We’re fairly sure that every business wishes there was a gold standard for how to generate leads. If you could wave a magic wand to get leads to come in, everyone would be doing it.
But the truth is, there isn’t a single best way to generate leads, and some strategies will work better for your business than others. Some tactics will bring you lots of success, while others may flop entirely.
Fortunately, you can increase your chances of successfully generating leads by preparing properly. This means conducting loads of research, getting strategic direction from your internal teams, and using all the resources and technology you have at your disposal.
And that’s what this article is about—how you can use what you have to start generating (hopefully endless) leads.
What is the best way to generate leads?
There isn’t a single “best” way to generate leads—it really depends on different factors, like your business model, the markets you’re interested in, and your company’s current goals. Companies typically use different methods to generate leads—like content marketing and SEO, partnership networks, cold emailing, paid advertising, and more.
How can I generate leads for free?
There’s no truly “free” way to generate leads. You’ll always need to make some kind of resource investment—even if you’re not directly spending money on, say, advertising or events. Having said that, there are some ways that you can generate almost for free, such as by:
- Using a prospecting tool. Prospecting tools let you search for leads with many advanced filters—like demographic and firmographic information. You can then use free tools to obtain their contact information and reach out to them.
- Asking for referrals. Referrals can help you generate leads for free, but you might need to give your existing customers incentives to refer your business. This is especially true if you plan on running a formal referral program.
- Leveraging your network. This method is similar to the referral strategy, but it’s more about getting the word out, as opposed to directly asking for referrals. So, for example, if some of your team members have a large LinkedIn network, they can get the word out about your business on the platform.
How do you generate leads instantly?
There are two primary strategies that you can use to generate leads instantly:
- Performance marketing. Performance marketing is laser-focused on the metrics that translate to hard results, like lead conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, and customer lifetime value. Performance marketing campaigns aim to generate results quickly. You might run direct response ads to generate leads through a social media channel, for example. These ads have a specific objective, like “buy now” or “download our white paper,” and can quickly garner interest.
- Prospecting and outreach. In this strategy, you use a prospecting tool (like Lusha, Cognism, or Apollo) to discover leads and collect their contact information. Then, you can reach out to these leads to offer them your products or services. We’ll discuss the process for generating leads in this way in the next section.
How do you generate leads step by step?
Need to keep your sales team busy with a steady stream of leads? Here are five steps to set your lead generation up for success.
1. Get your go-to-market strategy ready
Your company’s go-to-market (GTM) strategy contains helpful information for prioritizing your lead generation activities, and knowing which type of leads you need. It can specify which markets to cover, for example, and offer insights into your ideal customer persona (ICP)—i.e., the people who will benefit most from your product or service.
Having a GTM strategy is really important before you move forward with lead generation because, otherwise, you’ll be taking shots in the dark. You won’t know what regions to focus on, which leads are valuable and which aren’t, etc. So if your team doesn’t already have a GTM strategy, start by putting one together.
OK, so now that you’ve got a GTM strategy to fall back on, it’s time to get your hands dirty—and that means conducting research. Research is one of the most important parts of your lead generation activities.
Your GTM strategy acts as a blueprint, specifying who you need to reach and giving you guidelines for how to reach them. But now you need to figure out the specifics, like:
- How do I find my ICP? To answer this, you need to discover where your ideal customers are hanging out and what content they consume. Which events do they frequent? What podcasts do they listen to, and which accounts do they follow? Sparktoro is a useful tool for learning more about audiences, but you’ll need to research other ways, too. Analyze your competitors, read up on industry trends, and explore online communities.
- What’s the best way to earn my ICP’s time? Should you send them an email offering a free demo, or do you need to nurture them with personalized content? Depending on how aware the buyer is, either approach could work.
When you start reaching out to leads to qualify them, you need to put your best foot forward and use the most efficient channels at your disposal. And good research guides these decisions.
3. Use a prospecting tool
Prospecting tools have large databases that you can use to find your ICP. They let you use different filters to refine your search, such as by company size, region, sector, and so on. You can further filter leads by their job titles, seniority, tenure, and other factors.
More formally, there are three ways to filter and organize leads:
- Using demographics. This data pertains to the characteristics of a particular group of people, like their age, gender, etc.
- Using firmographics. This includes data that can be used to classify an organization, like a company’s size, location, industry, and so on.
- Using technographics. This is data about what technology an organization uses, its adoption, and how much they spend on it. This data is really valuable if you’re selling tech or tech services. For example, if you’re selling Salesforce development, you can find companies that are already using the platform or something similar. And if you’re selling tech to e-commerce stores, you can use a tool like BuiltWith to find companies using Shopify or WooCommerce.
4. Start outreach and qualify leads
Finally, armed with all the contact information, research, and marketing collateral you need, it’s time to start reaching out to leads and registering their interest. There are different ways to do this, and your approach will vary depending on whether you’re looking to generate:
- Outbound leads. These are leads that you approach directly, such as leads you acquire through cold emailing, cold calling, or by direct messaging them on a social media channel.
- Inbound leads. These leads come to your business as a result of your inbound marketing strategy—i.e., your marketing efforts that “attract” leads. Inbound leads could be people who attended one of your recent virtual events, for instance.
We’ll discuss how to generate inbound leads in the next section, but for now, let’s focus on outbound leads. The steps for getting outbound leads are:
- Start with prospecting. Go back to what we discussed in the previous section. Find potential leads and collect their contact information.
- Reach out to them. Your main options are social media, cold emailing, cold calling, or direct mail. Using multiple channels can help you increase the odds of generating leads.
- Qualifying leads and passing them on to the sales team. Which leads responded positively to your outreach and are interested in your offer? Engage them further and bring in sales when it’s time to close the deal.
You can also check these lead generation tools out to help you with your outreach.
5. Get started with inbound marketing
While sales is occupied with outbound leads (and growing your business with all those new deals), it’s time to begin the slow—but rewarding—process of generating inbound leads. And there are a lot of ways to do this. Most businesses use a combination of long-term and short-term strategies.
In general, performance marketing campaigns are the quickest way to generate leads. You can leverage personalized content and experiences to attract inbound leads by running pay-per-click ads across social media platforms. Through these targeted ads, you can collect information from leads or encourage them to take action.
However, while performance marketing campaigns can help you quickly generate ROI, they’re harder to implement than they first seem. You’ll need to:
- Manage costs. When you run ads, you’re spending money to make money, but you need to be cautious about waste. For example, if your ads are generating low-quality leads that don’t convert to paying customers, your ad spend isn’t bringing in measurable return. Or if you’re spending lots of money (relative to industry benchmarks) to acquire new leads, you might need to rethink your campaign and reevaluate its performance.
- Get the specifics right. That means having the right creative, copy, and offer. For the creative, you’ll need visuals that capture your audience’s attention. For the copy, your messaging needs to resonate with your customers, speak to their pain points, and motivate them to take action. But even the best copy and the best creatives can’t sell a bad offer. Before anything, you need to come up with a compelling offer that delivers real value to your audience.
- Keep testing. Businesses rarely get everything right the first time—the best results come from continuously testing different ad variations, measuring results, and continuing to optimize your campaigns.
These are some big asks, so you’ll need a mature team to successfully undertake performance marketing.
In addition to performance marketing, you can also invest in different long-term plays to generate leads. These plays won’t get you instant results, but over time, they’ll help you generate a consistent pipeline of high-quality leads.
Here are some of the most effective long-term inbound marketing plays:
- Investing in SEO. Generate leads directly from search engines (this usually means Google search, but Bing is also useful for some businesses and industries).
- Investing in advertising. This could be Google Ads, advertising on social media platforms, putting up a billboard, or using a combination of different advertising platforms.
- Hosting events or webinars. Share valuable insights with people in your industry, proving your credibility and capturing their interest in your product or services.
- Email marketing or direct mail. Old but gold.
- Hosting a podcast—or speaking on an existing one. Hosting your own podcast is a great way to establish your company as an industry expert. But if your team isn’t ready to take on such a big project, you can also look into booking senior executives on popular podcasts in your industry. They can share your story and help get the word out.
As you can see, there are loads of different inbound lead generation strategies, so it’s important to figure out which ones are right for your business. You’ll learn which channels and strategies are best for your business by conducting research, and through trial and error.
When you figure out what works, double down to build a pipeline of endless leads.
6. Implement a referral program
When customers really like your product or service, they’re more likely to recommend your business to other people. And asking for referrals is a great way to quickly generate new leads. Sometimes, all you need to do is ask your loyal customers to refer you. But if you’re planning to leverage referrals to consistently get leads, it’s worth looking into implementing a formal program.
A referral program with incentives can motivate your most loyal customers and biggest advocates to help you bring in new business. For example, you can offer them a percentage of the earnings from the new business they bring in, or a discount on your products or services, in exchange for successful referrals.
Referral marketing also helps you generate leads of a higher quality. According to SaaSquatch’s State of Referral Marketing report, referred customers:
- Are 18% more loyal to your business
- Spend 13.2% more on your products or services
- Have lifetime values 16% higher than non-referred customers
Depending on the industry you’re in, you’ll find variations in these numbers. But generally, referred customers do live up to these impressive figures.
Ambassador’s B2B Referral Marketing by the Numbers report also uncovered an interesting factor that contributes to your referral program’s success: time. Its research discovered that B2B companies who invested in referral programs—and played the long game—saw increasing returns over time:
So referrals don’t just help you generate leads quickly, they can also have the compounding effect of growing your revenue!
Ready to generate leads for your business?
Setting up a system to consistently generate leads for your business takes time, but you know what they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day (or even a week). So while you’ll need to spend a fair bit of time researching, getting your hands dirty, and learning from trial and error, the rewards are worth it.
We hope this article gave you some inspiration and perspective. Now, go and generate those leads. 🙌