Marketing Funnels… Ahh! Everyone talks about them, but when it comes down to execution, I’m always shocked by the amount of Startups that still don’t do any Lead Generation activity or do it with old, boring strategies.
That’s why we’ve decided to help you out with some inspiration by analyzing how 5 successful startups are doing their Lead Generation.
First of all, what does Lead Generation mean? Why should every company do it?
Nowadays internet users are bombarded with tons of ads and promotional offers every single day. Promoting your product directly to a cold audience doesn’t work anymore for most of the companies.
That’s why you have to build a connection with your potential customers before trying to sell them something.
That’s where Lead Generation comes handy. By offering your potential customers something valuable for them like a Newsletter, an eBook, a Webinar, you can get them to share their contact information with you.
This will enable you to stay in touch with them through email (or have someone in your team call them over the phone), stay top of mind, gain their trust and finally sell your product.
Let’s make it simple:
As Ryan Deiss from Digital Marketer always say, marketing is like dating. You don’t go to a nice girl you’ve just met and ask her if she’ll marry you. That would be creepy!
First you have to chat with her (a blog post). Then offer her a beer and get her phone number (Lead Generation), then date her for a good amount of time (Lead Nurturing) and finally you’ll marry her (Sales).
That’s why Lead generation is so important.
By replicating the Lead Generation examples below you’ll be able to bootstrap (or improve) your Lead Generation in literally no time!
Let’s take a peek at these Top 5 Lead Generation startups and see some examples of their Lead Generation!
1 – Buffer Lead Generation
Buffer‘s main goal, as in common with the other 5 startups, is built on communication by reaching out to potential customers through Lead Generation.
It’s all about understanding what resonates best with their clients and why delivering value on those terms. It’s not about buying, it’s all about trust so that, when time comes for whom they’ve reached out to and when their future potential clients will need to make a decision, there will be no doubt on who they will choose!
So how does Buffer generates a constant stream of new leads?
Overall they’re not too aggressive. No annoying pop-ups while reading their blog posts, no right columns filled with banners and forms. Actually most of their Lead Generation is linked through the footer of the website (and likely promoted outside of their main website).
From there we can access:
They’re clearly betting big on webinars. Every time I visit their website there’s always a new upcoming webinar to register to.
I don’t personally like their landing page and think they could ask some more information to better profile their Leads… but this is probably to blame more on GoToWebinar than on Buffer.
But wait… there’s more to learn here. And this is actually a great strategy that I’ve used myself in the past with great results. Write down this Lead generation example because it’s a game changer.
Buffer does Lead Generation on their recorded webinars too. They seem open to be viewed, but when you click play… Bang… here’s a form to watch the replay.
I feel email courses are underestimated and not many startups are using them for Lead generation. Buffer is a nice exception and they offer 4 different email courses.
Again… I think they could be asking for more information for the value that they’re delivering. Clearly they chose to prefer quantity over quality.
For sure these email courses are a great way to reach users’ inbox every single day and create a lot of brand loyalty!
Buffer do offer a lot of free tools. However, quite surprisingly, we cannot really count on them as real Lead Generation examples. Oddly enough they’re 100% free to use and don’t even require a registration to use them. Here’s for example their stories creator:
However, after using these tools for a while, I’ve discovered that after some time they do open a popup promoting a related eBook or email course.
Another big surprise here: Buffer doesn’t seem to care that much about eBooks as a way to generate more Leads. I couldn’t find any eBook page even searching through Google.
What I did find, however, are a bunch of blog posts where you can download a pdf version of the post leaving your email. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Very few personal information required from the user and landing pages that are not really well designed or optimized.
While it’s underwhelming, this is a pretty good reminder and something that deserves to be added to our list of Lead Generation examples: You don’t always need to write a full fledged book. Very often people will be happy with just a pdf version of your most interesting blog posts.
Final considerations on Buffer
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that Buffer doesn’t care that much about Lead Generation. There could be many reasons for this even though I don’t fully agree with their strategy.
In my opinion, the most likely reason is, that having a strong brand and a Free plan for their product, they’re actually using their product as the main source of Leads and they’re receiving enough signups to the free version to do Lead Nurturing them and upgrade them to paid plans.
That said, given they are already producing a huge amount of quality content, I would probably take the extra time to polish their Lead Generation and double down on it 🙂
2 – Moz Lead Generation
Moz, as you probably know, is one of the oldest and most respected SEO tools on the market. It’s also a content powerhouse.
Blogs, video series, courses, guides… whatever you are searching for around SEO they got you covered. This also includes a great Q&A community which everyone can read but, unluckily for us, only accept posting and commenting from paying customers.
I have to admit, I was quite shocked browsing Moz website. They are expert marketers and for sure they have a LOT of traffic on their website. Yet, they’re likely the company with less Lead Generation activities among the 5 we are analyzing today.
Really… What’s going on here? No eBooks or webinars of any kind, no chatbots… nada, nothing! Most of the content is accessible freely without leaving your name or email.
It took us a while to scout the first Lead Generation idea you could reuse for your project: A newsletter lightly advertised in the footer.
As we know, no one wakes up in the morning thinking “Oh snap … I didn’t get enough emails yesterday, let me signup to some more newsletters”. Even though, their newsletter is great ( I can vouch for it), it’s surely not the most innovative Lead Generation idea I’ve seen.
Now, I know the Moz guys and they’re brilliant people. I’m pretty sure what’s going on here, it’s a deliberate choice to avoid annoying users with too many forms and gated content, creating more emphasis on providing a clean experience on their website.
Also, their brand is so strong and recognizable in the market that they might need less focus on Lead Generation. It seems hard to believe, but it’s an option.
Don’t worry it’s not over. Our search for Lead Generation examples you can re-propose for your business, did not end with the Moz newsletter.
There’s actually a big bet that Moz made on Lead Generation and it’s all based around the concept of “Code as content”. I think I’ve heard this definition from Rand Fishkin (Moz founder) the first time… which makes sense.
Basically they’re using free tools (code) as their main driver of Leads instead of the usual content based on Lead magnets. In my opinion it’s a very smart and effective move.
Head to “Free SEO tools” on their website and you’ll find 5 tools which you can use for free… after leaving your personal data, of course.
All these are tools that are part of their paid products, but they are also available to use for Lead Generation purposes with very low monthly limits (both in terms of usage and gained results).
Start using any tool and you’ll be presented a popup to create a free Moz account:
Final considerations on Moz
I love these Lead Generation examples. Tools are really the most underused but more effective to attract Leads and differentiate yourself from competitors!
I’m starting to see a pattern here… Moz and Buffer, 2 companies with a strong brand loyalty, both focus more on tools and free product offering for Lead Generation than the traditional methods.
I wonder if they’re smarter than the others and if they have done a lot of testing on it. Anyways, we have 3 more startups to dig into for more examples of Lead Generation.
3 – Wordstream Lead Generation
Wordstream goes directly to the point! What do you want to test to see if wordstream can be the right tool for you? Well, easy! The main action on their website, is to use their free tool to grade your Google Ads account. They’ll only require few information and then, from the free tool, they have a 1 click upgrade into the full product trial!
By scrolling down, there is also a possible chance in learning with them through their newsletter. Let’s click and see what happens!
There we go! Another way in getting your leads through curiosity! Why not leave your email? It’s free, and if you are in this field, why would you not sign up for free weekly tips and tricks to make your work easier? There’s the trick, you have become a Lead!
As I said multiple times, Newsletters, even great ones, are not very attractive for users, so they’re limiting the information request to the bare minimum. Just your email address to keep the conversion rate high. I love how they have a dedicated video to pitch you the value of the Newsletter.
They also leverage their blog traffic to drive users to both the free tool and the newsletter. Smart idea for a blog like theirs with a ton of traffic:
Up to now, we’ve found two ways of examples of doing Lead Generation! Let’s peek a little more to catch other Lead Generation tips!!
Looking at their footer we found many more Lead Generation examples for you!
Of course they have an in-depth webinar section.
All the replays are gated so you’ll need to leave your personal information to watch the videos.
Given the higher perceived value here they’re asking way more information to let you in and all the fields are mandatory!
This is not the end. If you want to go more in depth, they also have a growth academy with full courses that you can signup for. The information required are the same.
Final considerations on Wordstream
Wordstream is the most sophisticated of the three startups we’ve seen so far when it comes to Lead Generation.
Their landing pages are polished. Their use of tools, to bring people in the funnel, is very smart and the amount of gated content is huge. We’ve just scratched the surface here. They also have Ebooks, email courses, more free tools and all their top blog posts have some kind of gated content upgrade!
Well done Wordstream!
4 – Shopify Lead Generation
Let’s pause from marketing startups for a while and check how an eCommerce platform like Shopify generates Leads through its website.
Following a consolidated playbook, everything is based on educational content and free tools, all consolidated under a prominent learn menu option.
From there we can access to Shopify Academy.
Shopify is a public company. It’s clear from this page the high quality of their content. This is a complete and free marketing course for eCommerce store made with special guests such as Daymond John and Ezra Firestone. Each section has a dedicated landing page and trailer and they all look amazing and really professional.
However, I would not classify these courses as pure Lead Generation examples. They’re a mix between Lead Generation and customer satisfaction. Try Signing up and you won’t see the usual form but a login form with a link to signup.
This is an interesting choice. They’re prioritizing existing customers other than new ones. Their account creation link is not even too invasive. I’m not 100% sure I’d classify this as a Lead Generation strategy.
A quick look at Shopify blog reveals a big right column used to promote the Academy, we just analyzed, and a signup form for their newsletter. I really like the copy of the newsletter box. It starts with social proof by stating how big their community is and it clearly highlights the benefits for users.
As we saw in every startup we’ve checked, Shopify also has a very rich Tools section.
Here there’s an impressive amount of tools, 20 right now but growing so fast that the main Lead Generation action is “Get notified as new tools are released” which only requires your email. The quality of the tools is impressive. Again, we’re talking about a public company with a lot of resources.
All the tools, however, are fully available without leaving your email or any personal information.
Final considerations on Shopify
I love the quality and the polishing of Shopify’s work. Really impressive.
However, not a lot of Lead Generation examples to be found here. Most of the educational content and tools are made more to enable success for their huge customer base than to acquire new Leads.
Likely Shopify has reached such a large scale and brand recognition that their main problem is not acquiring new signups but rather activating store owners to increase product activation and retention. After all, what really matters to their end users, is not opening a store but actually being able to sell their products!
5 – Appcues Lead Generation
At first sight, Appcues website is very clean and has a great flow. As we’ve seen in other websites, we can find most Lead Generation examples to get inspiration from under a single “Resources” menu option. No sign of other Lead Generation activity on their homepage which is full focused on presenting the product and letting users start a trial.
Let’s see their Onboarding Academy!
As you may notice, you have the option to become a User Onboarding Master and start creating your product experiences by just leaving your email!
It’s as simple as that. No more question asked, leave your email and you are in!
Appcues also offers three different free tools:
All three tools are quite simple, very much like a quiz. You answer a series of questions and get an output based on the kind of tool. The product launch planner requires a mandatory email while the others will display your results immediately and ask for an email just in case you want to save your results.
Signup for future webinars is a simple GoToWebinar landing page… not a great Lead Generation example honestly with just name and email required and the usual crappy GoToWebinar design … I’m not even wasting my time taking a screenshot here 😉
For recorded webinars, Appcues is the only one of the startups analyzed today that doesn’t require your email. All of them are directly hosted on Wistia and freely accessible.
Visiting the blog, as we scroll down, we get a fly over offering to signup to their newsletter.
Finally, Appcues also sponsors an external project: ReallyGoodUX. It’s a great resource to see hundreds of examples of onboarding flows and other fantastic UX. There’s a light Lead Generation here with a box to leave your email to receive updates:
Final considerations on Appcues
Mmh. A great UX … as you’d expect by a company like Appcues but not a lot of Lead Generation examples for us.
What I really liked in Appcues was their tools. The quiz like structure allows you to do a very good profiling, asking a lot of questions, but without the user perceiving that you’re asking for a lot of data.
I would have been a bit more aggressive and probably would have profiled users a bit more when accessing webinars or high quality courses like the ones on Appcues.
What can you learn from these Lead generation examples?
We’ve come to the end!
So what did these 5 startups have in common when it comes to Lead Generation?
I think a big learning here is that the more companies get bigger, the more they seem to favour a clean user experience over gathering more data from the users. In all the 5 startups we barely found annoying pop ups while reading their blogs.
In terms of the Lead magnets used we saw the following:
- Webinars / Video recordings: An evergreen strategy. Everyone nowadays is doing webinars, often inviting external guests to leverage their audience and content. The problem, in my opinion, is that users are getting bored of webinars. The market’s offer is way too big nowadays. Try to find something different.
- Tools: Likely my favorite strategy. All the 5 startups we’ve checked had some kind of free tool for Lead Generation. They are also great to attract traffic and links for SEO. If you don’t have any tool on your website, start creating one now!
- Quizzes: We didn’t see a lot of quizzes in these startups. However, I think they’re easy to setup and engaging for your users. Plus, like we saw in AppCues, they let you gather a lot of personal information in a very playful way.
- Courses or Ebooks: Giving future clients a chance to solve their problem, they will likely give their email. People love examples on how to do things, especially if it makes their workload lighter.
- Cheat sheets or checklists: Very much like eBooks but way easier and faster to produce. You don’t always need to write an encyclopedia to generate Leads. Sometime shorter is always better.
As the saying goes “you have to spend money to make money”. Sometimes it makes sense to spend more to generate an high quality Lead magnet and focus a lot on your landing page execution and optimization. It’s more expensive upfront but it will generate more results down the road!
Now go and fish your Leads!