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The Best and Worst Ways to Generate Leads

There are the best and worst ways to do everything. There’s the best way to write subject lines, there are the worst ways to use Facebook, and there’s the best way to design a homepage.  

But what are the best and worst ways to generate leads? It’s easy to invest money in social media, email marketing, and content marketing, but do they really work and are they worth the money?

[bctt tweet “Lead generation is a pot of gold for every digital marketer; but we must avoid fools gold.”]

Here are three of the best ways and three of the worst ways to generate leads:

3 of the Best Ways to Generate Leads:

  • Give something of value: When someone clicks on a link on Twitter and finds herself on your site, you have to work hard to incentive her to trust you and give her personal information away. Everyone is constantly bombarded with lead generation forms and “enter your email address here” banners, so you have to sweeten the deal a little. That’s where an offer, like an e-book or webinar, comes in. You’ve (hopefully) created something unique, valuable, and interesting to your target audience so when someone sees it, she has a reason for giving her email address away.
  • Prove yourself over time: While a gated offer is one effective strategy for lead generation, it shouldn’t be your only one. You can’t have all your helpful content hidden behind a form, otherwise no one will be able to get a taste of how valuable it is. That’s why blogging is another effective, long-term strategy to get leads. When you continually create content that helps solve problems, you’ve essentially proven yourself. It it at that time that potential customers will be more willing (and excited) to sign up for your newsletter or get your blog posts directly in their inbox.
  • Leverage social media: Digital lead generation is all about creating a relationship with your audience and building credibility. And social media lets you get closer to your potential customers than ever before. You can listen in on the exact conversations your customers are having, learn about their true interests and problems, and chime in with helpful content. The more you know about your target audience and the more you interact with them directly, the more leads you’ll generate. (To learn more about generating leads with social media, read our posts about social selling on LinkedIn and on Twitter).


3 of the Worst Ways to Generate Leads:

  • Buying lists: “You can buy thousands of targeted email addresses for just $99.99!” If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Not only does buying leads feel slimy, it will also damage your reputation and immediately put you on bad terms with potential customers. No one wants to receive salesy emails about a product or service they have never heard of, and they’ll just end up marking your email as spam (and once this happens one too many times, your emails will automatically go to the spam folder).
  • Burying a sales pitch in an offer: We’ve already established that an offer, like an e-book or webinar, is one of the most effective ways to generate leads. However, this best practice can go dreadfully wrong as soon as you start talking about your company and “sneaking in” a sales pitch. When you start collecting email addresses from your offer, these leads aren’t very stable. You need to nurture them and continue to build a relationship to get them to become a quality lead. But, if you promote an e-book that is actually about why your company is the best, those leads will immediately disappear. Don’t underestimate the number of people who unsubscribe from email lists as soon as they feel wronged or duped.
  • Asking for too much information: Do you really need to know a potential customer’s phone number? Or his or her middle name? Asking for too much information on lead generation forms will cause people to run. As soon as people feel like you’re encroaching on personal, sensitive information, they’ll leave as fast as they can. Remember, the most important thing is an email address. You can get all that other information (company, location, phone number) later, if necessary, once they trust you and feel comfortable sharing it.

Lead generation is the pot of gold for every digital marketer. We all want to tie our
content marketing efforts to sales and prove that our effort and investment are worth it. However, getting leads can be a long, hard process. While it can be tempting to instantly get thousands of leads from buying a list, the quality customers will come once you take the time to understand them and create valuable content designed to help solve their problems.


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