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.

Drive traffic without SEO

I am an ardent supporter of creating great quality content that ranks well in Google search for marketing purposes.

Recently, however, I have been forced to concede that organic traffic from Google is no longer reliable enough.

Since 2012 Google's search results have been in upheaval, and while the general thrust of the changes are to improve search results and cut out spam, there has been significant collateral damage along the way.

wordpress affiliate programs

Finding the best affiliate programs to make money from your blog, or Web content, is easy if you work with WordPress and Web hosting/Web design.

WordPress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) in the world, with a huge community of webmasters, bloggers and developers.

This makes it an attractive niche market for bloggers and affiliate marketers who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty when it comes to discussing Web design and Web hosting.

Secret to online advertising

Online advertising can help businesses capture new leads and generate sales and revenue almost instantly - but only if they know the secret to effective online ads.

While online ads (in particular, PPC ads) have great potential, it is very difficult to know exactly how to create the perfect ad that reaches the right audience, at the right time.

Internet users are very good at tuning out marketing and advertisements, rendering them all but useless. So getting your online ads wrong, can end up sucking the marketing budget dry with very little ROI (Return On Investment).

Customer service is a great marketing opportunity

Any company that outsources their customer service is being silly, and are inviting competitors to swoop in and pilfer their client base.

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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Stephen had requested a meeting to give him a feel for what he should be doing in order to promote his new business.

We chatted on Skype and at the end of the hour had covered quite a lot of ground. Poor Stephen had his ear bent by me for most of that time.

But it occurred to me that seeing a real-life consultation that deals not only with good practice (predominantly Internet based, in this case), but also shows the other side of the coin - interaction and thoughts from the business owner himself - might be really interesting to everyone else.

Big brands, especially ones in trendy, fashionable industries should be killing it when it comes to social media marketing, right?

Actually, there's fairly obvious evidence that they are wasting a lot of money on social marketing campaigns that are not generating returns.

This is good news for smaller businesses that are prepared to use social media correctly, because it levels the playing field for those without endless budgets.

Gathering useful articles from top influencers

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Take an innovative approach to marketing

If you're in the business of making and selling unique stuff then the marketing strategies you use should reflect the creativity of your products in order to reach out to the right people.

Fortunately the Internet is full of the "right people" just waiting to place an order. But your message has to find them in the right place in the right way.

That's why it pays to think creatively about marketing instead of following the pack and doing the same old "tried and tested" things.

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Modern email marketing campaigns, especially from small businesses, need to be able to grow a killer mailing list and deliver awesome emails to the right aud

Email marketing intro

Email marketing is a popular and effective online strategy for small businesses (as well as large corporates).