Leads and Lead Generation – the buzzwords that never fade, regardless of your business type, size, or industry – especially for (SaaS) startups. Why? You wouldn’t expect to sell a $1000 subscription out of the blue with a cold call.
“It’s a tough racket.’ These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold…”
“Glengarry Glen Ross” movie (1992).
The best scenario for you is to have your prospects come to you with the desire to learn more about your product and buy it if it meets their needs. Those are the most precious and desired leads.
Let’s explore the basics of what makes a marketing lead and how to easily set up your lead generation process. This makes sure that your sales team doesn’t have to rely on contacting potential buyers with unsolicited offers.
What is a Lead in Marketing?
According to Wrike, “leads in marketing refer to any individual or organization within your marketing reach who has interacted with your brand way or has the potential to become a future customer. A lead can be someone that sees or downloads your content, signs up for a trial, or visits your store.”
I would define it even more simply: a lead in marketing combines two main factors related to your target audience: interest and contact.
Very often, I observe a misconception that people make – they believe that marketing leads are individuals who only have an interest or might be interested in their product. So, when they compile a contact base of companies that match their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), they may label it as leads, but in reality, they are just part of the target audience.
On the other hand, even if you are certain that they are interested in your product but you don’t know how to contact them, they are essentially useless. You won’t be able to reach (and sell to) them unless they decide to call or email you first.
Lead Generation for Startups
Startups often rely on effective lead generation strategies to build their customer base, create awareness about their offerings, and drive revenue growth. But to do this, they should take a closer look at the customer’s journey to understand what actions we need to take at each stage of this path, or a sales funnel as it’s called in marketing.
Navigating Through the Funnel
Lead generation for startups is not the ultimate goal of your business. You need sales. Essentially, the main objective is to turn potential leads into paying customers and maximize revenue. To do this, you need to deeply understand your target audience and match their segments with the stages of the sales funnel based on their intent. As a marketer, you probably know the AIDA model, which represents the typical steps along this journey:
- Awareness: At the top of the funnel, potential customers become aware of your brand, product, or service. This can be achieved through various marketing channels such as advertising, content marketing, social media, or word-of-mouth referrals. An essential step of lead generation for startups
Interest: Once people become aware of your offering, some develop an interest and actively seek more information. They may visit your website, sign up for newsletters, or engage with your content. This stage involves capturing leads by collecting contact information or generating leads through lead magnets.
- Interest: In this stage, potential customers evaluate their options and consider whether your product or service meets their needs. They may compare different brands, read reviews, or seek additional information. It’s crucial to provide compelling content and address any concerns or objections they might have.
- Decision: At this point, the potential customer is ready to purchase. They may request a demo, consult with sales representatives, or compare pricing and features. It’s important to provide a seamless buying experience, clear product information, and a strong value proposition to encourage them to choose your offering.
- Action: The action stage is when the potential customer becomes an actual customer by purchasing. This could involve completing an online order, signing a contract, or subscribing to a service. Making the buying process as smooth and convenient as possible is essential to minimize any friction that may discourage the customer from completing the purchase.
- Retention and Advocacy: The sales funnel doesn’t end with the purchase. Satisfied customers can become advocates for your brand and help generate more business through referrals and positive reviews. It’s crucial to provide excellent customer service, maintain customer satisfaction, and encourage loyalty to foster long-term relationships.
Each stage requires specific tactics and approaches to reach its objectives, navigate your potential customer to the next checkpoint, and finally complete the deal. That’s what lead generation for startups requires.
How Can Startups Generate Leads?
To attract new customers, you should first tell people about your product. You can do it using inbound and outbound marketing tools.
This toolkit focuses on attracting and engaging potential customers by creating valuable content and experiences that align with their interests and needs.
The primary goal is to draw people to your brand organically rather than interrupting them with intrusive advertising. Inbound marketing tactics include:
- PPC campaigns
- Content marketing
- Email marketing (opt-in)
- Video marketing
Your website serves as a digital storefront, conveying your brand’s value and showcasing your product or service. Ensure your website is visually appealing, user-friendly, and optimized for mobile devices. Use compelling content and persuasive calls-to-action (CTAs) to engage visitors and capture leads.
For instance, a startup developing a productivity app could create a website that features intuitive navigation, informative product descriptions, and compelling testimonials from satisfied users. By optimizing the website for SEO, the startup can improve its visibility on search engine results pages and attract organic traffic from individuals searching for productivity solutions.
The content you generate matters both for search engines and your target audience, which can assess your expertise level. Suppose you run a health tech startup offering a fitness-tracking app. You could publish blog posts about healthy living tips, create instructional workout videos, design infographics showcasing exercise routines, and host a podcast discussing the latest trends in fitness. If you target other businesses, you need to show how they can benefit from your product and demonstrate the perfect understanding of their pain points. For instance, you have a solution for home/durable medical equipment suppliers needing help with billing. You can show them how automation can eliminate human errors and streamline operations.
Another option for reaching your audience is social media – a powerful tool for lead generation for startups. The right platform choice depends on your industry specifics and target audience’s needs. Generate content that resonates with what your potential customers are looking for.
Collaborating with influencers and industry partners can significantly boost your lead generation and sales efforts. Identify relevant influencers who have a strong following and align with your target audience. Approach them with partnership opportunities such as sponsored content, product reviews, or guest blogging. You can tap into their audience and gain credibility and exposure by leveraging their influence and reach.
For instance, a cybersecurity startup could partner with a renowned cybersecurity blogger to co-host a webinar on best practices for online safety. By leveraging the blogger’s expertise and network, the startup can reach a wider audience and position itself as a trusted authority in the industry.
Also known as traditional marketing, it involves actively reaching out to potential customers through various promotional activities and is also efficient in lead generation for startups. It relies on pushing messages out to a wide audience, hoping to capture the attention of individuals interested in the product or service. Outbound marketing tactics include:
- Bulk email campaigns
- LinkedIn outreach
- Networking (brand promotion and collaboration, expanding connections in your industry)
- Trade shows and events: participating in industry-specific events to showcase products or services and connect with potential customers
- Retargeting/remarketing campaigns
- Cold calling
Outbound marketing is often most effective with account-based marketing (ABM) and brand awareness strategies.
Getting New Leads Through Customer Satisfaction
If you approach the final stage of your funnel properly, you will increase your chances of generating new leads. After a customer makes a purchase, the goal is to ensure their continued satisfaction and loyalty. This involves providing excellent customer service, promptly addressing any issues or concerns, and maintaining open lines of communication. Regular engagement through personalized emails, surveys, or follow-up calls can help strengthen customer relationships and identify opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.
Satisfied customers can become powerful advocates for your brand. Encourage them to share positive reviews, testimonials, or case studies highlighting their positive experiences. Word-of-mouth referrals from happy customers can significantly influence potential buyers and generate new business. Providing incentives or referral programs can further motivate customers to promote your brand to their networks actively. The recommendations may convert into new leads.
Different Types of Leads
If you grab users’ attention, you may generate marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). These are people who have shown interest in your product or service and you know how to contact them (email, phone, Skype, etc.). They are typically generated through marketing campaigns, such as website inquiries, newsletter sign-ups, content downloads, or social media engagement. MQLs are often at the top or middle of the sales funnel and require further nurturing and qualification before being handed over to the sales team as a part of lead generation for startups strategy. Marketing teams use various criteria, such as lead scoring models or specific actions taken by the lead, to determine their level of interest and potential as customers.
Another type that is closer to the bottom of your funnel is sales-qualified leads (SQLs). They are considered more likely to convert into paying customers compared to other leads in the sales funnel. The qualification process involves evaluating various factors, including the lead’s level of interest, their specific needs, and their readiness to make a purchasing decision. Marketing and sales teams typically collaborate to establish the criteria that define a sales-qualified lead. However, in practice, SQLs are often converted from MQLs after the first call with the prospect, and the sales team ensures that they have both the budget and the intention to buy.
How to Qualify Leads
This is a crucial step in the lead generation for startups process to determine which leads have the highest potential to become customers. By qualifying leads, you can prioritize your efforts and focus on those prospects who are most likely to convert. Here are some key steps to effectively qualify leads:
- Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
- Establish lead qualification criteria (for instance, job title, company size, level of decision-making authority, budget, timeline, and pain points)
- Conduct Initial Research (reviewing their website, social media profiles, industry news, or any other available information)
- Engage in active listening
- Ask qualifying questions (current situation, pain points, budget availability, decision-making process, and timeline for implementing a solution)
- Use lead scoring or grading
Analyze engagement and behavior (email open rates, website visits, content downloads, or webinar attendance). A lead that consistently engages with your content and shows interest is more likely to be qualified
Remember that lead qualification is an ongoing process. As leads progress through the sales funnel, continue to assess their fit and interest level, updating their qualification status as needed. Regularly review and refine your qualification criteria based on feedback and insights from your sales team. This iterative approach helps optimize your lead qualification process and improve the efficiency of your sales efforts.
As discussed in this blog post, various methods for lead generation for startups exist. Whether you opt for outbound marketing activities like cold outreach or inbound tactics such as optimizing your content for SEO, it is critical to invest adequate resources into the process to maximize your chances of success. Moreover, methodizing each stage of your sales funnel is key to ensuring successful lead conversion.
If your organization lacks the necessary skills and expertise to execute a well-orchestrated lead generation strategy, hiring a SaaS marketing agency to help you ensure a smooth and effective sales flow could be beneficial. The takeaway here is that without proper investment in time and resources into lead generation, growing your business will remain a distant dream. And with that in mind, it’s time to start perfecting your sales funnel and investing in either inbound or outbound marketing activities – so why not take the first step now?