There are many different ways to generate leads, and many more tools to help you do so.
As a small business – or anyone else doing it on their own, including solopreneurs, startups, entrepreneurs, and the self-employed – you don’t have the time or resources to research, let alone pay for and use, all of the lead generation tools available to you.
To help you, I’ve written this post. It covers the absolute minimal requirements and the 4 tools you need in order to quickly and easily start to capture leads for your business – all for free.
Note: This article applies to generating leads online, and assumes you have a website. I also want to take a moment to distinguish between producing leads from scratch and prospecting for or acquiring leads. What I’m talking about here is lead generation: someone willingly giving you their contact information, as opposed to you manufacturing a list by proactively identifying prospects or buying names and email addresses.
If you search Google for “lead generation tools” you’ll find many articles that have assembled lists of tools you can use for getting leads.
For example, this article presents 27 tools, “27 Lead Generation Tools that Will Help You Rapidly Grow Your Business.” This one has 41, “41 Top Lead Generation Tools.” And this post boasts 113 different tools, “113 of the Best Lead Generation Tools and Resources.”
Between these three articles alone there are 181 lead generation tools. 181!
And that’s part of the problem. Too many tools.
Let’s simplify things. Let’s review the four elements required to generate leads online and identify the absolute minimal tools you need to create these elements.
The four elements are:
2. Landing page
To start with, you need an offer: something your prospects value enough to exchange their contact information for. Depending upon your business, your offer can be many things. If you sell a product, it can be free trial or sample. If you sell services, it most likely will be a piece of content that your prospects find relevant and useful, something that answers their questions or allows them to do a particular task better, more effectively or efficiently, perhaps saving them time.
If your offer is a piece of content, you’ll need to create it. One tool that I recommend for content creation is Visme. Visme is an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. It allows you to take your existing content or subject matter expertise and convert it into powerful stories that you can use as an attractive offer for your prospects. Their Basic product is free.
Your offer is what you put out there in order to attract prospects – kind of like a lure in fishing. But once you grab your prospects’ attention you must send them somewhere in order to convert them to a lead. And where you send them is a landing page.
A landing page is a one-page website whose sole purpose is to convert the visitor into a lead by exchanging your offer for their contact information. The only traffic you are sending there are people who have an interest in your offer – they’ve seen it promoted in an email or on social media, for example, and clicked on the link that sends them directly to your landing page.
Once on the page, your message must immediately resonate with the visitor by clearly articulating the problem your offer is solving, listing the benefits of your offer, and making it easy for the visitor to get the offer.
Because landing pages are exclusively focused on your offer and capturing contact information, they are pretty simple things to build. If you follow best practices you can probably do it yourself. Conversely, there are tools to help create a landing page. My favorite free option is Ucraft. The site offers templates in a range of categories, including Business, Personal, Health, Design, and Applications. Once you chose a template your landing page should be up and running in minutes.
Once you have your offer and a landing page that promotes it, you need the spark that compels the visitor to click through to your landing page. This element is the Call-to-Action, or CTA.
The CTA’s main benefit is to drive traffic to the landing page. The CTA promotes the offer, and it is the first step in turning a prospect into a lead. A good call-to-action speaks directly to the prospect’s needs and provides direction as to what they are supposed to do next.
As such, the CTA is not a text link. It has to be an actual button or graphical element that calls out, “click on me to take the next action.” One of the best practices in creating a high performing CTA is to make it attention-grabbing. In order to make your CTA attention-grabbing, you need to utilize eye-popping graphics. For this I use Canva. Canva has a free version of its tool that makes it very easy for non-graphical people (like me) to create professional looking graphics. (Side note: Canva has a library of assets you can use to work with, but if you want to utilize photography in your Call-to-Action, Unsplash has a seemingly endless supply of royalty free photos).
And finally, once you have your prospect onto your landing page, you need to capture their information. For this, you need a form. The general rule of thumb for forms is to only ask the visitor for as much information as you need at that point in time. For example, if you have created a lead gen campaign to capture first time leads, then you probably just want to ask for their name and email address. If you are marketing to leads that already exist in your data base, and you want to further qualify them, you may want a form that asks for additional information such as their age range, job title, and specific areas of interest that may further qualify them as a good prospect for your particular product or service.
HubSpot provides free tools that look great and work really well for contact forms and pop-ups that allow you to collect contact information. As an added bonus, they also have free tools that allow you to setup automated responses to your forms via email.
And because I like these guys, and their product, I'm going to throw in an extra free Form tool - Sumo. Sumo is another great choice for forms, lead capture and automated responses!
So that’s it, the only 4 tools you need to create the elements necessary to start generating leads online, for free. In summary, and continuing with the fishing them, what we have is:
- Offer = lure: what you use to attract prospects
- Call-to-Action = hook: what you use to catch hold of prospects
- Landing Page = rod & reel: what you use to bring pull prospects to you
- Form = net: what you use to land prospects
But like fishing, just because you have the required equipment – rod, reel, lure, and net – doesn’t guarantee you’ll catch fish. You also need to know where to fish and how to use the equipment.
The same challenge exists with lead generation. You need to know “where” your prospects are (the channels your prospects use to get their information) and “how” to get leads (how to coordinate your offer, CTA, landing page, and form to attract and capture your specific target market).
This is the biggest problem with lead generation today – there are so many tools, tactics and channels to choose from that all the different permutations creates a very large margin for error. To be successful, you need to know your target market well enough to use the specific tool, tactic and channel that will be successful in reaching and resonating with your prospects. In most cases, the tools, tactics and channels used are not the right ones. As a result, your corresponding marketing campaign and message comes across as disconnected to your prospect. Not surprisingly, they don’t respond.
Below is a free blueprint to a System that identifies and tailors the specific tools, tactics and channels your business needs in order to reach and resonate with your specific target audience and that produces leads on an consistent and predictable basis. (By the way, I created the below CTA using Visme, Unsplash, and Canva!)