Free leads? Generating business that won’t cost you an arm and a leg

Posted 6 years ago in Small Business Tips
by Tim Chaves

Most companies realize the importance of engaging with customers. This is because they understand that happy customers can help them grow.

Even if you have the best product on earth, if you’re not putting yourself out there, no one will know you exist. So even the average guys who put themselves out there can get more leads than a top-notch brand.

Leads don’t always come cheap, however. One problem businesses face is the cost of lead generation. Most commonly a business will place some ads, and end up paying PPC (pay per click). Which can definitely help generate more leads. That can become expensive, and ads can even start cannibalizing. Meaning they might end up cycling through the same people on repeat.

This is where businesses then try use more engaging customer interactions. Engaging with customers can actually produce higher quality relationships and leads. Which is why tools, like in-app chats have begun to pop up on every website out there.

1. Customer invoices

You’re already sending customer invoices and receipts. Use this as a platform for getting leads too. You can remind customers that they can refer their friends… Every single time they see your invoice. Which is great because, as it turns out your customers are actually your best advocates.

This doesn’t have to be pushy, big, or bolded, either. Most invoices have a little bit of business information included. You know, the company, phone number, website URL. What if you added one more little line that simple said something like “Don’t keep us a secret”. Or better yet, let them know of any finder’s fees they’d receive for sharing you! If you’re using an online receipt, you can even link to a referral form!

But, you don’t have to be limited by asking for a referral. You may use this opportunity to ask for a review or testimonial instead. Both of which can help increase your online presence. As well as build your brand authority, and bring in leads.

How to make your resources work for you:

  1. Include the ‘ask’ on the items your customers actually read over. Your invoices, receipts, and confirmation emails can do you a lot more than you think.
  2. Always include the benefit, if there is one. Let them know if they will be rewarded for bringing you leads.
  3. Make yourself shareable. If you print off and snail mail invoices, this can get tricky. But, completely doable. You customer probably won’t give their invoice (with your info) to a friend, but they may tear off that specific piece or write it down. If you’re online, provide clickable links to make referring easier.

2. Social media

This one is the most obvious, and for good reason. Let’s start by reiterating something you already know. Your customers and potential customers are already flocking on social sites. So why not be there too?

Social media is a free resource for communicating with customers. Because this is a great platform for communication, you can share your business. As well as be shareable. Meaning those who follow you, can share you with their friends. And thus generate word of mouth marketing to occur.

Social media platforms can help you build up your social proof too. You can share your fun and knowledgeable insight, and make yourself an ‘expert’ in your field. Which in return, makes it an easy choice for people to spend their social currency on you.

Some quick ways to increase your traffic and produce leads are:

  1. Share your content – gated content can be valuable, and it can be a great lead gen opportunity. In fact, you probably see a ton of businesses offer webinars, ebooks, and a variety of other resources this way.
  2. Try out Ads – Both Twitter and Facebook offer lead ads. These are relatively inexpensive, but have the potential to put you in front of a ton of eyes. Or try out any of these 17 techniques for advertising (in the post we specifically cite dental ads, but these best practices could help any business)!
  3. Run a contest or a campaign – How often have you seen a business run a simple contest. You know the ‘invite a friend to like our page and share this post’, type of thing. A lot of business pages generate a ton of new leads for very little cost doing this word of mouth tactic.

3. Listing sites

People might be looking for your kind of business, why not make it accessible? Adding your company to a few listing sites can help boost the potential eyes seeing you. Meaning its a lead producing opportunity.

By putting yourself out there, you’re adding to the number of ways prospects can find you. When they search for your type of business, your name should pop up alongside with your competitors. This not only puts you on a level playing field, but you become a known name in that niche.

Besides, if you’re not popping up on the first couple of pages in a search query, you’re going to have a hard time convincing leads to become customers. That is if they are even able to find you.

Why listing sites work at increasing your leads:

  1. Your business gets exposure.
  2. You can build up your brand awareness.
  3. Your reviews and testimonials are easier to find – which leads like.

Bonus: listing sites can lead to multiple search results in your name too. Just think of all the possible business listing sites out there.

4. Write great, informative content

Great content gets you authority. It’s validation that you know what you’re talking about. It’s simple, if you’re wanting to produce leads, you need to increase your brand awareness. You can do this by providing content!

You may be thinking… yeah, a blog. But, seriously. If you can provide knowledge in your field, even if it’s generalized knowledge, you can increase leads. The thing is, when someone is looking for information, they are likely to click on the first few results that pop up in their search. If you happen to have an article listed that fits their query, you have a chance at being seen.

This will not only help you become an expert in your space, but it will also increase your chances of being shared by word of mouth. By having a company blog, you are making yourself shareable, knowledgeable, which increases your social proof.

A blog takes a lot of work though. You have to write content that people want to read, and it has to be good. You also need to develop a strategy when it comes to writing and promoting your content. But, if you get the formula right, you can create a lead magnet machine.

Some tips for creating a grade ‘A’ blog:

  1. Don’t forget to cover some generalized facts in your field. People want to learn, not always be sold on YOUR product.
  2. Try to create viral content. It needs to be relevant, good, and interesting.
  3. Develop a strategy. Pick up some basic SEO skills and figure out if there are key terms specific to your industry to focus on.

5. Referral program

A great way of getting quality leads is by starting a referral program. By using your existing customers to do the talking for you, you save on marketing expenses. Plus you  establish trust in your brand from the get go.

Unlike other marketing campaigns that get blasted from an affiliate to anyone and everyone they come in contact with. A referral program is based on an established relationship. The person referring, usually knows their referral. And recommends them to a business for a specific reason… making them a quality and highly to convert lead.

Think of friends talking, one will say “You have to try x,y,z”. That person is vouching for the the quality and the business. And rarely would anyone ever personally recommend something they aren’t happy with. By using the right referral program strategy, you can further prime sharing to happen, which results in leads.

Why referral programs work:

  1. Your customers can be your best advocates. A personal recommendation is a great compliment to your business.
  2. Recommendations from friends are more trusted than any other form of advertisement.
  3. Your customers can do the hard work for you, and get you in front of people who need your service. Therefore saving you a lot of time and money.
  4. A good referral campaign can blend into your existing campaigns.

6. Stellar customer service

It’s all about customer experience… That’s what drives word of mouth.. Not to mention it aids in retention and happy customers… talk about BONUS!

By providing good customer service, you’ll build up your customer relationships. Maintaining customer relationships is key to lead generation. It’s your happy customers that are going to do the best and most leg work for you. It’s their reviews, input to friends, and recurring use of your service or product that will benefit you the most.

In fact, you have probably heard that a customer’s opinion matters. Why? 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know. Making them the most influential form of advertising (study by Nielsen). So don’t try to buy great Yelp reviews, just make sure you’re providing the service you would expect to help generate happy customers who can share their good experience with others.

Some quick tips to providing stellar customer service:

  1. Find the right people, and by that we mean employees. Customer service depends on the person playing the part. Make sure they understand your values and are a good fit for your business.
  2. Know your customers! Being able to personalize the customer’s experience is a great way to give them exactly what they want. It’s also a great way to show customers that you listen to them!
  3. Simply, be nice. Be professional to everyone. Putting your best foot forward, paves the way for happy customers.


Getting leads doesn’t have to be rocket science, expensive, or take a ton of time. If you play your cards right, use what you have, and use your resources wisely, you can be a lead generating machine.

The best news is, you don’t always have to pay more than what you already are for generating leads.

About Tim

Tim is Founder and CEO of ZipBooks. He keeps his desk really nice and neat.

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