hire interior designers and a lot of other local services businesses at very specific times during their lives.

And how many of the group of 20-30 people will be at that point in their lives? Not enough.

#2 Writing A Book

This one also contradicts conventional wisdom.

I’m sure you’ve heard that if you become an author you’ll be seen an authority in your industry and…

You’ll have clients lining up to work with you.

Well that’s not what this company found.

The truth is…

A very well written book that goes viral COULD get you there.

But writing a really high quality book takes months of dedicated effort.

Which is time that most local service business owners just don’t have.

Most of the time it’s a simple case of confusing causation with correlation…

Often a book won’t make you an industry authority.

But an established industry authority has the expertise and following to make a book successful.

So unless you’re going to pour your heart and soul into a book and create a master piece…

Save yourself the time and money (this company self-published for £5,100!)

There’s much lower hanging fruit in terms of lead generation.

#3 Newspaper & Magazine Ads

I can tell you this company has a fantastic portfolio…

And there aren’t many industries that are more visual than interior design.

So placing ads in relevant magazines and newspapers should have generated lots of interest…

Over the course of a couple of years, this company spent thousands of pounds on print advertising and it generated precisely 0 leads.


Well for a start, how many people actually saw the ad?

When you advertise online you know exactly how many people saw it, clicked on it, became a lead, etc.

But in a magazine or newspaper…

I don’t know about you, but I’ll pick up a paper from time to time and read almost none of it. I’ll skim through the headlines and pictures.

And I subscribe to magazines that I’ll glance at the front cover and stick on my book shelf.

In either case, it doesn’t matter how great the offer in the ad is…

I’m not going to see it.

For the most part, magazines and newspapers just aren’t engaging enough.

So when advertising sales reps tell you about their massive readership, you need to be careful.

It might be worth testing small for your business, but don’t hold your breath.

#4 Organic Social Media

Now I’ve written ORGANIC social media for a reason.

Paid advertising on social media platforms (Facebook in particular) has worked really well for this company.

But that’s a whole other blog post.

Before we got involved and started running paid advertising campaigns…

This business was posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest regularly, just like they were told they should.

And as I mentioned earlier, interior design is a fantastically visual business…

So by posting pictures of their portfolio and completed projects, they were able to generate a lot of engagement and quite a few followers.

Here’s the thing…

Stay with me on this one…

They’re a local service business and are happy to work on projects that are within 30 miles of their studio.

They’re based quite close to London (which is the largest city in Europe by far) so the population density in their area is quite high.

But at most they have 10 million people in their area of operation.

There are 1.6 billion active Facebook users.

So assuming they were equally likely to attract followers from all over the planet (not quite true, but the vast majority where not from the UK)

They would need 160 followers to get just ONE that even lived in the right part of the world!

Combine that with the changes that the social media platforms are making…

(No one will see your posts unless you pay to advertise – the social media companies want to make money to!)

It’s not overly surprising that a very healthy number of followers delivered 0 leads.

So there you have it…

Hopefully that can save you guys a whole load of time and money.

Question? Comments? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below.