19 Lead Generation Ideas for Small Businesses

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Either you have a small business, or you’re tasked with generating leads for small business clients.

Some companies successfully amp-up their small business leads with a bigger budget. They outspend their competitors in terms of advertising and PR.

Other companies — typically younger players with smaller income streams — are more risk adverse. They go forth with tight purse strings and strive to create leads with low-cost or no-cost tactics. They aim to outsmart, rather than outspend, the competition. Marketers across the small business spectrum succeed this way all day, every day —especially on the digital battlefield.

In any case, with a big budget, a low budget, or even no budget, every small business must abide by a universal, simple and vital formula. The quicker you wrap your head around this, the faster you will make it work:

Traffic x Conversion Rate = Leads

Reread that. Say it out loud. Commit it to memory.

Now, let’s revisit some grade-school math terms. The numbers on the left-hand side of a multiplication equation are factors. Traffic and conversion rate are the factors in this case. The number that follows the equals sign on the right-hand side is the product.

Now, let’s remind ourselves of a fundamental reality of mathematics: the multiplication property of zero. It states:

The product of any number and zero is zero.

Apply it like so: ANY traffic number times ZERO conversion rate produces ZERO leads. A ZERO traffic number times ANY conversion rate produces ZERO leads.

So, while I encourage you to read our recent posts, including the guide about how to generate leads and the list of 21 Winning Lead Generation Strategies, stay tuned now for a helpful breakdown of ideas to help you drive traffic and conversions to improve online-lead generation for your small business.

Ideas to help you generate traffic

Small business lead generation begins by creating a presence in the path of would-be leads and giving them a reason to visit your website. Here’s a robust list of ideas to help you accomplish this.

1. Do basic local SEO

  • Claim your free Google My Business directory listing and optimize it.
  • Perform basic search engine optimization (SEO) across your website’s pages with descriptive title tags.
  • Optimize each page with a compelling meta description to inspire click-throughs from search engine results.
  • Claim local business listings on online business directories, such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, and other local directories.
  • Encourage customers to post reviews about your business. When asked, the majority of satisfied customers do oblige.

For example, when I did a search for ‘event catering,’ as shown above, a number of local companies that have claimed pages in the Google My Business directory appeared prominently in the results.

2. Publish a blog

  • A blog can feature articles, videos, podcasts, infographics, galleries, or any combination. The point is to create content that provides the answers to the questions customers search for.
  • Learn and apply the SEO techniques that will improve your search rankings.

Here’s a strong example of how a small business becomes the go-to resource for answers and insights in its niche.

3. Guest post on relevant websites

  • Offer your expertise, for free, to online publishers in the form of guest posts.
  • Where possible, include links in your articles to useful resources on your website.
  • Also apply this strategy to local print publications, remembering to include a mention of your website.

4. Get active on social media

  • Identify the social media channels your customers prefer.
  • Share content — be it homemade or curated — as often as possible on your profiles.
  • Promote your social media channels everywhere possible.
  • Interact with prospects in an informative and helpful manner.
  • Follow influential people in your industry and try to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Pura Vida Bracelets consistently populates the social media networks its customers prefer with a combination of beaches, beauty and bracelets, but it also tosses in the occasional special offer, as shown here.

5. Run paid search ads

  • Explore the many advertising options offered by Google Ads.
  • Refine your tactics to reduce pay-per-click costs and improve ROI.
  • Consider Microsoft advertising, which runs on Bing and Yahoo! Search.

6. Run social media ads

  • Facebook advertising is easy, often effective and offers a very low cost for entry. You can get started for $5 per day.
  • Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube all offer online advertising programs you can experiment with to generate leads.

7. Run native advertising

  • Your online advertising options expand beyond the top search and social channels with native advertising and include millions of publishers.
  • Learn how to run programmatic ads on discovery networks such as Taboola.

Check out how Flare Audio launched their revolutionary headphones with traffic from premium publisher sites.

  • Examine the potential of collaborating with publishers to create sponsored ads and content.

8. Build a referral network

  • Identify practical marketing projects (like co-hosted events, co-created content or social media partnerships) that justify reaching out to experts to make connections, build relationships and create content.
  • Consider projects based on interviews, case studies and various types of collaboration.
  • Invite respected authorities to guest blog on your website.
  • Rather than ask for reciprocation, simply support your supporters.

9. Run events

  • Host webinars.
  • Speak at conferences and local events.
  • Participate in expos and give attendees a reason to engage.
  • Use social media to create live streams and other types of events.

Here is some smart small business marketing by Visor: free tax webinars for prospects and customers.

10. Use email marketing

  • Traffic you generate with email marketing comes with a caveat: it’s bound for people that have already been there and opted-into your list (unless you built an email list offline). You can capitalize on email and generate traffic to your website by giving subscribers strong reasons to return.
  • Send newsletters and meaningful emails that inform recipients of helpful content you’ve published on your site.

AllTrails fills its funnel by offering a free version of its app and then, atop its newsletter, it sends special offers to encourage upgrading to the paid pro version.

11. Do more of what’s working

  • Setup a Google Analytics account and gather data from it regularly. Your goal is to identify who visits, where they came from, what pages they consume and how they behave.
  • Use this information to inform your promotional and content strategies.
  • Do more of what’s driving traffic and less of what isn’t. Of course, you’ll also want to factor-in what drives conversion… And so, we move on to part two.

Ideas that transform visitors to leads

A ton of traffic to your website means nothing if it doesn’t foster conversion. Your first challenge is to define what conversion means — subscribe, attend, try, buy or any other objective. Next, your challenge is to make it happen with compelling offers.

1. Offer deals

When a first-time visitor arrives at a landing page to shop for a product or a service, promoting a coupon or discount program is often the way to make a sale.

Here, Candyclub offers ‘sweet savings’ when you arrive on its e-commerce website.

2. Offer samples

In many cases, prospects arrive because they’re interested in trying or sampling your product or service.

  • A free trial is often the go-to approach for the Software as a Service (SaaS) business and other software-driven categories, such as games and apps.
  • Though you’ll need to give to get, you may want to ship samples of physical products to interested shoppers. The law of reciprocity suggests many will reward you with a purchase.

This home try-on program offered by Warby Parker plays a significant role in the success of this eyewear brand.

3. Offer advice

A proven tactic to build email lists — and industry authority — is to create and offer an educational lead magnet in exchange for an opt-in. Popular offers of this type include:

  • eBooks/guides
  • White papers
  • Research reports
  • Buying guides
  • Courses
  • Newsletters

Here, Brian Dean of Backlinko uses the lead magnet strategy to offer website visitors valuable how-to resources.

4. Offer personalized advice

While the standard content-based approaches listed above are strong general purpose offers, there are a variety of ways you can earn a higher conversion rate by personalizing the advice you’ll give via:

  • Free consultation
  • Online chat
  • Interactive tools, such as assessments and calculators
  • Demonstrations

5. Offer fun

Increase engagement on your website and excitement about your products with fun offers such as:

  • Contests
  • Giveaways
  • Quizzes

6. Offer proof

Prospects want confirmation first and foremost. Increase the credibility of your company with:

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Accolades
  • Trust badges
  • Media mentions
  • Use cases
  • Customer stories
  • Customer showcases
  • Portfolios and galleries

7. Offer one last thing

However hard you try to win a conversion on a page or via a form, your offer will often be ignored. Attempt to boost conversions with ‘one last try’ in the form of an exit intent pop-up.

Before you leave the Leesa Mattress site, for example, an attractive pop-up makes it worth your while to enter your email address.

One last — and important — idea

In the interest of improving conversion — with whatever offer you make — and whether you do so with landing pages and/or forms, I leave you with one last tip:

Reduce friction.

Here’s another mini math lesson to help make my point:

Desire – friction = Conversion rate

Look at your offer and the processes you put in place to enable a prospect to respond. Can you make it easier somehow? Maybe one less step? If there’s risk involved, can you reduce it? If there are fees involved, can you waive them? If objections could arise, can you overcome them?

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