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3 Battle-Tested Online Lead Generation for Startups That Work

Note: This post has been guest authored by Benjamin Shepardson, who is the founder of NoStop Writing Service. With an extensive career in digital marketing and web development, Ben’s knowledge of the industry has enabled small businesses to scale and grow through well-crafted content and strategy.

Every business needs an online marketing plan and a predictable strategy for generating leads. Otherwise, they’ll quickly dry up and cease to function. Even the most well-funded startup can find this challenging, though.

However, there are some wildly effective strategies for generating leads and creating buzz about your business that doesn’t require you to take out a second mortgage or auction off a kidney.

What Is Lead Generation?

Just to be sure we’re on the same page, let’s clarify what a lead is and isn’t for the purposes of this discussion.

A lead is not:

  • A list of friends and family members who might be interested in your business
  • A bulk list of contacts you’ve purchased from a data farm
  • Random strangers, you approach with your product or service

A lead is:

  • Anyone who has willingly given you their contact information to sign up for a newsletter, attend a webinar, download a guide, receive a quote, etc.
  • Someone who calls your business with the intent to learn more about what you offer
  • People you meet at a trade show or industry event who ask to be contacted later

Lead generation is the act of attracting potential customers to your business. Of course, the goal is to convert potential customers into paying customer who increases your bottom line, but you need a way to pique their interest first.

Fundamentally, lead generation involves getting a maximum number of high-quality, high-intent prospective customers who want or need what your business offers. Lead generation works together with your overall marketing strategy. However, your implementation may differ depending on how close to your sales process each strategy places a prospect.

3 Lead Generation Strategies That Work for Startups

1 – Viral Contests & Giveaways

When most people think of the term “viral” they think of something funny, shocking, or otherwise entertaining that grabs attention and makes people want to share it. While such content has its place, startups need a more direct approach to get leads into their pipeline. This is where viral contests and giveaways come in.

Everyone loves free stuff, and viral contest & giveaways are among the most cost-effective ways to generate buzz for your startup.

Here’s how they work.

  1. Decide on a product or service you can give away to one lucky person. Don’t skimp here. Make your best offering the prize.
  2. Create a simple page on your site where people can complete a form to enter the contest or sign up for the giveaway in exchange for their name, email address, and phone number.
  3. Run Facebook Ads to your contest or giveaway for 2-4 weeks as you collect a ton of leads. People who enter will naturally tell others because EVERYONE loves free stuff and loves to tell others about free stuff even more.
  4. After 2-4 weeks, randomly pick one winner from the list of leads you’ve acquired.
  5. Announce the winner via email and your business’s Facebook page so all the leads know who the winner is.
  6. In the same announcement, offer a 50% discount for the same product or service to everyone who didn’t win.
  7. Contact the winner to give them their prize and watch new customers roll in to take advantage of the 50% discount.

This strategy works like gangbusters, but don’t overuse it. Run this campaign seasonally around holidays and other notable days, and you’ll have a predictable and profitable way to generate leads online year-round.

2 – Discount Offers

This is similar to the viral contest/giveaway strategy. The only difference is that you don’t build up suspense with a 2-4 week waiting period. Instead, you send people straight to the discount. This works even better because it gets you to the money sooner and you’re assured that every lead has buying intent.

Here’s how you might structure such an offer.

  1. Decide on a product or service you’re willing to offer at a discount (ex: 50% off fence staining, $49 teeth whitening, etc.) that won’t cause you to break the bank or exhaust human resources to fulfill.
  2. Create a special page on your website where people can sign up for the discount in exchange for their name, email, and phone number and send visitors to it through Facebook Ads.
  3. Direct leads to a confirmation page once they’ve entered their information. That confirmation page should include an extra incentive for them to book the service or purchase the product right away (ex: Call/Buy now and get a free power washing, free x-rays, $40 worth of skin care products, etc.). The incentive should be something that provides immense value but that you can easily and inexpensively fulfill.
  4. Contact everyone who signs up for the discount offer and walk them through your onboarding process. Congratulations! You’ve just won a new customer!

3 – Free Trials

Free trials are another effective marketing strategy for startups. This works really well for SaaS startups. But free trials can also work if you’re offering another service or a subscription-based product.

Here’s how you might structure such a campaign.

  1. Determine how long you want to offer a free trial. A period of 7-14 days is ideal for low to mid-ticket SaaS products and subscription-based services. You may want to go as long as 30 days if you’re offering is a high ticket one. More than 30 days can cause people to lose interest and end up putting too much demand on your resources.
  2. Create a special page where people can sign up for the free trial and run Facebook Ads to it. Yep, we’re mentioning Facebook Ads again because they’re inexpensive and can be hugely profitable if run properly.
  3. Decide if you want to collect payment info for the free trial of just contact information. Depending on your market, one may convert better than the other. So, split-test here to see what works best. In most cases, though, people will be less willing to fork over their credit card info compared to just their name, email, and phone number.
  4. Create a drip email campaign that walks your leads through how to get the best out of their free trial. Include a soft sell in each email that invites them to pay for the full version of your product or service. At the end of the email campaign, go for the hard sell and even follow-up with a phone call to see if you can close them by phone.

Leads are the lifeblood of any business, and these battle-tested strategies will work for any startup. Test one or all of these online lead generation strategies and watch your bottom line increase even if you’re on shoestring budget.

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