20 lead generation ideas (and strategies) that brought us 200,000 leads
Let’s face it, without a reliable source of new leads for your product or service, your business is dead in the water without consistent customer growth. That makes the lead generation ideas and strategies you choose to pursue today, incredibly important to the future of your company.
Marketing and sales teams spend an absurd amount of time and financial resources on lead generation—from creating in-depth blog content, to launching ad campaigns, prospecting on LinkedIn, producing videos, hosting webinars, speaking at conferences, and so much more.
But at the end of the day, you don’t have an unlimited budget of time and money to pursue every lead generation idea that tickles your fancy. You need results now.
So, to help you cut through all the noise on this topic, we’re digging deep into the most effective lead generation tactics we’ve actually used to grow an audience of more than 200,000+ leads over the course of the last four years. Plus we’ll be analyzing some of the other lead generation ideas, strategies and tactics we’re planning to test in the future.
We’ve broken down this guide to lead generation ideas for startups into a few major categories that reflect different organizational priorities, core competencies, and into groupings that tend to work very well together when creating a menu of regular lead generation tactics to lean upon.
Content marketing-driven lead generation ideas.
These lead generation ideas are primarily focused on using content marketing to create a steady stream of inbound leads that discover the content you’re creating—whether that’s written, video, audio, or through another content medium. We’re exploring them all.
1. High quality written blog content
The content we publish here on the Close blog has been the backbone of our lead generation strategy for going on five years now. But we weren’t always masters of content.
We’ve learned a lot since our very first post that featured just a simple embed of an MVP video demo of Close. Fast forward to today, and we’re regularly publishing pieces like a 5,000 word guide to closing a sale, case study breakdowns of the most effective selling strategies at work in top B2B SaaS startups, and detailed takeaways from how several early stage startups are using cold calling to generate millions in sales.
Now, investing thousands of hours (like we’ve done) into creating this level of frequent, in-depth content doesn’t equate to guaranteed success. In fact, only 9% of B2B marketers report a belief that their brand is very effective with their content marketing efforts.
Content works for us as a lead generation strategy, for a few very specific reasons. If you’re going all in on using content marketing as a primary lead generation tactic, you’ll need to put just as much time to content promotion as you will to the actual creation of it—because if none of your prospects every see your content, it’s not doing anything for your business.
What’s the primary goal of your content?
The foundation of your content marketing strategy needs to rest on building relationships with the right people—ones who are likely to convert into becoming leads and eventually customers for your business.
So, before sitting down to write a blog post, pause to determine exactly what your motivations are for investing in content as a lead generation idea in the first place, and how that’ll be translated into execution. Answer crucial questions like:
- Which problems can we solve for our target customers through free content?
- How can we out-teach the competition and differentiate ourselves on these topics?
- Where do our target customers spend time online? Do they read blogs? Participate in LinkedIn groups? Search on Google? Look for solutions on Quora?
- Would we rather have 100 readers that are all in our target market, or 1,000 readers and only a handful of target customers in that audience? This will greatly inform which topics you should write about.
- Which content medium do our target customers prefer to consume content in?
- Do we have the core competencies to produce high-quality content? If not, how can we attract and leverage the right people?
At the end of the day, if you don’t care deeply about helping your customers solve a real problem in their business, and your main motivation is just selling more subscriptions to anyone with a credit card, that’s going to result in pretty shitty content.
Obviously transactional content that asks readers to buy in the first sentence doesn’t sell.
You need to be a teacher—one that’s invested in the future of your students (customers).
How does content get discovered?
Going back to what we touched on earlier, how you promote your content is just as important as how you create it. Your target customers need to discover it, in order to drive any positive results for your business, right?
For us, organic search drives the lion’s share of traffic to our blog. That’s when someone searches for something like, “sales strategies” on Google, and they see this:
We now create mostly evergreen content that’s intentionally designed to rank well in organic search results for keywords like this, because we learned early on that many of our customers were discovering us from searching for sales-related advice on Google.
Climbing to the top of search rankings is an arduous journey that takes a combination of time, an accumulation of backlinks from high domain-authority websites (achieved from tactics like guest posting, link outreach, and syndication partnerships), social shares on the major networks, and a slough of other factors.
Aside from just increasing the organic rankings for your content over the course of days, weeks and months, you can proactively go out and find potential readers in several ways.
Try engaging in online communities where your target customers spend time, recording simple videos (like ours) for the video search engine YouTube, leveraging your connections to amplify social sharing to the right audiences—while avoiding bad-fit leads—and pitching other sites with a similar audience to take a related guest post from you.
Getting your content noticed will take hustle.
2. Educational or instructional videos
The majority of our written content here on the Close blog actually begins life as an educational video, filmed in just 10 to 20 minutes, selfie-style by Steli.
This process of Steli first recording a video, works great for a writer on our team to quickly transcribe the core principles & takeaways into a comprehensive written post that can be published in tandem with the video on our blog.
However, on top of streamlining our content production process, we also experience immense benefits from uploading each new video to YouTube twice a week.
Over the past five years, we’ve uploaded nearly 250 videos a year and they’ve been viewed over 1 million times.
These results came without any direct promotion, and zero paid ads driving traffic to get people to watch. While most of our videos now end up getting around 1,000 views, many end up climbing well into the tens of thousands, simply because YouTube’s ranking algorithm rewards them for a number of different reasons.
Consistency is key with getting traction from your video content. Put in the work, show up every day with a strong message, and you’ll start to see what’s gaining momentum.
Combine video with your written content and you’ll be doing two things at once: adding a new acquisition channel for your audience to discover your content, and offering your readers the option to consume the content over video, rather than just text.
3. Audio content (podcasts and audiobooks)
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, it’s not a stretch to begin releasing your own episodes of a show that are geared toward building an audience and helping that community solve challenges in their business.
Even if you already have a sizable audience, giving your readers the chance to engage with you on an even deeper level—through the speakers on their daily commute, during lunch or at the gym—will help you create more meaningful relationships that transcend just the lessons learned from reading your blog content.
Since 2015, Steli has been hosting a twice-weekly podcast called The Startup Chat with his partner in crime, Hiten Shah.
In each episode of the podcast, we tackle pressing topics for a major segment of our audience—startup founders—and discuss common challenges like how to build a mobile app, finding the right business partner, bootstrapping, growing a remote company, dealing with churn, scaling a sales team, and so much more.
At nearly 3 years and 286 episodes into the podcast, we’re getting over 20,000 monthly downloads. Compounded over time, that’s over 700,000 downloads since we launched the show.
That’s a lot of people tuning in to hear Steli and Hiten’s advice each week, which translates into more dynamic relationships (and lead generation) with people who identify as startup founders or employees.
And while naturally not every listener today is a true lead for Close per se, we take the long-term outlook that anyone listening to a show about growing a startup is at least interested in building a business of their own one day—and as a listener, our CRM for startups is more likely to be top of mind when they are ready.
What’s even greater about how we’ve chosen to structure our podcast, is how relatively easy it is to record and launch each week’s episodes.
We don’t invest a ton of time into in-depth production of the show, the intro is short and to the point, then we dive straight into the conversation topic at-hand.
We also chose early on to outsource the editing and uploading of each episode to our friends at Podcast Motor—so we could focus solely on what we do best (sharing the best possible content).
To kickstart our podcast episodes, Steli and Hiten pull from an ongoing Google Sheet full of founder relevant topic ideas that are constantly added to by everyone on the team. They’ll hash out a quick outline for the direction we want the episode to go in, jot down a couple of case study examples to pull from, and start recording a back & forth conversation.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
Podcast recordings also make for great content to repurpose over to our blog. When an episode does particularly well with our listeners, we’ll take that conversation (like keeping a remote team engaged with each other) and break it down into a more in-depth written post that explores this topic even further on our blog.
If you’re already using physical or digital eBooks as a lead generation idea for your brand, then taking a few hours out to record an audiobook version of your already existing content is a very high-impact way to reach not only more people who are not currently within your sphere of influence—but to offer up another, potentially more exciting content medium for your existing audience to digest your book.
If you want to get even more creative, try taking your highest-performing blog posts and recording audio version of them, made available for free right on the blog post, like author Mark Manson does over on his blog.
Then, as an additional lead generation tactic, you can offer your readers themed bundle downloads of audio versions of your best blog content—that way they can listen to the good stuff whenever they want.
4. Books and eBooks
The eight books and eBooks Steli has written, have been some of our most successful lead generation ideas over the past few years, responsible for tens of thousands of new leads.
From keeping our existing readers topped off with fresh new content for growing sales at their startups, to leveraging the lead generation power of launching our books on startup-focused sites like Producthunt, they’re a win-win for us.
Sitting at over 733 upvotes on Producthunt, the last book we launched, Your Growth Hacks Aren’t Working: Now Pick Up The Phone And Get Customers!, has been one of our most successful lead generation book campaigns—bringing in more than 3,300 new leads so far.
In addition to launching our books on external communities where our audience spends their time online, we also use them for lead generation throughout our blog.
We’ll include regular calls-to-action, asking readers to go and download our book, The Follow Up Formula, throughout our high-trafficked blog posts on everything related to creating a follow up plan, how to perfect your follow up emails, scripts for follow up phone calls, and other topics that are expanded upon in the book.
But I don’t have the time to write a book…
Well, neither do we.
When we set out to produce a new book here at Close, we’ll first decide upon a topic we either haven’t covered yet, or something there’s clearly high demand for within our existing audience (again, going back to providing real value rather than just writing what we want to write).
Next, we’ll comb through our catalog of blog posts that are on this broader topic—say something like how to nail your follow up strategy—and we’ll start organizing these posts into a single Google Doc along this cohesive theme. We’ll take inventory of any major gaps that might’ve been overlooked and begin backfilling where necessary, while at the same time removing redundant content that’s been covered already in the book.
After we’ve touched on everything that’s essential to sales negotiation in the level of depth we’re committed to, we’ll take one final pass at editing the book down, whip up a table of contents, get a cover designed from our handy team at TopTal, and we’re ready to ship.
After launching the book on a handful of online communities (for new lead generation), we’ll promote it to our existing audience as a way to keep delivering relevant value to our community—and ask them to share with others who could benefit from reading it.
5. Downloadable guides
When it comes to lead generation, we treat our guides a little differently than books.
While books often tackle a broad topic at length, releasing shorter-form guides with more frequency, give us an opportunity to go extremely deep covering something more granular like the right B2B qualifying questions you should be asking your prospects.
The biggest benefit we experience from compiling 10 to 20 page guides in the form of downloadable PDFs as a lead generation idea, is the speed of execution.
One member on our marketing team can create a guide in just a few hours using existing content from our blog. Here’s what that creation process looks like:
- Pull a few blog posts that attack the same subject matter from different angles
- Quickly paste and organize them into a Google Doc
- Arrange them in a logical order, edit together, format and fill in any gaps
- Use our cover design template to create a simple cover and save the document as a combined PDF
- Clone over an existing landing page (like this one), change the copy, and connect it to the new PDF stored on our CMS
And voila, we’ve got a new downloadable guide ready to rock & roll before lunch.
Once you have a few different lead generation resources at your disposal, you can start grouping them together like we do with our Complete Sales Library—a compilation of all our best guides, books, and courses that can be picked up for free.
Bonus: As one related mini-lead generation tactic to add onto the process of collecting leads from free downloadable materials on your blog—try leveraging exit-intent popups that detect when a visitor is about to navigate away from your opt-in page, and they'll quickly surface the reader a reminder offer to grab your download before leaving. I've tested this and seen a meaningful lift in new subscribers that otherwise would've left the page.
6. Copy & paste templates
In the B2B world, everyone loves using successful templates as a starting point when learning a new skill, experimenting with different tactics, or looking for inspiration, making them a fantastic lead generation idea.
These templates alone have generated nearly 25,000 leads for our CRM, that’s naturally closely connected to helping customers send better cold emails to their prospects.
These templates perform very well because they’re so closely connected to solving a problem that our customers (and prospects) have.
However, if we offered templates for something like planning out your content marketing calendar, we’d be attracting leads that aren’t necessarily working in sales—and even more importantly, they’re unlikely to be decision-makers or stakeholders on the task of becoming more effective at selling within the organization.
Determining the right kinds of copy & paste templates you should create as a part of your lead generation strategy, is pretty simple actually…
Talk (and actually listen) to your customers and prospects.
They’ll tell you exactly where they need the most help if you listen carefully.
- Dig into their biggest organizational challenges and individual struggles
- Uncover the small, yet influential steps your prospects take to accomplish their goals.
- Ask about the places where they get hung up most when doing their jobs.
For us, the vast majority of our customers get the a ton of value from our CRM’s calling functionality—and it’s built around the actual workflow of a salesperson’s daily life to help them be more effective and efficient (and we know because we are salespeople).
Taking that simple tidbit of knowledge we have about our ideal customers, we’ve constructed several different templates that help prospects become better at selling over the phone, and they’ve been high-performing lead generation ideas for us.
From our objection management template, to the call review checklist, and sales interview question matrix, each of these copy & paste templates and scripts have helped us forge new meaningful relationships based around providing true value, to people who identify as having a core problem that our product solves for.
And that, my friends, is the ultimate goal with any lead generation strategy.
7. Joint webinars
Hosting webinars with related (non-competing) brands who share a similar audience as ours, is a brand new lead generation idea we’re employing that’s already paying huge dividends for us.
We hosted two joint webinars during the month of February to test this new channel.
One on the topic of using data to accelerate sales with Drift and Datanyze who both have a large customer base heavily concentrated in salespeople. The other was about how to perfect your cold email outreach with Mailshake and Vidyard, two tools that are used by a combined tens of thousands of salespeople.
Both of these webinars had just under 2,000 people register to attend (each), with about 1,000 of those attendees coming from the partners who co-hosted with us.
By hosting two webinars during the month of February, we generated an additional 2,000 targeted new leads, with comparatively low effort and at no cost since these leads came from our partners who promoted the events to their audiences via email and social media.
As an added bonus, our partners on these webinars also walked away with a list of targeted new leads for their business—as we offer a 1-to-1 list share from the pool of attendees, for webinar partners that promote the event to their audiences.
We’ve yet to see how much of a downstream lift we’ll see in trial signups from the new leads we’ve acquired from joint webinars, our true measure of marketing success for this channel, but it’s a lead generation idea we’re doubling down on this quarter.
And if you’re wondering how we structure the format of our webinars, we don’t prepare 40 page slide decks, throw in product pitches, or script out detailed questions in advance.
Here’s a snapshot from the recent webinar on cold emailing with Mailshake and Vidyard.
We tend to keep the conversations pretty casual—in more of a speaker panel format—where Steli asks the expert panelists about the subjects we’ve identified as most important, and so that we allow for a lot of Q&A from attendees, to make sure we’re covering the most pressing challenges our combined audiences have.
8. Online courses
Online courses are particularly unique as a lead generation idea today, because of the multiple different content delivery formats you can use within them, to connect with your audience and share value.
In our Startup Sales Negotiation Crash Course, there’s a combination of video lectures, written content, templates, activities that call you to take action, and links to supplemental related materials like blog posts, podcast episodes, and videos on our YouTube channel.
With the proliferation of course hosting platforms like Teachable (what we use), you can skip the complicated challenge of building custom pages on your website for course material, creating forms for gating the course, and workflows to deliver the content.
It’s easy and affordable to start with a template on Teachable, insert your content, connect the course to your marketing software, and have this lead generation tool up and running in no time.
Coming up with the right online course idea.
If you have no idea what potential course topics your prospects want to learn more about, then you’re doing something wrong.
Determining the right course subject matter, is as simple as knowing your audience.
Because our CRM helps founders and salespeople become more effective at selling, our online course on Startup Sales Negotiation covers several key challenges when it comes to growing sales for a startup—things like how to empower your prospect, making a virtual close over the phone or on video, dealing with objections, and more.
If you run a digital marketing agency, and you want to create an online course as a lead generation idea to drum up new business, take inventory of the biggest challenges your existing customers had when they began working with you. That could be things like:
- How do I create Facebook ad campaigns that actually work? You can create a course about best practices for getting a high return on Facebook ads.
- I know how to write blog posts, but how do I promote the content? You can create a course that breaks down the ten most impactful content promotion strategies.
- What’s the best way to become a contributor on sites like Forbes? You can create a course about researching, building relationships and pitching editors with content they’re all but guaranteed to be receptive to.
At the end of the day, you need to create a course that seizes upon this opportunity to help your target customers solve those most pressing problems themselves.
And then, you’ll be right there if and when they decide they’d rather get a little help or outsource the entire project to you.
9. Host a virtual summit
During fall of 2017, we hosted The Inside Sales Summit, our very first virtual summit.
We recorded 55 video interviews with sales experts, leaders, bestselling authors and practitioners out in the field—for an epic week of content that dug into every possible facet of what it takes to be successful in the world of inside sales.
Throughout the week we were “live” with the virtual summit, we generated a grand total of 7,827 new signups with this lead generation idea. A massive return in one week!
In this detailed guide, I break down everything we learned hosting the summit (and offer up my steps to organizing your own virtual summit in less than 2 months).
We clocked more than 23,000 web sessions and the videos were viewed over 7,000 times.
53 of the leads we generated from the summit became trial users of Close within the first month after the event concluded.
Of those trial signups, 2 became paying customers within two months of launching the summit, translating into $2,328 in annual contract value for our CRM product.
Not a bad initial return for a project I put together on the side of my other work. We also anticipate more conversions over time as we continue building those relationships, and we’re planning to repurpose this for a second version of the summit as another lead generation tactic later this year.
Summit success depends upon partner (and speaker) promotion.
If you’re planning to launch a virtual summit as a lead generation idea, my biggest piece of advice is to get as many high quality partner brands and speakers as possible, on board to promote the event to their audiences. And incentivize them.
We measured the success of our summit by the number of new leads we acquired, which means people that weren’t already on our email list—but they had to come from somewhere.
For this reason, we very thoughtfully chose the people we reached out to for interviews. Big influencers in the sales space like Grant Cardone, Jill Konrath, Max Altschuler, and others who agreed in advance to promote the event to their email lists in exchange for a 1-to-1 list share on the backend—meaning if they drove 500 signups, we’d reciprocate with giving them 500 fresh leads from the summit after it was over.
Structuring this as a win-win for our speakers with large personal brands to promote, was instrumental to the success of the summit. Next time, we’re going to involve more sales-related brands, as they tend to have larger audiences than individuals.
10. Launch a creative side project
Technically, our first virtual summit was a side project, and it performed well for a new lead generation idea we wanted to test our way into.
Side projects can get a hell of a lot more creative though.
One of my favorites is The World’s Longest Invoice, an extremely clever side project the team over at Freelancers Union launched with the goal of raising awareness about the fact that 71% of freelancers report that they’ve struggled to get paid.
Freelancers can go to the website, add in their unpaid invoices (often well into the thousands of dollars), refresh the page and see the new total total outstanding overdue payments from freelancers all over the world.
Not only did The World’s Longest Invoice get tons of media coverage when it first launched, but it served as a powerful lead generation strategy for Freelancers Union to attract new members to their community—because in order to add to the invoice, you have to submit your name and email address.
Side projects can come in many different shapes and forms.
Even without a ton of technical resources, you can still do something creative that generates attention and leads.
A few years ago, the ad agency Cummins & Partners wanted to sell out their first live conference, Creative Fuel. They had a limited budget, so they utilized next to nothing aside from a dash of creativity to launch a YouTube video and blog post titled… “The World’s First Crowd-Sourced 3D-Printed QR Code Live Streamed Via GoPro To A Smartphone Or Tablet Device Drone Delivery Ticket System Project.”
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it was intended to be.
The agency’s satirical interpretation of their technologically obsessed industry got a ton of press coverage from marketing blogs and publications around the world. Their video has received over 184,000 views on YouTube since its release.
Here’s one more (side project) lead generation idea that took no technical skills whatsoever to put together.
Last year, I launched a public challenge on my blog to validate a random business idea that my readers chose for me, in less than 30 days. I get 200,000 monthly readers on my blog, many of whom are there to learn how to launch a side business, but that can be a pretty intimidating process.
The goal of the validation challenge was to show my readers how simple it can be to build the foundation of a business if you go about it the right way—creating a community, connecting with them, and learning which of their challenges you’re best qualified to help them solve.
The challenge attracted tens of thousands of new readers, several thousand new email subscribers, and hundreds of comments. After the challenge was over, I compiled an online course that took my validation process a level deeper and offered my help to students looking to validate their ideas.
Of the couple thousand people who joined my email list during the challenge, more than 250 people signed up for the paid course the next month when I released it, netting myself a hugely positive return on this lead generation idea that essentially cost me nothing—and because it worked so well, it's a lead generation process I'll be replicating with a much-requested topic from my audience of learning how to start a blog as well.
Side projects can come in many different shapes and forms too—from building a mobile app, to hosting a live event or conference, launching a small (free) software tool that's designed to generate leads for your greater product, or otherwise.
Social media-driven lead generation ideas.
Each of these lead generation ideas are based primarily on using one or more major social networks to find prospects and turn them into qualified leads.
11. Optimize (and scale) outbound connection requests on LinkedIn
LinkedIn can be a great lead generation platform—if you use it wisely and avoid sending spammy, irrelevant, generic template-driven messages like this…
Not only have I never met our mystery marketer here, but it seems like he believes I’m at a trade show… that he doesn’t mention by name, that I’m not attending, and is offering an ambiguous “digital gift” without once mentioning what the hell he actually does or what his product is.
I have a dozen of these sitting at the top of my LinkedIn inbox right now.
Now that we’ve established the wrong way to use LinkedIn for prospecting, let’s talk about how to do it effectively. Because when you approach LinkedIn lead generation the right way, it still represents a massive opportunity for B2B sellers.
To bring you the best industry expertise on this subject, I reached out to my friend Jake Jorgovan, who runs a done-for-you LinkedIn prospecting and lead generation company now serving dozens of clients called, Lead Cookie.
When asked why his clients come to him for help with using LinkedIn to start qualified conversations with target buyers, Jake shares, “Using Linkedin as a form of outreach is great because it’s complementary to cold email and hits your prospects on a different channel that might be less crowded than their inbox.”
“With LinkedIn, you will find that people respond and interact with outreach quite differently. While a cold email is a much more direct sales pitch, a LinkedIn engagement is much more of a conversation. With LinkedIn, people use the chat feature just like they would Facebook Messenger or texting. Many people even have the LinkedIn app on their phone which sends push notifications directly to their mobile device. This makes outreach via LinkedIn, it's own separate channel that is worthwhile for any B2B sales team to explore.”
Jake’s process for scaling LinkedIn lead generation for his clients is pretty simple actually.
First, they’ll optimize your Linkedin profile so it’s designed to convert profile views into conversations.
Then, the real fun begins. They’ll start sending around 100 outbound connection requests each day, to your narrowly defined target customers, and drip a series of custom-crafted messages to them—all with the goal starting conversations that convert into booked meetings (and eventual customers).
Finally, they use tools like Dux-Soup to visit the profiles of other LinkedIn members in your target market, which in turn ramps up traffic back to your Linkedin profile—creating interest in your optimized offering near the top of your profile.
If you want to learn more, Jake gives away all of this tactics, strategies and even their copy & paste scripts for scaling up your LinkedIn outreach right here on his blog.
12. Answer questions on Quora (and other communities)
The common thread with online communities like Quora, is that they’re destinations where your target market may already exist and be actively seeking solutions to problems you can help them solve.
A couple of years ago, we invested heavily in answering questions like this one, related to inside sales and startups (two topics our target market cares most about) on Quora.
While this example answer has performed extremely well, netting more than 255,000 views and over 1,000 upvotes since Steli answered it back in 2016, it’s an outlier in our experience. Most of our answers draw a couple thousand views and 10 to 25 upvotes over the course of the first year the answer is live.
The average Quora answer Steli submits typically takes him anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to write—with a finished product ranging from 500 to often 1,000+ words in length, including a relevant image, some key data, and helpful links to authoritative resources backing up our philosophy.
Depending upon how much demand there is for the topic and question you’re answering, and of course the depth & creativity of your answer—you can replicate some of our most successful Quora answers by observing the general format we answer in.
Aside from the benefits of (tastefully) being able to link to your website where Quorans can click through to learn more, within your answers, answering questions in this community is a long-term strategy.
If you dedicate 30 minutes each day to writing a thoughtful answer to an important question in your niche, after a year you’ll undoubtedly have some traction. From there, the network effects should amplify your reach as your follower count grows and the positive effects of new answers compound over time.
13. Share long form updates on LinkedIn
If you haven’t seen them in your feed yet, long form updates are all the rage on LinkedIn these days, and they’re a surprisingly effective lead generation idea for the relatively small amount of time it takes to craft one of these styled posts.
Scan your feed and chances are high you’ll see a few of these updates that have dozens of likes and comments.
Well, these are very thoughtfully crafted to drive engagement and encourage a high volume of likes and comments, which in turn surfaces your update within the feeds of the connections of those who interact with your update—your second degree connections.
Most of these long form updates that perform best start with a short hook, like…
- I was devastated.
- This blew my mind.
- One mistake lost me $10,000.
- I have a confession to make.
- My life changed forever.
Next, they’ll launch into a story that utilizes most of the (currently) 1,300 character limit for a status update, breaking each sentence or two into its own line within the paragraph—so that the update visually takes up as much vertical real estate as possible and increases its readability over just a long paragraph.
At the end of the update, most people will either link to an article or landing page where readers can learn more, like I’ve had some success with in this update that’s gotten 10,000+ views.
To get even more engagement from your post, don’t include a link within the actual update. Right now, LinkedIn is favoring content in the feed that’s free of links (indicating promotion of something), so mention in the last line of your update that the link to your post where people can read more will be in the first comment—and just paste it in there after posting the update.
Experimenting with this lead generation idea over the past few months, I’ve had a dozen updates get more than 10,000 views. One reached 100,000 views and received hundreds of likes & comments, many from people who weren’t in my first degree network at the time, but saw my update in their feed because a friend engaged with it.
Make your long form update authentic, value-driven, engaging and the success will come. Then once you've built an engaged audience on the platform, you can start employing other lead gen tools that'll help you convert more of your growing audience into leads for your business.
14. Social listening and groups on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn
If you know the key terms and phrases associated with your target customers, social listening can be a very powerful lead generation idea for your business.
From searching for hashtags and topics on Twitter to interact with and drive discussion around, you can also get much more granular with your social listening strategy by specifically following and engaging with people who self-identify as affiliating themselves with terms your business is also related to.
Here’s how easy it is to filter by Twitter users who talk about or list “inside sales” in their bios.
What’s more, is that this tactic can be automated and put on autopilot to a degree, but using auto-engagement tools like Narrow.
On Facebook, groups are still the best destination for finding prospects that you can engage in meaningful discussions with.
Find and join groups where members are clearly active and rallied around a particular subject matter that’ll allow you to regularly weigh in with your expertise (as related to your product or service).
Like with all groups on your social channels, work hard to avoid being overly self-promotional about your offering by sharing tons of links or talking about your product. Allow genuine interest & appreciation to be the driving factor in starting one-on-one conversations with group members, and those will more naturally lead to authentic relationships that could blossom into new-found customers.
Groups on LinkedIn are still an option for lead generation too, though engagement within them has tended to go down steadily over the past couple years with no glimpse of a turnaround in sight.
However, I’ve found that there’s more opportunity in the smaller tight-knit communities that have less than a thousand members, because meaningful dialogues are still at the forefront.
Instagram can also afford you many opportunities to build close relationships with other influential people in your space—giving you the ability to forge partnerships that can help ramp up your Instagram growth and get your offer in front of more leads.
15. Leverage niche online communities
Just about every niche has an actively managed online community or two that can be used for relationship-building (and if you’re very careful, lead generation).
Communities like Product Hunt, Hacker News and Indie Hackers can be incredibly insightful destinations for uncovering targeted prospects who’ve expressed interest in similar products or services as what you have to offer—by either upvoting, liking, commenting, or sharing a competitor’s product.
Take this example of another sales CRM product that was recently on Product Hunt, below.
You can click into the list of users who’ve upvoted the product (showing an interest in it or support of it), and click through to visit their individual profiles.
Most Product Hunt members have a link to their website and Twitter account in their bio, making it relatively easy to reach out and get in touch.
While this lead generation idea is hardly scalable at this granular of a level, you can outsource the legwork by hiring an affordable virtual assistant to visit the profiles of every user who’s upvoted a competitor’s product, and have them build a spreadsheet with relevant contact information to then begin your more targeted outreach.
Offline lead generation ideas.
Not all lead generation efforts need to be driven by online campaigns.
16. Speak at industry events and conferences
One of the best ways to build your personal brand and elevate your thought leadership within your industry, is speaking at local events all the way up to international conferences.
Since day one here at Close, this has been a core lead generation strategy of ours because it regularly gets us in front of hundreds (or thousands) of people in our target market for a presentation where we get to impart some of our sales expertise.
Each year, Steli now speaks at between 10 to 20 different conferences that are well-attended by startup founders, sales leaders and practitioners—about topics mostly related to scaling your startup sales process.
While it’s difficult to calculate the exact financial return we get from an individual conference or local event, it’s clear that there are always spikes in traffic, email subscriptions and trial signups during a conference Steli’s speaking at.
Over the years, we’ve gotten very good at optimizing these in-person event opportunities to attract sign ups and product trials by ending the presentation with a clear call-to-action for everyone interested in learning more about what we do.
Steli also shares his personal email address on the final slide of the presentation, encouraging people to reach out with a specific question—or to shoot him a quick email right then and there in order to get a free copy of our recent book.
17. Get featured in major publications
I know, I know… who doesn’t want to be featured on Forbes, Fast Company and TechCrunch?
While it can be a tough equation to crack on a regular basis, we’ve been able to strategically position ourselves as an authoritative source for tactical advice on all things startups + sales through the hundreds of in-depth blog posts, videos and talks Steli has given.
This content we’ve invested so heavily in now makes Steli a go-to expert for getting bylines and quotes featured on most of the major business and tech publications.
If you’re able to build a relationship with an editor at some of these publications, and successfully pitch yourself as becoming a regular contributor, then that gives you a clear channel for (tastefully without overt self-promotion) sharing your advice, tactics, and techniques to publications where your target audience likely spends time online.
Then, when readers want to learn more about you and the product or service you offer along the lines of what you regularly write about, it’s easy to bridge that gap—making this a potentially lucrative lead generation idea if you’re not afraid to put in the work.
18. Go on local (or national) television
It’s safe to say that sitting on the couch with Ellen or being a featured guest on CNBC’s Squawk Box would drive some serious attention to your website the day the show airs.
But short of landing a major interview like that, what’s the lead generation potential of local television?
While some local television outlets will ask you to pay to play if you pitch them on being a guest for one of their segments, it’s not too difficult to become the person everyone wants to interview if you’ve built somewhat of a reputation for yourself as an authority within your space.
However, this will be a very relationship-driven lead generation strategy.
Get started with these simple steps:
- Network at face-to-face events where media decision-makers are present
- Seek out the low-hanging fruit first with podcast and radio interviews
- Connect with and regularly share the content that key local journalists publish
- Most importantly… do or create something remarkably newsworthy
At the end of the day, there’s no replacement for doing something truly unique (as related to your business) that places you in high-demand for interviews by local stations. It’s better to pick and choose your television appearances from a steady stream of inquiries, than to be tirelessly pitching yourself day in and day out.
19. Be interviewed on relevant podcasts and radio shows
If you didn’t originally discover us from content here on the blog, chances are high that you first heard Steli on a top startup podcast. He’s done dozens of interviews.
And the beautiful thing about doing podcast interviews? Other podcast hosts will hear your interviews and want to grab you to explore a different angle for their audience of thousands (or more) weekly listeners. There’s an echo-chamber effect.
Plus, as the host of my own podcast where I interview top startup founders who’ve grown their business from a side project to a full-time company, I can tell you first-hand that great guests get a ton of interaction from my listeners.
That makes my show a good lead generation platform for the right kind of product or service that’s built for my audience of freelancers and side hustlers.
To find the right podcasts and radio shows you should be pitching on interviews, start with the roundup lists like this one that you’ll find from a quick Google search. If you’re not already a podcast or regular radio show listener, ask around and probe other people in your industry to get a sense of which shows they listen to—or have been interviewed on before.
20. Host regular meetup events
Meetup events, whether primarily for existing customers or as a lead generation idea that’s designed to drum up interest for your product with a community that shares a common interest, can work incredibly well.
We’ve long been avid proponents of running customer meetups with the goal of continuing to build a community with (and for) our own users, while also inviting them to bring others to the event that’d be interested in learning more about scaling their sales process.
What’s important with meetup events for prospects, is that you’re delivering actual value to everyone who takes the time out of their busy schedules to attend—be that in the form of an educational presentation, a collaborative workshop, or otherwise.
Don’t just do a product demo, unless you’ve clearly stipulated that’s the topic of the event.
Need an idea for a topic to host a meetup around? Well…
- If your product is a sales CRM for startups, then an event that’s structured around a collaborative workshop on how to build a startup sales process from the ground up, might work well for you.
- If your service offering is digital marketing consulting for restaurants, try hosting a meetup that runs through the basics of how restaurants should go about launching their first marketing campaigns—actually teach them, and then offer your help as support.
- If your product is a social media scheduling tool, hosting a series of meetup events around social media best practices, emerging trends and clever tactics would attract a wide range of prospects at different stages of complexity, but with similar needs.
Beyond just the obvious benefits of exposing new people to your business through meetups, these in-person events also help create community intimacy, foster brand loyalty and give you the opportunity to problem-solve for your most motivated members.