Effective Lead Generation in 10 Minutes

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 18, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Tips in 10

There’s a poem that goes, “for want of a nail the war was lost”. The poem traces the loss of a war to a missing horseshoe nail, suggesting that the horse wasn’t shod properly and thus couldn’t ride into battle to bring a key warrior to the front lines. (Read the poem here: For Want of a Nail).

It all starts somewhere! In business, the “nails” you need to win your entrepreneurial war are leads. For want of leads, the business will be lost. Leads are crucial to your business and having a steady stream of leads coming in will mean a steady stream of sales tomorrow. So, how do you generate leads?

A definition

It could be argued that your Twitter followers or Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts are leads. To some degree they are but I like to think of these as one step prior to leads. The reason is, people might be your follower or friend because they want to pay attention to you but are not yet ready to buy. In my opinion, leads are slightly more “invested” in you and may not be ready to immediately buy but have indicated in some way (i.e. perhaps through a newsletter subscription) that they are interested in receiving content exclusively from you. So, you might think of the “leads” category as being split into two: social connections and exclusive contacts.

The content in this issue is aimed at helping you move people either from social connection to exclusive contact or to meet them for the first time and make them exclusive contacts. I call these folks “leads”. There are a few ways to generate leads If you want to create more leads, repeat this process several times or combine a few of the ideas below.

First, decide what you plan to do once you have a list of leads. Do you call them up to pitch to them? Do you add them to your ezine list? Do you mail them something? Understanding your sales funnel and knowing what the next step is will help you create effective leads. (There’s no sense collecting their phone number if you’ll never use it).

Second, now that you know what you are going to do with the lead, decide what information you need in order to call that information a lead. Do you need just their first name and email address? Do you need their name, address, and phone number? The more information you need and the more private the information is, the more difficult it will be to get it. Figure out what the bare minimum is and when someone gives you that information, you have a lead.

Third, construct your lead generation tool or system to help you capture this information. I’m going to give you several and each of these only takes ten minutes or less.

Web-based lead generation

For a good balance between cost effectiveness, ease of use, and lead capture, I like the lead generation tool of collecting people’s email addresses and building up a mailing list by sending out a free newsletter. You can send out the newsletter and demonstrate your value and then later turn some of those subscriber-leads into customers.

One popular online lead generation method that I’ve personally seen work quite effectively for one of my colleagues is to advertise through Google AdWords to drive traffic to a sales page. The sales page offers a free report and newsletter. They sign up and get the free report right away and then the newsletter shows up each week on a specific day.

Email capture tools are fairly common online and it just depends on what system you want to use. I’ve featured 1ShoppingCart in the past as an ezine distribution tool. Other ezine distribution sites like AWeber or Constant Contact both give you the ability to add email capture functionality to your website with an easy snippet of code.

Not only will you need to add a way to capture email, you’ll also want to give people a reason to subscribe. There was a time – perhaps a decade ago – when people would subscribe to ezines simply because they could. But now there is so much content piling up in our inboxes that people are expecting real value from newsletters or else they won’t bother subscribing. So, it’s worth spending another ten minutes (or more) on your “sales” content to convince people to leave their name and email.

If you don’t want to create an ezine (which is an ongoing effort), then an ebook, report, whitepaper, article, or e-course are all good ways to collect email addresses without the ongoing publishing effort.

You will still need to get people to come to your website in order to leave their name and email address (or whatever other information you’re collecting) and that might take some work through Twitter or other social media, as well as some Google AdWords.

In-person lead generation

There are lots of in-person lead generation methods. Some of them are old school and may still work in some situations but not in all situations or for all businesses!

Door-to-door lead generation: Okay, I’m not into this at all but some companies still do it and swear by it. You basically walk up and down a street and knock on doors and strike up a conversation. If you do it and are happy with it, more power to you (just don’t come to my door). Same goes for telephone leads.

Face-to-face lead generation: If you’re out there networking then this is still a very powerful way of generating leads. Maybe you’re at a tradeshow or convention or a Chamber of Commerce event or a seminar; that’s where this kind of thing is really effective. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and make sure you get business cards from other people. When you receive a business card from a lead, flip over the business card and write something down on the back (such as something memorable about them or a product or service to talk to them about). Also, make sure that the information you collect from face-to-face leads at networking events satisfies your “basic information” need for lead generation. If you sell novelty hats and need to collect a name, email address, and hat size in order to call the contact “a lead” then just collecting business cards isn’t going to b e enough. In your case, you need to craft a conversation framework that will help you get that hat size.


The most effective lead generation tool is the referral. That’s because people trust and respond to word-of-mouth from peers so much more than any other kind of marketing. This is where you ask current clients who of their contacts could benefit from your service. There are two ways to do this:

Ask for referrals: If you serve 5 clients a day and you ask each client for the name of someone to recommend, you can build up a big bank of really qualified leads. Yes, not every client will give you a name. However, if you ask each client each day and only get one name a week, you’re still getting 52 names a year!

To do this well, be specific. If you simply say: “Who do you know who can benefit from my services?” you’ll get a negative response each time. However, if you ask “Do you know someone at work who has trouble with time management?” then you will have a much more successful track record of getting referrals. Ask for permission to contact the referred person and to use your client”s name. When you contact that person say something like, “I was talking to Mary about some time management ideas and she thought that you might find some of them interesting…”

Invite referrals: Rather than asking for referrals – which can still seem pretty aggressive for a lot people who might not be comfortable with it – simply invite your clients to refer you to others. You can say something like “I have some openings next month and I’d like to give your contacts the first option to benefit from them before I advertise to the general public for new clients.” Be sure to empower your clients to refer you effectively by giving them extra brochures and business cards.

You may also want to consider offering an incentive for referrals who become customers. You frequently hear of this in several different industries; it generally works like this: If Mary recommends Sam to become your client, and Sam becomes your client, then Mary gets a bit of a percentage kickback. Take ten minutes to put together your own referral program, put a package of brochures and business cards into an envelope and hand them to your clients next time they’re in your office.

Lead generation is a key skill to have. It takes work now – usually ten minutes but sometimes a bit more – and when you do it regularly, you will see work come in regularly. But be warned: It requires diligence and consistency and patience to be successful!

Bonus Tip:

My Secret: One of my secrets is not pushing referrals but being making it blatantly obvious to my customers that they are available. Here are two ways I do that:

  • Everytime I send anything via mail or shipment, I include several referral cards. These referral cards look like a post card. On one side they have all my information and marketing image and on the other side they have a short form that asks for a referrals contact information. They are then addressed to me with postage paid. My clients can either pass these out to prospective referrals OR complete the short form providing me with the prospective referrals information and mail it in to me!
  • Clients pay their invoices online for one of my companies through a control panel. I have a cute graphic in the right sidebar when they log in that invites them to recommend us to someone and gives them a quick form they can fill out that includes their referrals name and email address. It then sends the prospect an email saying ‘Clients Name would like to refer you to Company Name.’ and a bit more information.

Heather Recommends:

I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.

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