31 Simple, Yet Brilliant Lead Generation Techniques to Supercharge Your Sales Pipeline

January 24, 2018 Tom Whatley

In this mega guide, I’ll breakdown 31 different lead generation techniques you can use to supercharge your sales pipeline almost immediately.

Why am I sharing this? Because as a solo-founder, I wear many hats. Two of which are currently sales and marketing.

As a result, I am the lead generator, the SDR, and the closer.

While this may seem laborious, it gives me tremendous power over revenue.

I’m in control of every step of the sales process – from awareness to decision making.

If I were in a sales role within another organization, I’d probably create a similar system for myself. That way, I’m not waiting for someone else to bring me leads. I can go get them myself.

Even better, I can go directly to the leads that are most likely to convert.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create a similar process.

You’ll learn 31 lead generation techniques across 17 categories to fill your own sales pipeline and build career-changing relationships that last forever.

1. Optimize your social presence

Good lead generation systems need a strong foundation.

And that foundation is a credible personal brand.

If you haven’t optimized your LinkedIn profile to show off your best qualities, now is the time. Social media is going to play a big part in your lead generation efforts.

If leads are researching you, they’ll judge you by your LinkedIn profile. It’s sad, but it’s a fact of sales life.

Follow this checklist and make sure you tick all the boxes:

Profile picture: People are wired to digest images before words. Consider getting a professional head shot, preferably smiling.

Header image: Use as a visual demonstration of your expertise. Logos of publications you’ve appeared in or a picture of you with an industry influencer can quickly boost credibility.

Headline: Demonstrate your thought leadership. Include accomplishments, awards, and expertise.

Bio: Once you’ve hooked them in using the “credibility boosters” above, they’ll be reading your bio. Use this section to describe the specific solution you solve, and how you do it.

Recommendations: Ask for your peers or co-workers to write about the value you bring to their job and the organization as a whole. To get the ball rolling, write one for them first.

In the above example, Jim Keenan of “A Sales Guy” has done the following:

  1. Used a cover image to showcase his book (authority)
  2. Has a clear, friendly and professional head shot
  3. Lists credibility boosters in his headline (CEO, Forbes Contributor, etc.)

Don’t worry if you haven’t any accomplishments or publications under your name. We’ll cover how to build credibility and authority in your industry shortly.

2. Build a personal brand “hub”

Creating a website might seem like a task for marketers.

But from a personal branding perspective, having your own website can supercharge your long-term career goals.

It will act as your professional hub – the platform for the content you create and the credibility you establish.

There are many benefits to owning a website, including:

List building – Owning an audience will set you up for future career success, especially if you ever want to start working on side projects.

Credibility – Websites are the perfect platform to show off your expertise, credentials, and publications you’ve been featured in/written for

Job hunting – Cut through piles of CV’s Word documents and half-baked LinkedIn profiles.

The good news? Building one doesn’t have to be difficult and requires zero technical skills.

Wix, for example, provides a drag-and-drop user interface, allowing you to build a website without having to learn code.

However, I would highly recommend hosting a WordPress site and using a theme like Bridge. It comes with a drag-and-drop visual website builder similar to Wix but provides more flexibility and ownership.

Check out this guide from Smashing Magazine to learn more about setting up WordPress.

So, what must your website include? To demonstrate credibility, you should have:

  1. A home page: to quickly demonstrate expertise and include a call-to-action
  2. A blog: to create and showcase content that solves your prospect’s pains

Here’s a good-looking home page example from Noah Kagan:

It has a clean design, giving the visitor only one action to take. It also includes a professional photo of Noah himself (an experiment showcased by VWO shows that images of people can increase conversion rate by 48%).

Noah’s goal is to build his email list. What you include on your homepage will depend on what you want to achieve. If your goal is to build credibility, include logos of publications or companies you’ve helped.

Brian Dean boosts credibility on his homepage by including blogs where he’s featured, as well as testimonials from other marketing influencers:

Remember the recommendations you gathered when optimizing your LinkedIn profile? Re-purpose them into testimonials (with permission, of course).

The next step is to create how-to content that helps solve your prospect’s challenges.

3. Create how-to blog content

Blogging is by far the fastest way to share expertise, build authority and generate your own leads over time.

Come up with topics by focusing on the challenges of your prospects.

3a. Uncover topics with customer development

Start by interviewing your current clients. Find out pains they’re trying to overcome that relate to your value proposition.

For example, if I were doing this for my content marketing service, Grizzle, I would ask my clients questions like:

  1. What does your current PR system look like?
  2. What are your biggest demand generation challenges?
  3. What are your biggest hurdles when connecting with relevant influencers or partners?

By digging deep into these questions, I’ll know exactly which topics to write.

Let’s say a common challenge is “finding the right publications to target.” Your job would be to create content that helps prospects solve that problem. If it includes the solution you’re trying to sell, even better.

According to BuzzSumo, the top performing articles on LinkedIn included these phrases:

3c. How to create actionable content your audience will love

The B2B crowd love how-to information and trend data. When creating content, focus on insight backed by data, or actionable how-to information.

For this example, a “how-to” guide would deliver the most value. The next step is to create content that teaches prospects how to identify the right publications to target.

Start by creating a content framework. This is an outline that maps out your content from Point A (the challenge) to Point B (solution).

In my example, it might look like this:

  1. Introduction
  2. Ask your audience
  3. Research competition
  4. Find editors
  5. Conclusion

It then needs to be wrapped with an engaging and attention-grabbing headline. For more information on generating killer headlines, check out Buffer’s complete guide.

For this example, some possible headlines include:

  1. How to Find Publications With an Engaged Audience
  2. 3 Steps to Targeting Publications Full of Your Buyer Personas
  3. The Definitive Guide to Finding Guest Blogging Opportunities

These focus on a) the task and b) the outcome. The headline should tell readers what they’ll learn in the content and the outcome they can expect from following it.

4. Create engaging video content

Video content is hugely popular with marketers and salespeople alike – especially on LinkedIn:

  1. They generate huge amounts of engagement
  2. They’re incredibly shareable
  3. It allows you to put your personality forward

Allen Gannett, CEO of TrackMaven and author of “The Creative Curve,” has been killing it with this format.

In the post above, Allen has shot a video with Amy Mowafi, CEO of MO4. They discuss what American companies can learn from their Egyptian counterparts.

At the time of writing, this post has 337 likes and 33 comments. Allen simply opened his mobile camera, click record and share insights.

Despite its simplicity, it works so well because so few people are doing it. The videos that deliver practical insight reap the biggest rewards.

So, how can you do this?

Talk to clients with whom you have a strong relationship. Ask if they’d be willing to chat with you for a two-minute video. Prep them on a specific question to add structure.

If you’re with them in person, record direct-to-camera. Otherwise set up a Skype call and use screen capture software to record the discussion.

Here’s another example where Allen did just this.

The topic is specific (networking tips), and he includes subtitles for those who are on a busy commute.

By asking a specific question and getting an in-depth answer, your video content will have structure, and the value will be clearer when writing a description.

When writing your description, tag the person you interviewed to introduce them and tell your audience what they’ll learn. This way, you’ll your content will be seen by both your audiences.

5. Build an outreach system

While it’s important to lay the foundations for the long-game, you want to see results fast.

Email outreach is still incredibly effective when done the right way. Luckily, you’ve already laid down a solid foundation by uncovering your prospects’ challenges.

Here’s a quick three-step process for building your own outreach system:

5a. How to find the best outreach targets

Good news! Your marketing team has already profiled your ideal clients.

They’re called buyer personas.

These documents outline everything you need to know about your clients:

Image Source: https://neilpatel.com/blog/create-reinforce-buyer-personas/

Buyer personas include background information on their professional history, their goals, frustrations and where they hang out online.

Identify channels where your prospects are active. Use LinkedIn to uncover target accounts that fit your criteria. Having Sales Navigator will make things easier.

5b. How to write compelling outreach emails

The philosophy of personalization has shifted in recent years.

The {first name} variable is no longer good enough. Your entire email needs to show that you get your leads and understand their pains.

The easiest way to automate this is by segmenting your outreach list. Use the buyer persona documents to do this.

The positioning of your solution will be different for each persona. For example, those with a more sophisticated content marketing system in place will understand more sophisticated buzzwords than those who haven’t even started blogging yet.

Therefore, the introduction and pain points I focus on will be different for both. Segment your message by organization and buyer persona.

5c. Test unconventional approaches to optimize results

When I validated the need for Grizzle, I did the complete opposite of “cold email” best practices:

  1. “Keep your emails short” – mine were a wall of text
  2. “Add value” – I made it clear I wanted to do work with them

I tested long emails because I wanted to give my target audience as much information as they needed to make a decision.

If I don’t get a response, I follow-up with what I call a “statement of empathy,” acknowledging the length of my previous email and providing a shorter version.

Using this approach, I generated my first three clients. You should constantly be testing new approaches, especially when using saturated channels like cold email.

Test things nobody else is doing. Measure your results and, if you’re looking to optimize or things aren’t working anymore, try doing the opposite.

6. Shock-and-awe with direct mail

You head to Sales Hacker to learn some killer lead generation techniques.

You see direct mail on the list.

You check the date.

It’s 2018.

No, you’re not reading through some old-school sales content. Direct mail is making a comeback, and for good reasons.

According to InsideSales, B2B direct mail generates a response rate of up to 65%.

As everyone is still going all-in on digital channels, this traditional medium has a huge opportunity for attention.

The process is simple: send a card or handwritten note along with a gift.

This “lumpy mail” technique bypasses the gatekeeper and straight into the hands of the decision maker, eager to know what’s inside.

What kind of gifts should you include? According to InsideSales, gifts with a perceived value of under $11.40 reflect poorly on response rates.

Furthermore, useful gifts (e.g., books) are 47.3% more likely to generate a response than edible gifts.

There are three key elements to successful direct mail:

Make it personalized: Tailor both the gift and the message to the recipient. Segment your target audience and use relevant language for each persona or industry.

Make it valuable: Remember, cheap gifts don’t work. Make sure your gift has a high perceived value.

Make it useful: The gift must have some utility. Bonus points if it helps your prospect to do their job better.

Check out the full infographic on Sales Hacker to learn more about executing profitable direct mail.

7. Tap into your network for referrals

“Ask for referrals” is the sales equivalent of “email your list.”

To salespeople, it’s just obvious.

And yet, some of us still don’t do it enough.

The first question is, when is the right time to ask for referrals?

For software providers, the best time to ask is once your product has generated results – whether that be in the form of money made or time saved.

At what point does your product become a habit? Work with marketing to find out indicating behaviors, then reach out when the iron is hot.

For professional services, there’s a sweet spot. Too pushy and you’ll come across as money-hungry. But skip it altogether, and you miss out on untapped growth.

Here, the best time is after the first phase of your project.

When clients are happy with your work, that’s when you ask. Remember, don’t be pushy. Simply ask them if they know of anyone else who may be looking for a service like yours.

The second question is, how should you ask for referrals?

Here’s a five-point checklist to keep in mind when reaching out to clients:

1) Set the intention early: Get your clients prepped for referrals by mentioning it before the close. This way it’s not a surprise, and it’s much more likely they’ll refer you.

2) Ask for qualified referrals: If you ask clients who they know, you’ll get referred to anybody. Ask for referrals from people who fit your criteria, e.g., “marketers in the software space.”

3) Referrals aren’t cold calls: When you do get referred, you should enter the conversation by playing on the relationship with your client. Use a friendly tone, and act like you’re already part of their network.

4) Delight your clients: You’re not going to get referred if you don’t deliver on your promises. Of course, it’s down to your product or project delivery team to fulfill this. But you can still go above-and-beyond to deliver value.

5) Turn your referral process into a system: Set reminders “X days” after a prospect becomes a client. Furthermore, find ways to add value using content for the duration of their relationship with your organization. This is how you build long-term relationships.

8. Tap into engaged communities

There’s no point in building your personal brand and creating content if nobody is going to see it.

During your customer development conversations, you should also find out where they get their new information from.

These channels should include publications, influencers, and communities.

Find out where your prospects are hanging out online. Communities are one of the most effective ways of getting your content out to a wider audience.

8a. LinkedIn

While groups have become quiet and inactive, the news feed is where all the action is. Repurpose your content into a standalone, value-driven post.

Here’s an example from Sales Hacker’s very own Gaetano DiNardi:

You’ll generate more engagement and traffic from your existing LinkedIn connections. More on how to build your LinkedIn audience later.

8b. Quora

Many of your potential leads are using this Q&A platform to find information on their challenges. Information that you are qualified to provide.

Answer their questions using your content as a guide, including step-by-step instructions and a link back to your original content. Here’s a recent example:

8c. Facebook Groups

Groups generate a much higher engagement rate than pages. Which is why many business leaders have invested in building their own.

Tap into these communities by providing value. Don’t spam links to your content. Here’s a great example from Logan Honeycutt:

The principle here is simple: find out where your prospects are and add value to those communities.

That means creating organic content. Work within the context of how those communities and platforms work. Answer questions, provide value and share your experiences with fellow members.

9. Build strategic, win-win partnerships

I believe tapping into other people’s audiences to be one of the fastest ways to grow your own.

That’s why strategic partnerships work so well in the long-term. You’re adding value to brands and individuals who have access to your ideal clients.

9a. Complimentary solutions

If you’re selling a marketing solution, it may not make sense to partner with a FinTech company. But if you both target marketing directors in enterprise-level organizations, it makes perfect sense.

Partner with non-competing organizations who share your target market. Offer to send any leads or referrals their way as long as they offer to do the same.

This approach is more business development than a sales play. But by partnering with other sales leaders in non-competing companies, you tap into an entirely new audience.

Many SaaS platforms now have their own marketplace. For example, if you’re targeting e-commerce companies, then you may want to consider getting featured on the Shopify App store or Experts directory:

9b. Co-branded content

Some partners may not see the value in a referral program.

If this is the case, offer to create a long-form piece of content for their audience in exchange for a share of the leads generated.

This is exactly what PPC agency KlientBoost did. At the beginning of their journey, they sacrificed owned content to create co-branded ebooks and webinars with companies who had access to their ideal clients.

This approach helped KlientBoost grow to $1 million in revenue within a year. All because they built a lead-generating asset, which still works for them today.

10. Tap into new audiences with guest blogging

Another easy way to get your content and message in front of a larger audience is through guest blogging.

While some marketers feel it’s a waste of time, it can still drive qualified leads. In fact, we used the approach you’re about to learn to generate a near 6-figure deal.

Here’s a three-step guide to get started:

10a. Find the right publications

For this to work, you must target publications that have authority in your market with an active and engaged audience.

Therefore, you should measure each target publication against these metrics:

Domain authority (DA): A search engine ranking score that predicts how well a website is likely to rank on Google. Primarily used for SEO purposes, this can be a strong indicator of how authoritative a blog or publications is. Use Moz’s SEO Toolbar to measure this.

Social following: Look at your target’s Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. Do they have a large following (at least 10,000 followers)? Are people actively sharing, commenting and engaging with their content?

Monthly traffic: Although only a “rough” metric, TrafficEstimate.com can provide a ballpark figure on how much traffic your target publications generate.

Next, you need to find publications that accept contributions. In Google, search for phrases such as:

  • industry + “write for us”
  • industry + “guest post”
  • industry + “submit blog post”
  • industry + “submit content”
  • industry + “guest column”
  • industry + “contribute to our blog”
  • industry + “become a contributor”
  • industry + “guest author”

You can also use AllTop, a directory of blogs categorized by topic and industry. Here’s what we get when I search for “content marketing:”

10b. Outreach and pitching

At this stage, most professionals create a piece of content and “pitch” it to editors.

Shopping content you’ve already written is inefficient. For whatever reason, your content may not be a “fit.” Meaning you’ll have to go through the whole process again until someone accepts it.

Instead, reach out first and collaborate on content. Ask if editors if they’re accepting contributions. Share your existing work and see if they’d like to hear your topic ideas.

Once you’ve generated a response, focus on topics that sit in the sweet spot of these three areas:

Your value proposition: It must be relevant to what you do and the challenge your solution solves.

Needs of the publication: What kind of content do they publish? Is it strategic or tactical? How-to or opinion- and insight-driven?

What the market is talking about: Look at publications like Forbes and other industry blogs to see what trends and topics your audience is already engaging with.

When pitching topics, make it clear you’ll deliver practical, how-to information. Publications are hungry for this kind of content.

10c. Distribution

Guest blogging itself is already a form of marketing to other people’s audiences. While most blogs share content with their email lists and social following, you should give it an extra push.

Having your name published in an authoritative publication builds credibility. Amplify your content in the communities you’re engaged with (see technique no. 8).

Outreach emails are also effective. Use BuzzSumo to find the most shared articles on the blog you’ve published to:

Click on “View Sharers” to see a list of Twitter accounts that shared the content:

Reach out to any relevant individuals who would find your content most valuable. You can either do this via Twitter DM or email.

When reaching out to sharers, it’s important to mention a good reason. In this case, it’s because they shared a popular piece of content from a publication you’ve just contributed to. Personalize each email with a reason why they would find it useful.

11. Influencer engagement to amplify your message

Networking with influencers has many benefits:

  • They can introduce you to leads and provide new sales opportunities
  • Their active audience may find your information valuable, meaning more eyeballs on your content
  • They can be fun and profitable business development opportunities

So, how do you connect with them in the first place?

When connecting with B2B influencers, most advice looks like this:

  1. Share their content
  2. Comment on their articles
  3. Tweet @ them
  4. Email them

The problem is, this doesn’t provide real value. Sure, everyone loves the extra social shares, but does it solve their biggest challenges?

One of the best ways to start a relationship with influencers is to get them involved in the content creation process. Especially when that content is published in front of a large audience. Guest blogging is a particularly effective vessel for this approach.

Start by identifying relevant influencers. Who are the thought leaders and senior decision makers with access to your best leads? Create a list, including contact information and metrics such as the size of their social following.

Next, find a topic that is relevant to these influencers – or at least a segment of them. For example, when I created this blog post about side project marketing for CrazyEgg, I targeted the marketers and founders at the brands I included:

The connections I made in this article were secondary to the content I wanted to deliver. But the principles are still the same: feature relevant influencers in your content.

Once you have a topic that brings everyone together, reach out to them. I often find Twitter or LinkedIn are the best platforms for beginning this relationship, but email also works.

Voila! You’ve created win-win, value-driven relationships with thought leaders.

12. Survey your prospects

Most B2B professionals are eager to see what challenges they share with peers.

So instead of a traditional cold email, try surveying your prospects instead. To them, you’ll appear as someone gathering data and insights on the industry.

The secondary bonus to this is the insight you’ll generate on your buyer personas. You’ll be able to segment each respondent based on their answers, showing you where your solution will be able to serve them best.

To collect responses, use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Typeform:

Boost your response rates by using an incentive. I’m not talking about Amazon gift cards, but rather giving them access to the insights you generate before they go “public.” This will create an element of exclusivity while providing you with new content for your audience.

13. Grow your LinkedIn audience

In 2017, we saw LinkedIn evolve in a way we’ve never seen before.

Instead of a platform for recruiters to find candidates, it becomes a place for professionals to connect, share value and truly generate new business opportunities.

Having a large, loyal following on LinkedIn can open up many opportunities – including, of course, lead generation by means of social selling.

Here’s how to do it.

13a. LinkedIn audience growth

By now, you should have already optimized your LinkedIn profile. Now it’s time to build your audience.

This is where having LinkedIn Sales Navigator comes in handy. With it, you can view and connect with an unlimited number of people.

Having a large following expands your overall network on LinkedIn. You’ll end up with more eyeballs on your content.

Don’t fret over irrelevant people connecting with you. If they follow you and engage with your content, then you end up increasing your reach.

There are a couple of tools that can automate this process at your discretion, which include:

  1. Linked Helper
  2. Dux-Soup

But you must be careful. If you use these too often or send too many connection requests at once, you risk getting your account banned.

13b. Create organic LinkedIn content

Once you build an audience, you need to engage with them. You need to give them an action to take.

This doesn’t mean sending them an InMail to set up a meeting. You need to nurture them with valuable, engaging content before starting the sales process.

Right now, thought leaders see a lot of success with LinkedIn posts (in the news feed):

The best content on LinkedIn share stories, deliver insight or provide raw, how-to information.

Here’s a framework you can follow when creating yours:

The first two sentences need to draw your audience. Start with a change (in your business or industry), show credibility or outline a problem.

End your post with something emotionally-driven or insightful. The objective is to inspire engagement, spreading the reach of your content. It’s the part where you drive the “big” lesson you aim to teach:

Finally, you need content that keeps their attention and adds value throughout the entire post. Do this with tangible examples (from your own experiences or those of others), third-party statistics to back up your claims and instructions on how to solve a problem:

13c. Turning connections into leads

Over time, you’ll slowly build an audience with thousands of professionals and business leaders. Among these people are profitable sales opportunities.

There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to identify them manually, generate insight on their pains and use InMail or email outreach to get their attention.

The second method is to get them to identify themselves with a sales funnel.

Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Export connection email addresses from LinkedIn
  2. Use them to create a Facebook Remarketing campaign
  3. Create a short how-to video guide that helps them solve a relevant challenge
  4. Include a call-to-action to schedule some time with you

To export email addresses from LinkedIn, click on My Network. Under the left pane, click on the “See All” link:

On the next page, click on “Manage synced and imported contacts” at the top-right of the page.

Finally, under “Advanced Options,” click on the “Export contacts” link. The contact details of all your connections will download in a CSV file.

You can now upload these emails to a Facebook Remarketing campaign. This guide from the guys at Acquisio will help you get started with this.

Most event pages have a registration process for speakers. Look through the event website or search “event + register to speak” on Google.

Here are some tips when pitching to speak at events (especially when reaching out to event organizers):

  • Tailor your outreach to the conference, including any relevant “credibility boosters,” e.g., publications where you’ve contributed.
  • When pitching a topic, don’t be broad. Tackle specific, in-depth topics on a pressing challenge.
  • Be polarizing where possible. Challenge the status quo and don’t be afraid to take a controversial stance on a topic.
  • If you have a recording of a previous speech, even in front of a small audience, this can be an effective way of demonstrating your capabilities.

Finally, don’t turn your talk into a sales pitch. Add practical information. Share insights and examples of others who overcame the same problems.

14b. Set up meetings with senior-decision makers

The old-school method of prospecting at events looked something like this:

  1. Look at the list of exhibitors for interesting looking companies
  2. Approach salespeople at the event in the hope you’ll be introduced to the right person

This is a spray-and-pray tactic. Instead, book meetings well in advance of the event itself.

Start connecting with target prospects now. Research the accounts you want to engage with and find out who will be going. Identify the most relevant person and connect with them on LinkedIn.

When reaching out, make it clear on a) your intention and b) what’s in it for them. What specific advice can you provide? This advice must be relevant to both their role and organization.

Limit each meeting to 10 minutes. That way, even if you end up scheduling five to ten different appointments, you have plenty of time to take advantage of other opportunities. It’s also much easier for a prospect to say yes to a shorter commitment.

Events also provide an opportunity to re-engage with stale leads. Reach out via email or social media and ask if they’d be willing to meet. You might find that the decision maker that was blocking progress last time has moved on.

Your turn…

Let’s go up a level – how do you feel about sourcing your own leads? Which lead generation techniques are you currently utilizing to fill up your own sales pipeline? Let’s share ideas in the comments below!

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