Lead generation: Tactics for small businesses and start-ups

Lead generation: Tactics for small businesses and start-ups

Posted: Wed 26th Apr 2023

If your small business is looking to increase its customer base, leads are absolutely vital. But how do you go about generating them? The thought can be a little daunting.

In this blog, I'll hopefully help you navigate the many lead generation options at your fingertips and explain how to manage your leads to a successful close.

Before you start

Though it may be very tempting just to get stuck in, there are a few steps to take before you embark on your lead generation strategy.

You'll find your activity to be much more productive if you've thoroughly prepared first, so here are some brief tips.

Know your product or service inside out

Having a detailed knowledge of your own product or service may seem like an obvious suggestion – of course you know that!

But before you get going with lead generation, also consider what questions people may ask you along the way. Be prepared for queries about pricing and whether you can offer a discount.

Have some offers to hand in case you need them, or some value-adds that may prove useful on the route to a sale. Make a list of FAQs so you're ready with a great answer to any questions that arise.

Taking this step will give you confidence when it comes to engaging with your targets from the first enquiry.

Know your target market

Understanding your target market is crucial to effective lead generation. You should consider elements such as:

  • Demographics: Does your product appeal to a certain age or gender, or where might they be located? For example, if you provide a service within a certain geographic area, there's little point in targeting people outside of that area, particularly if you're going to include any 'paid search' within your lead generation strategy.

  • Other products or services you align with: For example, if you appeal to a luxury market, look at how similar brands promote themselves.

Craft meaningful messages

Throughout your lead generation campaign, you'll need a strong message and call to action. You can summarise this for yourself by answering three questions:

  1. What problem do I solve for my target market?

  2. How do I solve that problem?

  3. How do I do it better than my competitors?

You'll start with some basic answers, which you can then work into your marketing messages. That way, anyone viewing your content can immediately relate your product or service, and to their situation, and feel inspired to contact you.

Keep messages short and simple – for example, Tesco's 'Every Little Helps' slogan says so much in just three words.

Be ready to manage your leads

Before you go all out to generate leads, you should know where you're going to store them and how you're going to progress them through your sales pipeline.

Ideally, you should have a CRM system. There are many available – some free, some relatively inexpensive. To start with, you just need a simple piece of software that captures your contacts' details and keeps the data safe and GDPR-compliant.

Now your lead generation begins

Depending on your product or service, you have many options open to you. Here are just some of them, with a few tips on how to get the best out of every opportunity.

Your website

Make sure you have a strong call to action on every page of your website. Some examples include 'Enquire now', 'Click to call', 'Buy now' or 'Book a call'. Make sure every link works and the responses are going to an inbox that you check regularly.

Once your site is ready, you need to promote it. Make sure your website is clearly visible on all your social channels.

Have you claimed your business on Google? Google Business Profile is free and gives you loads of opportunity to:

  • showcase your products and services

  • include images and offers

  • get those all-important reviews, so anyone checking you out can see what a great business you are.

Social media channels

This includes everything from a Facebook business page to profiles on Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn, for starters.

The key with social media is to be where your prospects are. There's no point investing time in building your Instagram if your ideal client isn't going to see you there. LinkedIn is a brilliant source of leads if you operate in a business-to-business (B2B) market, but you must 'work it'.

Using social media for lead generation warrants a whole blog post of its own, and each platform has its own unique way of driving leads. That said, whatever channel you use, make sure your profile is complete, your product or service is instantly recognisable and you have made it easy for people to contact you everywhere.

Be engaging and helpful – don't just post 'Buy my stuff'-type messages. Vary your feed with information, useful tips, even some personal stuff. Remember that people buy from people, so it's good to let your prospect know who is the personality behind the brand.

Add value to others by liking, sharing and commenting on their posts. You'll be amazed how that will be reciprocated.


If you can, get out and meet people face to face, or even online, at least once or twice a month. There are so many networking events to choose from – some formal, like the BNI; others more informal, such as local meet-ups and social networking events. Eventbrite can be a great place to find one near you, while Enterprise Nation also features local and specialist networking groups.

The same rules that apply to social posting also go for networking. Approach with an open mind and a willingness to help, and listen to other people as much as you speak about yourself. Remember to take along business cards or have your LinkedIn profile on your phone for instant connections.

Paid advertising

Depending on your product or service and your budget, you could consider paid advertising for lead generation. From pay-per-click (PPC) on Google or social channels to taking an ad in your local free paper, this form of lead generation can truly work.

But approach with caution! Paid social ads can be a money pit if you aren't familiar with how the platforms work. It's tempting to 'boost a post', but remember that these platforms are designed to make money for themselves.

If you want to try out some ads, consider getting help, at least until you've tested them out and you know what format provides the best return on your investment.

Other lead generation methods

There are lots of other ways to generate leads. You could also consider the following:

  • Buying in a data set and sending a mailing: Always use a specific programme to send mass mailings and include an unsubscribe button to remain GDPR-compliant.

  • PR: Where you get yourself, your product or your service in the news.

  • Speaking events: Showcase your expertise by hosting webinars or being a guest speaker at an event.

  • Exhibitions: You could book a stand at an exhibition, either specialist to your industry or in your local area. If possible, attend first as a visitor to gauge if the investment is worthwhile for you. But avoid the temptation to 'sell; to stand holders; it's bad form and you wouldn't like it if you'd invested in a stand only for people to take up your time trying to sell to you.

When you get a lead

Every lead is precious. You've dedicated a lot of time and expense to gain that lead, so don't let it slip through the net.

As soon as you have interest, record the contact's details in your CRM and follow up promptly. Then keep following up until the lead either becomes a sale or you've ascertained that they may have future potential or no potential.

At that point, you can either remove them from your CRM or add them to a 'keep in touch' list. Remember: It can take up to 10 touches to gain a sale, and most salespeople give up after two.

Make lead generation part of your weekly routine by creating a plan and sticking to it. Once the leads start to roll in, it's tempting to pull back. But sales is a cycle, and it's important to have a good number of leads at each stage in your sales pipeline.

If you have any questions or comments about lead generation, why not join my group Help With Sales here on Enterprise Nation?

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