A Startup's Guide to Lead Generation

By Shelley. January 16, 2020.

Topics: Startup Marketing

Lead generation today just may not be all that different than lead generation in previous years. You just need some tweaks to well-tested strategies and some reminders that some old strategies are no longer effective and should be replaced. To summarize in an oversimplified way, effective lead generating strategies involve inbound and content marketing with prudent use of email and some other outbound tactics.

Business man pointing the text Lead Generation

Now let's talk about current lead generating practice. As is almost always the case, start at the beginning. So let's start with defining lead generation.

Lead generation is identifying potential customers for your business. It is a way of creating positive feelings for your business among people who have indicated some level of interest in you and getting them on the path to eventually making a purchase.

The transition from stranger to customer happens most naturally when that stranger has kicked off a relationship with you by showing an interest in your business. Perhaps they've liked a post on one of your social media sites or commented on a blog post. 

Lead generating strategy is getting as many potential customers as possible in front of your startup. The best lead generation strategies differ for each business. To figure out what works for you, you have to know your own business and what you're really looking to accomplish.

Don't Buy Leads

There are those who claim you should just buy leads, it's easier and takes way less time and effort, albeit the costs are higher than organically generating leads. The best reason to not ever buy leads is that they don't know you.  Of course, in most jurisdictions, it is illegal to send email to purchased lists.  They likely opted-in somewhere while signing up for something, but they are very unlikely to have opted into receiving anything from your company. So what you send them is unwanted and therefore intrusive.

After receiving unwanted messages these purchased leads can go on to flag your messages as spam. This can be dangerous for you. This doesn't just filter out emails from you but indicates to the email provider which emails are being filtered out. After enough people flag your messages as spam you're put on a blacklist. This list is shared with other email providers. And it's quite hard to get off the list once you've landed there. 

Your email deliverability and IP reputations are likely to be harmed. Email deliverability is when your email successfully arrives in the intended person’s inbox. Deliverability suffers when instead of the inbox, your message goes to the spam folder. IP reputation is determined when software tracks types of messages sent from a particular IP address in the never-ending search for sources of spam.

So, we've established you're not going to buy leads.

What are you going to do to get those leads? There is a wide range of tactics, campaigns, and strategies to use in online lead generation, depending on the platform on which you intend to capture leads. There's a whole other discussion about what you do to capture leads once those possible leads are visiting your site, but first you have to get them there.

Learn and implement SEO

It is said something like 10% of search users go past the first page of results when seeking information. Learn search engine optimization (SEO) so your company can be on that first page, better yet it can be on or near the top of that first page. The most basic tenets of search engine visibility can be summarized in 3 ideas:

  • Provide good information.
  • Answer frequently asked questions.
  • Be certain your writing is clear and concise.

If you regularly produce quality content that answers questions prospects have, search engines will notice and give you credit for it by ranking your site higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). 

Include Live Chat

By being accessible in real-time you can encourage interest from new visitors, potential customers, and encourage repeat business from those who are already customers. Live chat functions allow anyone to reach out to you without having to pick up the phone or send an email. Questions can be asked and answered whenever they come to mind. Adding a Chat Now button to a business website goes a long way towards establishing relationships with new customers and leads.

Use Calls to Action

A CTA (call to action) button functions to send prospects to a specific page where they are presented with an offer of some sort. There are non-sales CTAs that provide the customer, or possible customer, with additional information on what it was they started out looking for. And there are CTAs that provide a free piece of content like an ebook or give prospects access to a webinar.

Be sure your copy is catchy enough to capture the potential lead's attention so they want to click. The CTA has to make sense based on actions taken by the potential customer in order to be effective in lead generation.

CTAs work when they send visitors to the landing page where they can receive a specific offer that matches where that visitor is in the funnel that leads to becoming a customer. Don't use CTAs to drive people to your homepage.

Even if the CTA is about your brand or product, and not an offer about a download, you should still send people to a targeted landing page that's relevant to what they're looking for. And always include an opt-in form.

Keep the Message Consistent and Deliver on Your Promise

The highest converting lead generation campaigns deliver on what they promise and create seamless transitions from ad copy and design to the deliverable itself. Present a consistent message throughout the process and provide value to anyone that engages.

Be Strategic with Social Media

Add links to the landing pages of high performing offers on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media posts. Tell readers you're sending them to a landing page to set their expectations.

Use social media to generate leads by running a contest. Contests are fun and engaging, and they can teach you about your audience.

Takeaways for Lead Generation Strategies

  • As soon as you determine your strategy or any part of it isn't working, move on and try something else. There are lots of choices to make and there's no reason to stay with something that doesn't work for your startup.
  • Old strategies can still work, but update them with a new twist.
  • Know you're going to have to spend some money, but successful lead generation tactics don't necessarily take a lot of budget.
  • Get creative.

Your lead generation actions should be as dynamic as the audience you're targeting. Remember: as trends change and behaviors shift, so should your lead generation marketing plans and strategies.

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Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.


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