6 Powerful Yet Low Cost Lead Generation Strategies for Small Businesses

Sara Korn

Updated: Jan 25, 2023 · 13 min read

Illustration of woman sending emails on laptop

What is lead generation?

A lead is a person who may be interested in the product or service you sell; a potential customer.

Lead generation, also known as “lead gen” for short, is the process of finding potential customers and enticing them to engage with you so they enter your sales funnel.

What is a lead generation strategy?

A lead generation strategy is a plan for finding potential customers, attracting their attention, and capturing their contact information.

A lead generation plan includes 3 key components:

Target audience

Whose attention do you want to attract?

For each lead generation strategy, determine which specific audience persona you will target.

Many small businesses have more than one type of customer. Start with your best type of customer, then later add on lead gen strategies for other types of customers.

It’s helpful if you’ve already done some empathy mapping and understand your customer journey. This will help you identify who to target and what kind of content is most likely to appeal to them and lead them effectively into your sales funnel.


Where will you go to get their attention?

For lead generation to be successful, it’s very important that you go where there’s a high volume of new people who fit your target audience. Unless you have a high volume of traffic to your website, your website is not a platform; it is a landing page. And even if you do have a high volume of traffic to your website, you need a lot of new people who aren’t already in your database.

Successful lead gen hinges on using other people’s platforms to find and engage with new potential customers who you don’t already have exposure to.

A common newbie lead gen mistake is to focus only on building things on the business’s website (blog, podcast, lead magnets, etc.)... which then fail to produce results because the business doesn’t have enough new traffic to their own site.

The saying “If you build it, they will come” is incomplete… It should be more accurately stated as: “If you build it, and it’s awesome, they will come, but only if you get the word out.” Even the best content can’t convert if not enough people see it! You have to get people to come to your site from other places.

Content & capture

How will you keep their attention and build a relationship with them?

You go to other people’s platforms to get in front of new people, but then you need to bring them to your website and get them on your email list so that you have control over communications with them going forward.

Give away something of value for free, like an infographic, webinar, white paper, or free trial to showcase your expertise, get your lead’s contact information, and continue building a relationship with them.

After that, you’ll need a plan for converting leads to sales, but that’s a topic for a separate post.

How to set the foundation for effective lead gen

Before you go out to platforms to find new qualified leads, you need to lay a little groundwork up front.

  1. Clear audience persona. You need to have a very clear picture of who your ideal customer is so that you know where you’re most likely to find them and what kind of offers—free and paid—will appeal to them.
  2. Landing page. You need to have at least one page on your website where you will send traffic from your lead-gen platforms. You may have separate landing pages for each lead gen strategy.
  3. Lead capture form. Your landing page will have a form where leads input their contact information when they come to your landing page. The form should automatically import the lead’s information into your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software for easy follow-up.
  4. Lead magnet. To entice leads to give you their contact information, offer them something of value for free, such as a handy checklist, helpful report, value-packed webinar, etc. This also doubles as proof of your expertise in your field, and a taste of the value you provide in your paid offerings.
  5. Follow-up sequence. Although a follow-up sequence is technically part of the conversion stage rather than the lead generation stage, it’s a good idea to have it set up before you start driving leads to your landing page, so that leads don’t slip through the cracks. This can be an email sequence to the lead, reminders to your sales team to reach out to the lead, or whatever process makes sense for your business.

Related Article:

If your goal is to bring in LOTS of new leads, DO NOT have manual processes for capturing and following up with leads, because—if your lead gen efforts are successful—you’ll quickly become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work needed to process all those new leads.

Man with glasses and book


Use small business marketing automation software, like Keap, to set everything up once and then let it run automatically to process your incoming leads.

Alright, now that the foundation is set, let’s dive into those lead generation strategies!

Strategy #1: Guest blogger or podcast guest

How it works:

You appear as a guest on a popular podcast or write a blog post for a site that gets a lot of traffic—and that caters to your target audience. In exchange for helping them create content for their platform, the host will give you an opportunity to tell their audience where they can learn more about you and what you do.


Find influencers who have a lot of readers or listeners in your target audience. Ask your best customers what they read and listen to.

Content & capture:

In a guest blog post, you’ll have a writer bio, and that’s where you’ll put the link to your landing page and perhaps mention your lead magnet. Podcast hosts will give you an opportunity to mention how to get in touch with you, usually at the end of the episode.

Strategy #2: Industry article or advertorial

How it works:

Industry magazines often accept articles from guest experts (the magazine equivalent of guest blogging). Others may allow you to buy ad space that you can use to place an informative article you’ve written (an advertorial).


If your audience reads print magazines (or their online equivalents), look for industry magazines that they go to for advice and best practices.

Content & capture:

Include the URL to your landing page in your author bio on the article. You may also be able to mention your lead magnet if it is the natural next step after reading the article. For example, if the article is about 5 common bookkeeping mistakes business owners make, your lead magnet could be about the 5 best practices that simplify finances for businesses.

Strategy #3: Summit speaker

How it works:

An online summit is a series of webinar-style presentations over a few days. It might also be called a virtual conference. You’ll give a talk at the summit, and have the chance to “sell from the stage” at the end, and/or offer a lead magnet to attendees in exchange for their contact information.


You can look for summits that already exist in your industry. Be sure to ask the organizers about how big their audience is and what type of people attend their summit. You could also create your own summit by collaborating with other experts who have a similar target audience but aren’t direct competitors.

Content & capture:

At the end of your presentation, you can offer attendees a lead magnet to learn more from you. An easy way to do this is by having attendees text you a keyword, which automatically captures their info and delivers the lead magnet. Sometimes the summit organizers will handle the lead capture and lead magnet distribution for you. If this is the case, make sure you’ll get a copy of the contact information of the people who signed up for your lead magnet.

Strategy #4: Joint venture (JV) promotion

How it works:

Non-competing companies with complementary businesses and similar target audiences can offer their products/services to each other’s audiences. This gives both companies exposure to a new audience, often at very little cost.


In this case, the “platform” is the joint venture partner’s email list. It’s a good idea to begin the JV conversation by telling each other how big your lists are to make sure you both feel you’re benefiting equally. It’s also important to make sure you truly feel comfortable endorsing the other company’s products to your customers.

Content & capture:

JV promotions usually consist of a series of sales emails promoting your products/services to their email list and vice versa. You might also do a webinar together to kick off the promotion and answer questions about each other’s products.

Strategy #5: Customer referrals

How it works:

Instead of looking “out there” for new leads, this lead generation strategy works closer to home. You simply ask your current and past customers to recommend people they know who might also enjoy your products or services.


The “platform” in this case is your network. You can ask for referrals from satisfied customers only, from a wider audience such as clients and prospects, or from all of your contacts.

Content & capture:

You’ll need a landing page where people in your network can send their referrals to learn more. You could also ask them to make an email introduction, though this would require more manual work on your part to enter the data into your CRM. It’s up to you if you think that personal touch is worth the extra work. Whatever process is easiest for your customers is the best path.

Strategy #6: Tap your personal network

How it works:

Use a “status update email” (and social media post) to let everyone in your network know what you’re up to these days and any exciting developments in your small business (like an important milestone or the launch of a new product). This is also a great way to gauge interest in a new product or service that you’re thinking about offering.


Go wide with this approach, sharing with everyone in your personal and professional networks, using email and social media.

Content & capture:

You’ll need the “update” announcement email and social media post. Link out to your landing page, where they can find out more and hopefully download a lead magnet or sign up for a program you’re running.

Powerful lead generation on a budget

As for the cost of lead generation, know that you will pay for leads either with money or with time (or both).

With a strategy like advertising, you pay money to get in front of people.

With a strategy like advertising, you pay money to get in front of people. According to Keap’s Small Business Growth Trends report, a good rule of thumb is to spend 7-10% of gross profits on marketing.

With a strategy such as blogging or a JV collaboration, you invest time in creating free content, joint venture promotions, lead magnets, etc., which requires time (for you and/or your team) but may not cost very much in terms of dollars.

Creating or co-creating free content and sharing it on platforms with a lot of traffic is an effective way for many small businesses to get lead generation efforts started. As your business grows, you can reinvest profits into paid advertising that opens up even more lead generation opportunities.

Taking lead generation to the next level

There are many other ways to generate leads. As you explore your options, remember the key principles of lead generation:

  1. Go where your target audience is
  2. Give them something for free before asking them to buy
  3. Capture their information in your own client management software
  4. Give them more for free and build the relationship
  5. Make a sales offer when the time is right

Success hinges on reaching the right people, at the right place, at the right time, at sufficient volume. It will take some experimentation to find out what works well for your business to dial in all those variables.

Once you’ve chosen a lead generation strategy to test, you’ll need software to manage everything for you so you can quickly and easily manage new leads, convert them into clients, and serve them so well that they keep coming back for more. Get started now with a free trial of Keap, the leading sales and marketing automation software for entrepreneurs and their teams. There’s no credit card required, so you can lay the foundation for your lead generation efforts now with no obligation whatsoever.

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