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How your B2B start-up can maintain a steady flow of sales leads

Connecting with similar start-ups, conducting keyword research, and getting stuck into the online conversation can all help to boost leads

Start-up managers often focus too heavily on product development and audience growth, when they should be focusing on lead generation too.

Unless your marketing activity yields leads that convert to sales, you'll never build a sustainable business.

Clearly, you should work to retain as many customers as you can, and you should aim to close as many qualified leads as you can; but neither customer retention nor closing deals is possible if you don't have a decent volume of new leads coming into your sales funnel on a consistent basis.

Connect with similar start-ups

Reach out to people who are running start-ups that are similar to, but not in competition with, your company. Work together to produce and market a webinar. You'll get access to each other's audiences, provide value for prospects of all businesses, and each earn leads in the process.

This is an effective approach because it connects you with other entrepreneurs. Sometimes, it's not about what you know, but whom you know; so networking with others can be a helpful way of getting leads and referrals.

Get started by searching platforms such as AngelList and Crunchbase to find start-ups like yours and make a list of the start-ups you are most interested in contacting. You can find people’s email addresses using a tool like VoilaNorbert if you can’t find this information readily available on their websites.

Send each contact a personalised email that explains your company, who you are, what kind of webinar/partnership you are interest in, and why. Explain the mutual benefits to their company and invite them to connect with you.

Plan the webinars with the contacts who respond, making sure both of you develop a marketing strategy to go alongside it. When you're ready to host the webinar, sign up with a platform like ClickMeeting and run with it.

Conduct keyword and social media research

Take the time to conduct both keyword and social media traction research to see the kinds of content your target market are searching for and sharing. Then, craft stellar blog posts that address the topics and naturally weave keywords throughout. Include contact forms and other calls to action on your pages.

This works because you know what people are searching for and talking about on social media. This allows you to make sure your content meets the needs of the target audience that's looking for it.

Start by using tools like KeywordTool and Google Keyword Research Tool to find phrases related to your niche that people are searching for. You can also search Google Trends to see which topics are trending and when.

Use social listening tools like Mention, Social Mention and Hootsuite to find out what people are talking about across social media when it comes to your niche or industry. Watch for patterns in the data and create content to address the topics.

Use LinkedIn Lead Capture ads

LinkedIn Lead Capture ads are often extremely expensive, so the idea scares many start-ups away, especially if you're working with limited capital. However, you only pay when you capture a relevant lead, so as long as you know your lead-to-sale conversion rates, it should be easy enough for you to remain return-on-investment (ROI) positive.

Many start-ups have found success with other ad platforms, including Quora, Facebook and Twitter, but it can be hard to determine the extent to which these campaigns drive ROI. Even if you use tracking pixels to measure lead conversions, you won’t have much visibility into lead-to-sale conversion rates or customer lifetime value metrics, so you won’t be able to compare acquisition channel performance fully.

Using a solid sales intelligence analytics tool can help a great deal in this regard, because it can reveal how qualified the leads captured via ad referrals are. And when your sales analytics tool syncs with your customer relationship management (CRM), you’re able to easily pull reports comparing the lifetime value of various referrers.

Join conversations on the web

Post curated content on and participate in conversations that are already happening online. Take a look at Quora, LinkedIn Groups, Slack and Facebook Groups. When people comment on your posts, reply to keep the conversation going.

This works because it's another way to show your expertise in your industry. It's important to read the group rules for each group you join, and to take time to introduce yourself and share content that comes from other places before you start to do any kind of promotion. Some groups won't allow any kind of promotion for your business, and others will require certain activity levels before you can start.

Start by searching Facebook and LinkedIn for groups relevant to your industry. Take time to look at the number of members and group activity. If the group doesn't appear to be active, don't waste your time. Only send join requests to the groups that have plenty of activity – regardless of the number of members. Smaller groups that are active are just as good as huge groups with a lot of activity.

Some groups will require admin approval, so you'll have to wait before you can start participating. Once you're in, read through some of the posts thinking about how you can contribute value to the group. Then introduce yourself and start adding that value!

Find relevant meet-ups in your area

Search Meetup for relevant professional gatherings in your area. Contact the organisers and offer to give a free educational presentation to attendees. Hand out business cards at the end.

You'll earn leads because you're showing expertise and sharing value that’s relevant to your prospects’ niche. Giving your business cards out at the end of the presentation gives those who are interested in further information a way to contact you after the meet-up ends.

Start by finding the meet-ups in your local area that could be relevant to a presentation you might offer. Put together a couple of pitches for presentations, since the organiser may want a few ideas to choose from. Then, send the pitches to each organiser with an email personalised for each contact.

If two or more organisers select the same presentation, you can get more bang for your buck.

Never stop seeking leads

Eventually, you'll be able to get leads from referrals through your satisfied customers. But to get the stream started, you'll have to make consistent effort for quite sometime before you can become more hands off with lead generation.

The more leads that come in over time, the bigger your start-up will grow to be.

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.