Even having the slickest website and the best product on the market, businesses won’t be able to make a sale if they can’t find leads.  Some customers may find you by their own searching, but as an entrepreneur, there’s many, many more potential customers out there.  How do we find these leads?  In this article, we’ll be discussing a variety of ways that business owners can generate sales by taking advantage of some of the obvious and not-so-obvious methods available in-person and online.  Let’s begin!

Trade Shows

Trade shows offer some of the best in-person networking opportunities for businesses.  The reason being that everyone in attendance has the same goals: to generate more leads, increase the visibility of their business, and take a look at related business models.  Pick the right shows in your field—for instance, farmer’s markets might not be the best venue for tech start-ups, however they’d be excellent if you are marketing renewable energy and solar panels.

As either a vendor or as an attendee, be equipped with all the tools your business needs to generate and pursue leads: well-trained sales-oriented booth staffing, business cards, marketing materials (pamphlets, ebooks via QR codes, etc.), the ever-present giveaway tchotchkes, and—above all—yourself.  Work the room, hand out business cards, and schmooze with everyone—remember, you are advertising your start-up by advertising yourself (and your staff).  The more personable and gregarious you are, the more others will be willing to do business with you.  Putting a face to your business creates a positive association that generate sales for your start-up.


Human beings are social animals and form communities to solve one another’s problems, enhancing the collective’s lives through cooperation.  While the particulars of finding and contributing to communities may be beyond the scope of this article, realize that any opportunity to meet face-to-face with another person is an opportunity to generate a lead for your business.  Take a look at our article, “Stay Engaged! Join a Community!” (ADD LINK TO “Stay Engaged!  Join a Community”).to find in-person (as well as online) opportunities in your area to network with other entrepreneurs, mentors, and clients.

Display Advertising

Identify who your target audience is Defining Your Target Market and where they spend their time online, whether recreationally or in search of information.  In essence, you’re creating free advertising to generate leads where your customers tend to spend their time online.  If there’s a forum, engage in the community by posting solutions that can be solved by your business with links to your website, or add links to your featured products and services.  Offer prospective customers the ability to get in touch with you directly via email to inquire about your products and services.  Even drawing an association between your products will drive leads to your website and thus to your start-up.

Email Marketing

Email lists have been a part of lead-generation for start-ups since the advent of the internet.  By taking advantage of where your customers read personal messages and explore advertising materials, you are essentially doing the same job as mailers have (and continue to do—see below).  Free email marketing tools, like Mailchimp (http://www.mailchimp.com) and Aweber (http://www.aweber.com), offer the ability to launch email campaigns that target potential customers in a less-passive place where they’re more likely to receptive.  Both services offer free services to test and refine your methods, while also offering wider-reaching services for a number of different fees.

Be sure to look into purchasing or renting a preexisting mailing list.  The Prospect Shop (http://www.prospectshop.com.au/) is one such website to find a list that would otherwise take years and much patience to acquire.  The advantages are numerous for this approach, as new technology allows for psychographic (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psychographics) targeting (such as finding consumers who enjoy rugby and/or travel), as well as geotargeting—specifying countries, cities, neighborhood, etc.–to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns and nail down specific leads.

Social Media

Social media in the digital era is a must to generate leads for your start-up.  Using free services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many others, your business can take advantage of the free opportunities that staying connected can provide.  By posting regularly, you reach an organic base of those that would otherwise not be aware of your website and online presence.

There’s plenty of paid options that each website offers, such as pay-per-click advertisements and tweets on popular accounts that target specific demographics.  By bidding on the amount you’re willing to spend with your predetermined budget, your start-up can reach a wider range of leads than sticking with an organic free approach.

Be sure to check out our guides to show how you tap into this market to find customers that are interested in your products and services.

Search-Engine Marketing

If you’re looking to solve a problem, you Google it.  Simply put, search engines are among the best places to find active users who are in need of solutions.  Luckily for businesses, every search engine offers marketing solutions to generate leads for businesses that tailor their websites and content via SEO (Search-Engine Optimisation) and paid advertisements.  The most popular of course being Google Ad Words.  The features that make this a solid way to generate leads is the accountability (screening for spam accounts and inconsequential clicks) and in-depth analytics so you can target and alter your campaigns in an intuitive and scalable fashion.

Direct-Mail Marketing

Despite being an old form of marketing to generate leads, direct-mail marketing remains a tried-and-true and  incredibly effective (http://www.flyersintheshire.com.au/facts-about-letterbox-distribution/). Not only are you able to reach customers who reach clients who don’t seek solutions on the internet (http://www.abc.net.au/catapult/askexpert/s1347494.htm), but you’re able to compound your company’s visibility.  If you’re looking to take away from the hassle of printing and finding potential customers, allow companies like Direct Marketing Australia (http://directmarketingaustralia.com.au/) to provide workable solutions.  It helps to keep customer information in a database so you can tap into preexisting customer bases.  However, it still remains one of the expensive forms of advertising, so be sure to have enough capital to cover the up-front costs.

Cold Calling

Cold calling, the process of making unsolicited telephone calls in an attempt to selling products or services, may be the most intimidating of lead-generating, but it remains one of the most effective—if somewhat intrusive—methods.  Consider first purchasing clients from a trustworthy source (http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/forums/index.php?threads/legitimate-cold-call-lists.11536/) or using a search engine to find possible leads, such as government agencies and hospitals, to supplement the reach of your company.  Assemble a motivated sales team with a solid sales script to persuade leads to reach customers that would be receptive to your business.

In conclusion, there’s many methods to generate sales for your business.  Investigate each and see if they’re right for your business.