Got a fantastic business idea but struggling to generate leads? You’re not alone. Lead generation is a vital part of running a small business, but even seasoned self-employed professionals can find it difficult sometimes.
Having a broad set of methods for getting in front of the right people (and knowing how to hook them in) will improve the cashflow and public image of your business, and – just as importantly – your own morale.
In alphabetical order, here’s our ultimate checklist of ways your small business can generate leads and bring in more money.
Search engines and social media channels offer straightforward ways of paying to get your business in front of people, as well as advanced options for those with an expert on hand. These are often referred to as ‘Pay Per Click’ or PPC, and (if done right) are an incredibly targeted and effective way to get visitors onto your website or online store.
Depending on what you’re selling, you also might want to consider traditional advertising. Local directories and newspapers are always looking to fill ad-space, and might offer you a tasty discount for late space if you build a decent relationship with their sales reps.
Ask your friends and family for help
If you’re seriously confident about your idea, there’s no need to be coy. Phone, email, and text your family and close mates explaining you have this exciting new business venture, and that you’d really appreciate it if they could help you out.
Even if they personally have no interest whatsoever, maybe they can tell their friends on social media, or might be able to hook you up with a friend who would love whatever it is you’re selling.
Important note though, don’t confuse this with doing a big generic mailout of all your contacts, otherwise you may fall foul of the GDPR rules regarding recipients needing to opt into promotional material.
Blog about your business and how you can help people
Creating interesting and informative content will, if promoted properly, keep potential leads coming back and increase their awareness of your company. Showing that you know what you’re talking about will improve your credibility, and documenting your own thoughts and experiences can put a more relatable, human element to the company.
Our Knowledge section on our Crunch website (yes this one you’re reading now!) brings us over 80% of the traffic to our website, and we’ve built it up over ten years to be a helpful resource for people who want to start a business, or find out how to manage their business finances.
Be sure to include a newsletter signup form on your blog to ensure anyone who wants to stay in touch has an easy way to subscribe to your content.
If you want to make sure you’re making a lasting impression when you meet a potential client or customer, get some high-quality business cards printed. The recipient is more likely to feel bad about throwing it away, and will probably end up keeping it in their coat pocket for about eight months before deciding what to do with it.
On the opposite side, asking everyone you meet for a business card might save you a bit of time, rather than awkwardly asking them how to spell their name three times in a row while adding them on LinkedIn.
Join our self-employed community Crunch Chorus, and you’ll receive a discount at MOO, who can help you with all your printing needs.
Calls to action
Although this isn’t a platform in itself, calls to action (CTAs) are such an important lead generation factor that they deserve their own section.
Good examples of clear CTAs might be ‘Sign up here’, ‘Tell me more’ or ‘Buy Now’.
According to Ellie Mirman, VP of Marketing at Internet company Toast, emails with a single CTA increased clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%. It might seem like it goes without saying, but stats consistently show that a little bit of encouragement goes a long, long way.
Community involvement (online and in person)
Getting out and about amongst your target audience via networking events, meetups and stalls will keep your face and brand in the public eye.
In the modern age, this method can be supplemented (and even improved) by doing the same thing online.
We’d strongly recommend joining our friendly Facebook group, Crunch Chorus: Self-employed Community Support, which houses lively, helpful, and supportive chatter amongst a community of freelancers, contractors, and small business owners looking to lift each other up.
You might also find it useful to sign up to sites like Reddit, Quora and community forums and be the knight in shining armour to people asking questions you’re qualified to answer. It’s more polite than interrupting people’s conversations in the pub, anyway.
Everybody wants to get something for free, right?
If you’ve got a great prize that’s really going to tantalise people, they’ll flock to it in droves. Running a ‘like or share to win’ style campaign on social media can put your business in front of hordes of potential leads.
Keep in mind they’re probably just interested in the prize rather than your company’s story – it’s up to you to build something more meaningful upon their short-term engagement.
It’s considered by many to be a bit of a lost art, but getting promotional materials printed and heading out to places your core audience hangs out can still be a great way to generate leads. You also benefit from the personal touch that digital promotion lacks.
Be warned though, other businesses can get a bit shirty if you’re trying to piggyback off their audience – so be careful not to burn any bridges or drop flyers at someone else’s place of work without permission.
Remember you can join our self-employed community Crunch Chorus, and receive a discount at printing wizards MOO.
Free samples/trial runs
As with competitions, giving people something for free helps you stand out from the pack. Get them used to enjoying your service, and introduce the fees later on. You’ll inevitably get some customers dropping off, but if you’re doing a great job, people will find a way to work you into their budgets – especially if you’re sending them regular newsletters by that point.
For example we offer a free trial of our online accounting software to show people how they could benefit from our award-winning combination of accountancy software and advice.
It’s worth advertising your services on a jobs board, whilst also visiting regularly to see if there are any client ads you can respond to.
We’ve created a special Crunch Freelance and Contractor Jobs Board to support our clients.
Every position advertised is posted by an approved partner of Crunch. We only work with companies that share our standards and values, so you can be assured that you’re working for the best recruiters in the UK.
Websites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and Profnet connect journalists with expert professional sources, like yourself. Of course, these tools aren’t much of a substitute for a tailored PR agency, but a bit of extra coverage in a specialist publication might help you generate just the right sort of leads you’re after.
You’ll have already partaken in some lead generation if you have a collection of email addresses to send a newsletter out to, but you can encourage the recipients to share the news with their friends using carefully tailored CTAs. You can sign up for our free monthly newsletter at the top or bottom of this article!
As we’ve mentioned, all correspondence must now be in line with the General Data Protection Regulation introduced in May 2018 – it’s vital that you have explicit consent to contact every one of your recipients.
Partner with another company
If there’s another business out there you have a feeling your target audience might be interested in, the feeling could be mutual. If you suspect this is the case, make contact and see what sort of relationship you can foster. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all.
The possibilities are endless, you might end up going halves on some promo material, sharing advice, or even eventually merging your businesses.
We have a great article on choosing the right business partner that you may find useful.
In 1993, Dave Hargrave came first in a “World’s Smelliest Socks” contest, and won complimentary trainers for three years. Footwear company British Knights sponsored the event to promote a new canvas shoe which was created to prevent foot odour.
Depending on what industry you’re in, a good old-fashioned publicity stunt can get you into news publications, send you soaring to online viral fame, and generate leads without paying a penny. If you need help putting a press release together, we have a free press release template with some writing tips.
Depending on your industry, sites like Checkatrade.com, and Ratedpeople.com are often used by prospective clients to find a recommended specialist in their neighbourhood.
A lot of these will require a monthly or annual fee in exchange for subscription, or to have your business featured on them, but the exposure and opportunities you can get in return can make this a really smart option.
Social media management can be daunting if you’ve not been using it much previously, but once you’ve seen the power they have to generate leads, you’ll be hungry to become a real guru of the subject.
If you wish you’d spent some time learning the ropes, fear not – we have plenty of information to get you started in our Social Media Management for Beginners Guide.
Sponsor a local event
The more relevant, the better. The organisers will have similar cashflow concerns as you, and will appreciate a bit of help getting it up and running. Remember, if your name is on a big banner at the event, high attendance could benefit your business almost as much as theirs.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world behind Google. Think about what you can do to build a YouTube presence and how you can then use this to generate leads and subscriptions.
Our Crunch Youtube channel gets thousands of page views and hosts a huge range of helpful videos on how to set up and run a business, as well as more detailed videos on technical aspects of tax and accountancy.
Other video tools, such as Wistia, allow you to harness email addresses in order for the viewer to watch but make sure it’s some seriously beneficial or desirable content, otherwise, the viewer might not be bothered.
A great way to showcase your knowledge and expertise is simply by talking to people for a substantial amount of time. Perhaps you can speak at a local conference, or host a seminar at a local function room.
Recording and broadcasting interesting discussions and advice online can bring in subscribers, and mean that you have a base of people who are the first to know when you have a tempting offer or a new product available.
We host regular popular webinars at Crunch and we then also make them available for free afterwards, such as our Business Expenses webinar.
To their own detriment, many small businesses merely opt for a Facebook page or listing on Google instead of their own website, and thus lack the authenticity, gravitas and simplicity that is synonymous with a website. Check out our blog on how to build a website for your small business.
It’s also important to make sure you’re doing your website justice by ranking above your competitors on search engines. Download our SEO for Beginners Guide to get to grips with the basics.
Got some unique insight into your industry? Slapping it into a blog is fine, but if it’s really valuable stuff and you’re keen to generate leads, you might consider creating a sleek looking PDF version and asking for the reader’s email address before they can access it.
Keep the sales messaging to a minimum – this is all about positioning yourself as a thought leader. And make sure you’re promoting it heavily through all the other listed methods, otherwise nobody will know it’s there and you’ll end up like a tree falling in the woods.
We publish detailed jargon-free business guides on a range of topics around tax, starting a business and many more. You can take a look on our Business Guides page and see if there’s something for you.
Word of mouth
Ask your best customers to talk you up to their friends, and give them a little extra service or special thanks for their good deed. Referral or affiliate schemes are excellent ways to build upon this strategy, and positive feedback on relevant review websites can often make or break a customer’s decision to engage with your business.
Not all of these methods might be right for you, but hopefully a few have given you some ideas of how to get those sweet, sweet leads coming in.
Need more small business advice?
Looking for more helpful information on getting a business off the ground? Check our hugely popular guide, How to Start A Business in Six Easy Steps.