By Sweta Patel

What if I told you that you could generate leads online without spending a dime? Many business owners struggle with online marketing lead generation. Most CEOs don’t see the value of online marketing and social media because they are unable to connect them to profits.

I have created a simple strategy for business owners to generate leads online without spending a penny. You won’t need any paid tools or advertising dollars to implement this strategy. Here are the exact steps I use myself to generate leads online:

San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur Sweta Patel.

1. Market Research

The first step is to know your target audience. What types of leads you are looking for?

The next step is to create a set of keywords related to your target audience. Which categories fit your offering, i.e. digital information products, SAAS, mobile? Then determine which vertical you are serving, i.e. healthcare, manufacturing, mobile technology, etc. Feel free to think broadly.

Once you answer those two questions then go to KeywordTool.io and identify which keywords best fit your target.  Once you have a list of 10-20 keywords that describe your target audience, the next step is to Google all the keywords and search for events and conferences related to the keywords. Specifically target speaker lists.

Best Practice: Search for web directories such as AngiesList or MatterMark to find your target audience. Try to use websites that list groups of contacts in one place instead of those with just one or two contacts in one place.  

2. The Secret List-Building Tool

Now you have collected a list of websites and URLs that relate to your target audience. To extract data from these sites, sign up at Import.io and watch the tutorial videos. The best thing about this tool is that it has extractors, crawlers and connectors that take all the data from these websites and transfer that data into beautiful spreadsheets of leads for your sales team to use. The connector tool allowed me to collect data for companies that earn $3 million to $5 million in revenue.

Some websites are hidden and you will have to do a little data mining to find all the contacts you need. In this case I usually hire someone from Odesk to find email addresses for me for less than $3 an hour.

Best Practice: To see a copy of what I use for the hiring process email me at sweta@globalmarketingtactics.com with the Subject: Odesk Hire Copy. As an aside, all the people I hire know exactly how to use these tools to enter the contact information into our system. Then our sales people start calling them up based on the data we have gathered.

3. The Outreach

Now you have your list and it’s time to start reaching out to everyone on it. Sending each contact an individual email would take forever. So, I use the free extension YAMM to automate this process once I have all the information extracted into Google docs. YAMM allows me to send multiple, natural-looking emails to all the prospects on my list.

I recommend gradually building up your list using this tool. This means you will test out a few emails to see which one works best for you. Then once you find the email that is working, use the extension to send 1,000 emails a day. This is more than even SalesForce’s capabilities!

We tested all types of emails. The emails that worked best were ones with short subject lines such as “FWD: ?” and short email body. For example, “Hello (Name), We have not heard back since our follow-up, can you help?”

Best Practice: Make your outreach letter as friendly as possible and make sure you are able to help your target audience out with something of value before you request anything in return. For example, for Thanksgiving I will send my prospect list a marketing guide on holiday marketing campaigns. Marketers know November, December and January are big traffic months, so we send personal emails to help our prospects. We use Immediately to find out if our prospects have opened their emails or not.

4. Schedule Appointments

We usually receive 25 emails back saying how much the prospects loved the guide and how they are implementing the tools we provided. We then ask if they’d like to schedule a strategy session to review their implementation process. Recipients who say yes need help with implementation. So we share our offer and educate them through the marketing process.

Best Practice: We use Sell Hack  when we set appointments via LinkedIn. Then we use Acuity  for our prospects to schedule their appointments with us.  We learn more about our prospects using Contactually and Nimble.

5. Briefings

What’s next? The prospect enjoyed the strategy session and is ready for you to present a proposal to them. You need to learn more about your prospect. How will you do this? We use Charlie to collect information. This will give us conversation starters before we actually go into the meeting to close the deal. We all know how important relationship-building is for marketers. In order to build a relationship, you have to be able to build connections with prospects and what they like to do outside of the business.

Best Practice: Do your best research before the briefing. We use Mention and Talker Walker for all our industry research. 

What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to generating leads online?


Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.