How To Generate Leads
Updated: Aug 9
16 Tactics to generate leads today:
Leveraging Your Contacts
It is one of the most sought-after skills in the 21st century: generating leads for a business.
If you are employed in sales or marketing you definitely have to know how it works and how to deliver on it. In fact, even 61% of marketers say lead generation is their main concern in their job.
The right way for lead generation is constantly evolving and new channels pop out seemingly every day.
While there are also many paid services giving you false expectations and often way too high promises, there are some time-tested “evergreen” tactics you can use to start your lead generation today.
In this article, we will show you some of the best and most efficient ways you can use to generate leads for your business today.
Here are our top 16 Tactics for generating leads as a business owner or salesperson.
1. Leveraging your Contacts
In a perfect world, you and your team have many personal contacts that can help you to establish first contact with prospects.
The best situation you can have is if you already know someone personally and they trust you.
Having friends from the target group you want to sell to is the ultimate way to grow any business and drive sales. But that is the perfect world, and not the world most of us live in.
Using your personal contacts is the best but probably also the rarest option.
The more specific your product is, the less likely it is that you or your team will personally know someone who would like to buy it.
It will be a rare instance to have someone in your inner circle who can really use the product you are selling right away.
Even with very common products everybody can use such as insurance, selling to your friends and family is often seen as a no-go. What if something goes wrong with the product? What if there will be complaints you can’t handle because they are unrealistic?
A long-lasting relationship can be destroyed quickly by a sale gone wrong. More than one salesperson has already lost friends because they tried to sell them something.
Therefore, think twice before ever thinking about selling to friends and family.
Nevertheless, if you have the chance to know someone within your network who could use the product, then give it a try.
If one of your former schoolmates is now a famous blogger, ask him what he thinks.
If someone you know from the local golf club has become the manager of a Fortune 500 firm, make him an offer to do business with you.
Just don’t try hard selling financial products at the Thanksgiving table.
Your personal network can still be a valid starting point for the first successes in business.
See also asking for referrals to make better use of this tactic.
2. Lead Magnets
Lead magnets have become a very popular marketing tool in recent years. It means that a business offers an incentive for the prospect in exchange for their contact data such as phone number or e-mail address. Getting access to this personal data allows sales reps to reach out to the prospect as a result.
To make it work, we have to provide something valuable as a fair exchange or trade-off for the prospect to take the risk of being contacted by our sales reps.
Here are some examples of lead magnets:
Free Report about X
The Best Ways to Do X
Such incentives can be the free download of a brochure, a guide, a report, or anything that could be of interest to our target customers.
With the right “bait” as an incentive that makes people curious to know more, this tactic can generate lots of high-quality leads very quickly and efficiently. The only catch is that we have to place a lead magnet where many people will see it. For example, if we have a website with lots of traffic, setting up a lead magnet can work wonders and bring a constant stream of new prospects into our business.
Ideally, the lead magnet is the entrance to our sales funnel. It can attract people into our sales process, and ideally also keep them there if our sales reps will do a good job from then on.
3. Generate Leads from Industry Registers
The next option to find leads is to look for industry registers or databases.
In every state, county, or city there are representatives of entrepreneurs and businesspeople. And in most cases, they will have a register with members of their trade.
Such lists can get you hundreds of local contacts for your business right on the spot.
But they will not always be available for free.
The internet has many such registers that often cover nationwide or worldwide lists of suppliers and manufacturers for all kinds of industries.
It depends if these are available by government agencies or can be accessed through private distributors.
Just be prepared that you might have to pay for accessing the information.
4. Communities or Groups
Another source for leads could be boards or memberships of certain business representatives, social media groups, and online forums.
You can access most of these for free.
Then there are also offline gatherings for certain groups of people of interest. These could be commonly known places like the local gold club or also entrepreneur networks such as the Business Network International (BNI). The BNI for example consists of members who actively promote each other's businesses and meet weekly in local groups.
If you join one of these communities, make sure you do not only ask for something but also provide some value to their community. Especially online selling first is a no-go.
Simply posting a sales or marketing message will be spotted immediately and will probably get you banned within a very short time.
Provide information, offer help, or just join them in monthly or weekly meetings if they have one near you. It might take time until people start to reciprocate, but it can pay off enormously in the long run.
The rewards could be highly-targeted leads over long periods.
People love to give their opinion about something. A cleverly prepared survey can identify whether or not the person might be part of our target audience by asking directly about interests, past purchasing behavior, or similar.
It is very important to make such a survey of interest to the customer.
A financial service business could for example ask about current trends and opinions on inflation. Or a car dealership could ask people how satisfied they are with their current vehicle or what their dream car looks like. Try to make it personal and evoke emotions with the questions being asked - this is the surest way to get people to participate.
The survey can take place either online on your website or social media, but can also be done traditionally in a shopping mall for example. Just pay some students 10$ an hour to fill out the forms for you.
Ideally, such a survey will be built in several steps to save time.
In the first part, we can ask questions that qualify the customer.
Those who are not in our target market can be left out. Thank them for their time and say goodbye. Those who match our criteria can be further qualified and asked more detailed questions.
In the end, we also have to get the prospect's contact data. If the conversation went smoothly, many people will tell you their names or e-mail addresses readily.
For those who are not willing to share contact data, we can offer to let them participate in a prize draw. Even skeptics will give their data if they can participate in the draw to win a new iPhone (make sure a picture of the phone is visibly included in the survey!)
Quizzes work in the same way as surveys. They can take place either online or offline and are ideally also based on an incentive.
For example, a US-based fashion brand could ask: “Guess how many fashion designers are still based in the US today?”
Or a local restaurant could ask things like “Guess how many ingredients we put into our signature dish?”.
By also offering a price such as a free meal at the restaurant or a voucher for our brand, we can increase participation and again have something to offer in exchange for the contact data of our prospects.
If we can’t offer a product directly, a new iPhone or voucher for a wellness trip for two over the weekend can also work wonders in getting new leads for your business.
7. Research to Generate Leads
Note: This tactic works much better in B2B markets.
It is very easy today to look around the Internet to see who could be the potential customers for a product. What it demands from you is having a clearly defined customer profile upfront to get started.
We have explained in detail how to do this in our article 9 Ways to get new customers today which you might want to check out as well.
If you can’t find local registers as we described in industry registers, look for wholesale sites where your target industry offers its goods. Unfortunately, many wholesalers or manufacturers have very bad online presence and are hard to find via search engines.
In such cases, it might be better to look for established places where those wholesalers could be listed. The best place to find them is often the marketplaces where these firms sell their products.
Think of reverse-engineering the process and follow the tracks of their customers.
Where do they advertise, and where are their products or services to be found? Finding out where their products are displayed often allows you to follow the track back to the manufacturer. This tactic can find help you find many potential B2B leads in one place there.
If you plan to sell to the Asian market our source in this area, Alibaba is the place to go where you can find hundreds of companies that would otherwise be almost impossible to find. The same goes for a search on eBay or Amazon where many suppliers are listed for all kinds of goods.
Follow the distribution channels and ultimately these will lead you to the suppliers and vendors of a specific market.
Look for those that you can help with your products or service and make a list of them yourself. A simple Excel sheet will be enough It might take you some time but it will be worth the effort.
If there are no such places for your type of customer, you can still browse the internet for solutions. Once I had to generate leads in the construction industry where we were targeting architects.
After a quick internet research, I found an online register that sorts architectural firms by their projects, their location, and size. With a few clicks, I had hundreds of architects that all exactly matched our target customer profile.
Finding this website was like mining Gold for our business!
But before I did the research, I had no idea such a service even existed.
Today there is a website for almost anything and a service provider for basically everything you can imagine. Dig through the search engine results and you will certainly find something helpful for your industry too sooner or later.
However, in a B2C market, this kind of research is more difficult or might not work at all.
8. Online congregations
If you have a clear customer profile to go after you can also find the places where this customer group congregates. Very often there are commonalities that you can use to identify and find your audience. Especially on the internet, there are interest groups, websites, boards, and communities for every topic imaginable.
For a B2C market, try asking questions to find your audience such as:
Are they reading the same magazines?
Are they in the same religious group?
Do they listen to the same music?
Are they facing similar challenges in life?
With the internet, people are congregating in all kinds of places.
There is a forum for every topic.
There are social media groups for every problem imaginable.
It might involve more paid marketing efforts to reach your group in B2C markets.
But still, if you follow the path where your customers spend their time online or offline you can find good places to generate your leads.
9. Trade Shows
Every industry has its big annual meetings.
Some industries even have more than one.
Those will take place at one central place in the country or even the continent, and in most industries, all the big names in the industry will be there.
Such trade fairs will usually be attended by sellers and suppliers as well as buyers interested in the topic or industry. Hence you can generate B2B as well as B2C leads out of these shows if you do it right.
If you are in the medical field, for example, there are many different trade shows every year in all regions where you can make hundreds of potential contacts. Such places are often crowded but you can easily collect business cards of many people you can sell to.
Calling these exact people afterward is easy because you can always use even the smallest conversation at the trade fair as an opener on the phone. People also readily hand out their business cards and thus their contact information at such events.
And if you had a nice conversation, the chances are good that they will even remember you, making it a potentially hot lead.
If you only have a small budget, it is enough to just be present in person, collect contacts, and have conversations with potential customers.
If you have a budget for marketing at these shows, you can even rent a booth at the trade fair, which makes it possible to position yourself as a viable company in that field right away.
Keep in mind, however, that this is an active tactic to generate leads.
Meaning it will not be enough to simply attend such a show and look around. During the days at a trade show, you have to hustle to make things happen.
Talk to people. Engage in conversations. Be present. Be visible. Search for common ground and things that will benefit both parties. Offer help and demonstrate your expertise.
Done right, one such show can give you enough leads to work with for months.
10. Joint Ventures
Another way to get new leads constantly is to partner with other businesspeople serving the same type of customer you want to sell to. The critical thing you have to get right is finding someone in the same market, but not in direct competition with your business.
If you sell luxury watches, what else could a person buying luxury watches be interested in?
Chances are high that they will drive a luxury car.
They probably read business magazines.
They will very probably love to eat at fancy restaurants.
They will buy their houses from high-end real estate agents.
Some will even own a boat.
Others could be members of the local Golf Club.
What you have here is a list of other potential customer touchpoints your exact customer group will interact with. The more of them you can use as an affiliate for your watches, the better.
Every one of them offers an opportunity for you to collaborate with those businesses that provide the mentioned services or products.
A joint venture done right is highly beneficial for both parties.
If you sell your luxury watches, you are also selling to someone else's potential customers.
The other business will get exposure to customers they might never have reached otherwise. And you will get exposure to their clients, which would never have heard of your luxury watches otherwise.
Both businesses actually can reap huge rewards by “sharing” customers with each other.
You can cross-promote each other’s product or just refer to your partner’s business and vice-versa. It could be a direct marketing campaign to each other's customers, or just giving away flyers of your partner with every purchase.
If the other business already has an existing customer list, you can also exchange your list with them and start marketing at each other's lists.
The options are endless and will always benefit both sides if this is done properly.
The most difficult thing is finding another business you can trust and where both really benefit from each other. Be aware that some may welcome the idea of sharing your customers with them but will hardly do anything to promote your business in return.
Thus talk clearly about what is expected to make this relationship work.
Set up rules on an “if I do this, you do that” basis.
There is no need for a lawyer and expensive contracts. As long as both sides collaborate willingly the system works. If your partner does not deliver, you will end the collaboration anyways.
You might need to try such cooperation with a few businesses until you find that one relationship that will bring you constantly new leads.
Nevertheless, please note that this tactic of generating leads is absolutely free!
11. Landing Pages
In the online marketing world landing pages are one of the most important ways to attract new customers and get leads to work with.
A landing page is a basic form of a website but reduced to only the most important material you will need to gather attention and get people to contact you.
What the most important material is, depends on what your product is and how you want to sell it.
Often a landing page consists of case studies or testimonials from already existing customers. It can be marked with bullet points highlighting the benefits your product provides or anything else that could make a person want to buy. Just as with quizzes, surveys, or other tactics our ultimate goal is to get the visitor to sign up and leave their contact data.
The difficult thing is that people who will visit the landing page probably have never heard of you before. Thus your arguments have to be solid to get people on your list with the first visit.
Landing pages are often used in combination with extensive online marketing, a decent budget, and sales funnels. They do not work as a standalone tactic and will require dedicated marketing efforts on your part to make them work.
But if you get enough traffic to your landing page, it can give you a constant stream of fresh leads coming into your business.
A typical downside of landing pages is that they will hardly acquire any traffic naturally - meaning you will have to pay for your traffic.
Forget about what other marketing “gurus” are telling you about a quick way to make a lot of money with landing pages - first and foremost you will have to pay for anybody visiting the site.
It is then up to you, the quality of your funnel, and your product to convert these visitors into paying customers or at least get them to sign up. Make sure you analyze the entire customer journey and know what actions make people buy your product.
We all know that hardly anyone re-visits a random site he or she once has seen on the Internet. To make this more efficient you can also install retargeting ads as they are often very cost-efficient and bring higher ROI than traditional marketing. Retargeting is an ad that gets only shown to people who already visited your site. They can help to get more people on the list who did not buy into your offering on the first visit.
You can target these ads only at people who abandoned your site with a full shopping cart, or similar target criteria that will make it likely they will come again and continue shopping.
Unfortunately, the costs for PPC advertising in search engines or on social media have gone up in the last few years, and so many once beautiful ways to make money with landing pages are now outdated.
As online marketing options are also changing constantly, it is also an ever-evolving science to keep track of your ROI and see what brings you money.
But for some offers landing pages are still a valuable option to generate leads and can be set up very quickly.
12. Free Trial
If your product can easily be tested and shared, such as software for example, you can offer people to try it for free. Especially if you provide something highly valuable and helpful for everyday use, this trial period can be a chance to get people used and ultimately hooked on your service.
This tactic works best when you really offer a product that improves performance or helps to automate certain tasks. The more people can't go back to their old life “before” using what you have to offer, the more will such a free trial will help you to generate really hot leads for your sales team.
If you have a physical product, consider offering a small package to test it or a product sample that people can look at and feel. But in this case, make sure you also have a system in place to get people’s contact information if they take your sample and try it. This tactic in the offline world works also really well when combined with quizzes.
12. Asking For Referrals
What is the next best thing to having friends you can do business with?
It's having the friend of a friend to do business with.
If your personal network is not wide enough to find someone interested in your product, look who you can ask for a referral.
If you have no real idea where to start, just call 20-30 people who you trust and who trust you in return, and ask them if they know anybody you could talk to.
Do not sell to them, and do not try to make them pay for something. Just ask for their help as a friend.
Be honest and upfront about your business venture and that you are looking for people you can offer services to. Don't try to sell your friends on anything, just ask for their referral in case they might know someone.
You will be surprised with whom some of your friends may have contact and how willingly most people hand over their private business contacts if you just ask them. The problem is most people do not dare to ask in order not to appear needy or afraid of being annoying. Yet many people in your circle might be happy to help, and those who are not willing to give you their contacts will not do so anyway.
So there is nothing to lose if you just ask.
In the worst case, you had a nice conversation over the phone and can change the topic if they react negatively. But I can almost guarantee you that if you call 30 of your friends there will be at least one viable contact in a high position that can help you with what you offer.
It might be someone's brother, high school buddy, or sports colleague.
And that one big customer might already make a difference in your sales efforts.
Oh, and by the way: asking people for help is free.
14. Buy A List
There are dozens of list brokers all over the world. Such lists can be specialized to all kinds of industries, interests of the people on the list, past buying behavior, and much more details.
If you are willing to pay for it, this is one of the fastest ways to get lots of leads.
You can also choose where the people should be located, their age, their gender, etc.
There are almost as many details as with online advertisements. Of course, also the format can be chosen like phone numbers, email lists, postal addresses, or other ways to contact the leads.
The quality of the list will largely determine the outcome and can make or break your success. Make sure to check for quality before buying any list!
Ideally, you might want to look for references from the broker who sells it.
Some lists are also sold and re-sold over and over again, which of course will show weaker results in this case than a list that is brand new. Other lists might be just some random leads generated over the internet and despite great promises have no real interest in hearing from anyone.
Prices can vary vastly for those lists. The price can be used as a factor to determine the quality but does not necessarily have to be an indicator. Here it gets tricky. Be aware of everything that sounds too good to be true. In 99% of the cases, it isn't. Lists can work greatly, but if they do it will also come with a price.
Ultimately the tactic of buying a list will cost you an upfront investment, but with a good offer and good ad copy, you should get a lot more money in return. Before purchasing any lists, first have a solid marketing tactic in place that will also help you convert those leads into customers.
If you do not have experience with direct mail ads, look for a professional to help you with ad copy and designing the offer you are about to send. The written copy will be the most effective tool to help you make money with lists. Be certain that you know what to do before buying a list!
15. Create a List by Yourself
The value of your business will be largely determined by the list of customers you have.
The cheapest and most efficient way, but also the way that will require the most effort and patience on your part is to build a list yourself. It requires that you already are in business, and have customers coming to your door or an efficient sales process to bring new customers into the business on an ongoing basis. By gathering their data, you will be creating an asset over the long term you can reach out to again and again.
If you are just starting at zero with your business and have no sales so far, this tactic might not work immediately. You will need other channels to sell to customers first. Keep in mind that building a viable list can take years. Once you are in business you should always collect as much information about your customers and even potential customers as you can - email addresses, phone numbers, age, etc.
As soon as you have hit a critical mass, the list can be a large asset for your business which you can use over and over again to launch new products and make upsells or cross-selling. Persistence is key here, do not expect any fast results, and plan sufficient time for building the list.
Building a list from scratch will take time and effort, but comes with hardly any costs. The payoff can be enormous if you stick to building a list with discipline.
16. Web Scraping
For those people who are more “techy”, this will probably be one of the best options.
Services like import.io or kimono labs offer services that scan the whole data on the internet like social media, search engines, registers, and many more sources. Such programs then gather all the specific data about people and businesses in a nice spreadsheet.
You can thereby collect hundreds of Email addresses, phone numbers, or other targeting criteria in just a few clicks.
The mentioned solutions are available for people who don't know how to code, as they already offer solutions to create lists of potential leads without any technical knowledge.
Of course, this also demands a little investment upfront for the software, but it can result in massive lists of leads within hours for your business to work with.
However, these lists will mostly result in more common data and might not bring exactly the ideal leads you were looking for.
If you are more tech-savvy you of course can also start to program a web scraper for yourself, with better adjustments to the specific want to have or need in your business.
Larger companies should easily get this done with their IT departments if they have just one or two good programmers on board.
Or if you happen to have one of the rare occasions whereby you have one of the programmers in your team having not many important things to do at the moment, he or she certainly can help you to build such software as well.