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  • Writer's pictureTJ Neathery

How to Find the Right Lead Generator for Your Startup (With 15 Lead Generator Examples)

The Facebook Ads dude who shows up in your newsfeed says you need a Facebook Ads funnel. The head of your local BNI chapter is saying you should pay your dues to create “billions of dollars.” Wendy says you can kickstart your business with an in-person Tupperware party.

So, which lead generator do you choose? Do you focus on automated, mass-traffic online funnels? Or do you nurture personal relationships with real people? Both approaches seem to work.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t implement every lead generator. The death knell for any entrepreneur is lack of focus. While you may test out a few systems at first, lead generators need to be optimized to get profitable results. Throwing $50 a month into Facebook ads with generic copy isn’t going to cut it. Creating a landing page with the keyword “Business opportunity” isn’t going to make you king of SEO.

You need to choose the lead generator that works for you. How? You need to find a lead generator that aligns with both your personality and industry. And for the purpose of this article, we'll refer to a "lead generator" as the way you bring clients and customers to your business. Let's not make this more complicated than it needs to be.


I believe everyone can be a salesperson. It just depends on the sales method you’re most comfortable with.

Some people can sell ketchup to a woman in white gloves. Personally, I couldn’t sell ketchup to a guy in a hot dog stand. I’m exaggerating (somewhat), but I also know the stereotypical, in person car salesman pitch isn’t my thing.

However, I know I am good at showing up and investing in relationships. I also use my writing skills to craft proposals that land with clients. My sales approach is more subdued and long-term, but it works for me.

What works for you?

Remember, sales tactics aren’t inherently “good” or “bad.” The idea is to find the strategy that’s good for you and your business’ bottom line.

If you’re outgoing and enjoy meeting people, then a local networking event might be perfect for you. If you love analyzing data, then lean into Google Ads. If you like nurturing a few, highly-profitable relationships, you might want to connect with influential wholesalers in your industry.

Running a small business takes passion and enthusiasm. Don’t build a sales funnel you’re not comfortable using. You’ll start to hate it eventually. Just because someone says you need to post a daily LinkedIn video doesn’t mean that’s the method for you.


When I first started my content marketing business, I tried out at least a dozen local networking groups. Theses included BNI groups, conventions, and public monthly meetings. I met many kind and professional people, but realized my ideal clients weren’t attending these events. I work with authors, speakers, coaches, and startups. Many of these clients don’t live in my city, which means local events are, for the most part, out.

You must choose a lead generator that compliments your industry and business model.

Let’s say you provide IT services to small businesses. While networking groups weren’t helpful for me, they might be the perfect opportunity for you to collect leads.

Also, pay attention to your business model. How many clients do you need every month? What is your net profit per sale? Some businesses focus on one or two clients a year. In this case, it makes sense to have a slow but highly targeted lead generator.

Other businesses need 500 customers a month.

Look, you’re not going to invite a prospect to a round of golf to personally sell a $10 pair of custom-print socks. Make sure your lead generator aligns with your industry and business model.

Lead Generator Examples

There may be more ways to generate leads than you think. I’ve compiled a brief list of 12 examples. Read through them and see which ones stand out. If any sound fun to you, then that’s a good sign you should adopt that method yourself.

  • Customer referrals. If you have a set, local market, referrals can be powerful lead generators. Develop a system for following up after successful projects. Ask for those leads while goodwill is still high. A classic technique is to ask, “Can you give me the names and numbers of three people you know who could benefit from what I do?”

  • Business network referrals. I know many entrepreneurs who started new businesses late in life. They relied on decades of past relationships to jumpstart their businesses. Who do you already know who could be your next client?

  • Niche project referrals. If you’re in a niche industry, you may partner other businesses who work with your ideal client. Your services might compliment these partner businesses. For example, if you’re a videographer, you may partner with a local SEO marketing firm that sends clients your way when they think video might add value to a client website.

  • Social media. Are you the catchiest, most bubbly, most viral influencer on the Internet? Use that to your advantage. Build a community through groups and shared interest pages. Then once you’ve built a loyal following, turn them into customers.

  • Social media ads. Didn’t we already cover Social Media? Yes, but ads are a completely different animal. Creating a loyal community is very different from writing killer ad copy. You can literally move thousands of people to your sales pages every day with a well-written ad (or video).

  • Website and SEO. Any writers out there? Organic SEO works well with medium to long-form content. Write about what people are searching for and you’ll find your traffic inching upward. After you’ve established your expertise in an area, you can monetize that through affiliate ads or your own products.

  • Search engine ads. Some industries are hyper targeted. If someone searches “Buy funny dog mugs,” they probably want to buy a funny dog mug. While Google Ad accounts take a lot of work, a highly optimized account can provide a steady stream of automated leads.

  • Local networking events. Examples of local networking events might include BNI groups, One Million Cups, or programs hosted by your local BBB or economic development center. Professional services often thrive in these communities since their customers are primarily local residents.

  • National conferences. Whether you’re speaking or attending, conferences are great ways to rub shoulders with the bigger players in your industry. Remember, the most productive conferences might not be about your industry. You might be a software coder but make apps for educators. Buy a pass for the next college and tech conference! Go where your customers are.

  • Wholesalers. Small online retailers often forget that products can be sold in multiple places. This is especially true for more artistic products like custom pins, clothing accessories, and home decorations. When you work with wholesalers, you won’t have to fulfill individual orders and you’ll receive larger payments to reinvest into your business.

  • Reengaging clients. Once a project ends, you can always offer more services to your client. If you design a client website, you might want to offer graphic design services or an ongoing site maintenance contract. Don’t worry, you’re not fleecing your clients for more money – a reengagement can actually save them time and money. By knowing their systems, your work will be more efficient. Plus, they won’t have to build confidence in yet another company.

  • Job boards. While Indeed and Glassdoor are primarily used for finding full-time and part-time jobs, sometimes companies don’t know what they don’t know. A contractor might be the perfect fit. It doesn’t hurt to send a query email explaining why a contract might fit their needs better. You can also check out recruiter and talent agencies.

  • Freelancer sites. Upwork and Fiver are reliable sites for finding freelance work. You ca find anything from coding to writing work. These aren’t all one week gigs either. Companies may hire you a multi-year contract, especially if it seems like a good fit.

  • Enterprise lead generators. I have yet to meet a business owner who loves their enterprise lead referral system. That said, there are professional services that will send your company leads. The problem is that these leads aren’t always quality leads. But if you’re great at closing deals, this might be the solution for you.

  • Listings and directories. There are also many websites that will list your business publicly. Upcity is often aggregates lists of “Best industry firms in your city.” If you’re a speaker, you might want to try out a speakers bureau. Sites like Houzz could be considered lead generators – they also count as a lead generator and online advertiser.

If you’re reading this article about lead generation, you’re likely searching for more revenue. You probably haven’t reached a place you’d define as “successful.” That’s fine! Growing a business takes hard work. But stay true to your personality. Follow your unique gifts and feed off your passions. Don’t tie yourself to a lead generator you hate just because you’re desperate.

Finally, don’t forget that you can pay someone to do sales for you. I still stick by my claim that everyone can be a salesperson. But should you? It’s often more profitable for you to do what you’re good at. While you’re coding apps for a high hourly rate, you can pay a salesperson to bring in clients. That way you both win!


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