You might have a great idea, an amazing product, and even sufficient funding!
But, even with all this, if you don’t have a way to get new leads consistently your startup will go bust.
Because the principle that governs startups is simple.
If you can’t sell you will starve, and without leads there’s no one to sell to!
Hence relevant, high-quality leads are the lifeblood of any startup and to succeed you need to make sure that 2-3 sources are working really well for you.
But here’s the part that most struggling startup founders don’t realize
With the right strategy and execution, leads will literally CRAWL into your system.
Read the following article to understand and implement the best lead generation strategies for startups that you can use to take your lead generation game to the next level and create proper channels for continuous lead generation.
First, What the heck is a lead generation strategy?
What is a Lead?
Potential customers who might want what you offer.
Lead generation strategy:
The method used to acquire leads, i.e. potential customers.
Depending on what your startup offers, your potential customers, and where they hang out will be different.
Hence the method, i.e. strategy that you need to use to get the attention of those leads can be wildly different.
For example, a clothing brand’s lead generation strategy will be centred around Instagram, Facebook, Google Ads, and its website.
It won’t make sense for them to optimize their LinkedIn page.
Because people on Linkedin are looking for jobs, not clothes!
The strategies that I’ll discuss in this article are wildly different. To find out if a strategy is right for you, just ask yourself.
Will this help me find relevant potential customers for MY startup?
Why generating leads is especially difficult for a startup?
❌ Nobody knows your brand
❌ You are competing with established brands
❌ No one is crazy about buying from you (yet)
❌ You don’t have sky-high budgets
According to a study made in 2017 by Hubspot,
The mean cost per lead across all industries is $198.44.Source
It is safe to assume that the cost has only increased over time.
Most startup founders don’t have that kind of money!
So how do you solve this problem?
There is one super-power that you have as a startup that the established players don’t…
Creativity and innovation
With the right approach, your obstacles can be a blessing in disguise because it forces you to think in ways that businesses with money simply won’t.
And this helps you get results that are ‘simply impossible’ according to the ‘surveys’ and ‘industry standards’.
Here are a few instances when we had to innovate because of limitations and that became our competitive edge;
WhatsApp/SMS marketing for idea validation:
We purchased a database of WhatsApp numbers from 13 relevant industries like real estate, digital marketing, and financial services and sent them WhatsApp and SMS blasts when TeleCRM was just an idea! To ask them
If we built this, would you pay for it? Why?
Handholding to first 30 customers:
Our pipeline management strategy was to give personal attention to every customer to make the most of our leads. This approach is not scalable for a SaaS business, but it helped us build a team culture where customer feedback drives our product improvement. As a result, we never end up with features that nobody wants
FB Ads on relevant purchased databases:
After that, we had an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), but to go from MVP to an actual finished product, we needed to get a lot of serious customers who’d pay to use TeleCRM and give us the right feedback.
And we needed them cheap! At the peak of Covid, we ran FB ads on the same database and we were getting 60 leads per day at ₹18 per lead! That campaign turned TeleCRM from an idea to a business
The name ‘TeleCRM’:
Today we are much bigger than just tele-calling. But the name helps us dominate the telecalling CRM market!
Early on we didn’t have the money to burn on free-running experimental ads, so we did things the hard way. Figured out how to improve organic SEO and link building.
Today we can afford it, but the marketing team would rather achieve growth with strategies that’ll get long-term compounding returns rather than just settling for short-term growth using lazy mindless ad campaigns.
These are just a few examples but the idea is to have a team and culture that’ll innovate and go after these hacks to use the limited resources and still get massive results!
9 Best Lead Generation Strategies for Startups:
In the following section, I have mentioned some of the best lead generation strategies for Startups. Go through all of them thoroughly and see which one suits your startup the most. Normally, it is best that you apply a combination of the following lead generation strategies.
Social Media Marketing:
Here’s the reason why this is at the top of the list – almost all your future customers use some form of social media.
But before you jump into Facebook or Instagram ads, let’s do 10 minutes of critical prep work to help you succeed easily without wasted effort!
Start with answering 3 key questions
1. Where is your audience?
What are you selling? Who is it for? Where do those people hang out?
Ex – B2B SaaS ➝ Linkedin, Fitness gear ➝ Insta, Branding course ➝ FB/Insta
2. What’s your pitch?
Shouting BUY FROM ME, BUY FROM ME doesn’t work! They don’t care about you! What’s important to them? How can you frame it in terms of that? So that they start caring, AND taking action!
For example, instead of “very soft high-tech mattress”, use “Your way to a fresh morning after a peaceful night’s sleep”
3. What’s the right format?
What if your ad image doesn’t make them stop and pay attention? Try video! Different formats! Copies! Till it works.
Set a benchmark:
What’s the standard conversion rate in your industry? How much do you need to break even? Set your ideal- a number, a percentage- whatever it is, to know what you want to achieve and to compare actual performance with the benchmark.
Draft your funnel:
It is not just about the ad, what is their next step? And the one after that? Design their entire journey from the first action to purchase and upsell, because ultimately, leads are only good if they convert.
For example, you run a startup offering financial services. You have drafted the action to be taken at each step of the sales funnel as:
- Awareness: Use engaging social media posts and targeted ads to introduce your brand.
- Interest: Provide valuable content like blogs, videos, and testimonials to educate and build trust.
- Desire: Offer personalized experiences and exclusive discounts to create a desire for your product.
- Conversion: Remove barriers and uncertainties with persuasive calls to action- make it easy for them to purchase.
Don’t get stuck in the perfection loop, create a basic draft and run the ad.
The goal right now is to learn!
Give it some time, and then start analyzing! Keep what’s working, identify what isn’t!
For example, you might notice that video content generates more engagement and conversions compared to static images, so now focus more on creating video content.
You can experiment with different posting times, captions, and hashtags to identify what resonates best with your audience.
Iterate and perfect:
Keep tweaking what’s not working till you hit your benchmark!
Run this whole loop on an experimental budget, but once you hit your benchmark, the next step is to scale!
This could involve expanding your presence on other platforms where your target audience is also active, making more posts and content that can be sponsored as an ad, spending more money on the previous Ads, etc.
Budget: Don’t start if you don’t have the budget to experiment! Because unless you are really lucky you won’t break even on day 1. And luck isn’t a strategy!
Time: The iterations will take time, if you don’t have it, either hire someone or pick a different strategy.
Consistency: One great ad isn’t going to make you a millionaire!
Keep iterating & learning, and use the law of compounding to turn social media into your rocket for growth!
For a successful campaign when you are starting out:
Use provocative images and thumbnails: If they keep scrolling your budget is wasted, use ad visuals that make them stop and pay attention.
Hire a copywriter: Ad copy is the difference between attention and action.
Master the CTA: ‘See more’ is useless, understand what they really want! Frame your CTA to give them that!
Follow-up quickly: You can get leads, but if you don’t engage them immediately, your competitors will! So the moment you get leads, send them a message, an email or anything to make the first touch base.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Why should you care about SEO?
SEO generates leads for FREE! So if you have a funnel to convert leads to deals, SEO is basically a way to print money!
Early on we didn’t have the money to burn on free-running experimental ads, so we did things the hard way. Figured out organic SEO and link building. Today we can afford it, but the marketing team would rather achieve growth with strategies that’ll get long-term compounding returns rather than just settling for short-term growth using lazy mindless ad campaigns.Rahul Agarwal, CMO, TeleCRM, (probably)
Pre-requisites: Only jump in if you have these:
In order to print money, first you need to create the money printing machine
Time: SEO will take time, if you want leads by next week go with ads!
Tech friendliness: SEO isn’t just about ‘great content’! You either need to learn or hire an expert for keyword research, on-page optimization, and link building.
Hate the tech stuff? Don’t try SEO! Go for social media instead!
Focus and Perseverance: You won’t just create a blog or landing page and start printing money, you will have to crack the know-how even just to start getting some traction.
It is a long-term game where you’ll have to consistently evaluate and upgrade your content.
What will people type on Google when they want your product or service?
Understand what your potential customers are searching for. Use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or SEMrush.
Let’s say your content ranks on top, what will they see if they click through?
Create relevant, high-quality content addressing these keywords and user needs.
Ensure titles, meta descriptions, URLs, and content are optimized for target keywords.
If it is a money-making keyword, you can’t rank without backlinks!
Try to get links from authoritative websites to your site to significantly boost your site’s authority and rankings.
Once you rank, and start getting traffic you need to optimize the page to make sure the traffic converts to leads, and you need to iterate on the content from time to time to keep your rankings!
You can’t keep creating pages and building links for every keyword that you want to rank, this is where advanced SEO strategies like topical authority, and organic backlinks can help you scale your traffic and leads count!
Focus on keywords that will get you business: Don’t fall into the trap of rankings and traffic numbers! Traffic that’ll never buy from you is useless!
SEO can’t be completely outsourced: Don’t rely purely on an agency, you need to have or build the know-how. Otherwise, you’ll never know what your agency is doing! Or if it is of any use!
Deliver value: You can’t just write for bots and get results! The ultimate goal of SEO is to serve the intent of the user! If your content gives them what they need, rankings will follow!
3. Google ads
As a startup, you need leads the day your product is ready to test. All other strategies take time to mature, and the quality of leads is questionable! Google ads though expensive, can bring you people who desperately need your product!
These are the right testers and users that your product needs, especially in the early stages…
How it works
First, you find the keywords that people who want your product would type into Google.
Then you pay Google to run ads and show your results on top of other ‘organic’ results.
Lastly, you use visibility to generate interest and get relevant leads…
How you can start with Google ads
Define your goal: Do you want traffic? Brand awareness? Visibility?
Do you want the ad to redirect to your landing page? Blog? Product page?
Choose your campaign type: Choose the ad based on your product, industry, and target audience (Search Ads, display, video ads on YouTube, or local business listing ads).
Set Your Geographic Location: Determine where you want your ads to be shown. This can be as broad as worldwide or as specific as a certain city or radius around a business location.
Define Your Budget: Decide how much you want to spend daily. Google will aim to spread your ads evenly within this budget.
What do you want people to do? You can choose the type of action that you want people to take on your ad! Call your business number, or visit your website where they can fill out a form to get a callback from you
Create Your Ads:
Headline: Craft a compelling headline. It is the first thing users will see.
Description: Provide additional information about your offering.
URL: Input the destination URL where you want the user to land after clicking your ad.
Use Google’s basic campaign creator to run ads, advanced campaigns can be tricky if you are just starting out!
For quicker results, you can use Google’s in-search form instead of spending time, effort, and resources on creating a landing page.
Go to Google Ads help to get a better picture of how Ads are run and what your bidding strategy should be.
4. Landing page optimization(LPO):
All these strategies get the right people to your website! But what after that? Unless your website persuades those people, they’ll just leave!
The result: Huge spend but very few lead leads!
LPO is the act of making your web pages persuasive so that people actually take the right action, for example submitting a lead form to get a call from your sales team!
It is one of the best lead generation strategies for startups because when you run ads on Google or Social media, you’ll most probably redirect them to your landing page.
Steps to take your landing pages from dud to stud
Define your conversion: Fill out a form, subscribe to your email list, like your page on Insta, whatever it is, and define what you want people to do on the page.
Define your offer clearly: Forget about taking action, people won’t understand your offer if first, you don’t!
Communicate the offer in clear, concise persuasive words!
Use persuasive action words (e.g., “Get Started,” “Download Now”). Ensure the CTA button is visible and stands out.
Make the pages look good: People DO judge a book by its cover and your product by your offer.
Use high-quality images: Get a designer if you can afford it! If not, use a template! Use free places like free pik to get high-quality images.
Take care of the basics: Have a simple form, result-centric call-to-action, fast-loading & mobile-friendly page.
Utilize Chatbots: Chatbots can engage visitors even when you sleep, to answer their queries in real-time, and guide them through the conversion process.
Continuously test, track, analyze, and iterate: Landing pages are never one and done! You’ll have to continuously work on them, at least till you achieve your conversion numbers!
Use Tools: If you are just starting with LPO, all this can seem like a lot of work, instead, you can use tools like Unbounce and OptinMonster where there are templates with all these optimizations built in!
Understand what makes your audience buy: customer testimonials, lead magnets, features- use AIDA (Attention, Interest, Dezire, Action) framework to target them,
or you can hire a copyrighter who’ll figure out what makes your audience tick.
Use Exit-Intent Popups: These can recapture users who are about to leave the page, offering them something of value in exchange for their information. For example, when prospects are about to leave your landing page, display a graphic asking them to book a demo or download a product information brochure.
5. Lead magnet:
Placing lead magnets on your landing page are sure short ways to get more leads. A lead magnet is a piece of valuable content or an irresistible offer that you provide for free in exchange for a prospect’s contact information.
It can be a free eBook, a report, a whitepaper, a webinar, or a discount coupon, depending on your business and audience.
It is a very direct and effective way to capture leads. Lead magnet is one of the best lead generation strategies for startups and their audience.
It is because they offer something of value to your audience in return for their contact information.
It is a win-win situation. Potential customers get value and you get a valuable lead!
Let’s see how you can utilize this high-effort but low-cost strategy to generate leads for your startup:
Identify your Audience’s Pain Points:
The first step is to understand what content your potential customers want.
For example, an ed-tech startup’s potential audience wants study notes, and that’s what you’ll have to provide.
The next step is to figure out what’s the best way to do it- blogs, e-books, or pdf.
For an ed-tech’s prospects, pdf is usually the best format, simply because that is what students want.
Create High-Quality Content:
You do not want your efforts to be wasted on content that doesn’t resonate with your audience. Whatever you’re offering, ensure that the content is of high quality and provides real value.
Because the offer might prompt prospects to give their contact information initially, but if the content is low-grade, you’re never getting a customer from that lead.
Make it Easy to Access:
Don’t make your audience jump through hoops to access your lead magnet. The process should be straightforward, involving a simple form that asks for just the necessary information.
Don’t go about asking for their home address, father’s name, graduation marks, etc. A simple phone and email should do the trick.
Promote Your Lead Magnet:
Use all the channels at your disposal – social media, email marketing, your website, and even paid advertising if budget permits – to promote your lead magnet.
The more visibility it gets, the more leads you are likely to capture.
Test and Optimize:
Experiment with different types of lead magnets, measure their effectiveness and refine your approach based on what works best.
Keep the lead magnet relevant: Ensure that your lead magnet is directly related to your product or service.
This way, you’ll attract leads that are genuinely interested in what you offer.
Don’t overcomplicate: While your lead magnet should provide value, it doesn’t need to be an exhaustive resource. Often, something simple, quick, and impactful can work wonders.
Follow up: Once someone has downloaded your lead magnet material, ask them for feedback, provide more valuable content, give advice if needed, and pitch them your product or service.
Now lead magnets are a win-win situation, but referrals are a win-win-win situation.
Your happy customer gets paid for telling about their experience of your product or service to someone they know might need the same product or service, and they get paid for it or receive a discount.
You get a valuable and credible lead.
And your new lead gets a credible source because they trust your customer and will likely be interested in making a purchase.
Because they were probably looking for it and will also get the product or service at a discounted price due to the referral.
Define your objective-
What do you want from referrals? New leads? Word-of-mouth marketing? Customer retention? Increasing customer engagement?
In this case, it is lead generation.
Design your offer:
What are you going to give to your customer (referrer) and new lead (referee)?
In the case of the referrer, if it’s a discount, decide the exact rate for one referral, and increase the discount rates for every additional referral given by the customer.
For example, for a SaaS startup, the discount rate for one referral is 10%, and for 5 referrals, it is 25%, and for 10 referrals, you get a free monthly subscription. (Use TeleCRM example)
Or if it is money you’re paying, decide the amount.
Do the same for the referee (new lead), except, don’t pay money to your new leads!
Give them a discount on their first conversion. Then ask them to refer as well!
Clearly outline the rules of your referral program. How does a customer make a referral? When is a referral considered successful?
How many referrals can a customer make? What are the terms for receiving and redeeming rewards?
Make clear guidelines to ensure your customers understand the process and their benefits.
Design How-to refer process:
Simplicity is key in the referral process. Design a process wherein customers are able to easily share a unique referral code or link through various channels, such as email, social media, or direct messaging.
Also, the person they refer should be able to use this code or link at sign-up, to automatically link the referral to their account.
Promote your referral program through every possible channel: emails, newsletters, blog posts, and social media.
If budget permits you can run ads on Google and on social media as well. Include clear calls to action and make sure it is easy for customers to find more information about the program.
Consider creating a dedicated page on your website with detailed information about the program.
Remember the landing page we discussed above, use them too!
First and foremost, build a great product or service: The first step in generating referrals is to provide a product or service that your customers love.
Happy customers are much more likely to refer their friends and family to your business.
Timing is Key: The best time to ask for a referral is right after delivering great value or service to your customer. It can be after solving their problem, closing the deal of a happy customer, etc.
They’re likely to be the most satisfied at this point and more inclined to make a referral.
Be Grateful: Always thank your customers for their referrals. This simple act of gratitude can go a long way in encouraging them to continue referring.
7. Partnership and collaboration:
Not all partnerships end in heartbreak, some generate leads too!
You can partner with the leading names in your industry or with other complementary businesses. This way, you can capitalize on their reach and generate leads because being industry leaders, they ought to have a certain level of trust and reach in the market.
Pick your partner: Like most partnerships, you need to ensure that there’s mutual interest and a fair offer.
Being a startup, you can associate with:
- Complementary Businesses: These are businesses that offer products or services that complement, but don’t compete with, your own.
- Influencers and Bloggers: A recommendation from a trusted influencer can drive significant traffic and leads to your business.
- Trade Associations and Industry Groups: These organizations often have a large member base and can provide opportunities to connect with potential customers at events, through advertising, or by contributing to their publications.
Evaluate Your Potential Partners: Ok, you’ve shortlisted your potential partners, now it is time to assess if they are suitable to be your partners based on the following parameters:
- Audience: Your ideal partner should be targeting the same audience as you. This doesn’t mean your audience demographics must match perfectly, but there should be significant overlap.
- Reputation: It is important to partner with businesses with a strong reputation. If you partner with a company that has a bad reputation, it could harm your business.
- Values: Ideally, your business partner should share your company’s values. This can help ensure a smooth partnership and increase the chances of successful joint efforts.
Establish a Win-Win Proposition: A successful partnership is one where all parties benefit. Make sure you’re offering value to your partner as well as getting value in return.
It could be in the form of giving money in exchange for promotion, co-creating services or products, guest blogging, joint webinars, events -whatever suits your needs.
8. Free trial:
If you don’t like free stuff, stop reading this article now and purchase a book on lead gen!
When you offer a free trial, you reduce the risk for potential customers, making them more likely to try out your offering.
Whether it is a product or a service, a free trial is a low-cost method of giving first-hand experience to your leads about your product, and if your product/service is good, you earn a customer.
Additionally, free trials provide an opportunity to gather data about the usage patterns, needs, and preferences of potential customers, which can be used to optimize your product or service and marketing efforts.
Optimize Your Signup Process: Make the signup process for your free trial as simple and straightforward as possible to increase conversion rates.
Provide Value: Ensure that the free trial provides enough value to users that they understand the benefits of your product or service and are motivated to pay for it.
Personalize Follow-Ups: Use the data gathered during the free trial to personalize follow-up communications and address specific needs or pain points of potential customers.
Time the Trial Correctly: The length of the free trial should be long enough for users to experience the value of your product or service but not so long that they don’t feel a sense of urgency to upgrade.
Promote Promote Promote!: You’re not generating leads but customers directly, through free trial. How are your potential customers going to know about your offering? Use all the channels available.
If you run a product-based startup, look for marketplaces where your target audience goes, display your product, and give a free trial. You can also organize interesting competitions and the winner gets your product as a gift.
Digital channels are the best medium to promote service-based free trials.
Use In-App Messages: Send timely and relevant messages to users during the free trial to guide them on how to get the most out of your product or service.
Segment Users: Not all free trial users are the same. Segment them based on their behaviour and needs, and tailor your communications accordingly.
Experiment with Trials: Test different types of trials (e.g., feature-limited, time-limited, usage-limited) to see what works best for your product or service and target audience.
9. Retargeting Campaigns
All the above strategies are going to get you traffic, but there is no guarantee that they will make a purchase.
And as a start-up, you’re already short on leads and you’d like every visit to your website to convert into a lead or a purchase.
Therefore, you need to make sure you grab them by their collars and not let them go until they give their information or make a purchase.
Or you can retarget the same leads again to convince them peacefully.
The choice is yours!
By retargeting, we mean running advertising campaigns for users who have previously interacted with your website, social media profiles, or digital ads.
These campaigns use cookie-based technology to serve ads to people who visited your site but didn’t convert into customers. The goal is to remind them of your products or services and encourage them to return and complete a purchase.
Segment Your Audience: Different visitors come to your website for different reasons. Segment your retargeting audience based on their actions on your site (e.g., viewed a product, added to cart, read a blog post) to serve them the most relevant ads.
Create Personalized Ads: Use the data you have about your audience to create ads that are personalized and relevant to them.
Limit Ad Frequency: While you want to stay top of mind, you don’t want to annoy potential customers by showing them your ads too frequently.
Set a frequency cap to limit the number of times each person sees your ad.
Use the Right Platforms: Use retargeting platforms that your target audience uses. This could be Google, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or others depending on your audience.
Ok now you know about the best lead generation strategies for your startup, what’s next?
79% of leads don’t ever convert to sales.
Once you have successfully generated leads for your start-up, the next crucial step is effective lead management.
It is not enough to simply generate leads; you need to have a proper system in place to organize, track, and prioritize your leads, because if you don’t, you know what happens, you’ve read the aforementioned statistic.
So, how how do you save your leads from going down the drain?
You’re a startup and you don’t want to lose any lead. How do you do that?
You use a CRM for startup like TeleCRM.
TeleCRM provides a centralized system to organize all your lead data.
So if you generate a lead from Facebook, or your landing page, or store it in an Excel sheet, you can manage all your lead data in the CRM and manage your leads from there.
And the best part is if you choose a customizable CRM for your small business or startup, you wouldn’t even have to change your sales process.
So if you are worried about having to adopt a new software, don’t worry, the customizable CRM will adapt to your needs and not the other way around.
In a customizable CRM like TeleCRM, you can:
Use your own sales process: Do you classify leads as Interested, Hot, Closed, Lost, Cold, or by any other parameter? Create custom lead statuses to design your own sales management process.
Connect with your leads: Call, message your leads on WhatsApp, and send SMS and Email, from the same place.
Schedule follow-up reminders: Get call reminders to never miss connecting with your leads.
Track leads: Nurture and prioritize your leads by tracking them in real time. You’ll know exactly where a lead is in the sales funnel.
Automate repetitive tasks: Your time is valuable. TeleCRM helps automate repetitive tasks like sending follow-up emails or scheduling calls, so you can focus more on strategy and less on admin work.
Customer segmentation: You can group your customers based on various factors like their purchasing behaviour, demographics, or interests.
This helps you to create targeted marketing campaigns for generating leads.
Create custom reports: Wondering what your most successful lead source is? How your sales team is performing? Wondering about your sales numbers? Or about any other metric?
TeleCRM is a complete sales team tracking app for startup, which allows you to create custom reports to get data on any parameter that you desire.
In this blog, you’ve learned about both paid and free lead generation strategies.
Identify what your budget is, what you can afford, what’s suitable for your startup or small business, and then select the right strategy or strategies.
It is optimum to not put all your fish in one basket, try diversifying- combine a high-cost strategy like Google ads with a low-cost strategy like free trials…
See what works best for you and then continuously scale your efforts with that strategy.
Also, don’t forget, lead generation is just the first part, you need to streamline your sales process so that these leads don’t slip by. Consider using a CRM.
Contact us directly or read our articles to choose the right CRM for your startup.