Online lead generation. Pic by Fe Ilya

5 Free Online Lead Generation Ideas

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For sales and marketing people looking to get more leads for their business, the Internet offers great opportunity wrapped up in some interesting challenges.

Inbound marketing strategies (ones that don't interrupt readers, unlike, say, banner ads) are proving to be more effective as the Web migrates to mobile enabled, content based marketing.

Capturing sales leads is no longer a case of securing an online advertising budget and plastering ads all over social networks, blogs, and industry websites. Instead, online lead generation techniques require multidisciplinary skills, plenty of analytics and research, highly targeted content, and a great understanding of the what the audience wants to see.

This article looks at five of the best ways that businesses can generate leads that drive decent amounts of qualified Web traffic to maximize conversions.

1. Quality Content

Creating highly valuable, relevant, and focused content that is optimized for search and shared socially is arguably the most effective way to generate any type of lead online.

Becoming a brand publisher is not easy though. Your content strategy needs to be purged of sales and marketing, leaving only content that engages with potential clients by offering value. Applying great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to your published content will also ensure a steady stream of valuable organic search traffic (which represents the largest share of the online revenue pie).

Content is not only a great way to generate new leads, it is also a platform to capture leads elsewhere in the online ecosystem.

Content Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Identify problems potential clients encounter, and create fantastic SEO content that solves those problems (Be careful not to turn articles into sales pitches).
  2. Establish authority and credibility by creating lots of accurate, relevant content that helps people in your industry - become a goto resource.
  3. Find a way to be really interesting. Do things differently. Be creative. Apply some thought before going through the motions.

It's important to understand that publishing content is free in the sense that you can write an article and publish it to your own blog/site free of charge. However, the time and effort required to create great content and market it is significant. In this sense content is not really free because either you will need to become a fantastic blogger, or ultimately pay an employee or service to generate content on your behalf.

I'd recommend starting off yourself in order to learn about how content forms the basis of virtually all online marketing strategies. Once you know what you're doing you'll be in a far better position to make the best possible decision about how to create and publish high converting content, based on your business' content requirements.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing probably sounds a bit more sexy than content publishing to the average marketing team. But, social marketing relies heavily on quality content. Without offering and sharing something of value to potential clients and customers, social media marketing is simply an empty shell.

Without a great content marketing strategy in place, you will find it hard to sustainably generate online leads via social networks.

Social Media Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Incorporate games and competitions into your social media presence. Entertain people and educate them about your business at the same time.
  2. Incentivize interaction and engagement with prizes.

3. Word of Mouth... Online

Despite the continual advancements in technology, the rapid evolution of the Internet, and all the sales and marketing strategies that go with it, the best form of lead generation is still plain old word-of-mouth.

Your existing clients and customers are a powerful marketing tool provided you can convince them to talk about your business. By integrating social sharing and encouraging online community involvement, you can convert your clients into a great marketing and advertising resource. What's more, recommendation to friends, family, and colleagues from your clients will convert at higher rates because there is already an elevated level of trust associated with word-of-mouth recommendations.

Word of Mouth Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Create an online forum or group for existing clients and customers to interact and engage with. Encourage them to invite people or businesses they know to join.
  2. Offer comprehensive online support and encourage clients and customers to share their positive experiences socially, online.

4. Email Marketing & RSS

Not every person who reads an article is ready to convert, right at this moment, but that doesn't mean that they won't become ready to convert at some point down the line.

It seems a waste to create awesome content only to have a potential client read it, and disappear forever. That's why offering RSS feeds and an opt-in newsletter is the perfect way to keep potential clients and customers within reach of your content. Opt-in email marketing is one of the most tried and trusted methods of generating leads, sales and conversions online. If you are already creating content, then this lead gen strategy is an absolute must.

Email Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Offer special deals and discounts for readers who sign up to your newsletter. This gives you the opportunity to generate sales leads on a weekly basis (eventually that reader will be ready to purchase).

5. Guest Blogging

Traditional online ads are efficiently filtered out by today's Internet users, and browsers with powerful ad blockers. How often do you visit a website, only to click on a banner ad?

Creating a high quality article that offers a reader information of value while linking back to your own business/blog/products/services is much less intrusive, and far more effective - if done responsibly. Not only that, but by selecting high quality, authority blogs with the right target audience for your business can also help to get your content to the top of search results (when it may not have stood a chance otherwise).

Guest Blogging Lead Generation Ideas

  1. Research a handful of niche blogs that target the right audience for your business. Create a high quality article that compliments their content, and have it posted to that site.
  2. Become a guest columnist or opinion writer for a leading publication in your niche. Share useful ideas, tips and insights and cite your sources of information (which can, very occasionally, be your own website).

Those are my top 5 lead generation ideas to get more online sales. What lead gen techniques have you used with success? What lead gen strategies have not worked? Share your tips and advice in the comments below.

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Customer service is one of the few real opportunities you have to forge a solid relationship with people. Why on earth would you want to hand it over to someone else (who hides you from the people that sustain your business)?

And while handling customer complaints and queries can seem like a chore, it can be converted into one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to you.

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In general, my answer is yes, but I need to qualify that by saying that the amount of time, effort and cash you invest must be proportional to the returns you want (and can realistically achieve).

I serve on the board of a wonderful not-for-profit, registered charity, and we have utilized the tools and technologies provided by the Web, and in particular, social media, to drive visibility, engagement, and awareness that would simply be out of reach otherwise.

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