No matter what kind of business you are in, the majority of your customers and prospects are likely to be internet users. Therefore lead generation from online sources should always be a part of your marketing and sales strategy.
However, most people believe that online lead generation requires a lot of money. While this is partly true, it doesn’t always have to be that way. If you know the right tactics and platforms, you can kick off your online marketing and lead generation activities without spending any money at all.
In fact, if you’re a startup or have budget limitations, I recommend you start your marketing efforts using these tactics before making the transition to paid options once you have sufficient funds for it.
Here are a few ways you can market your business effectively and generate targeted sales leads without any expenditure.
Note: I’m assuming that you already have a great product and maintain the highest service standards. Without a solid product, any marketing activity will only backfire.
1) Use Your Existing Traffic and Leverage Communities
When you start marketing your products or services online, always have a good look at your existing website traffic. Study your audience in detail using your Google Analytics account and see if you can identify their preferences and needs. Create content that answers their concerns and resolves their problems
Also look at the traffic sources to your website. You might find that many of your visitors come from different groups and forums. You can target these forums and communities to convey your message.
If you don’t have a website yet, study the blogs of your established competitors and see the kind of content they are creating. Also study the comments on their blog posts to get insights on your target market.
Join the discussions on forums like Quora, LinkedIn Groups, Reddit and other niche specific forums and answer the questions that people are asking about your industry. Quora, in particular, is a great place where startups can establish their brand image and attract leads by answering questions.
Similarly, you can post advertisements on classified portals like OLX and Craiglist to get free exposure. One of the hottest startups in the world, AirBnB, started their online marketing efforts by posting on Craiglist.
2) Use Incentives to Generate Word of Mouth
Using different incentives for your target users is a great way to get the ball rolling and generate word of mouth about your product. Your incentives can be anything from a direct discount on products to free giveaways through social media competitions.
Competitions and giveaways work particularly well with Facebook and Twitter users, and can help you attract dozens of leads in very little time.
Another way incentivize your users is to offer them something extra if they refer their contacts. For example, Yesware, an email tracking startup, increases the email tracking limit of its free users if their referred contacts sign up for a free Yesware account. This encourages people to spread the word for free.
3) Offer Attractive Affiliate Programs
Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways to make lots of sales without spending any money at all. The concept of affiliate marketing is simple: people sign up as affiliates of your products, promote them using a variety of techniques, and only get paid when they actually make a sale.
So it’s a win-win situation for you.
To attract influential affiliates, you need to have a great product and an attractive commission structure. You can use different affiliate marketing forums, like Warrior Plus and Warrior Forums, to find affiliates for your products. Or you can use affiliate management tools like Affiliate Platform to track and manage your affiliate sales.
4) Upsell and Cross Sell Existing Clients
Upselling and cross selling are classical sales concepts that are widely used in the corporate sector. You can apply them to your online sales as well and generate more revenue without any marketing.
Upselling means convincing your existing customers to spend more money to buy a higher priced alternative of their current product or service package.
Cross selling is when you recommend a product that complements the existing product that your customer has.
There are a number of ways to encourage your current customers to upsell or cross sell.
- You can offer increased support and service features on upsell and cross-sell.
- You can offer bundled products at a slightly discounted rate.
- You can offer partner products at a discounted rate for customer who upsell.
5) Offer Free Product/Service Trials
If you have a good product/service, and you believe that you can really add value to your customer’s business, you should consider offering free service trials for limited time periods. This will give your prospects a good look at your product and its usefulness.
However, you need to be careful in selecting the right prospects for free trials. You need to offer this to prospects who have genuine need of your product and can also spend money purchasing it. Or you need to target someone highly influential in your industry who can refer clients and recommend your services to their followers.
For example, QuickSprout generated dozens of business leads by offering free SEO services to media outlets like TechCrunch and Gawker in exchange for testimonials, PR and backlinks.
6) Focus on Influencer Outreach
Every industry has certain influential people or organizations who’re trend setters. People follow them closely and take their opinion seriously. If you can build a solid relationship with the right influencers, you can generate tons of business leads with just a few recommendations.
While shortlisting your target influencers, make sure they’re people who’re closely connected with your target market. Approach them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, get active on their blog, comment on their posts, share their content, build conversations with them on social media and give them early access to your products and services.
A great example of this strategy is NinjaOutreach, an outreach application. The developers of this application approached influencers in all their target niches and offered them early access to the product. In return, they just asked for reviews. As a result, they boosted their sales numbers significantly through referral sales.
7) Use Smart Guest Blogging
There’s no better way to build your brand image, market your services with authority and generate new leads than smart and effective guest blogging. Don’t guest blog for SEO or backlinks. Rather, target high authority blogs that are popular with your target market. Create high quality content that demonstrates your niche expertise. Offer this content to your target blogs for free.
Many marketers and businesses fail at guest blogging because they’re too focused on promoting their own products. This is the wrong approach.
Guest blogging works the best when you focus on creating high quality content and delivering value. If your content is great, people will look at your author bio at the end of the post (where you should provide a backlink to your product’s landing page).
You can mention your own products in your guest posts, but only when they truly add value. Otherwise even your backlink in the author bio will be enough to send you leads, if your post is high quality.
8) Use Your Existing Network and Relationship
No matter how new your business is, you must have an existing network of business professionals and personal relationships. You can leverage them to generate the initial momentum for your business and get early wins.
I personally suggest building your online assets (website, social media pages and profiles) before reaching out to your network so that their referrals see a refined version of your brand.
Send them a quick email asking them to spread the word about your product and refer anyone who might find it useful.
You will be surprised to see how effective this small step can be.
Wrapping It Up
As I said at the start, online marketing doesn’t always have to cost you money. There are numerous ways to get highly targeted exposure without spending a penny. Companies like AirBnB, DropBox and Google are just a few examples of giant corporations who started their marketing activities using free platforms. The methods I have listed in this post are more than enough to kick off your marketing activities and provide you a solid launching pad for future marketing and lead generation strategies.
Have you tried any of these methods? Or can you add to this list and make this post more valuable? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
You can find more articles like this in our how do I start a blog series.