Big-time lead generation for small businesses: 11 practical tactics (with free tools)
Roses and thorns alike cover the path of a small-business owner. On the one hand, managing a small business with a loyal team, a product you love, and a prospect of success is rewarding. On the other hand, you don’t have excessive resources for marketing and have to perform several roles at once. Your business’s budget may be tight, and the expertise on the market is not known well enough to drive customers to you.
Good news — you can still generate leads for your small business using the tactics below.
How to generate leads for small businesses efficiently
As a small-business manager, you probably have a lot on your plate already. So when tackling lead generation, don’t rush. Weigh out available tactics, check what works best for you already, and put together a mix that has the potential to bring the best results without overwhelming your team.
First, make sure you have tried-and-true multifunctional solutions in place. These will work for SEO, consumer engagement, and organic traffic in the long run.
Here are the 4 pillars of online lead generation for small businesses:
In the Digital Age, having a website is inseparable from running a business. Long story short, to do online lead generation, you need a website. So if you still don’t have one, now is the time to create it; all subsequent pillars will collapse without it.
A blog is your multi-tool for website and business promotion. This is where you will anchor the content telling customers about your product or service. It is also an umbilical cord between your business and Google Search.
3. YouTube channel
Video content is your best shop window and investment in the future. The second-largest search engine and the second-ranked site in the world by visits, YouTube helps billions of people find solutions to their everyday challenges. (If video production overwhelms you, consider doing Shorts with your phone.)
4. Problem-solving interactive tool
Does your business have a particular “entry point”? Can you create a free trial option, consult, give an assessment, or make an interactive calculator to lure in potential customers? If so, try to do it.
Once all 4 pillars are in place, add some tactics based on the specifics of your particular business. Stick to them for several months, track the metrics, and analyze them with tools for small business data analytics.
You can’t know if a prospect placed an order due to your marketing efforts when there’s no tracking system. If you want to keep track of new clients, find and implement a good tracking tool.
When choosing tactics, keep your target audience in mind. Where are your potential customers? Are you a local business, or do you work globally? Is word of mouth important for your business? How long is your industry’s sales cycle? All these things should impact your tactical choices.
For instance, if you're pondering how to get leads for bookkeeping businesses, you might emphasize local digital advertising and targeted social media campaigns, given that businesses often seek bookkeepers who understand their regional financial nuances.
The lead-generation tactics for small businesses can work in different directions. Depending on the primary tools and channels, you can break them down into direct marketing, outbound marketing, and content marketing.
Direct marketing tactics for small-business lead generation
The main goal of lead generation is to capture potential customers’ information whenever they visit your page. This means either getting their emails, using pixels, or — most often — both.
Here’s how to use their information later in lead generation.
Solidify email marketing
Email marketing is arguably the most efficient tactic in direct marketing and lead generation. Working with your subscriber database allows you to stay on their radar, grow your brand awareness, drive followers to company social profiles, and have them share your products within their circles.
Make sure to set up and follow an email campaign calendar that includes:
Your company’s new launches
Online and offline events
Regular business updates
Personalize customer follow-up
And we are not referencing the “Hello %username%” automation here. Today customers expect personalization based on their purchases, tastes, or intents. To go the extra mile, consider setting up personalized follow-ups for your qualified leads.
Send customers coupons for their friends and business partners
Oldies but goldies, coupons still don’t miss. You can distribute digital versions via email or make physical ones.
Add a couple of printed coupons to the product package so buyers can give them to their friends or colleagues. It’s a great way to build up advocacy and word of mouth.
Put a QR code on your product
QR codes are a great way to take people immediately where you want them to be. Besides, you can make them trackable for deeper insight into your customers’ behavior. Both these features are irreplaceable for building fast, free lead generation.
We sell premium linen furniture covers. We’ve decided to add a QR code to the product tag label that would lead straight to the product e-commerce page. QR channel does not bring as many leads as other channels. But it is still a good, stable flow of traffic to add to the mix. What’s important, we can segment these users and send them special messaging, as we know for sure they’ve put their hands on the product already.
QR drastically shortens the customer journey: “I see it — I feel it — I like it — I buy it.” It gets your leads right when they interact with your product so that you can use this opportunity window to convert.
You also save time for potential customers and spare them the hassle of Googling your brand name and looking for the right website in the search results.
Outbound marketing tactics
You don’t need a big sales team or a call center of 20-plus people to drive outbound leads. Even small businesses can do well with their outbound lead generation strategy. Be rational, test things out, and find what works for you.
Be smart with targeted ads
Remember how you used a tracking pixel on your website visitor? Now you can set up a targeted Google Ads campaign to reach this exact person. Moreover, you can send out different messages depending on the actions they’ve performed or pages they’ve visited on your site.
If someone was on your price page, for example, show them banners with new bundles or discounts. If someone abandoned the cart, remind them about their chosen items being on sale, and so on.
Come up with the relevant scenarios for your business, and then work with a paid-ads professional to set up the retargeting mechanics and bring leads back to your site. A precisely targeted campaign will save you a lot of money compared to just throwing cash at expensive keywords with high competition.
Outsource your lead generation
Are you short-staffed? Or maybe you simply don’t require a dedicated sales team. Either scenario is perfectly normal. In today’s workforce situation, it’s easier than ever to outsource any of your business processes, including lead generation.
Consider if it makes sense for you to pay someone to bring in the leads. It will depend on your product, median sale price, and lifetime customer value.
The top lead-generating companies are not cheap, but they deliver impressive results with almost no effort on your part. Sit down and do some math: If taking the lead hunt off your plate would let you focus on closing more sales or providing better services, give it a try.
Pro tip: When choosing a lead generation service vendor, pay attention to their track record in your industry and reviews from other companies.
Content marketing tactics
Check the content tactics below and consider what will apply best to your audience and your business. Don’t worry if some methods overlap. All it means is that your tools will work synergistically.
Build a strong personal brand
In the case of a small business, putting a face to your brand is expected and beneficial. People like to buy from people. You likely know most successful companies by the owner’s face, their name (VaynerMedia), or their mascot or ambassadors.
Content is the easiest way to put your face to the brand without putting it on a package. Here’s where you can appear:
Feature your photo on the website’s “About Us” page.
Do the product introductions on-site.
Record YouTube videos that feature yourself.
Place your face next to the expert articles in your company blog.
Use your portrait on the brand avatars on social media.
Here’s how the SEO guru Neil Patel does it on YouTube:
And on his website:
Neil Patel has built a multimillion-dollar consulting business under his personal brand
Tying a personal brand to your business will help you raise brand recognition and close more sales when appearing in person in decisive moments.
Engage in thematic online communities
Giving value is the best way for content marketing to get through to people, and the best places to do it are communities and groups. First, think of your ideal customers, then find where you can reach them in high concentration.
If you are selling baby products, parenting groups would be the right place to go. If your business is interior design, then restaurant- and hotel-owner groups may be a lucrative ground to explore.
A few rules for community interaction:
Make sure your social media manager spends 30 minutes daily monitoring communities to track the insights and interaction opportunities.
To avoid backlash, never push the sales.
Wait and observe, then when someone asks a question your brand has an expert answer to, make it your star moment.
Here’s how a toy brand addressed the parents’ pain points and scooped dozens of shares in the parenting communities:
Easy Busy Boards won parent communities with a science-backed answer to their concerns
User-generated content and reviews
According to Google,2 out of 3 customers say that positive reviews are crucial when deciding on a purchase. So putting positive reviews on reputable boards should be on top of your list, as it has the potential to turn 66% of your prospective customers into leads.
To encourage more reviews, you can do the following:
Ask your customers directly at the moment of purchase.
Ask them in the marketing materials.
Make it easy by sending a short link to the review page in an email or push notification.
Incentivize leaving a review by giving a freebie or a coupon for the next visit.
If you are not sure whether you have the resources to cover various review boards, just focus on your Google Business Profile. Make the most of two-way communication here, as people expect to see your reactions to customer feedback. Apologize or politely object to low ratings, give thanks for positive reviews, and encourage users to share photos from their visits.
Total Wine & More finds ways to mention their brand’s benefits in personalized replies to reviews
Aside from reviews and photos, a complete Google Business Profile must have:
Service description (extra points if you upload a video of your service)
Up-to-date opening hours
Accurate address, with extra directions if you’re hard to find
Business details (child-friendliness, etc.)
A well-optimized Google Business Profile immediately establishes trust and builds rapport. It is where people look for updated contact information and decide whether to visit your site. Keep it neat, and show your business’s best side.
Gamify your customers’ experience with challenge funnels
Challenge funnels are a fun new type of lead generation. They incentivize customer engagement with your product or service. It’s a play on human nature — because we all have the instinct to win and love ticking the boxes.
Some examples of challenge funnel:
Using an application for several days in a row
Unlocking all features of the product
Taking a free online learning course
Attending a series of workshops or lectures
SEO for the Rest of Us promises to teach you practical SEO skills in only 30 days
Note: Whatever tactics you choose, we'd recommend compiling a lead list from scratch rather than searching where to buy leads. The ready-made lists can be irrelevant and outdated, which can result in killing your sender reputation.
Small-business lead generation examples
Cold emails with coupons to raise awareness and generate leads
B2B catering company Café Zupas never considered cold emailing a beneficial way of lead generation among their ideal clientele. When challenged to bring in new leads for them, our team at Belkins implemented this tactic. It successfully brought in over 60 new orders, gaining a hefty increase in brand awareness along the way.
Conversation marketing paired with free solutions
Cenareo, a digital signature solution, had to win new audiences amid the pandemic as most corporations shifted their businesses to work-from-home mode. The team used Conversation Ads on LinkedIn, where each message had 2 calls to action. Between a case study with a solution guide and a product demo, all prospects could get the information they needed, regardless of where they were in the buyer’s journey.
All types of web forms to catch more leads
With the help of contact forms, business service provider SuperOffice has generated over 135,000 leads on their website since 2012 — pretty impressive considering that this type of lead generation is free. We love their creative approach. Aside from the classic webinar sign-ups and gated content, they’ve used forms for customer feedback and forms with suggestions on customer service improvements.
Best tools for small-business lead generation
To save your time on search, we've compiled a list of tried-and-true B2B lead generation software solutions. Here's a bit more to add to that list.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can help you organize and track potential customers, streamline communication, and improve your overall sales and marketing efforts. There are a number of affordable CRM solutions available that offer solutions tailored to your needs. When choosing a CRM system, it is important to consider your specific requirements and budget.
This tool is better than a crystal ball for decoding your customers’ behavior on-site. Hotjar’s site recordings help you see where people spend time, what they tap on, and where they lose interest. With this priceless information, you can tweak your selling pages for the best usability, eliminate the bottlenecks, and increase conversion rates.
I’ve analyzed my “7 ways to…” blog post with the Hotjar and saw that people were dropping off on point #3. I’ve changed the picture on it and swapped parts #3 and #7, and what do you think? Now most readers read the whole post through, and they’re more likely to go to other pages and visit the “shop” section!
Hostinger's website builder provides a straightforward way to establish an online presence. Designed with small businesses in mind, it simplifies the process with user-friendly tools and adaptable templates. Even if you're not tech-savvy, you can easily craft a website that reflects your brand's uniqueness. It's a practical solution for those looking to step into the digital realm
A chatbot tool that lets your visitors send you a custom message from any point of their journey on your website. It is perfect for businesses specializing in custom services and products. Tidio makes sending inquiries easier than ever. Save your leads the hassle of writing an email and let them message you via the bottom corner form instead.
Hootsuite or Buffer
Both help schedule all your social messaging for different platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest) from one convenient dashboard. You can adapt content and calls to action to various channels and see the big picture, ultimately optimizing your social media efficiency. Save you or your social media manager tons of valuable time that can be spent on customer interaction and tracking communities.
One of the oldest email marketing tools, Mailchimp is user-friendly and convenient. Freemium has enough features to test all its possibilities without shelling out dollars for things you aren’t yet sure you need. Mailchimp offers customer segmentation, A/B testing, automated nurturing sequences, and detailed analytics. It is perfect for new email marketers as well as a favorite of more experienced folks.
Charge for Outlook
Taking a different approach, Charge for Outlook is an innovative extension that supercharges your bulk email outreach directly from your Outlook or Exchange account. Rather than a separate platform, it integrates seamlessly into your existing email environment, thereby reducing the learning curve. It excels in offering customizable variables and effortless management of large recipient lists, thus optimizing your outreach campaigns. Ideal for those regularly involved in cold outreach, Charge for Outlook delivers effectiveness and efficiency without complicating your workflow.
Adobe QR code generator
Adobe QR code generator is a powerful lead-generating tool that allows small businesses to create dynamic QR codes that attract customers and collect valuable contact information. By incorporating QR codes into marketing materials such as posters, brochures, and business cards, small businesses can easily drive traffic to their websites or landing pages, which can help them grow their customer base and increase sales prospects.
Though your small business doesn’t have the budget and resources of a big corporation, you have other ways to level the playing field. One huge advantage is that you are likely closer to your potential customers and can more easily craft insightful, efficient messaging. So the key then is to get it to your audience via the relevant channels.
While this article primarily focuses on general strategies for small businesses, certain industries have their unique nuances. For instance, generating leads for financial advisors entails building trust, demonstrating financial expertise, and aligning with clients' financial goals. Given these specifics, you can identify the channels that resonate most with your audience's needs.
With the tactics from this post, you can create the perfect mix of lead generation sources for your bulletproof selling propositions and fill your sales pipeline.
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Head of Account Management at Belkins
Yuriy has been working in the B2B sales sector for more than a decade. His approach is the integration of scientific methods combined with thinking out of the box, allowing to achieve the highest results in any industry.
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