No matter what kind of business your startup is, and no matter what niche it is in, there’s one objective that is common for any startups: getting more customers. This is why lead generation—the process of getting more leads or potential customers— is very important for any startups, and whether a startup has a proper lead generation strategy can make or break the business.
No startups can grow without building awareness of new prospects and potential customers, and having a clear strategy of gaining these prospects is extremely important. There are countless lead generation strategies we can choose from, a lot of them have been around for hundreds of years. The thing is, not all of them would work for startups with smaller teams and limited capital.
With that being said, here is our guide to lead generation strategies that work for startups in 2020. However, let us begin by discussing why lead generation for startups can be a unique challenge.
Why Lead Generation for Startups is Difficult
While lead generation is arguably a challenge for any business, for startups it can be an especially difficult challenge due to several factors:
- Limited budget and resources: while it’s not for all startups, most startups simply don’t have enough money, the number of employees, time, and other resources. Lead generation, on the other hand, can be very resource-extensive. So, startups are often faced with the dilemma of spending their resources on lead generation or on other important aspects of the business like hiring new talents, leasing new space, and so on.
- Lack of reputation: it’s no secret that famous, well-renowned brands would have an easier time attracting prospects and customers. So, what if you are a brand new startup without any reputation whatsoever? Obviously it’s going to create a new challenge. Not only you have zero referrals and testimonials, but you are also entering the market to compete against these well-established brands and companies. Nobody is going to hold your hand.
- Trial and error: the brand new nature of your business might also mean you have zero clue to what strategy will work best for your specific situation. Lead generation strategies that work for you might not work for you. You might need to experiment with various tactics and you might need to gain more experience until you can see what methods work to attract prospects and what doesn’t.
Lead Generation Strategies for Startups
Based on the key challenges above, we have to understand that there are two core processes in a lead generation process:
- Attracting potential customers to your website or your platforms (social media profile, blog, etc. )
- Convincing this visitor to surrender their contact information (mainly email address), effectively converting this visitor into a lead or prospect
So, in developing our lead generation strategy, we have to also divide our strategies into two:
Attracting Visitors To Our Website/Platform
While there can be various ways to attract strangers to your website, here are the most effective ones while considering the limited capital and resources of startups.
- Content/SEO Marketing
In this age when content is truly king, it would only make sense that content marketing and SEO for startups is one of the most effective lead generation methods. However, content nowadays can come in various different types and across many different platforms, and, depending on your business and niche, different types of content might be more effective in generating leads.
The key here is properly understanding your audience: their behavior, their needs, their problems, and their content preferences. Your job is to deliver content in the best possible form(s) that can provide value and/or solve this audience’s pain points. Here are our options:
- Blog posts
Pretty obvious, and even with all the newer forms of media like YouTube videos and podcasts, blog posts, and textual content in general, are still very important and very effective in generating more prospects.
Having a consistent publication of blog posts (that is consistent both in quality and quantity), is very important in establishing credibility and trust. As mentioned above, one of the keys in successfully generating leads is building a reputation, and this is why having a great blog as a resource of information is very important.
Hosting free webinars are another great way to establish your thought expertise and credibility of a subject.
Again, the key here is to understand what your audience wants and/or needs. The better you can provide this value, the more effective you can generate leads through your webinars. Invest enough time in preparing your webinar content, and make sure to place your CTAs properly.
Also, you don’t really need to run a live webinar if you don’t have the manpower/equipment to do it. You can always have your webinar recorded, and you can also reuse previous live materials this way. For example, you can re-use webinars every 2 months or so and promoting it on different channels each time.
- Audio content
We all know how podcasts have risen as a very popular medium in recent years, and now 55% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast episode. Since 2017, podcast listeners have grown by 37.5%.
Again, the secret here is how you can use your podcast to build your audience and provide value to this audience, capturing them as leads in the process. We can also recycle successful podcast episodes into a deeper blog post and/or video content, and vice versa.
Another alternative is to record an audiobook version of your textual content (i.e. a blog post or an ebook), which can also be useful in the lead magnet stage. A popular practice nowadays is to record an audio version of your blog posts and make it available for free on the blog post itself. This allows your audience more options to consume your content, for example, to listen to your blog post during commuting or driving.
- Social Media Marketing
This one is pretty simple. Social media is where the people are nowadays, and there are a lot of places where you can find your target audience and turn them to prospects/leads. If you are a B2B startup, for example, you LinkedIn is a great place to capture B2B leads. For B2C startups, obviously, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even YouTube can be very effective.
We can generally divide our social media marketing efforts into two: paid and organic. Organic is when we build our own social media followers and push our social media posts. Paid, is when we use the paid options (i,e. Facebook/Instagram Ads, Linkedin Lead Gen ads, and so on).
The key here is to find the right balance between the two potential channels: organic social media is obviously more affordable if not totally free, but you’d need a significant amount of time before you can see the desired results. On the other hand, paid channels can guarantee fast results, but they can be very expensive if you are not careful.
Understand your target audience, and figure out the right balance in addressing your audience via social media. Remember that working with an influencer (influencer marketing) as a hybrid between paid and organic social media efforts can be very effective if you can find the right influencer to promote your brand.
- Email marketing
Even with all the newer channels and platforms, email marketing remains one of the most effective ways in reaching out to potential clients, getting them to visit your website/consume your content, and eventually converting them into leads.
Also, email marketing is effective not only in capturing leads, but also in nurturing them until they are ready to purchase.
Converting Visitors Into Leads
The second stage in lead generation is to convert your website/platform visitors into your leads. We can say that a stranger/visitor has converted into a lead after they’ve submitted their contact information (mainly email address) so we can follow-up with lead nurturing efforts.
So, how can we convince, for example, a reader of our blog post into a lead? We mainly do this through a process we call lead magnet: offering something valuable for free that is related to our brand/product/service and our content in exchange for their contact information.
A very common example is to offer an in-depth ebook related to the blog post the audience has consumed. If the reader has been enticed with the value of our content, they might be interested in this ebook and they might be willing to give their contact information.
There are various ways we can implement lead magnet, and depending on our niche/industry, some might be more effective than the others.
The key here is how you can ensure your audience to think that your offer is indeed valuable but is still related to your main objective: that they’d end up purchasing your product or service in the long run.
This can be really simple or really complex depending on how well you understand your target audience. Conduct your market research carefully, learn how your competitors are approaching their lead magnets, and devise a working strategy.
Also, depending on your product or service, offering free trials can be quite effective as lead magnets.
Be Creative In Your Lead Generation Efforts
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to lead generation, and ultimately your options are only limited by your creativity.
Here are some additional tips you can try:
Utilizing customer testimonials and/or success stories can be effective in convincing potential customers. Social proofs are very important nowadays in influencing interests and purchases: we tend to follow the actions of others because we assume their actions are correct. So, when people see other people’s success stories, they tend to be more interested in the product/service.
There are various ways you can try to soliciting more testimonials. You can, for example, offer incentives to existing customers if they leave a positive review or success story. You can also combine this approach with other strategies, for example, you can include testimonials on your landing page after your audience has clicked on a lead magnet.
- Offline events
Hosting and even attending offline events can be a great chance to meet potential clients in one place. This can also be a great chance to evaluate your competitors’ offers and lead generation approaches.
- Answer questions
We now have various social media platforms, as well as platforms like HARO or Quora where we can have two-way interactions with prospects and customers. Invest some time in answering your audience’s questions and engage in conversations that are related to your business field (even if the question is not directly related to your product/service).
This can be a great chance in building your brand credibility as the thought leader in your niche, and a great way to attract more leads.
Lead generation is a very challenging process for any startups, but at the same time is also very important if you want to achieve growth. However, although lead generation in startups can be difficult, it’s certainly not impossible and you can use various tips and strategies we have discussed above to create a comprehensive lead generation strategy for your startup business.