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Lead generation ideas for small business owners

Lead generation: woman using a laptop

Key takeaways

  • Lead generation campaigns help drive sales by encouraging potential clients to provide their contact information for easy follow up
  • Inbound lead generation marketing tactics attract your target audience, rather than wasting time on outreach to uninterested shoppers
  • Yelp is an invaluable resource for high-quality leads who are ready to make a purchase

New customers don’t appear out of thin air. Even the simplest purchases are the result of a buyer journey, which starts with customers learning about your brand and ends with them deciding to purchase your product or service. During this process, the average customer interacts with your brand 7-10 times before buying. 

It’s up to you to lead potential customers (known as “leads”) through the process and turn them into long-lasting relationships. While low-quality leads may fall through the cracks, high-quality leads will express their interest in your product or service by providing their contact information, which helps your business shepherd them through those 7-10 touchpoints. With the right marketing strategies, you can learn how to make each of those interactions as worthwhile as possible.

So what exactly is lead generation and what does it entail? Learn this plus four lead generation ideas to help you start generating leads.

What is lead generation and how can it improve your sales?

Lead generation is the process of finding or attracting potential customers and boosting their interest in your product or service. Your lead generation efforts should nudge potential leads to take action on their interest by providing their contact information—the first step to becoming a paying customer.

Lead gen occurs at the first stage of the sales funnel, which is the process that marketing and sales teams follow to win clients. When a business uses effective lead generation ideas early in the sales process, it can help sales reps close a sale, reaching the end of the sales funnel more quickly.

4 lead generation ideas for attracting likely customers

Lead generation strategies can be outbound or inbound. Outbound strategies push sales messages toward potential customers, even if they haven’t expressed their interest. For instance, a salesperson might purchase a list of leads from another business and then cold call or cold email each person on the list.

However, outbound leads aren’t sales-qualified leads, which means they might not fit your ideal customer criteria. When buying leads, you might be able to specify target demographics, but you can’t tell whether they have a need for your products or services. As a result, outbound lead gen strategies may waste time and money on leads who aren’t likely to become customers.

On the other hand, inbound marketing strategies are typically more effective for small businesses. Inbound lead generation entices your target audience with advertising and marketing campaigns on the platforms they already use, such as social networks, search engines, and review sites like Yelp. If a campaign piques their interest, inbound leads willingly provide their contact information. They want and expect you to contact them, which makes the rest of your sales process much smoother.

Here are four inbound lead generation ideas that you can use to attract your target market.

1. Turn long-form content into lead magnets

Lead generation: entrepreneur using a laptop

Long-form content, such as whitepapers, webinars, podcasts, and e-books, can provide immense value to potential clients. The best long-form content educates, informs, and/or entertains an existing audience on topics in which your brand has expertise. For instance, an auto repair shop could host a webinar demonstrating the steps of a monthly maintenance routine, helping viewers build lifelong skills. 

While blog content and social media videos usually focus on answering a single question, lengthier content can cover a broader subject and answer many customer questions at once.

Long-form content marketing can also act as a powerful “lead magnet,” or a free item or service offered in exchange for contact information. If your content is engaging and authoritative, viewers and readers may be willing to provide their contact information to gain access to your expertise. Compared to paid subscriptions, joining your email list or providing a phone number will feel like a small ask.

This lead generation tactic is particularly effective because it continues to pay off in the long term. Once you create your lead magnet content, you can continuously promote it on landing pages, in social media ads, and beyond to boost your lead gen. Not only that, but it can also help you build trust by displaying your industry expertise to new leads and competitors.

2. Capture high-quality leads on Yelp

If you want leads who are ready to buy, Yelp is an invaluable resource. Nearly 90% of users make a purchase within a week of visiting Yelp, which means you can quickly turn leads from Yelp into new customers.

“When [customers are searching] on Yelp, they’re making the decision as to whether they’re going to move forward or not. It’s the final step in the funnel,” said Lance Wilson, CEO of Lilikoi Agency in California, whose marketing agency helps small businesses make Yelp work for them. “If you look great on Yelp, it’s a gigantic magnet, it’s a conversion tool, it’s a great lead source—if you work it properly.”

To capture high-quality leads on this digital marketing channel, start by adding or claiming your Yelp Business Page and include current business details and high-quality photos. The more often you update your page, the stronger your lead gen will be—businesses with a complete Yelp Page see 135% more page views on average. 

When users send a message to your business or use the Request a Call, Request an Appointment, or Request a Quote feature, Yelp automates the process of capturing their contact information and other details about their needs so you can reach out to them. 

If you want to speed up your lead generation, you can also purchase Yelp Ads that show your Yelp Business Page to even more potential customers searching for relevant products and services. Yelp Ads puts your business above the search results and on your competitors’ pages, meaning customers are more likely to find you while searching for the products or services you provide.


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3. Optimize your website

Man using a laptop

Your website is a powerful lead generation tool. Many potential customers instinctively click to a brand’s website to get more information. To extend their visit, make sure they can find all the information they need on your site: pricing, descriptions of your products or services, and more. 

But the journey doesn’t stop there. To turn website visitors into leads, you need to optimize your site for lead generation. The following tactics make it easier for website visitors to get in touch with you so you can market right to them:

  • Prominently display your contact information on the footer of every page and on a “Contact Us” page
  • Add an email sign-up form on your web page and include a call to action (CTA) to encourage website visitors to fill it out
  • Add case studies or customer testimonials to boost your lead conversion rate or the amount of website visitors who submit their contact information

Many email marketing tools, such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact, offer predesigned sign-up form templates to embed on your site. When a website visitor submits their email address, they’ll instantly be saved as subscribers on your contact list so you can follow up with an email campaign.

Once your website is set up to capture leads, start driving more potential customers to your website by implementing search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. For example, you can include relevant keywords—“buyer’s agent” or “first-time homebuyer” for real estate agents—so your website shows up on potential customers’ search engine results pages (SERPs).


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4. Create a referral program

You can also improve your lead generation process with the help of your strongest champions: your existing customers. Referral rewards programs give current clients incentives, such as gift cards, freebies, or discounts, to bring in new customers.

Consumers trust family members and friends more than any other sources for brand information. Strong referrals will not only help you acquire leads but also build trust with potential customers even before your first interaction.

With referral program ideas like referral incentives, social gifting, or tiered rewards, you don’t have to spend a dime until you close a sale. Make the most of your referral program by regularly marketing it to customers, perhaps through an email newsletter or on social media platforms. Referral programs can also help you re-engage loyal customers, gaining repeat business as you expand your contact list. 

How to Make More Money from the Leads You Already Have [WEBINAR]

Expand your contact list with lead gen

Lead generation is the process of attracting and nurturing potential customers as they proceed through the sales funnel. Effective lead generation ideas—such as creating lead magnets, claiming your Yelp Business Page, and adding sign-up forms to your website—can help you gather potential customerscontact information. Once you have their contact information, you can follow up with quality deals and content to encourage them to make a purchase.

To drive a faster conversion rate once you start growing your list of leads, discover eight sales promotion examples to help you offer enticing deals potential customers won’t be able to resist.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.