Marketing is a vital part of driving sales. A solid marketing plan also ensures your business can put its best foot forward to consumers and potential investors.
While there are numerous marketing strategies you can try, the costs can quickly add up and cut into your budget. Here are some genius, yet affordable, marketing tactics to drive leads for your business.
How to generate leads on a budget
1. Get on Google Ads.
Google has become a must-have lead generation tool. When someone does a Google search – whether it’s for a dentist, a restaurant or a plumber – they see three things right away:
- Paid Google results at the top of the search page (with the “Ad” symbol)
- Google Maps results directly underneath the paid ads
- Organic results (placement can’t be bought directly)
Considering the vast majority of clicks come from the first page of Google results, Google Ads is a vital marketing tool for demand generation. To get your business on Page 1 of the search results, use this paid advertising platform.
Your ad’s placement is determined by keyword phrases that you can bid on. The more you bid, the higher your ad will be shown in the rankings, and your ads will have an increased chance to produce leads.
Every time someone clicks your ad to visit your website, you pay Google. These ads are called pay-per-click ads. Clicks can be as cheap as a few pennies per click or on the pricier side, depending on how competitive your industry and keywords are.
For example, if you were a dentist in Dallas, you would bid on keywords such as “Dallas dentist.” Google Ads shows that “top of page” bid estimates for the keyword “Dallas dentist” range between $7.61 and $17. That means that any bid over $17 will pretty much guarantee you a top spot, whereas anything under $7 won’t give you much exposure. Bid ranges vary depending on the keywords you want.
Here are some other variables to consider:
- The quality of your website
- How long people spend there
- How many pages they click through and visit
- How past campaigns on Google Ads have performed
- How relevant your ads are to the searched keyword
Unless you want to spend a great deal of time engineering an organic Page 1 ranking, it makes sense to pay a fee per click to get there fast. If your business relies on local customers, as most small businesses do, you can run ads directly within Google Maps.
When you do so, your ads will not only be seen inside the Google Maps app; they will also be shown on Page 1 of Google in the Maps area if your bid is the top one. This could offer a big advantage if your business serves the local area. The other advantage offered by Google Maps ads is that you can use your Google Business Profile in your map ad, which is great if you have several Google reviews because it instantly adds to your credibility.
Another good tip for local ads is to make sure you enable the “location extension” in Google Ads. This will sync your ads to your business’s address and offer perks to encourage foot traffic and local calls. However, these ads require active monitoring and tweaking to keep your spending under control, or else those $17 clicks will quickly add up.
Ideally, you will want to set aside a few hours a week to check your ads and ensure this digital inbound lead generation strategy is producing not only clicks but also customers who will grow your bottom line.
Bottom Line: Google Ads is Google’s ad platform, which will place your ad on the first page of Google search results for the keywords you bid on. If your business relies on local customers, you can also run ads on Google Maps.
2. Run coordinated ads on Facebook and Instagram.
You can reach your prospects where they spend time and consume content every day: social media. Because Facebook owns Instagram, you can run ads on both networks simultaneously from the Facebook Business Manager, which operates on a pay-per-click model similar to Google Ads.
Depending on your budget, you can cap how much you want to spend either as a daily budget or run the ad for a set amount of time and limit the budget expenditure by set dates. For example, you can run the ad for two weeks and, during those two weeks, set your budget to $150 for clicks on your ads.
Here are a few tips for running Facebook/Instagram ads:
- Think each ad through to the goal. If you’re driving people to your website, ensure the page they land on matches the ad and is set up to capture leads.
- Test different audiences to see which ones generate the most clicks.
- Test different ads to see which one pulls in the best results.
The biggest issue small business owners run into with Facebook ads is that they spend money to send traffic and leads to their website, but there’s no cohesion between the ad and the business webpage they arrive on and sometimes no clear way to contact the company.
Whatever you offer on your social media ads, be sure to broadcast that special on your website and put a contact form front and center so prospects don’t have to hunt for your contact info.
When someone clicks your social media ads, they should arrive on your website, recognize where they are and know exactly how to contact you quickly for the thing they want. A word to the wise: Like Google Ads, Facebook ads require ongoing management and maintenance. Be sure to build this time cost into your budget at the onset. Also, choose a digital marketing strategy that will work best for your business, like advertising on these or any other online platforms geared specifically toward your industry.
Tip: Put a contact form in an accessible spot on your business’s website so potential customers can easily contact you.
3. Contribute your expertise to fellow blogs and magazines to build credibility.
Many business owners don’t dedicate a great deal of time to public relations, largely because they are so busy running the day-to-day operations of their businesses. However, the reputation of your business is more important than ever in generating credibility and trust in your products and services. Plus, other than the time commitment, PR is free to you.
There are usually two types of PR pickup that work best for businesses:
- A publication writes an article about you and/or your business.
- You contribute an article to a publication that’s relevant to your area of expertise, which is a good starting point.
To contribute an article, make sure you locate blogs, magazines, newspapers, podcasts and radio shows that your audience pays attention to. You’ll also want to create an article idea that solves a problem for your target audience – a problem that your business is uniquely and professionally qualified to handle.
Here are some examples:
- If you’re a plumber, write an article about how to avoid frozen pipes in the winter or improve water pressure.
- If you’re a dentist, write an article comparing the different orthodontic aligners available.
- If you’re a real estate agent, write about neighborhood trends or design choices that have the biggest impact on a sale.
Once you have a few loose article ideas and discussion points written down, contact someone at the publication or outlet of your choice to see if they’re interested in your ideas. You can usually find the contact information for editorial staff on an About Us or Contact Us webpage.
Another easy way to generate media pickup is to be there when writers and journalists need an expert. HARO, which stands for “Help a Reporter Out,” is a good online platform for businesses to find writers and journalists who are looking for an expert. Journalists all over the country constantly need experts to weigh in on their current piece, so they submit requests for experts via HARO.
For instance, a home magazine might be writing a story about protecting your home against hurricanes. Their writer would send a request via HARO looking for roofers and contractors with the expertise to sit down for a 10-minute phone call. You only have to respond to their request via the email they provide, and if they choose you, you’ll be featured.
You can sign up for a free HARO account, which will give you daily or weekly emails with many possible submissions that may apply to your business. If you reply to one and your business is interviewed or featured, you just got yourself some free publicity!
By making use of public relations, you’ll be able to position your business with likable causes, brands, people and purposes.
Did you know? Contributing articles to publications builds your business’s credibility and reputation, which will lead potential customers to feel connected to your brand and make them more likely to buy your products or use your service.
4. Use direct mail to reach consumers.
Direct mail refers to “snail mail” sent through the post office. Despite the proliferation of digital outreach, direct mail is one of many offline marketing methods that are still effective in the digital age. However, the biggest drawback of direct mail is the cost of postage, which is set by the U.S. Postal Service and makes up the bulk of any campaign’s cost.
You can lower postage costs by selecting more affordable delivery methods. The cheapest is “every door direct mail” (EDDM), because, as the name suggests, every single door and mailbox receives your postcard. There is zero sorting or extra work, so the USPS offers the lowest price. But there is a trade-off for the savings: You might end up wasting money on postage by mailing a postcard to unqualified households or businesses that will never become your customers.
To maximize your targeting capabilities while keeping postage costs low, use a mailing list type called “resident/occupant,” which gives you the best of both worlds. With this kind of mailing list, your postcards will be delivered to every door along a specific mail route (so you save money, as with EDDM), but you can select each mail route based on demographic information, like average household income, age and presence of children.
If your business is even more niche or selective, you may want to forgo discounted postage rates and opt for full targeting. In this case, your mail would be delivered only to those who meet your demographic criteria, which are virtually limitless.
Regardless of your list type, you want a good-quality mailing list. Ensure your list provider will guarantee their list; any legitimate list provider should offer at least 90% deliverability. If they won’t guarantee deliverability, proceed with caution.
There is one aspect of direct mail that’s even more important than the right mailing list: mailing consistently. Reach out to prospective customers at least three to six times within three months to obtain the bare minimum of consistency.
There are also companies that can handle all your digital marketing (Google, Facebook, Instagram, websites) as a coordinated effort with your direct mail.
Costly lead generation mistakes to avoid
Make sure to avoid these common pitfalls in your lead-generation efforts:
Not diversifying lead sources
This is a common misstep among inexperienced marketers and salespeople who tend to focus on a single lead generation source. Utilizing a sole lead channel results in an inability to compare lead generation sources. For example, if you limit your lead generation efforts to LinkedIn but Google is actually better for your marketing efforts, you’re missing out on potential conversions.
Instead, use multiple sources for your marketing strategies to identify your best lead source. When you’re starting out, be sure to use social networks, websites and third-party databases simultaneously to generate leads.
Not verifying your leads
Make sure to verify your leads, no matter how many (or few) you have. Before you send messages, check every email address you receive. Some may no longer work, the website hosting the email may be dead, or the owner may not use an email address even though it is considered valid.
Invalid leads can make your email marketing campaign appear less successful than it actually is. By filtering out these email addresses, you will save money, time and resources. It costs less to verify leads than it does to send messages to dead, unused or invalid email addresses.
Not segmenting your leads
While it is always in a business’s best interest to have as many leads as possible, it’s more important to have a smart, laser-focused approach to gathering these leads. Segmentation is a form of personalization; people tend to neglect or ignore impersonal emails. Segmenting your leads and approaching them with relevant introductions or messages will garner better results and more conversions. You will see increased open and click-through rates as well.
To segment your leads properly, however, your email list must be enriched with information on the person behind the email address. Leads can be segmented by geographic location and/or company size. As you learn more about segmentation and gain additional experience, you can create deeper connections that work better for your business.
Start driving leads
Find a marketing formula that empirically works for your business. You don’t have to break the bank doing it. By following the budget-friendly tactics above, you’ll be on your way to generating leads and converting them into customers.
Sean Peek contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.