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8 Ways to Generate Leads During COVID-19

Nicole Krug
Mar 24, 2020

While sales may be slow during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can generate leads that will set you up for success once the crisis passes.

Many businesses have taken a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and not just retail businesses. With a volatile stock market and thousands of people being furloughed, it seems as if the economy has pressed the pause button. While it may be difficult to drive revenue right now, you can still generate leads in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that will pay off as things return to normal.

The basics of selling online

Let’s back up a step and talk about selling online. Unless you’re selling a $10 T-shirt, or something considered an impulse buy, it can be difficult to see immediate sales from an ad campaign.

While the old adage is that it takes three exposures to a company before someone makes a purchase, the real number is much higher these days. On average, a prospect has to interact with your company by phone, email or social media 20 times before they make a purchase.

Few of us have the time (or thick enough skin!) to follow up with a prospect 20 times. That’s where sales funnels come in.

What is a sales funnel?

“Sales funnel” is a fancy term for the sales process, from the time someone learns about your business to when they make a purchase. When marketers refer to a sales funnel, they are generally talking about it as an automated process triggered by an action on your website (e.g., downloading an e-book or registering for a webinar).

Automating the process makes it efficient, because you will only have to take action when someone has made a purchase, or your funnel has left you with a handful of hot leads.

What is a lead magnet?

Lead magnets are incentives that offer up a specific reward in exchange for a user’s email address. Here are eight ideas for lead magnets you can use on your own site.

1. E-book download

While e-book downloads are a tried-and-true method, creating a good e-book is a time-intensive process. Though it doesn’t need to be long, it does need to bring value. E-books that are essentially sales brochures are a no-no, as are fluff pieces that don’t offer any real insights.

Remember you are in the early stages of the customer relationship. If someone gives you their email address and receives a resource with little to no value, they will drop out of the sales funnel and you’ve lost an opportunity. If you don’t have the time to create a strong piece that will clearly identify you as a subject matter expert, choose a different lead magnet.

2. Webinar

People have been using webinars to generate leads for years. They can be a great way to kick off the sales process, as they give you an opportunity to showcase your expertise (and your personality).

Much like an e-book, your webinar must provide value. It’s OK to offer a special deal to attendees or touch on your solution to a pain point, but don’t make the entire webinar a sales pitch. Think of it as the initial serve, rather than a one-shot deal. 

Note: Live webinars that promise interaction are where you’ll collect the most leads, but you could also record the webinar and make it available on demand to pick up a few stragglers after the fact.

3. Cheat sheets

Cheat sheets follow a similar formula to e-books while being a much simpler resource. This is a format where you skip education on the concepts and all the reasons why the reader should do something. Instead, you focus on the how.

These are some potential formats for cheat sheets:

  • Step-by-step guides on specific tasks (e.g., how to enable subtitles on YouTube)
  • Checklists (e.g., all the things a business owner needs to do when they add a member to their team)
  • Collections of tips (e.g., “5 Insider Secrets to Winning on Social Media”)
  • Templates (e.g., an independent contractor agreement users can customize for their business)

4. Gated video

HubSpot tells us that customers are four times more likely to watch a video than read about a product, and 52% of marketers around the world name video as the content with the best ROI. That means users (especially the younger set) are more likely to be interested in a video than an e-book.

Many content marketers offer the first minute or two for free to get people hooked, and then ask for an email address to keep watching.

5. Discount

Who doesn’t like a discount? Everyone wants a deal, so offering a discount can be a great way to push someone over the edge into purchasing.

6. Quiz

How many times have you clicked on a quiz to figure out which Harry Potter character you’d be, or how well you know the ’80s? While they sometimes feel like clickbait, if you can tie them to your brand, quizzes can be a fun way to engage your audience and collect leads.

One strategy I’ve used with clients is quizzes like this: Can [service name] save you money? Possible outcomes were yes, maybe, and no, which helped the company qualify leads while being honest with customers about what to expect. Win-win.

7. Trial period

Many people don’t want to make a purchase until they are sure a service is right for them. A free trial takes the risk out of the purchase for them. This is also a great chance to get a user hooked on your premium features and make your service one they can’t live without.

8. Challenge / free mini-course

This one might be the most labor-intensive option on the list, but if done well, it also yields some of the best results.

The idea is to offer a mini-course via daily email lessons. While it sounds daunting, the emails don’t have to be long, and they can leverage existing resources. I’ve put together one of these for a client in which we used existing webinar recordings and blog posts to cobble together a course.

I have one on my own website called 14 Days to a Better Google Rank, which sends out a daily email averaging just two paragraphs with short, actionable tips.

The reason this works so well is because you are building trust over a period of time. You should be giving away enough information that people find value and start to see results, thus seeing the value of continuing to work with you after the challenge period ends.  

How does all this apply to COVID-19?

If we know nothing else, we know this:

  1. People will be spending more time on the internet, as it’s their main connection to the outside world.
  2. A lot of people have a lot of time on their hands.

People with crazy schedules, who don’t usually have time to attend a webinar, finally have an open schedule and are looking to occupy themselves by brushing up on their skills or tackling that thing they’ve been meaning to cross off their to-do list.

This makes it a great time to get in front of people and begin building relationships with them.

Remember, these tools are called lead magnets because they bring in leads. Leads do not automatically equal sales, so it’s important to create a full campaign that includes following up with the prospect to nurture the relationship and ultimately turn them into a customer. Automated email is a great solution for this.

Image Credit:

allensima / Getty Images

Nicole Krug
At Social Light I’ve worked hard to build a different kind of company by focusing on our clients. In fact, Social Light’s list of services was built around the needs of our clients (we started focusing on social media but have expanded to a full-fledged digital agency). I’m also a strong believer in innovation and I threw “the box” out the window a long time ago and I don’t believe in fruitlessly repeating the same efforts hoping for different results. As a small business owner, I do understand that the idea of paying for a new program can seem daunting, but that’s why we treat each and every client as an individual. At Social Light we want to understand your goals and your resources and find the right balance of tactics that will bring growth to your company. When not working on client strategy, you'll find me in the kitchen or planning my next trip.