Regardless of your business size, lead generation holds immense value. It is the foundation of your sales funnel and will directly affect final revenue. However, when it comes to engaging your audience, the size of your business matters. From your scope of operations to your budget and customer experience strategies, there are unique elements to consider. So, let us explore ten lead generation strategies for small businesses specifically.
What is Lead Generation?
But before we do, let’s briefly define lead generation – starting with defining a lead.
Hubspot® defines a lead as "any person who indicates interest in a company's product or service in some way, shape, or form". In turn, they define lead generation as the process of converting visitors into leads.
However, it is notable that lead generation is only the first step toward optimizing one’s sales funnel.
How Does it Differ from Lead Acquisition?
The second phase is lead acquisition, which, although often used interchangeably, is not synonymous with lead generation. Hubspot's article above explains this as well, as does ActiveProspect®, which splits the customer acquisition process into:
- Lead generation, the phase where traffic becomes raw leads
- Lead acquisition, the phase where raw leads become qualified for contact
- Lead conversion, the phase where qualified leads convert into customers
10 Lead Generation Strategies for Small Businesses
All that said, generation, acquisition, and conversion strategies will synergize and overlap somewhat. With this in mind, the following strategies will primarily focus on generation but also lay the foundations for better acquisition.
#1 Set up basic SEO
The very first step should be to set up some basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That’s because it will be the foundation of many lead generation strategies, for small businesses or otherwise.
In brief, SEO is a very expansive series of practices that optimizes websites and pages for search engines. It includes over 200 ranking factors and spans across on-page, off-page, and technical elements.
Now, for small businesses, you will likely not need to address every single factor at once. Especially if you’re taking a DIY approach, you may only need the basics to begin generating leads effectively. Among others, consider the following:
- Clean up your pages to reduce load times. Google finds that slower loading speeds directly correlate with bounce rates, so slow speeds will cost you leads.
- Optimize images. Compress your images to under 100kB to help ensure faster loading speeds. As you do, add descriptive alt text and file titles to convey your images’ message.
- Ensure your website’s technical health. Finally, examine and clean up your website’s code, and ensure your XML sitemap and robots.txt are in order.
Should you need help with technical SEO in particular, Backlinko ® offers an excellent guide to it.
#2 Take Care of Basic Local SEO
Another SEO subset that requires attention for lead generation strategies is local SEO. Where general SEO addresses general search engine visibility, local SEO specifically addresses local searches.
Local SEO primarily relies on Google® My Business (GMB) and can hold immense value for small businesses. For instance, 99Firms® finds that almost half of all searches include location and that most searchers look for local businesses. What's more, it's notably effective, as 78% of mobile local searches result in purchases.
To optimize for local SEO, you may start with the following:
- Create or claim your business GMB listing
- Create or claim business listings on other directories, such as Yelp ®
- Encourage customers to leave reviews
- Engage via GMB activity
- Use GMB to funnel traffic to your website
#3 Use CRM
With the above foundation in place, you may then consider using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software toward lead generation strategies. While smaller businesses may not typically use CRM as often, there are many reasons to do so.
Primarily, in our context, consider industry-specific lead acquisition and conversion challenges. The moving industry presents an excellent example of this, where the acquisition process requires impeccable content strategies. CRM offers a solution to this through lead management options and improved informational organization.
That said, each CRM solution differs significantly from the next, as regards industry focus and more. As you choose yours, consider the following:
- Industry focus. CRM solutions specialized to your industry will typically perform better than general-use ones.
- CRM focus. Similarly, CRM subsets include Operational, Analytical, and Collaborative, and each will serve different purposes.
- The features you need. Finally, carefully examine your candidates to ensure they have the exact features your lead generation strategies need. An overabundance of features will needlessly inflate the price, and will often make the solution less user-friendly.
#4 Start a blog
Past the foundations then, let us now delve into direct lead generation strategies. The first, and likely most accessible to smaller businesses, is starting a blog.
Doing so has immense benefits, such as:
- Boosting SEO. Starting with SEO, polished and informative blog content will help your website rank higher in search engine results pages. It will primarily do so by producing engagement signals, which your customer acquisition process also benefits from.
- Acquiring backlinks. Next, blog content may earn backlinks by others within your niche or area. This too boosts SEO, but it also produces referral traffic that is already interested in your offer.
- Matching the user search intent. Finally, matching the user search intent is paramount to SEO and lead generation on the whole. The vast majority of searches have informational intent, which information-rich blog content typically matches very well.
#5 Engage in Email Marketing
Next, you may consider email marketing. This practice can certainly be daunting, but both CRM and email marketing platforms offer automation options to make it easier.
The caveat with this practice is that warm emails typically work best for generated leads, in such ways as:
- Offering a newsletter to your subscribers
- Reaching out to nurtured leads with offers and promoting loyalty programs
- Regaining lapsed leads through personalized offers and content
However, you may also employ cold emails to generate leads. This digitized version of cold calls does hold value, as LiveAgent ® finds . You will simply need to avoid spammy behavior, humanize your copy, and make a clear, brief, enticing offer.
#6 Get Active on Social Media
Lead generation strategies can undoubtedly not exclude social media activity. With such massive, engaged user bases, social media offer an excellent way to gain exposure and generate leads.
Indeed, Statista ® finds that social media marketing’s primary benefits are, in order:
- Increased exposure (88%)
- Increased traffic (79%)
- Generated leads (69%)
Examples of ways to reap these benefits include, among others:
- Promoting informational content that funnels traffic to your website
- Engaging with audiences and responding to their questions to foster trust
- Holding competitions, giveaways, and other virtual events
#7 Run Events
On the subject of events, virtual or otherwise, few activities will get as much attention as events. Here, you may consider both types, depending on your scope of operations, budget, and content strategies.
- Host webinars. While arguably not complete substitutes for in-person events, webinars still hold massive potential. Research finds that they’re not just effective lead generation tools, but also generate high-quality leads.
- Create livestreams, Q&As, AMAs, etc. Similarly, creating such content does depend on your own strategies and resources. However, if you can produce such content, it will both help garner attention and deepen bonds with existing leads.
- Participate or organize local events. Finally, especially if your business is locally-focused, you can consider local events. Those remain among the best ways to raise brand awareness, and help foster trust with your local communities.
#8 Remember Paid Advertising
Returning to digital pursuits, paid marketing should also remain among your lead generation strategies. How heavily you lean into it will depend on your budget, but careful audience analysis and keyword research should still make it lucrative.
The two primary forms of paid advertising to note are:
- Paid search ads. First, Pay per Click (PPC) ads can complement your SEO efforts. That is, you may analyze which keywords you cannot organically rank for, and bid on the most affordable among them.
- Paid social media ds. Similarly, paid social media ads can complement your social media marketing. You may use audience analytics tools, both built-in like Facebook’s ® Audience Insights or third-party ones, to deliver personalized ads to valuable audience segments.
#9 Boost Your Inbound Marketing
Having touched on both inbound and outbound marketing, let us conclude by revisiting both. First, let’s start with inbound marketing, which concerns the majority of the above suggestions.
Inbound marketing refers to marketing that attracts leads through quality content instead of approaching them directly. A great example of it is SEO and content marketing, while cold calls and emails are ones of outbound marketing.
To boost your inbound marketing, then, you may consider the following:
- Refine your keywords. First, consult your audience insights and keyword research to refine your keywords of choice. All inbound marketing strategies hinge on proper keyword choices, so this step is essential.
- Bolster your content marketing. With those insights, you may begin to inform and enhance your content marketing. Consider the user search intent, and deliver your content around the customer journey. As you do, place links to your forms where appropriate to acquire leads from new visitors.
- Engage in link-building. Finally, consider offering guest content to other websites within your niche or area. This is a very affordable way to earn backlinks, which both produce engaged traffic and improve your SEO score.
#10 Don’t Neglect Outbound Marketing
Finally, while outbound marketing is indeed infamous for being intrusive, it too generates leads effectively. So, while you may prioritize inbound marketing, you should still not fully discard it.
Examples of outbound marketing include:
- Traditional marketing; billboards, TV, print, and radio ads, etc.
- Cold calls
- Cold emails and messages
These practices may seem ineffective, but they’re anything but. Neil Patel reports that cold emails still see great open rates and click-through rates. What’s more, citing LinkedIn ® , he notes that cold messages on LinkedIn are 3x as effective as cold emails are.
To conclude, lead generation strategies for small businesses come in digital and physical forms, inbound and outbound, local and broad. They all begin with solid SEO foundations and effective, functional websites but may then expand to events, social media marketing, and more, depending on your resources and budget. With the above strategies in mind, your small business is bound to generate valuable leads in no time.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.
About the Author
SEO Content Manager and Copywriter, Movers Development® – Jacob Daniels is an aspiring SEO content writer that is building his presence in the digital marketing world through testing his limits in writing articles related to SEO, PPC, marketing, software, moving industry news and trends, everyday life topics...basically, whatever he can find and twist to his mindset.