Take the Lead Saint John - Lessons in Lead Gen for MunicipalitiesLike many Atlantic Canadian companies, the city of Saint John, in New Brunswick, wants leads.

So, Discover Saint John and Enterprise Saint John have teamed up to launch a campaign asking local residents and business people to send them leads for possible events and new business.

The campaign has been named “Take the Lead“, and a website where Saint Johners can submit their leads has been created: TaketheLeadSJ.com.

The Take the Lead campaign is a different approach to lead generation. Rather than directly targeting potential leads, the city is targeting people who may have connections to potential leads. A lead being event organizers and prospective business owners, for example. In other words, Saint John is asking for referrals.

I have no doubt that the city will generate many referrals and close new business as a result of this campaign…but what happens when the buzz around the campaign fades, or the advertising/sponsorship budget being used to promote it dries up?

Referrals are a fantastic source of leads, but they aren’t exactly consistent or reliable. Referrals are also not usually pre-qualified.

Take the Lead is a clever approach, and I certainly don’t knock it. Ideally every organization would have a referral generating strategy. But, I couldn’t help but wonder what other online lead sources the city has…specifically for meetings and conventions – which seems to be the biggest focus of the Take the Lead campaign.

My curiosity brought me to the Discover Saint John website, where I looked for three things:

  1. Does Saint John have a frequently updated source of search engine friendly content targeted to meeting and convention planners?
  2. Does Saint John have mechanisms in place to convert the meeting planners who visit their website into leads?
  3. If I Google some relevant search terms, do any Saint John websites appear in the first page of search results?

I’ll cover my findings below, but first – whether you are a business in Atlantic Canada looking to expand across the country, or another municipality needing to attract new business to your region, I’m convinced you’ll find the rest of this post valuable.

Please read on and learn from this example.

1. Does Saint John have a frequently updated source of search engine friendly content targeted to meeting and convention planners?

To this I found the answer to be mostly “no”. Discover Saint John does have a blog, and it appears to be updated sporadically as there is news to publish. The content is not targeted to meeting and convention planners, rather its slant is more about news.

Read about why content is important.

2. Does Saint John have mechanisms in place to convert the meeting planners who visit their website into leads?

Another no…or not that I could find. Within the “Convention & Event Planning” section of the website there was only an email address. :(

BUT, I did find a huge untapped opportunity. Discover Saint John has created a beautiful and comprehensive downloadable “Meeting Planners Guide” for Saint John.

This guide is what effective lead generating content is made of – the problem is, it’s not being used to generate leads.  The Meeting Planners Guide simply sits as a link to a PDF in the side bar – and this is a huge missed opportunity.

Here’s why…

I think it’s safe to guess that most of the people who will bother to click a link titled “Meeting Planners Guide” will in fact be meeting planners…or somehow involved in the process.

In other words, potential leads. But, from what I can see, Discover Saint John has no way of knowing who they are, how they found the website or how to follow up.

Every company and municipality should have such a valuable piece of content targeted to their ideal customers. That content should have its own page on your website, and visitors who wish to read it should be asked for their contact details first.

Trust me, if your content is valuable in the eyes of your ideal reader they will be willing to give their name and email address so you can email it to them.

Not only does using content for lead gen allow your organization to follow up (with qualified leads) so the lead doesn’t fall between the cracks, or get lost to a competitor; this type of lead gen enables you to keep valuable stats, and even measure the ROI of your content, and your marketing efforts.

3. If I Google some relevant search terms does the Discover Saint John website (or any website about Saint John) appear in the first page of search results?

When I put myself in the shoes of someone from away scouting for a location in this region to host their event, these are some of the searches I imagine they might make prior to choosing an exact location:

“where to host a convention in new brunswick”
“where to host a trade show in new brunswick”
“best city in atlantic canada to host an event”
“best new brunswick city for hosting a trade show”
“best place in atlantic canada to host a convention”
“top cities in eastern canada to host a conference”

My jaw dropped as I performed this exercise. It dropped because not only did I not see a single Saint John website on the first page of my search results…I also didn’t see any direct matches for my searches.

What it means when I say ‘no direct matches’ is that no one out there (no one who has been able to get to the first page of search results anyway) is blogging about things like “Top Cities in Eastern Canada to Host a Conference” or “Best City in Atlantic Canada to Host an Event”!

What an untapped opportunity for one of Atlantic Canada’s cities to “take the lead” and fill this gap with valuable content that search engines, and people, will devour.

Back to my Google-ing; it wasn’t until my test searches became more specific – at the point late in the sales cycle when the meeting planner is already considering Saint John – that the city’s websites started appearing on page one.

Terms like “convention space in saint john” and “meeting space in saint john nb” did pull up a couple Saint John websites in the results.


What’s Next?

If you’re with a municipality, or company, looking to gain more business from away, please download our free white paper below. “Selling to New Markets” includes research, facts, case studies and advice for attracting attention and leads from markets outside your region.

Or, scroll down for related posts and advice on this topic.