“Lead generation” is a blanket term. Many blog posts out there contain lists of random lead generation ideas, and it’s hard to map each idea to a specific goal you’re trying to achieve.
Proven Lead Generation Ideas to Achieve Your Business Goals
Are you trying to generate new email subscribers (top of funnel leads), free trial signups for an app, demo requests, or sales leads?
We’ve broken this list down into four categories so you can find the right ideas for your specific goal.
- Sales lead generation ideas
- Email subscriber lead generation ideas
- SaaS signups lead generation ideas
- Demo requests lead generation ideas
Use the links above to jump to your desired goal and find ideas catered specifically for that goal.
This list of ideas are all about ways to increase sales leads generated using both offline lead generation and online lead generation methods. By sales lead we mean a lead that’s filled a form or otherwise express interest in your product and service — as opposed to simply opting in to an email list.
This idea involves creating a community that is using a forum or group to connect like-minded people in your industry.
For example, you can create a community on Slack or even an exclusive Facebook group to connect SaaS founders, entrepreneurs, developers, marketing managers, etc.
Over time, as these people begin to join the community to chat with each other about best practices, they will naturally discover your product and potentially make a purchase.
Product Manager HQ has used this method to create a large community around building products and product management on Slack with over 4,500 members.
PMHQ can converse with potential customers in their community, add value there, and then also promote their products inside of the community.
Think about what communities you could create that would preferentially attract your target customers. Depending on your product or service you could experiment with more broad vs. narrow topics.
Second on our list of lead generation ideas is hosting a virtual summit. A virtual summit is like a video conference. There’s often a panel of speakers in a given industry/niche that speak on a topic they know well.
For example, Influitive held a virtual summit on Advocate and Customer Marketing with key speakers in the industry like Sujan Patel and Mark Organ (founder of Influitive).
Speakers present on a subject for roughly an hour and visitors can signup to view the content using their email and any other lead data specified on the form.
By hosting a virtual summit, it gives your company the chance to connect with professionals in your industry and reach their respective audiences. Additionally, by making visitors sign up to view/attend the virtual summit, it allows you to collect emails and valuable lead data to follow up after the summit.
Tools to Help You Run a Virtual Summit:
- Zoom.us – Online Meeting Software
- Camtasia – Professional Screen Capture Tool
- Vimeo – Video Hosting Service
- Wistia – Video Hosting Service
With this idea, you would build a free tool that your target audience would find helpful.
An example might be a free plugin for WordPress. By offering a free plugin, you can upsell another premium plugin, or if you’re a service company, it gives you a chance to find qualified leads.
Yoast SEO does this with their free plugin for WordPress. They have a premium version of the plugin but also sell SEO services. ScreamingFrog, another well-known SEO company, also uses this tactic.
They created a popular tool for SEO research that can be downloaded for free:
This way they can upsell their premium version of the desktop tool but it also gives them the chance to increase exposure of their company as they also offer custom SEO services.
Another example is KissMetrics, the advanced analytics platform, who has two tools in a section of their site called /growth-tools/ around (1) calculating statistical significance for AB tests and (2) building URLs with UTM parameters for easy campaign tracking.
These are useful to their exact target audience (marketers that run AB tests and other marketing campaigns):
What free tools could you build with minimal investment that would be useful to your target prospects?
If you have a scraped list of prospects, instead doing the usual cold email outreach, you can instead try sending them a survey.
To your prospects, this will be seen as an effort to collect data on industry benchmarks, but in reality, it also helps you to identify which respondents will be best to reach out to for a sales call.
When interviewing Sid Bharath, Growth Marketer and SaaS Consultant, on how he has seen this tactic used successfully, Sid mentioned how one of his clients received a 14% response rate by emailing a survey instead of the traditional cold email outreach approach:
“One of my clients recently did this with great effect. The first round was to 700 recipients and they received 100 responses and booked demos from it! Not bad for the first round of a cold email campaign. We’re working on round 2 to the same list with some copy tweaks and then expanding to a larger list,” said Sid.
To implement this tactic, Sid had the following suggestions:
- In the survey, ask respondents what their biggest problem is
- Follow that up with a few multiple-choice questions about their business in the area that your product serves
- Then, end with asking them for their contact information
- Lastly, give respondents a reason to want to fill out your survey. Let them know that when they finish, they will gain access to industry data that’s not available elsewhere. You can also offer a discount on your product.
This method will allow you to identify quality leads and who will be most receptive to speaking on the phone about your product.
By partnering with a company that offers a complimentary service to yours, you can exchange leads in the form of referrals.
For example, if you’re a web design agency you might partner with an SEO agency, since a customer for either of these services may also be interested in the other.
The web design agency can refer clients to the SEO agency and vice versa. It’s a win-win if both companies don’t offer competing services and it can take some of the leg work out of finding potential customers.
Another thing you could do is partner with another company to create an asset and share the leads with each other. Klientboost, a PPC agency, did this when they were trying to grow their sales leads.
They partnered with the company Invoca, a call-tracking company, as a way to get in front of their target audience. This was one of the main ways that Klientboost grew their revenue from $0-1M in a year.
6. Go to Local Meetups
Attending local meetups can be an easy way to connect with like-minded industry professionals that might be interested in your product or service or be able to refer you to a connection that may be interested.
A simple way to do this is by using Meetup.com to find local meetups. Many cities have meetup groups specifically for entrepreneurs, developers, and other business-minded people.
You can try attending a meetup for one of these groups or even go so far as to create your own meetup group.
Rapid Boost Marketing was able close $165,000 in revenue by using Meetup.com to network.
Another way to find more leads is to simply connect with qualified leads that have viewed your profile on LinkedIn. These people are already interested in you and your company, thus they’ve taken to LinkedIn to find out more about you.
Take the first step to connecting with them by sending them a personalized message that also demonstrates the value you can provide.
Additionally, you can also find leads through Twitter and Medium in much of the same way by reaching out to those that follow you on each platform.
Direct mail still has its place, and by mailing your potential clients something special, you can warm them up to the idea of your service or product and create an opportunity for reaching out.
For example, a software development company in SF would send a physical book titled, “Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products” to prospects.
This allowed the sales team an opportunity to reach out by calling them up and asking if the company received the book. They could then lead the conversation to talk about their services.
While this won’t work for all B2B companies, for those that sell quotable services, and at a particularly high rates, this method can prove beneficial.
This first set of lead generation ideas are useful if you’re looking to generate pure email subscribers, not signups for an app, sales leads, or demo requests, just emails.
Email subscribers are typically generated from content, and can be remarketed to by email to eventually buy your product or service.
But even outside of purchasers, having a large email list can be an amazing asset for future content promotion.
First on the list of lead generation ideas to increase your email sign ups is Live Challenge. A Live Challenge is a challenge that you publicly set to achieve, promise to post updates about, and that others in your audience will hopefully want to follow.
For example, Groove HQ, a helpdesk startup, positioned their entire blog around following their company to $100,000 in monthly revenue — a large, public live challenge.
And as outlined in one of their latests posts looking back at their content operation, they grew their blog visits to 250,000 per month and grew their company revenue to $500,000 per month with content marketing as the only channel they invested in.
Note the email signup box right in the middle of that graphic explaining their live challenge.
Similarly, when Grow and Convert started their site they launched with a live challenge of attracting 40,000 unique visitors to their site and building a 5,000 person email list.
As a new website, especially in the competitive digital marketing world, this would be a tough task.
However, it sparked enough interest in readers that they wanted to follow G&C’s “journey” to see if they would actually meet their goal and how they would do it. This resulted in 196 email subscribers in the first couple of weeks after launch.
Pro Tip: Don’t just consider personal goals that you want to achieve as a company. Think about what your target audience would be interested in following. If you’re a marketing company, then maybe that is your journey to attracting X visitors. But, if you’re a fitness company, you could do a company-wide contest for employees to lose weight and have them write blog posts documenting their journey to a slimmer waist.
A viral contest works like this:
- You offer a prize (or usually a set of prizes) that are valuable to your target audience.
- From there, you setup a landing page for your contest where people can enter by entering their email.
- Then, the viral component involves letting each person obtain more entries if they take a variety of other actions: share the contest on social, have someone else enter with their referral link, Tweet or share something else, etc.
A viral contest can be another great way to grab visitor emails, just so long as you approach the contest strategically.
What you don’t want to do is create a contest where you give away something generic like an iPad or $500 Amazon gift card. While those are both attractable offers, you will get a lot of emails from people that aren’t in your target audience.
Instead, you want to focus on a prize that is related to your product or service and that your target audience would be interested in. If you’re a SaaS company, you could give away five free yearly plans or lifetime access to your service to one lucky winner.
The next step is getting your contest to go viral. This is again ties back to coming up with an awesome prize but you can make your life easier by enticing people to share the contest.
With a tool like Vyper, you can give people extra entries for sharing your contest on Facebook or Twitter or even following you on Pinterest.
As an example, Motobilt ran a contest with Vyper that netted them over 4,000 emails in just over two weeks.
Since they sell aftermarket parts for Jeeps, they offered a prize they knew their target audience would be interested in, a Motobilt front or rear bumper.
As another example, Harry’s, a popular company for men’s razor blades, used a viral contest prior to their site’s launch to bring in 100,000 emails in just one week.
Additional Tools to Help You Run a Viral Contest:
Pro Tip: Join up with another company that has a target audience similar to yours. Then, you can both cross-promote the contest, reach each other’s audiences, and increase the likelihood of your contest being shared.
A content upgrade is an added piece of content that is often highly related to the blog post the visitor is reading. It goes hand-in-hand with the content and adds extra value to the reader. The visitor is then required to enter their email to receive the extra material.
It differs from the standard, “sign up for our newsletter” CTA because it offers immediate value that relates directly to the content they are reading.
This is what makes it so effective, especially in comparison to something like an Ebook that usually covers a more broad topic.
An example of a content upgrade would be a checklist that sums up key topics covered in an article. Other potential content upgrades include:
- Step-by-step instructions
- A PDF version of a blog post for future reading
- A cheat sheet
- A template
The ideas are endless. Just ensure your content upgrade is related to the blog post you implement it on. Typically, the closer it relates to the blog post subject, the higher the conversion rate.
Brian Dean, popular SEO expert and owner of Backlinko, has used content upgrades to increase his email signup conversion rate from .54% to 4.82%.
As you can see in the screenshot above, Brian includes a simple CTA in his blog post that links to the specific content upgrade. For this blog post, he created a step-by-step checklist summarizing the points outlined in the post.
Pro Tip: If you’ve been publishing content for awhile, and you have yet to implement content upgrades across your site, start with your top five traffic generating blog posts. Create a content upgrade specifically for each of these blog posts to maximize your conversion rate and start capturing emails from the traffic you are already getting.
Guest posting on a well-known site in your industry can be a good way to gain exposure and a link back to your website. But, to go a step further and maximize the potential of your guest post, create a content upgrade that you can then link to at the end of the article.
While a content upgrade is typically more effective at collecting emails, since it’s more directly related to the blog post content, Ebooks can be a solid way to cover a major topic (or category on your blog) and link to it when you don’t have a content upgrade to offer.
An Ebook example might be a guide on SEO that a company could link to from all of their relevant SEO blog posts. It’s also a solid resource to link to when guest posting.
Below is an example from Unbounce for their guide on Landing Page Copywriting.
Unbounce has created a landing page specific to their Ebook that visitors can download using their email and other information that Unbounce has decided on to qualify the lead.
Pro Tip: Try experimenting with the number of fields visitors have to fill in order to receive your Ebook. While it may be nice to get that extra information to qualify the lead, some visitors will be hesitant to fill in too much information and simply leave the page.
Popups are used on almost every website these days and they can be quite annoying when used ineffectively. But, they are still a surefire way to capture emails.
To make a popup effective, you have to combine it with an irresistible offer. Sometimes that’s a coupon, but popups can also be a good way to get people to sign up for your Ebook or content upgrade.
As an example, you could use a welcome mat (a type of popup that covers the entire screen and is usually presented to the visitor within a few seconds of visiting a page) to show a signup form for the content upgrade specific to the blog post the person is visiting.
Sumo is one of the leading SaaS companies for delivering popups and they use the same tactics on their own site.
The delivery is simple but as long as the offer is enticing enough, you will get people to fork over their email in exchange for your offer.
Tools You Can Use to Display Popups on Your Site:
A slide-in popup is simply another type of popup. You will typically see these slide into the bottom righthand corner after you’ve reached a certain point on a page.
These can be set to show after someone’s visited a certain number of pages or after they’ve scrolled a certain percentage of a specific page.
Hubspot uses these all the time in their articles to offer the featured download related to that specific article.
Once a visitor reaches a certain percentage down the page (about 25%), the popup slides in from the right bottom corner to grab their attention. It’s then linked to a landing page where the visitor has to fill in their contact information to receive the download.
Original data is valuable. By creating a report on trends in your industry, you can create a piece of content that many will find interesting to read and link to. From there, you can gate the report and have visitors enter their email in order to download the report.
To create a report, first start by surveying your customers, prospects, and anyone else in your target audience willing to participate. Make sure to come up with thoughtful questions that your target audience will find interesting.
Once you’ve accumulated enough responses, analyze the responses thoroughly and pull out the most interesting points. Then, throw them into a well-designed PDF report, create a landing page, and gate the content.
“Because original data is worth it, many people will be happy to subscribe to your blog in exchange for the report. In addition, you can share the report with all of the participants in the survey, who will likely share the report with their audience. This quickly magnifies the impact of your marketing efforts, building your email list and helping your brand build a reputation as a source for interesting and original data”, said Cara Hogan, Content Strategist at Zaius.
Cara has used this exact tactic on the Zaius blog to increase email signups. On their blog post, “Report: Omnichannel Marketing is All Hype, No Execution”, a subtle CTA is used to let readers know they can download the report:
This CTA is then linked to a landing page where Zaius asks for the visitor’s email in order to download the report:
You will see a lot of bloggers and course websites use this method to attract signups. The idea is to offer a lighter course delivered via email in order to get people to sign up and eventually get them to buy a full course.
Still, even if you’re not a course website, a dedicated email course can be a good way to attract signups. For example, if you’re a SaaS company that sells an SEO tool, you may create a 5-part email series around advanced SEO techniques.
Buffer, for example, has a 25-day email course on social media growth strategies that visitors can sign up to for free.
The course makes sense for them since they sell social media scheduling tools. This way Buffer can attract qualified leads to the course, educate them, and integrate their product into the course material naturally.
Ideate: What topic could you create a free course around that would uniquely be valuable to your target customers?
While traditionally used by B2C companies, B2B companies can still make use of coupons or discounts on their services in order to entice visitors to signup with their email.
Combined with a popup, this can be a good way to capture a visitor’s attention after being on your site for a certain period of time, after visiting your pricing page, or when they go to exit out of your site.
This list of ideas are all about how you can increase the number of SaaS or free trial signups that happen on your site.
After researching potential options, buyers will often take to Google to compare options. You can take advantage of this by creating a blog post that targets this search specifically and compares your product to the competition in a “X vs. Y” or “X” alternatives style article.
This way, you control the narrative. You can educate your audience by providing a description of your competitor but position yourself as a leader by pointing out the things that your product or service are better at.
In the example below, Workzone uses this idea to create a blog post that targets “Microsoft Project Alternatives”:
This way Workzone is able to capitalize on those searching for alternatives and throw their product in that list as a viable option.
You are also more likely to rank for these terms because Google will notice that your entire domain (and, hopefully, link profile) is intimately related to this topic (comparing products in your space).
Here are more examples of this:
- Codementor, a platform to find remote developers, ranks #2 as of this writing for the term “Upwork vs. Toptal”
- Leadfeeder, a tool to help see who visits your website, ranks #3 for a search term that compares two of their competitors: “Lead Forensics vs. Hubspot”
Most SaaS companies only mention their product very subtly (if at all) in their content, but using this method, you will mention your free trial natively in your body content within your site’s blog posts.
The idea is to subtly point out the fact that you have a free trial, your product does X, and it ties in with your blog post because X reason. This should naturally flow in your post content.
Just like content upgrades, placing a contextual call to action in the body of the post should convert far better than a slider, popup, or sidebar CTA, because the CTA is in the normal reading pattern of the reader and is presented in context with the rest of the content.
Basically, the point is to be helpful to the reader but include a subtle CTA that they are less likely to dismiss.
For example, this blog post uses a subtle callout within their blog post body content to let readers know what their tool does, how it will help them and that they can try them out for free.
This one is simple. You want to make it known that you offer a free trial. An easy way to do this is to add a large, prominent button to your site’s header or main menu.
This way, no matter what page the visitor lands on when they visit your site, they immediately know they can sign up for a free trial.
Hotjar uses this technique by having a brightly colored, large button labeled, “Try It For Free” directly in the site’s main menu. This button is the most dominant link the menu and immediately sticks out when you visit their site.
Many companies make the mistake of using the same landing page for a host of different Adwords ads. However, this can create issues when the text from the ad doesn’t match the text on the landing page.
Wordstream, a well-known PPC company, even has a phrase for this called the “Message Match Problem”. This simply sums up the problem that arises when your ad does not exactly match the offer on the landing page. This can result in the visitor clicking out of your landing page.
A better idea is to create separate landing pages that match the text used in the linked ad (or create dynamic landings pages). This increases conversion rate as visitors will immediately recognize that your landing page is offering what they initially clicked on.
So if you sell Video Hosting, your Adwords ad will mention Video hosting in the title of the ad. The landing page should also include the text “Video Hosting”, not some variant like “Video-on-Demand” or “Video Streaming Service”, etc.
This way the visitor recognizes that your service is just what they’re looking for, making it more likely they will sign up.
Demo requests give your salespeople the opportunity to connect with visitors on your site and lead them closer to a potential sale. This next list of ideas are all about things you can to increase demo requests on your site.
Another great lead generation idea is to offer live chat on your website. Offering a live chat on your website gives visitors the immediate ability to connect with a member of your team and answer any questions they have.
Of course, from a customer support perspective, this is immediately helpful to your visitors. But, it can also help to convert more visitors to signups.
In a case study by VWO, a popular A/B testing tool, one of their customers saw an increase in signups of 31% by including a live chat widget on their site.
Pro Tip: Many chat widgets have the ability to pop open and/or make a noise to catch the visitor’s attention. You may want to consider using this feature after a visitor has been on your site for a certain period of time or visited a specific page on your site such as your pricing or features page.
It’s such a simple concept but many companies still don’t include a phone number on their homepage. This can be easily done by including a phone number in your site header or pre-header.
This just makes it that much easier for visitors to get in touch with you.
This is another simple one but including a button to request a demo in your site menu will immediately let visitors know that you actually offer demos. You may not have made it clear enough in your site content or your demo request page may be difficult to find.
Having a button that reads “Request a Demo” on your site menu will make it easy for visitors to request a demo.
Uberflip does this by featuring a prominent button directly in their site menu at the top right corner:
No matter what page the visitor is on, they can easily request a demo by clicking this button. This reduces friction and the number of steps needed in order to get in touch with a member of your team.
A contextual CTA is a call-to-action that is catered specific to the particular blog post the visitor lands on and the query they had when they originally took to Google for a solution to their problem.
For example, ThinkApps, an app development company, used contextual CTAs in the form of a timed popup to initiate contact between them and visitors. The popup would simply ask a question that ThinkApps knew the visitor likely had followed by how they could help and a form to get in touch.
So on an article that ranked high for the search term “IOS vs Android Development”, they showed the visitor the following popup after 90 seconds:
The CTA messaging was simple but effective resulting in 48 leads in roughly a month of testing. That’s all for a company that charges 5 and 6 figures for app development.
If you read the section above on collecting emails, you should have a solid idea of how to effectively build your email list. But, how do you turn those emails into customers?
Using drip email campaigns, there are multiple ways you can convert email signups.
For one, you could create an email series that educates signups on a particular topic and naturally integrate your product into that series.
For example, if you sell a content calendar tool, you could create an email series on “How to Create a Content Calendar” or “How to Craft a Content Marketing Plan” and integrate your tool into the series.
With drip campaigns, you could also offer coupons or discounts after a specific amount of time as a last-ditch effort to get people to convert.
For trial signups, you could create an onboarding process that helps to educate people on how to use your product, much like the one Evernote uses:
This campaign helps Evernote to educate users on their product but also gives the user the chance to more quickly decide if Evernote is right for them.
If you’re a SaaS company using this method, at the end of the email series you could use an automated email to ask if the user had any questions and if they’d like to schedule a demo or a call.