Lead Generation for Startups


What I Wish I’d Known

In the past decade I’ve helped 100’s of startups generate qualified leads that convert.

What’s interesting is that even though every company and industry is unique, the same client acquisition challenges repeat again and again. 

Here are 9 simple, yet powerful principles I wish I’d understood when I was first starting out.

If you apply these lessons I’m confident you’ll get new customers in no time at all.

Startup Lead Generation

Can Your Prospective Customer Afford You?

The number one mistake I made when starting out was targeting micro-sized businesses with no available budget.

Companies with zero budget desperately need your help. But there’s no way they can make the numbers work. This leads to protracted negotiations. With the potential customer doing everything they can to compress your margins. You end up working for pennies when you shouldn’t have taken the project to begin with.

At Sales Higher our starting spot is identifying companies that have recently received startup funding. Even seed and pre-seed companies have (on average) millions of dollars in the bank. So you KNOW they can afford your services. And it doesn’t feel like your fees are coming out of the CEO’s own pocket.

Every week we identify hundreds of companies that received funding the week prior. And publish the contact information for the CEOs. 

All you need to do is introduce yourself. And if you can help them get where they want to be, then they’ve got the discretionary budget to work with you. 

What Assets Do Successful Clients Have?

I’ll bet if you look at your most successful clients you’d begin to notice commonalities. 

For example, companies that have certain infrastructure get more out of your solution than others.

Or perhaps they’ve already gotten to a certain place on their business journey. And now they’re situated to get the most out of what you have to offer.

Consider two companies – one has a blog and the other doesn’t. Which one is more likely to purchase content marketing services?

Intuitively you might think the company WITHOUT a blog needs content marketing the most. But in practice the company that’s already invested in their content is more likely to invest more.

At Sales Higher the first thing we look for is companies that have received funding. The second thing we look for is potential leads that match your ideal characteristics.

For example, we can check whether they have multiple offices world-wide. Or if they’re spending on Google ads, and so on.

Quality Prospects > Prospect Quantity

Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to contact 1000 people a day.

You know what’s HARD? Getting 10 meaningful communications per day with your ideal prospects.

It’s a bit counterintuitive. But in prospecting any activity that can be automated can also be scaled.

But here’s the thing. When it comes to cold email, scale usually isn’t a good thing. No one wants emails that are quasi-relevant to their job function.

You’re better off focusing on delivering TONS of value to prospects that are already where they need to be to get value from your solution.

Clarity Is An Over-Powered Lead Generation Tactic 

My team of virtual sales assistants looks at hundreds of websites every day. You’d be shocked at how frequently they struggle to figure out what a business actually does 

It’s hard to imagine, but most businesses have difficulty communicating what they do in a concise way that everyone understands.

Ideally, the first sentence on your website will tell the prospect what outcome your solution provides. And states (or hints at) the mechanism by which that outcome is delivered. 

It should take less than 5 seconds for your prospective client to open your homepage and know what you do and whether they want to work with you.

If it takes longer than 5 seconds, visitors will bounce to another website that can communicate more effectively.

Use Ads To Split Test Your Copy

Most new websites don’t generate a meaningful amount of search traffic. So the challenge for new websites is knowing what copy will produce the best conversion rates. Without lots of traffic you can’t split test copy ideas efficiently.

Fortunately there’s an easy workaround. You can use Google Ads to test various ideas. The best ad copy gets the highest click-through rates. And best reflects what you should put on your website, too.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have a budget, look at ads for similar products. You can run the exact same tests on your competitors’ conversion data. Without spending a penny!

Split Test Ads For Startup Lead Generation

Tell Your Potential Customers Who They Are

If you want to take your clarity to the next level, be sure to tell your prospects exactly WHO you serve. For example, “We help Hubspot users [achieve desired outcome] in less than 60 days“. In this example the prospective customer is able to easily identify whether this solution is meant for them, or not.

So make your business website super clear about the outcomes you provide, how you do it, and who you serve. You’ll simultaneously attract new leads, while qualifying them to ensure your sales conversations are productive.

Align Lead Capture With Lead Nurturing

When it comes to lead generation for startups, one common mistake is misalignment between lead capture and lead nurturing.

After you get a lead, what comes next?

There’s often a lack of clarity about what’s required to take a lead from new contact to new client. 

For example, if someone registers for an ebook, you’ve captured their name and email. But how does that translate into a client acquisition strategy?

Similarly, a prospect might agree to a meeting but not convert. How are you nurturing them to the point that they become a client at a later date?

Lead capture doesn’t happen in a bubble. It’s important to allocate resources to lead nurturing. Rather than just having single interactions that don’t progress the prospect through to a sale.

Your Prospect Numbers Are Finite

The biggest misconception I’ve seen over the years is that prospects are infinite.

It makes sense. When you’re starting out it seems like you’ve got an unlimited number of potential buyers.

But when you drill down into your data, you’ll realize that’s not the case.

In many industries your ‘best’ buyers are measured in the hundreds or low thousands. Sure, some SaaS startups can legitimately target 10’s of thousands of companies. But these cases don’t apply to most service-based businesses.

There are two lessons to internalize from this.

First, treat your prospects with the respect they deserve.

That means every communication should be researched and thoughtful. Putting in the extra effort is HARD. But if you consider the response rates that most campaigns achieve (it’s low!). You’ll quickly arrive at the conclusion that the extra work is worth it.

Second, you need a way to get repeated exposure to your sales targets. You can’t expect to contact new prospects forever. So structure your outreach campaigns so you can reach out at regular intervals without being pushy.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

See what I did there… 

Some time ago I signed up to a LinkedIn newsletter hosted by a fellow that sells LinkedIn training programs.

Here’s the thing, I get an email from him EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I’m not really interested in social media marketing right now. But maybe I will be one day. And when that day comes, who will I think of first? Yeah, the guy who’s been sending me valuable content DAILY.

This is why repetition is so important. It’s cheaper and easier to contact people you’ve already connected with than it is to go out and find new contacts.

And it’s absolutely crazy how fast people forget you even exist. They need regular reminders!

The best part about a reminder strategy is you don’t have to write a high-converting email every day. Instead, use retargeting ads to remind people who have ALREADY visited your website about your solutions. And give them the opportunity to return.

The more frequently you deliver value to your best prospects, the more likely they are to ultimately become a client. So use repetition again and again and again (see what I did there…).

Generate Leads With A Push-Pull Effect

Ask any marketing expert whether inbound or outbound marketing is better and they’ll tell you with 100% confidence that inbound is better.

Unless they do outbound. In which case outbound marketing is definitely better.

The truth is the best marketing is the one that works. It doesn’t matter whether it’s inbound or outbound. You just need to be able to scale it in an affordable way to achieve your revenue objectives.

Most businesses need to use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing to achieve their goals.

Consider a ‘pure’ inbound company. Even if they publish lots of great content, it probably won’t get any views at the beginning. To gain traction they’ll need to share their work and acquire some backlinks. And these efforts are almost always achieved using outbound email. 

Similarly, outbound activities perform better when they’re reinforced by amazing content. Someone receiving your cold email will probably check out your business website. And after that they’ll check out your profile on social media platforms.

Cold email isn’t a shortcut to skip over thought leadership any more than thought leadership can thrive without being promoted.

Partnerships Drive Lead Generation For Startups

No matter what you’re selling, the odds are someone already has your audience. 

And in many cases they aren’t direct competitors to your solution.

When that happens you’ve got the potential for a wonderful, symbiotic relationship where both parties are positioned to help one another.

If building an audience was easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not. It takes months and years of sustained effort. So audience builders are usually very open to ways they can monetize their audience. And generate a strong ROI on their hard work.

For startups that need to generate leads this is gold. Someone else has already done the heavy lifting for you. And in many cases they’ll be very open to any ideas you have about working together.

There are lots of ways to do B2B partner marketing. Find the one that makes the most sense for your situation and grow your sales funnel quickly.

Startup Lead Generation – Your Thoughts?

I’d love to hear about your experiences generating leads for startups. What worked well for you? What activities would you recommend for other businesses?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn or send me a note on our contact page.


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Here’s the exact process we used to generate over 4000 B2B sales leads



Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.

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