Lead generation is tough, whether in person or online. Sending cold emails and scraping together lists can be difficult because — let's face it — often, people don't want to take the time out of their schedules to talk.
What if you could reach your lead generation goals using methods that actually add value for your prospects? And what happens when traditional lead generation methods fall flat due to internal or external circumstances?
This lead generation utopia I'm describing is a possibility. To walk you through how to achieve this for your business, we've detailed several creative methods you can add to your lead generation strategy. These ideas provide valuable information that helps prospects rather than simply pushing them to make a purchase.
Let's unpack these 16 creative lead generation ideas to spark activity on your content offers, email lists, websites, and conversion rates.
1. Share success secrets from thought leaders.
Want to provide unique value in your content? Reach out to a thought leader in your industry or even your company.
By interviewing an expert to uncover their secrets, you prove to potential customers that you're dedicated to delivering the best advice and insight out there.
Below you'll see Groove's take on this approach through an interview with the CEO of The Foundation, Andy Drish. The folks at Groove frequently interview successful founders and ask very specific questions from which everyone can learn something. Then, Groove shares those interviews with audience members on its blog.
Not only is the interview with Drish chock-full of quotes, lessons, and actionable takeaways for entrepreneurs, but it also features an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) with the interview subject in the comments section.
This touch helps further Groove's reputation as a resource for expert information among its audience.
2. Create helpful videos to solve issues for prospects.
Helpful videos can solve a real problem for potential customers in a format that's both entertaining and easily digestible.
Video hosting and analytics company Wistia offers a series of educational videos for companies that need help shooting their own videos. Here's a library of information by Wistia on how to film videos with an iPhone.
Because Wistia is a video hosting platform, publishing content strictly about how to use its product would only apply to people who were already customers. Videos like the one above, which are relevant to anyone who has an iPhone, help the brand create value for people who may not even be familiar with Wistia.
If readers learn something useful from Wistia even once, they're more likely to do it again and may eventually come to the site ready to purchase a subscription.
3. Leverage the SEO power of customer reviews.
Review platforms generally have a strong presence in organic search, making them a great opportunity to expand your brand presence and get noticed by the right people.
When you encourage users to leave reviews on a third-party platform with strong SEO — like Yelp or Google — you increase the chances of being found by qualified prospects in search, without paying a dime.
Google recognizes the independent role of these sites in helping people find what they’re looking for and seems to favor review sites in search engine results.
For instance, when I searched for “best marketing software”, the rich snippet goes to FinancesOnline.com, a leading B2B review platforms.
Imagine your company on this list. There’s a high chance your product would be included in what McKinsey calls the “initial consideration set” leading to the “moment of purchase” during the consumer decision journey.
You also outmaneuver competitors in high-value keyword searches. This is crucial considering that many B2B searches start with a generic keyword phrase.
4. Create an interactive quiz or tool.
Offer a quiz to your website visitors as a creative way to learn more about them and obtain their contact information. The goal is to “bargain” the result of the quiz in return for a new lead, which can be very effective when done right.
A great example of this comes from Eastern International College. It created the following quiz to help students make a proper major selection.
The quiz provides valuable information for students in a unique and interactive way. When students fill out a lead information form, they provide specific information about themselves, which Eastern International College can then use to counsel them about the school.
Another similar method is offering an interactive tool, such as the HubSpot Website Grader. The Website Grader is a free online tool that visitors can use to grade their websites against key metrics and discover ways to improve them.
To use the tool, visitors must submit their email — which provides HubSpot with new leads interested in improving their web presence.
5. Provide gated offers with best practices.
When you explore a marketing tactic in a blog post or e-book, it's helpful to know what others are doing to have success with the same method. Compiling those best practices into a list is incredibly useful to the marketer looking to get started in a particular arena.
For example, HubSpot offers a comprehensive list of SEO best practices from a variety of experts, which aims to help its target audience achieve a greater return on investment from content marketing.
The e-book provides value for readers trying to crack a complicated marketing strategy — and in exchange for their contact information, they get insider tips from a variety of expert sources.
6. Show what’s working for your company.
Writing a transparent post that pulls back the curtain on something with which you've seen success (or failure) can prove interesting to potential leads. Other companies going through a similar stage of growth — or approaching your size — can gain a lot of inspiration from posts like this and ultimately avoid making the same mistakes.
In an effort to provide an insightful resource, Classy created an analysis of how its blogging strategy had evolved and what the brand had learned over the course of 1,000 posts.
This blog post from Classy, a fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations, pulls back the curtain on its learnings to share it with the broader content community. It's helpful for a blogger in any industry and prompts readers to download the strategy guide as a final call-to-action (CTA).
7. Create a useful spreadsheet.
Compiling a spreadsheet of resources takes forever, so it's easy to see the value when someone else does it for you.
Different people have different preferences about how they like to consume content, and by making the information easily accessible to its audience, Heinz Marketing made a highly valuable piece of content that helped to generate leads.
8. Offer a deep-dive answer for a tough question.
You can find the answer to any question you might have on the internet. But how many really good answers are out there?
Taking the time to create an in-depth, step-by-step article that answers a burning question for your prospect serves as an opportunity to generate a lead. After all, the company that provides the best answer will often get your business, right?
A great example of this method in action comes from the folks at Interact. In an effort to explain how to make quizzes, Interact created the following in-depth blog post which dives into how quizzes can help build an email list (a strategy we discussed in step 4).
Email marketing plays a huge role in marketing and lead generation success, and this blog post provides a helpful breakdown of how to use quizzes to make emails more interesting.
Interact's audience will keep coming back to the blog for more insight and instruction, and might eventually purchase products from the trusted company.
9. Create a worksheet that simplifies a process.
There are tasks in every business that are best suited by a worksheet. For example, a software company might use a worksheet to formulate a marketing strategy.
By providing a simple worksheet for people to fill out — and trading that worksheet for an opt-in — you can create a mutually positive relationship with prospects.
HubSpot offers a fantastic example of this with its free KPI tracking worksheet.
Inside this spreadsheet, readers can find resources to establish company goals, identifying and tracking your team's KPIs, and suggestions for the top KPIs for your industry. In exchange for their contact information, readers can get started tracking their marketing impact.
10. Create a list of useful tools or resources.
It's easy to brag about the tools your company offers, but when you take the initiative and explore other helpful resources your audience could be using, it proves you prioritize their success over your self-promotion.
In return, you're also attracting the kind of audience that's looking for solutions like yours — which has the potential to drive leads. Below you'll find a great example of this in action from the HubSpot Blog: The 15 Best Lead Generation Tools.
While HubSpot offers some fantastic marketing and lead generation tools, it doesn't shy away from providing its readers other equitable options. This checklist is chock-full of tools and other resources readers can use.
Since this guide is comprehensive, readers get what they need and they're more likely to return to the HubSpot Blog in the future, and possibly even subscribe.
11. Compile real-life examples with actionable takeaways.
Finding effective examples to learn from can be equally as valuable and difficult. A list of best practices or real-life examples in your industry is an excellent way to drive prospects to a guide or offer where they can opt-in.
Kapost put together "The Kapost 50," a list of top B2B content marketing examples, as a resource to inspire site visitors to opt-in and be successful with their marketing strategies.
Content marketers are looking for examples of brands creating content well, especially in the B2B space, and the Kapost 50 calls out particular examples of top content every year.
The blog post drives traffic with its clever site copy, and the brand inspiration and helpful examples make visitors want to keep coming back for more.
12. Create a valuable email course.
A well-developed email course is like gaining access to a real class — for free. For busy marketers, this type of offer can prove to be incredibly valuable.
This approach tends to work well for in-depth topics that are best learned in a class-like environment. For example, Buffer gives away 25 social media strategies in 25 days in exchange for an opt-in.
Buffer created the email course to repurpose blog content into smaller, more digestible pieces. The email course helps people with different content consumption styles get the same valuable information that's on Buffer's blog, and it helps Buffer generate new leads to engage with over email.
13. Host a giveaway.
Giveaways are one of the most successful forms of lead generation. However, a giveaway can also result in a bunch of junk leads and waste your time if not done logically.
The trick? Make sure what you're giving away is something people want. For example, eWebDesign put together a giveaway of conversion rate optimization (CRO) software that was highly useful to its target demographic.
The giveaway generated leads via email subscriptions and social media engagement, and it was a win-win for eWebDesign. Whether a user won or lost the giveaway, they continued to engage with the brand in hopes of winning future giveaways.
Meanwhile, eWebDesign grew its email list to continue outreach among subscribers with more targeted content about CRO.
14. Create a template to simplify an everyday task.
There are certain templates you use every day in business — employee schedule, content calendar, market research sheets — that can be a pain to build yourself.
As a marketer looking for lead generation ideas, creating those templates for your customers is the perfect way to begin a strong relationship that can end in the prospect buying your product or service.
Need inspiration? Check out this collection of marketing budget templates from HubSpot.
Every marketing organization needs to set a budget, and this template bundle from HubSpot makes that job a little bit easier. For HubSpot, these templates help get its brand in front of more people to continue nurturing them with relevant content.
15. Offer a free trial or a freemium product.
Free trials of a brand's services help get a prospect's foot halfway through the door. If the free trial helps them and provides great value, they're more likely to purchase the full product and become a customer.
Touchless buying is popular among prospects who want to stay online and off the phone. By creating a free trial, a brand's site can do its own selling and encourage buying in a low-pressure way.
Here's an example of a strong free trial offer from BuzzSumo.
BuzzSumo offers a simple, payment-free way to sign up and test their tool. It also provides a few examples of the tool's interface, giving visitors more reasons to try it out.
Another similar strategy is to offer a freemium product, similar to how HubSpot offers the free forever HubSpot CRM. By offering a portion of your product or services line for free, you give users a taste of your brand and build trust and awareness among your user base.
16. Offer a handy checklist.
Who doesn't have a running to-do list that sometimes gets a little bit too long? If you're planning an upcoming webinar, you can be sure there's a lot that goes into it.
HubSpot created a handy webinar checklist that marketers can download and use to make sure they don't miss any critical steps in their webinar production.
HubSpot uses the gated offer to prove its brand's expertise on the subject and encourage checklist downloads.
Whichever lead generation strategy you experiment with next, make sure the content is useful to your audience so they'll return to your website again and again.
For more lead generation ideas, check out HubSpot's guide to the 30 greatest lead generation lessons.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.