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How to Generate Leads for Your Business

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.

How to Generate Leads for Your Business

How to Generate Leads for Your Business

It feels like there’s a business for everything nowadays, which means competition is stiffer than ever. Whether your business is brand new or a decade old, you might find yourself struggling to attract customers in this dog-eat-dog economy. 

Smart salespeople know that potential customers, which are known as leads, often need to be led through a rigorous qualification process to become sales. Many leads are disqualified along the way. As a result, the surest way to get more customers is to get exponentially more leads.

But how do you do that? There are dozens of lead generation, or lead gen, strategies out there, but their effectiveness varies according to skill level, industry, and other factors. Whichever method you choose, it’s likely to involve a lot of work. 

But don’t worry, this guide has you covered – detailing eight great ways to generate leads and put your business on the path to super sales success. 

Inbound Lead Generation Vs Outbound Lead Generation

First off, there are two types of lead generation: inbound and outbound.

Inbound lead gen refers to potential customers that reach out and contact your business. Maybe the person saw your marketing, did some research and reached out. Examples of inbound lead gen strategies include ads, social media posts, and maximizing search engine optimization, or SEO. 

Outbound lead generation is when a business reaches out to potential customers to begin a relationship in the hopes that they make a purchase. Examples of this include cold calling and asking for referrals. 

Whether you lean toward inbound or outbound depends on your target audience. But most businesses should use both methods: a study by Demand Metric, a marketing consultancy, found that more than 8 out of 10 businesses said both inbound and outbound lead gen drove their sales.

With that in mind, let’s explore some strategies you could use for your business.

1. Social Media Marketing

The hot lead gen tactic of the digital age, social media is the new marketing frontier. With appealing posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, you can generate inbound leads. You can also create outbound leads by engaging potential buyers and sending direct messages. 

Posting regularly on social media boosts your reach and, if you do it right, your company’s reputation, ensuring your ads are seen by more people. Your social media profile page can also serve as a landing page for potential customers, where they can research your company and reach out. 

Make your social media accounts visually appealing, with strong branded images and high-quality content that assures visitors your business is legit. After all, leads will only contact you if they like what they see. 

One approach is to restrict access to your content to visitors who provide contact information. While frustrating to the consumer, this means leads that do provide such information are already semi-qualified because they have shown an interest.

Customers who willingly make this exchange are called an information qualified lead or marketing qualified lead, depending whether they exchanged their info for access to information or to marketing materials. With any luck, they’ll talk to one of your sales reps and move toward making a purchase.  

2. Collaborations

An informed collaboration with an influencer or company can be a great way to tap into each other’s audiences, creating new leads for all involved.

No matter how hard brands try, customers rarely trust sales reps and outbound marketing as much as they trust other consumers. They’re more likely to buy into your brand if a fellow consumer gives a serious thumbs up to your goods. 

This concept, called social proof, means that collaborating with an influencer to promote your brand could greatly improve your standing in consumers’ eyes. To maximize impact, be sure to choose an influencer whose followers align with your target audience.

For B2B firms, reach out to businesses in your industry and suggest a referral partnership, which is when each of the partner businesses recommends the other to its own clients, vastly increasing their leads. You could also exchange guest posts and interviews on social media, boosting your reputation as a thought leader.

3. Cold Contacting

If you’re looking for a B2B lead, cold contacting via phone, email, or online message, is another way to make first contact. More than 8 out of 10 businesses that end up buying a product (82%) had met sales people who took the initiative to contact them first, according to a B2B study by sales consultancy Rain Group. Thus, cold contacting is an effective way of acquiring leads.  

Your approach should match the potential client – if it’s a high-level executive, a phone call shows more respect and consideration. Even so, Rain also found that 8 out of 10 buyers preferred to be contacted by email, so brief, personalized emails might be a viable lead generation strategy. Just be sure not to send bulk emails – only 1 out of every 20 buyers is a fan of those. 

Even if the potential buyer decides against making a purchase right now, nurture the relationship anyway. It’s still a lead and it could become a sale down the road – circumstances often change. 

4. Revisiting Old Customers

The relationship doesn’t end once you close a sale. In fact, that’s really just the beginning. Setting aside the possibility of repeat business from that customer, you’ve also got an opportunity to gain referrals. 

Remember the idea of social proof? The same principle applies here – new leads trust a friend or fellow industry player much more than cold calls, especially if they have a business relationship.

Give old customers a call to see how they’re doing and confirm they’ve been satisfied with the goods you sold them. Along the way, ask if they have any friends or business acquaintances who might be interested in your products. Hopefully, they have someone in mind and will talk to them and advocate for your business. 

A customer knows the pros and cons of your product and will be able to determine which of their contacts might make a good fit. Given their knowledge of their industry, they may even be able to address potential clients’ questions and concerns better than a trained sales rep.

Even if they’d rather not talk to the referrals they provide, they can still point you in the right direction and give your business a stamp of approval when you approach the lead.

5. Revisiting Old Leads

In a similar vein, you can revisit old leads to see if their situation has changed or if they’d be willing to recommend you to someone they’d think would benefit from your products. This is called lead nurturing.

A lead is qualified as a prospect and potential customer if they meet some of the metrics of your ideal customer profile and if they have the budget, authority, need, and time (BANT) priority for your offering. Sometimes you’ll stop pursuing a potential customer because you learn they don’t have enough money for the purchase or lack the authority to give the go-ahead. 

Still, it’s wise to follow up later to see if their situation has changed – maybe they’ve been promoted or have a new need for your product. And if not, it’s still an opportunity to ask if they’d be willing to recommend your business to other companies or new leads. 

6. Building Your Credibility Online

Building a strong online presence on your website, customer reviews, social media platforms, and backlinking does wonders for your inbound lead generation. 

If a potential client has a problem to solve or a serious need, they’ll probably turn to a search engine first, so you’ll want an SEO-compliant website. Embrace keywords, meta descriptions, and strong headings so your site performs well in searches. 

You could also boost your off-site SEO by encouraging positive customer reviews and getting backlinks, which is when another website links to yours. To get them, you’ll approach a company and suggest a partnership or simply put out high-quality content and hope people link to it. These backlinks tell search engines that you’re trusted, boosting your ranking. 

Once the customer is on your site, the next battle is keeping them there – is your website easy to navigate and visually appealing? Even if your product is fantastic, if potential buyers find your website problematic they may never make a purchase. Thus, creating a positive online experience is crucial to turning a lead into a sale. 

Create an official page for your business on review websites like Trustpilot, the Better Business Bureau, and Google and ask customers to leave reviews. On top of building credibility with your search engine, this strengthens your reputation with potential customers.

7. Participate in Events

We’ve been focusing on online marketing, but your business shouldn’t forget the value of rubbing elbows and networking. In-person events like trade shows, conferences and even festivals can be a great way to get your name out there, especially if you’re a small business or operate in a certain region.

A trade show provides direct access to qualified leads: buyers in your industry and potentially interested in what you have to offer. You can also network with businesses that could refer you to customers. Rather than a bare-bones booth, host a fun game at which people can win prizes – the entry fee being their contact information or business card, of course.

This same principle applies to local festivals for more geographically-oriented businesses. Even if it’s not a trade show, it’s worth getting your name out there and having it associated with good times. 

If you’re advertising directly to customers, you can even host your own local event!


The best lead generation method depends on your business, but social media marketing, collaborations, cold contacting, lead nurturing, SEO optimization, and in-person connection should yield results regardless of industry. 

Of course, generating leads is only the first step – a lead needs to be qualified and encouraged to become a paying customer. But once you’ve generated a lot of leads, the chances are good that you’ll be able to convince some of them to take the plunge and make a purchase.

FAQs on Generating Leads

What’s the best way to increase my leads?

The best way to generate leads organically is through social proof – people are much more likely to believe another customer than they are your marketing team. You can take advantage of this by partnering with an influencer or asking past clients for referrals. Ultimately, if you make your customer happy and give them a good experience, they’ll recommend you to friends on their own.

How much time should I be spending per lead?

Your attention per lead should generally be inversely proportional to the amount of leads your pursuing: B2B businesses with less clients should focus on building close relationships and deeply researching leads before they reach out, while B2C businesses should focus on creating an amazing website, social media presence, and customer experience so the leads approach you on their own.

Should I pay money to generate leads?

Yes, you should invest in marketing to generate leads. The average cost per lead varies by industry, so do your research into how much you should be spending and how your competitors are generating leads.

But if you’re asking whether you should purchase a list of leads from a company, we wouldn’t recommend it unless your situation is particularly dire. Mass lead companies often provide outdated and dubious leads, and you’ll likely be routed directly to the customer’s spam folder. You’re better off cultivating your own organic leads.