Lead Generation for Startups: How to Turn Quality Prospects Into Customers

Market demand is what helps startups test and validate their ideas rapidly and in real market conditions. It’s also what drives initial product development and what helps founders turn a minimum viable product into a fully-fledged product.

So the million-dollar question for startups is:

How do you lure high-quality potential clients into your sales pipeline? And how can you keep them engaged with your sales reps until they convert?

In today’s article:

You’ll learn everything you need to know about lead generation for startups. We’ll cover the definition of lead generation and the benefits it can offer to any thriving company. More importantly, you’ll discover the most popular ways for businesses to generate prospects and how to implement a similar strategy for your own startup.


What Is Lead Generation for Startups?

Lead generation is a growth strategy that startups use to convert new clients and capture more market share. It consists of identifying the company’s target prospects and then actively going after them to turn them into paying customers.

In simple terms:

A startup will build systems to capture the contact information of prospects who’ve expressed interest in its offers. The sales reps will then handle the conversation with each lead individually by providing value through relevant solutions. 

The reason why lead generation is important is simply that quality prospects are the oxygen for any growing business. A startup that fails to attract potential clients early on will struggle to expand and be successful.

There is a variety of ways a startup can capture new prospects and get them to convert. For example, a sales team can get new leads via content marketing, social media, or direct outreach. Before we get into those strategies and how they should be executed, let’s go over the advantages of lead gen for companies in the early stages.

What Are the Benefits of Lead Generation?

A Pathway to Consistent Growth in the Early Stages

One of the main reasons why lead generation has become a popular strategy is because it’s a great way to ensure consistent growth in the early stages.

A lot of startups have a hard time keeping track of everything in the first few months. There are just a lot of moving pieces for anyone to pay attention to new leads and potential sales.

That’s when a lead generation comes to the rescue.

No matter how large the puzzle, a well-implemented lead gen strategy will guarantee a steady stream of quality leads. Your business will be able to generate a lot of demand around your offers and build solid relationships with potential partners for the future.

A Solution That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Affordability has always been a determining factor for startups whenever they decide to use new sales tools or techniques. That’s due to the size of the risk they’ll take as they’ll be pinning their hopes for growth on an untested process.

Unfortunately, a sales strategy that costs a lot to execute may actually put any startup out of business. That’s why it’s important for your sales department to develop a low-cost sales process for the long run.

The good news is: lead generation costs nothing compared to other sales and marketing tactics. It’s actually a cost-efficient way for growing your customer base without breaking the bank.

For instance, you can build a list of a few hundred leads that matches your ideal customer profile (ICP), and then start reaching out to them via email, cold calling, or LinkedIn. This whole strategy can cost less than a few hundred dollars if you have the right tools at hand.

A Faster Way to Break Into the Market

What makes lead generation different from other strategies is the active approach that defines it. This technique doesn’t rely on awareness or passive strategies such as word-of-mouth, organic traffic, or other inbound strategies. Instead, your sales team will be actively reaching out to targeted leads through different channels.

The rapidness element is what makes lead gen the ideal go-to-market strategy for startups. You can actually initiate your prospecting and outreach efforts from day one. And you don’t have to wait for weeks or months to get in front of your future clients and start interacting with them.

To give you an example:

A sales engagement platform can provide you with a targeted list of prospects on the spot. As soon as you set up an outreach campaign with the right message — you’ll be only a few steps away from converting your next biggest client.

A Guarantee for Working With Better Customers

What makes lead generation so unique is that it’s all about interest and demand.

At first, you’re going to get potential clients exposed to relevant answers and real solutions to their problems. Then you’ll generate demand for your offers by demonstrating how your products and services can be helpful.

By the end of the funnel, you’ll have cultivated strong relationships with each prospect on your list. So you’ll know that everyone you’re interacting with will either want to convert or have a strong reason not to. You won’t be wasting any time chasing irrelevant leads that don’t need your help.

The best part is…

Even when not targeting the low-hanging fruit, lead generation can help you pull new deals out of thin air. By going after the right leads, you’ll come across many prospects that needed your solutions but didn’t know your startup existed. Those are the types of deals you’d never get if you relied only on traditional sales tactics.

lead generation for startups

What Are The Most Popular Techniques to Generate Leads for Startups?

There are countless methods a business can use to cultivate a stronger interest in its brand. But very few of those techniques are actually efficient and can work for startups. Here are the best four ways to generate quality leads nowadays:

1. Creating a Lead Generation Website

Creating a website is a top priority for all startups in this day and age. But very few of them are using their sites to capture and convert prospective clients.

The thing is: a functional startup website should go beyond modern branding and attractive design. Because by prioritizing those aspects, you’re actually putting the cart before the horse.

What successful startups do instead is develop lead generation websites that constantly get relevant visitors. They do that by combining different tactics for driving quality traffic — such as content marketing and paid ads.

Once a prospect lands on a landing page on your website, you can ask them for their contact information. But in return, you must offer them a valuable resource that solves their biggest problem. That can be anything from a case study, a report, an eBook, or even a free trial.

Another advantage that your lead gen website can grant you is leaving an unforgettable brand impression. That’s a great way to increase outreach engagements and guarantee a smoother interaction throughout the sales cycle.

2. Using a Sales Engagement Platform

A sales engagement platform is software that helps businesses find new leads and their contact information. Many tools will offer you a database of millions of potential customers for your startup to access and choose from.

For example:

A SaaS company can build a lead list matching its specific needs using a sales engagement app. The search functionality on most of these tools will help the sales team filter through long lists of prospects in different industries. That’s an essential feature for building a targeted lead list that gets results.

Aside from prospecting, sales engagement platforms can be used for accomplishing other complex sales tasks. For instance, you can plan your outreach and personalize it using the information you have about each prospect. You’re also able to nurture your leads, score them based on specific metrics, and track your performance throughout the sales cycle.

3. Leveraging the Power of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a no-brainer when it comes to lead generation for startups. As the leading business network online, this platform can help your startup connect with a wider audience and meet your ideal clients easily.

There are two ways for startups to generate leads on LinkedIn:

One is to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find relevant prospects and contact them directly. With a simple search on this tool, you’ll be able to filter through hundreds of millions of active users and choose the most relevant ones to build your list.

The second strategy is to use content marketing in establishing a strong presence on LinkedIn and raise brand awareness. All you need to do this is an optimized company profile and some engaging content that you share regularly with your audience.

As for outreach, LinkedIn can be an effective channel for talking to potential clients via direct InMails. But there’s also another way to go about this… You can get the contact details of each prospect and reach out to them through a different channel such as email or phone calls.

4. Running Targeted Paid Ad Campaigns

Generating leads through paid ads may be an older trick compared to the other ones on this list. However, this technique is still one of the best ways that startups can attract targeted prospects and turn them into clients.

If you’re wondering how paid advertising can fit into your sales process, it’s simple. You’ll run targeted online campaigns on various platforms to reach your ideal customers. Whenever someone clicks on your ad, they’ll be taken to a landing page on your website. This is where you’ll offer them a freebie in return for their name and email address.

Before you make a decision on using paid advertising, you should be aware of both the pros and cons of this approach.

On one end, running ads online will cost you thousands of dollars each month if you want to see results. But on the other, you can expect to generate a lot of quality leads fast as long as your targeting and ad copy are on point.

Some of the most popular online ad networks that startups can use are Google Ads, YouTube Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. Choosing the right one depends on your campaign objectives.

Are you more concerned about accurate targeting? Do you want to keep your costs low throughout the campaign? Or maybe you’re looking for a wide variety of ad types for each campaign?

lead generation for startups

How Can Startups Succeed With Lead Generation: Step-By-Step Guide to Getting New Clients

Step 1. Define Your Target Market

A good understanding of your target market will help make better decisions at every step of the sales process. You’ll know which prospects to go after, how to reach out to them, what type of content to use, and which relevant offers to promote.

The best way to define who you’re targeting is to build an ideal customer profile. This will contain demographic and psychographic information regarding your best potential clients, as well as their needs and interests.

So how can a startup do all of that?

The first step is to sit down with your sales and marketing teams and talk about the characteristics of a quality customer. No one will ever know who your biggest clients should be more than you do.

Next, take a closer look at your current clients — preferably the ones who are most satisfied. Try to find similarities and overlapping traits between them in terms of industry, company size, location, etc. You should also identify how and where you found them, which offers got them to convert, etc.

Finally, you should scrutinize your competitors’ customers to fill in the gaps in your ICP. After all, the best thing about competition is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Step 2. Create Informational Content to Build Authority

Content marketing is the process of crafting educational content that helps prospective clients overcome their challenges. A content piece could be anything from a blog post, an infographic, an ebook, or a video.

What makes this step so important is how it can help you boost engagements and accelerate the sales process. The right content piece can be an efficient way to establish trust with prospects and build a strong authority around your brand.

But now you may be wondering:

What exactly is the relationship between content and lead generation?

The truth is, blasting thousands of irrelevant emails to try and get a quick sale is no longer a valid approach. Customers today have developed a strong tendency to ignore sales messages — especially when the message is generic.

So before a startup can mention anything about a potential deal, the sales team has to nurture and qualify each lead separately. Pushy sales techniques would only harm your brand reputation and get every potential client to ignore you.

The good news is… You’ve already identified your target prospects — so that’s half of the work done already. What you have to do now is specify which topics are most compelling to your audience so you can use them for outreach and lead nurturing.

There are many ways you can know which content can promote you as a subject matter expert. For example, basic keyword research for SEO will help you identify trending topics that interest your leads.

You should also analyze the questions your competitors are answering on their blogs and social media. By looking at how the audience is interacting with each piece, you’ll be able to choose the most captivating topics.

Step 3. Choose Effective Outreach Channels

We’ve already mentioned that cold email, LinkedIn, and cold calling are the most popular ways to reach prospects today. 

All three strategies can work and help you drive better results with your lead generation campaigns. But with limited time and resources, you may find yourself forced to stick to one option only. 

So which one should that be?

Sales outreach is always a work in progress, which means that your strategy can never be perfect. You have to keep experimenting with different tactics to get closer to your ideal sales numbers.

But to help you get going, we’ll share with you three crucial factors to consider when choosing an outreach channel:

Target Audience Availability

Which platform are your prospects most active on? If the majority of them are heavy LinkedIn users, for example, you may want to contact them there first.


The best way to leave a memorable impression is to zig when everyone else zags. A less competitive platform will get your foot in the door if you use it to deliver a well-tailored message. 

Performance and Results

How did your previous campaigns perform in terms of sales and engagements? Sometimes there can be a clear difference in numbers when comparing various outreach channels.

In reality, we wouldn’t recommend that you choose only one outreach medium. Instead, you can guarantee much better results with an omnichannel approach that creates a continuous customer experience. This will allow you to engage prospects through different channels — simultaneously — depending on where they are in the sales funnel. 

Step 4. Nurture Existing Leads to Increase Engagements

How do you turn an interested prospect into a sales-ready prospect?

With lead nurturing.

There are multiple stages in the sales funnel, including awareness, interest, decision, and action. Each prospect has to go through all those steps before they convert into a loyal customer.

The challenge for most startups is to push leads down the pipeline by keeping them interested and engaged. But a sales rep can only do so much if they can only offer vague claims and empty promises. That’s when content marketing becomes more than a necessity.

The valuable resources you created in step #2 are important throughout each stage in the sales funnel. Every content piece you have under your belt will help you personalize your messages and provide tailored solutions to specific prospects.

With each outreach attempt, you’ll be providing potential customers with more valuable information. You’ll educate them on the challenges they’re facing and the possible solutions they could implement.

That’s how you turn cold prospects into hot leads that can’t wait to use your products or services.

Step 5. Evaluate Your Performance, Learn, and Repeat

Congratulations! You’ve now put in place a winning lead generation plan for your startup. Everything is all set for you to consistently find quality prospects, turn them into engaged leads, and finally convert them into paying clients.


Although your current play is working, chances are, there are a lot of imperfections in how it is being executed. So now it’s time to analyze your performance and make the necessary changes that will take your results through the roof. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for improving your lead generation strategy. Therefore, you have to test a lot, learn from your mistakes, and adopt better solutions.

As a start, you must pay close attention to your engagement metrics and compare that to industry benchmarks. Here are a few examples of how that might happen:

  • Is your email open rate lower compared to your competitors?
    Try to come up with better headlines and first lines for your emails.
  • Are cold leads interacting with you more on LinkedIn?
    Be sure to make it your primary outreach platform while experimenting with other options.
  • Are prospects losing interest after visiting your landing page?
    Work on improving your web copy and offer description while providing more social proof to support your claims.


To get your startup on a consistent growth trajectory, you need a steady flow of quality prospects entering your sales pipeline. Lead generation is the way to go if you’re looking for quick techniques to get your business in front of the right clients.

This might seem like an impossible objective at first, especially considering your limited time and resources in the early stages. But the truth is, you can set your startup for success using a few simple tips and tricks for lead generation.

In this guide, we taught the best techniques to attract quality leads and a step-by-step process on how to implement them. Starting with setting clear objectives and understanding your ideal clients, you’ll be able to craft strong sales messages and deliver them through the right channels.

Vito Vishnepolsky
Vito Vishnepolsky
CEO and Founder at Martal Group