May 4, 2016

7 Innovative Ideas for Small Business Lead Generation

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Small businesses face numerous challenges: access to capital, creating sustainable revenue, making payroll, etc. Growing a small B2B company into a larger one can help solve some of these issues, but B2B growth requires leads.

Unfortunately, generating leads with a traditional inside sales model takes people and time — two resources in short supply at most small businesses.

The following small business lead generation ideas are designed to help you think outside of the box and achieve better results with fewer resources: 

1. Inbound Lead Generation

While it certainly can’t be called ‘innovative’ at this point, an inbound lead generation model is highly efficient. If you haven’t already, your business needs to create a web presence that allows you to attract visitors and capture the names and email addresses of those interested in your products or services — even if it’s as simple as a “Contact Us” form or newsletter subscription. 

If you’re used to pursuing customers, the beauty of an inbound lead generation model is that customers come to you. There’s no cold-calling, cold emailing, or even much advertising involved for most inbound campaigns. The key with inbound lead gen is the opt-in: everyone you speak with has indicated their interest and given permission for a follow-up. Talk about a time saver.

READ MORE: 10 Inbound Lead Generation Tips. from Top Marketers

2. Content Marketing

Closely related to inbound lead generation, content marketing uses articles, videos, infographics, or other content that fulfills the educational needs of your buyers. For example, a landscaping business might create content about caring for popular plants and companion planting. An accounting firm might create videos about tax reporting and compliance.

Content marketing accomplishes two things:

  1. It helps Google and other search engines direct potential leads to your content (assuming it’s good and they’ve searched for the topic).
  2. It helps you demonstrate thought leadership and expertise in your field — both of which are critical to convincing leads to become customers. There’s a reason “content marketing” as a search term has seen exponential growth in the last few years: everyone wants to learn how to do it, because it works.

3. Email Marketing

After prospects discover and visit your site through content, and once they’ve given their name and email address, you can start sending marketing emails, assuming they opted in. You did ask on your form, right?

The rise of marketing automation software means that most if not all of the email marketing process can be automated, and at a relatively low price per lead (see the infographic linked below for more information). Of course, no one likes getting spam mail, so make sure you send relevant content at the right stage of the buying process. Our email marketing research has shown that 43 percent of subscribers want fewer emails, and 48 percent want the content to be more informative.

READ MORE: How to Use Marketing Automation Software as Lead Generation Software

4. Video Marketing

Video content is the future of the Internet. According to YouTube, hundreds of millions of hours of content are consumed each day, and that’s just on their platform. Creating good video content can net your business lots of new customers. Just ask Mirabeau Wines, whose video on how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew has seen over 10 million views and helped catapult their brand from obscurity to internet marketing legend. While this particular video isn’t technically a lead generation play, Mirabeau could have used a call-to-action directing viewers to sign-up for a newsletter, visit an about page,  or some other conversion tool.

At TechnologyAdvice, for example, we use our product videos to direct software buyers to the Product Selection Tool, which asks for their name, business info, and email address. 

5. Direct Mail/Print Marketing

Direct mail is an established marketing play that many small businesses forget about, but shouldn’t. Unlike the 80s and 90s, when the Internet was new, email accounts are now overflowing with spam, and cutting through all the noise can be a challenge. Traditional mail has dropped significantly in volume as companies move towards digital communication channels (click to tweet), which means there’s less competition in the traditional mailbox than there used to be. 

Despite the cost, direct mail is an underutilized and highly effective way to market. You can either provide the prospect with a self-addressed, stamped envelope to reply, or if you want to connect your direct mail campaign with your digital campaigns, the URL to a unique landing page (e.g. free industry tool, free e-book, subscription opt-in). Take, for example, the Content Marketing Institute, which publishes and distributes a bi-monthly print newsletter called Chief Content Officer. Founder Joe Pulizzi explains why: “The printed word is still perceived as more credible than anything on the web . . . If someone invested enough to print and mail it, it must be important.” 

6. Micro-Events

Lots of businesses, big and small, use events to generate leads. B2B conferences have long been a place to form close connections and make deals. Micro-events, however, are underutilized. Micro-events are basically small, exclusive networking opportunities surrounding or within larger events.

Can’t afford a $2,000 ticket to a B2B conference? Host a small, off-site event in the evening after the exposition and keynotes have finished. Maybe even use direct mail to invite a small, select group, keeping costs down and the exclusivity factor up, which means you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on the best business opportunities. If you convert leads from micro-events at a higher percentage than other channels, it will be worth the investment. 

7. Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing (ABM) rising in popularity among businesses of every size. Instead of a traditional or inbound lead generation model that relies on a reductive approach — the old funnel model — the account-based marketing approach is additive. Once you capture information about a prospect at a particular business, you work to capture the information and attention of other decision-makers at the same company.

With ABM, you target the entire account as a market of one. Since you’re customizing your communications for individual companies (or even individuals themselves), you can run any number of the previously described strategies more efficiently. Just as with micro-events, an ABM lead generation strategy allows you to focus more of your time on those opportunities which best fit your business, hopefully resulting in more conversions and higher ROI.

READ MORE: What Does ABM Mean for the B2B Sales Funnel?

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If you’re looking for tools to jumpstart your own lead generation programs, you can use our Product Selection Tool to compare marketing automation, CRM, email marketing, lead management, and other solutions. 

If all of that sounds like too much work, or too much of a stretch for your resources, you might consider outsourcing your lead generation. Our custom demand generation programs can be tailored to meet the needs of any business size or budget, whether you need a high volume of leads to nurture through an established marketing process, or a lower volume of sales-ready leads. Get in touch with our client development team to learn more.