When you start a new business, you can get pretty far on one initial burst of entrepreneurial energy. You have a great idea. You have the passion and knowledge to make it real. And you probably have a pretty good sense of where you can find your first few customers, whether they’re contacts from a past role or members of your community. (If you didn’t know where to find any customers, you probably wouldn’t be starting this business at all.)
With all that going for you, you can build up quite a bit of momentum. It’s easy to imagine your growth trending indefinitely upward. But as the climb gets steeper, you may find yourself slowing down. And it’s not because your business model is flawed, or you’re not good enough at what you do. It’s just that many of the new customers you imagined you’d find … are staying stubbornly imaginary. You know they’re out there somewhere. But short of stopping everything else you’re doing to track them down, how can you get them to come to you? When they reach this point, most entrepreneurs need to do something that sounds a little counterintuitive. They actually need to stop focusing on getting customers, and start focusing on getting leads. Without a reliable source of leads, your business growth is hard to predict. You’re never quite sure where your next customer is coming from; you’re grateful when they show up and at a loss when they don’t. When you build lead generation into your routine, things look different. Done well, lead generation sets up a steady stream of prospects that form a pool of leads from which, ultimately, your new customers will develop. Even if they’re not quite ready to buy yet, you know where you can find them and can reach out to nudge them toward a decision. In slower times, you can put your energy into fine-tuning processes rather than searching for customers here and there. Once you realize this, all you need are a few good lead generation ideas to get your business growing again. And in this post, we’re giving you 43 of them. Not all lead generation ideas work for every kind of business, but every idea in this post has worked for at least one business we’ve come across, whether in the LeadPages community or in the wider world. These are real-life lead generation ideas, and I’m willing to bet at least a handful will work for you. Once you’ve found a couple of good ideas to start with, you’ll want to build them into your overall marketing strategy so they keep generating leads for you over time. To help you do that, we’ve put together an additional resource: a video tutorial on how to improve your lead-gen efforts in 4 quick steps. Download it free below:
What follows are 43 lead generation ideas entrepreneurs are using to get results right now. Some are fairly new, some are surprisingly underused, and some are simply solidly effective. Which one will you try next? Tell us in the comments after you read the post.
The lead magnet. The opt-in bribe. The content upgrade. It has many names, but the basic idea is this: in exchange for someone’s email address, you send them a piece of incredibly useful content. Here are some options that make opting in feel like a more-than-fair trade. 1. The resource guide: Instead of giving leads just one useful resource, why not point them to a whole collection of good stuff? Create a simple PDF of your favorite tools for accomplishing a specific goal, then use it as a lead magnet. 2. The subscription-plus model: Want someone to subscribe to a newsletter? Offer them instant gratification by including a giveaway such as an e-book or other bonus when they sign up. 3. The “sliced bread” approach: LeadPages’ head of marketing automation, Chris Davis, coined this term after thinking about a very simple kind of marketing: grocery store samples, in which shoppers are given a taste of something (like a slice from a loaf of bread) to inspire them to buy the whole product. The first chapter of an e-book, a mini consultation, or, if you’re in software, a free limited-functionality app account could serve as your first slice of bread. 4. The launch preview: About to unveil something big and hope you’ll have an audience waiting? Try offering a free first look to people who join your launch-notifications list—maybe a video overview or a course syllabus. 5. The conference Cliffs Notes: Attending an industry conference or another big event that your audience might be interested in (but unable to attend)? Take detailed notes and create a document sharing what you’ve learned. Then, build a simple landing page to make it available for download and post a link in any industry groups or forums you’re a part of.
An attractive PDF lead magnet isn’t very hard to create these days, and it can be very effective. But when you’re ready to branch out, consider whether one of these other info formats could catch your audience’s eye. 6. The how-to webinar: According to a survey from Google, searches for “how to” content on YouTube have been growing by 70% year over year. That means huge numbers of people find video to be an ideal teacher of practical skills. If you have any DIY skills to teach that complement your business, capitalize on this by advertising a how-to webinar. 7. The Q&A webinar: If you have specialized knowledge people want, let them opt in to ask you for it. The Q&A webinar is one of the easiest types of webinars to prepare for, and one of the most rewarding for attendees. 8. Streaming to success, part 1: Host a Periscope or Meerkat stream and give out a short link to your landing page URL—or your LeadDigit opt-in number—on air so viewers can download a relevant resource.
9. Streaming to success, part 2: Cohost a webinar or Blab multi-presenter streaming session with someone else in your industry or whose skill sets complement yours; you and your partner each get exposure (and new leads) from each other’s audiences. 10. Podcasting plus: Many podcast listeners tune in from their smartphones on the go. Take advantage by encouraging listeners to text your LeadDigit to download something related to the podcast episode’s topic during your intro and outro. (This works whether you’re a podcast host or a guest on someone else’s show.) 11. The demo: Encourage site visitors to opt in to get a video demo of how to use your product. If you have an especially complex product, you could even invite people to sign up for a demo webinar. 12. YouTube lead-gen: Post a how-to video on YouTube on a frequently searched topic. Then, use YouTube’s in-video link options to direct viewers to a landing page where they can watch a longer tutorial or the next installments in a how-to series upon opt-in.
Expanding Your Audience
What do you do when you feel you’ve fully tapped the sources of leads around you? Try these ideas next. 13. The guest post plus: Write a guest post and link to a landing page and lead magnet made just for the post’s readers.
14. Leads on LinkedIn: Since LinkedIn is often where people go when they want to advance their careers, run an ad to a LinkedIn landing page offering a course to help improve a professional skill. 15. Targeted social ads: Send highly targeted Facebook ads running to equally specific landing pages. Take advantage of behavioral targeting features and lookalike audiences to put your ad in front of people who need what you do. 16. Prospecting on Pinterest: If you have a strong user base among Pinterest’s demographic, post promoted pins linking to a blog post that contains strong opt-in opportunities.
17. Takeover trade: If you spend much time on Twitter, you may have heard of “Twitter takeovers,” in which a celebrity user turns over the controls to another personality for a set amount of time. Why not try an “email takeover” trade with another entrepreneur or a partner? You can use a LeadLink to capture new leads from right inside the email.
Everyone into the Lead Pool
Not everyone your business has ever interacted with can be counted as a true lead. Maybe you’ve connected on social media but don’t have other contact details; maybe they’re in your address book but you have no idea whether they’re really interested in your services. The following strategies are designed to pull more of the people in your business’s orbit into your list of leads. 18. The signature link: You shouldn’t send marketing emails from your own email account, but you should make sure everyone you contact in the course of everyday business has the chance to learn more about what you offer. Include a link to a special landing page in your email signature and offer a simple lead magnet with broad appeal.
19. More event attendees, more leads: Do you ever hold live or online events? Even if registration doesn’t require an opt-in, you can capture leads by inviting registrants to opt in to get event reminders via text or email. (This works for webinars and live streams, too.) 20. Custom Facebook tab: Anyone who finds your business page on Facebook is likely to be a strong prospect. Give them the chance to opt in by publishing a landing page as a custom Facebook tab. 21. Deals upon deals: Daily deal sites like Groupon can potentially get you lots of new customers. To make sure they’ll be repeat customers, offer them an extra discount when they opt into your list during their visit. You can even set up a station with a tablet preloaded with their landing page to make it as easy as possible. 22. Social lead gen: Convert your social audience into email subscribers by posting LeadBox links directly into some of your Facebook and Twitter posts.
23. The referral bonus: Offer existing leads something extra if they share a link to your landing page with friends, through services like Pay with a Tweet or simply by having them submit a referral LeadBox (with their friend’s permission, of course).
Getting Leads by Getting Personal
If your business depends on making one-on-one contact with clients, offering the same online lead magnet to everyone might have limited results. These tactics play up your interpersonal strengths. 24. Custom work: Are there easy, scalable ways to customize your lead magnet to individual leads? Real estate firms that offer free home value estimates are one example of this strategy, but many other kinds of businesses could do well by offering a lightly customized info product aimed at a certain group of customers.
25. The group effort: Use a landing page to promote a personal or professional “challenge,” where you invite followers to join you in reaching a certain goal over the course of a couple of weeks or months. You can connect with the group via email or even through creating a private Facebook group. 26. The quiz: Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned quiz? Offer some form of quick assessment online, then ask visitors to opt in to get their results delivered by email.
Making the Old School New Again
Certain time-tested marketing techniques still have plenty of appeal—it’s just that they become a lot easier and a lot more trackable once you translate them into the digital age. Try these updates to get more from familiar promotions. 27. The first visit: Get more people who visit your site to follow through with an appointment by offering to email them a coupon when they book their first visit.
28. The free sample: Everyone loves a freebie. Let visitors opt in to receive a coupon or a discount code good for a small free sample of your product. 29. The contest: Ask visitors to enter your contest by opting into your list. You can even share your landing page on social media and allow leads to get additional entries if they share it, too.
Offline (but Not Analog) Lead Generation Ideas
By offline lead generation, I definitely don’t mean spending hours cold calling or door-knocking. These strategies easily integrate with your online marketing even when your prospects are nowhere near a computer. 30. The proto banner ad: Set up a LeadDigit opt-in number and place it on a highly visible sign at your business or a partner business. Offer a special perk to anyone who texts their email address to that number. 31. Onstage lead gen: If you’re presenting or performing in front of an audience, give out your LeadDigit onstage. You can even add it to your conference slide deck so attendees have plenty of time to opt in. 32. The business card: Do you frequently give out business cards to prospects? Help guide them toward the ideal destination by creating a landing page and printing the link on your cards.
Blog Posts, Landing Pages, and Websites
33. The power of press: If your business is featured in an online community publication, the piece is likely to include a link to your business site. Make that link a focused landing page geared toward the publication’s readership. This tactic can work well if you have a regular column, are being consulted as an expert, or are the subject of a piece. 34. The every-post approach: Got a blog? Make a habit of adding a LeadBox™ to every blog post that offers a relevant content upgrade. 35. Content with options: If you regularly publish a certain kind of content, let readers opt in to get that content in a different format. Think about offering a slide deck from a video post, a transcript from a podcast episode, or an audio version of a blog post. 36. Getting Medium reach: To get your blog posts in front of more eyes, republish them on Medium. Include a prominent link to a relevant landing page in the post. 37. The subtle subscription push: Think about the areas on your site where people are paying attention, but unlikely to be seeking a major call to action—perhaps in an opening paragraph, or at the top of your blog posts. Then, add a LeadBox™ subscription link to these areas.
38. Cornerstone content: What’s the one big thing you have to teach your audience? Turn it into an exceptionally valuable lead magnet and promote it in a prominent place across your website—maybe in the header bar or navigation menu. If writing and graphics aren’t really your thing, how about creating a browser extension? A mini app? A worksheet? An Excel spreadsheet with calculation formulas built in? 39. The early adopter strategy: If you have a “coming soon” landing page, get more people to sign up for notifications by offering an exclusive discount on the to-be-launched product or service. On the page below, Joanne Munro has tweaked this formula by entering subscribers into a random drawing for free access:
40. Syndication: Ever notice those “You May Also Like …” sections in sidebars and footers across the web? You can pay syndication networks such as Outbrain or Taboola to have your content show up there on a cost-per-click model. Try placing links to a long-form landing page or a blog post with a compelling opt-in opportunity.
Leaving No Lead Unturned
The options below will never be your number-one source of leads, and that’s okay. What they can do is get you a steady trickle of leads over time—which can really add up in the course of 6 months or a year. 41. The 404 page: Although you never really want people to go to a broken link, chances are, it’ll happen—even if it’s just because someone typed in the wrong URL. Make sure those misdirected visitors leave happy by adding an opt-in offer to your 404 page. 42. Breathing life into dead pages: Traffic doesn’t necessarily stop flowing to an event, giveaway, or promotion page as soon as you hit the expiration date and stop promoting it. Make sure latecomers still have a way to stay connected by updating those pages with a LeadBox™. You can use it to offer a “consolation prize” lead magnet, or simply provide the chance to get notified of future events and promotions. 43. The last-ditch effort: Ideally any page of your website will have a number of prominent opt-in points, but what if someone manages to miss them all? In that case, you can capture their attention and their opt-in with an exit LeadBox™ popup. This appears only when someone moves to leave your page (and can be set to appear only once in a certain period so as not to get in the way of regular visitors). Make your most irresistible offer here and you’re likely to see a measurable boost in your website’s conversion rate. Every marketer has their own favorite lead-generation tactics, and you probably won’t have the opportunity to try every single one of the above ideas. There are, however, 4 aspects of lead gen in particular that we at LeadPages have found effective for nearly every type of business. Download our 4-Step Lead Machine video tutorial to see them in action:
What are the best lead generation ideas you’ve discovered on your own or in the wild? Tell us in the comments.