Generating leads and following up with prospects is key to any business sustaining healthy revenues and growing its sales pipeline, but this process can be tricky for a small business. Without the deep pockets of a larger corporation, entrepreneurs and startup founders often find themselves in search of innovative, cost-effective lead-gen solutions.
Here, 18 members of Forbes Agency Council share tips for generating leads and making sales when a small business is trying to cut down on marketing costs. The insights below can help small-business owners find success with lead generation and enable sales by making the most of their limited resources and every customer touch point.
1. Offer Clients A Referral Bonus Or Incentive
Current clients are your best source for referrals and additional business. Offer a referral bonus or incentive to recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues. You could also incentivize additional purchases by offering a discount on other products or services related to their original purchase. Converting one-time customers to a subscription model can also help increase revenue. – Jimi Gibson, Thrive Agency
2. Revisit Your FRANK List
I revisit my FRANK list. It’s a tried and tested sales approach from the direct selling industry, but one that a business owner can easily use. Grab 30 minutes and a cup of coffee and write down five Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors and Kids’ contacts. You’ll have 25 contacts you already know to engage and explore referral opportunities with. – Lis Anderson, AMBITIOUS
3. Utilize Influencer Barter Collaborations
Leverage opportunities to do barter collaborations with influencers. Offer an equal value proposition to local influencers to enjoy a branded experience in exchange for social media content creation and the posting of deliverables. If the influencer drives traction, the next step would be to offer them an ongoing partnership showcasing the organic repetition of tagged content. – Olivia Ormos, OO & CO
4. Leverage A Google Business Profile And DIY Efforts
I had a mechanic with a sign that said “Cheap, fast, good—you can only pick two.” That applies here, too. You can market in a lean, effective manner, but it won’t be fast; you have to do it yourself. A Google Business Profile is a powerful tool, and it’s free. Post updates and solicit reviews. Send email and SMS blasts to customers with a low-cost customer relationship management tool, create videos for TikTok and Instagram, and apply a small targeted budget. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media, Inc.
5. Give More Than You Take
The rule of giving more than you take is timeless and true—and not something to be done only when you’re trying to cut costs. It should always be done. A simple example is sending every customer a quality, signed thank-you card, along with a gift card of real value for additional products and services from your business. At a minimum, it reminds customers of all you offer. Maximized, it drives a lot of repeat and referral business. – Josh Yudin, The Academy of Marketing
6. Build And Maintain Strong Relationships
Relationships are especially valuable for owner-managed businesses. Building them involves being visible through personal branding and thought leadership, as well as staying top of mind with current clients, former clients and colleagues. Share an article, follow them on social media and comment on a post. Offer a brief, complimentary consulting call. Marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot. Be creative. – Carol Levine, energi PR Inc
7. Do Cold Email Outreach
Cold email outreach can be a highly effective and cost-efficient way for small-business owners to generate leads and make sales. The key is to research your target audience and curate a high-quality email list of decision makers. Personalize your emails to address the recipient’s specific needs and challenges, include a clear call to action and follow up with a timely sequence of responses. – Robby White, The Nine
8. Generate Reviews For Your Business
Prioritize generating reviews for your business. By printing a simple QR code that directs to your Google Business Profile and asking customers to leave a review, you can generate positive word-of-mouth for your business online, which boosts your authority and attracts leads. People often want to help small businesses in their community succeed, and this type of effort allows them to do so. – Gavin Baker, Baker Marketing Laboratory
9. Optimize Your Marketing Strategy For ROI
When cutting marketing costs, it is crucial to identify your most impactful marketing channels and concentrate your efforts on those. Marketing channels that do not have a direct link to a return on investment should be deprioritized when cutting marketing costs. – Ivonna Young, The Lavender Agency
10. Create A Quarterly Newsletter
Beyond having a website, a Facebook page and myriad positive reviews, small-business owners should create a small, quarterly newsletter that contains guidance, tips and articles around their expertise. Distributing these positions the business as an expert—and a resource when its audience has a need or questions. – Eyal Danon, Ignite Advisory Group
11. Focus On Organic Content Marketing Strategies
A cost-effective strategy for small-business owners to generate leads and boost sales is to focus on organic content marketing strategies. This means posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and more on a daily or weekly cadence and creating engaging and shareable content related to their target audience. Also, focus on email marketing and SEO ranking to rank higher in searches. – Krishan Arora, The Arora Project
12. Share Value Versus Selling Products
There is more value in sharing advice and thought leadership than simply selling products or services. In today’s era, when anyone empowered with a mobile device can act as a citizen journalist and expert writer, I encourage owners to create educational articles, videos and content in their domain and share them in lieu of selling. – Lili Gil Valletta, CIEN+
13. Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
For effective low-cost marketing, small-business owners should prioritize optimizing their social media profiles and producing compelling content that drives user action. Offering value, such as through contests or discount codes, can enhance customer engagement. Using Google Analytics can help refine strategies by analyzing the performance and ROI of campaigns. – Durée Ross, Durée & Company, Inc.
14. Build A Simple, Effective Website
Small-business owners need to know how to build a simple but effective website. If WordPress intimidates you, build on Squarespace. Then, add content, content and more content to strengthen your search results. From there, own your social media presence on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to start. Use those channels to sell. Don’t just post images; make it easy for the consumer to buy. Treat those platforms as if you have no other Web presence. – Dean Trevelino, Trevelino/Keller
15. Focus On Thought Leadership
A great way for small businesses to generate sales while reducing costs is to focus on thought leadership. Spending time writing articles and being active on LinkedIn and other social channels and via email is a long-term play that will help keep you top of mind and reiterate your expertise within the industry and for potential clients. – Kirsten Ludwig, IN GOOD CO
16. Create A Gated Lead Magnet
Lead magnets are the way to go to affordably generate qualified leads. Create something of value, such as an industry report or an e-book, and house it on a landing page gated with a lead-capture form. Use your lead magnet as the “hub” of all of your promotion efforts. And don’t forget to implement a strong nurturing program, because that is what converts leads into customers. – Kristen DeGroot, The Campfire Circle
17. Be A Guest On Others’ Podcasts
For small businesses operating on a tight budget, appearing as an expert guest on someone else’s podcast offers a blend of credibility building, targeted marketing and long-term visibility. Sharing insights, experiences and anecdotes as a guest also builds trust. By strategically leveraging podcasts, businesses can drive leads without breaking the bank. – Ivana Johnston, Puzzle Partner Ltd.
18. Build A Strategic Partner Program
Building a strategic partner program is a great way to generate leads at scale without any of the costs of marketing your brand head-on. Rather than promoting directly to your target audience, you’re promoting through your base of partners, who have an incentive to do the marketing and referring on your behalf. It’s a high-leverage, low-cost play that can generate millions in revenue on its own. – Austin Irabor, NETFLY