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10 Epic Lead Generation Trends for Small Businesses in 2021

Image of Brock Ashton
Brock Ashton

In 2021, the number one challenge for marketers is how to generate more, high quality leads. 

In HubSpot's annual State of Inbound report, 61% of respondants said lead generation is their biggest challenge and priority this year.

This single statistic should be enough to tell you that it's time to start focusing on lead generation. But in case you're not yet convinced, here's another:

53% of marketers that responded to a BrightTALK survey said they spend over half their budget on lead generation activities.

Want one more? Here's a good one:

Only 18% of marketers think outbound practices, such as sales outreach and cold calling, generate high quality leads.

The moral of the story? It's time to get your lead generation strategy in order, before your competitors wipe you out with theirs.

Businesses are investing more in lead generation, and with good reason. Lead generation tactics, such as the ones we'll outline below, can be almost entirely automated, can operate at scale, and empower prospects, leads and customers by giving them more options over how they interact with your business.

Given the nightmare that was 2020, so many businesses had to pivot to a digital strategy, foregoing the traditional methods of connecting with prospects and reaching customers in person. This shift meant a lot of businesses were in new territory, and some responded with a bang.

Remember that old saying "necessity is the mother of invention"? Well, we expect to see lots of innovation in how businesses generate leads in 2021, and the 10 trends we've outlined below are some of the ones to keep an eye on and try for yourself:

Trend 1: Chatbots

chatbot says hi

It’s been predicted that the global market for chatbots will be worth more than US$1.3b by 2024, and that more than 45% of businesses will implement some form of chatbot in 2021. 

Chatbots are here to stay, and it’s easy to see why: they are easy to use and cost effective, with a wide range of providers offering chatbots, making them perfect for budget-conscious small businesses.

They also put the power back in the hands of the customer to control how, when and where the conversation begins, making it a great communications tool.

Not only this, but they also offer a lot of internal benefits for businesses. They can help save time for customer support teams, they collect valuable data and information on how customers interact with your brand, and they provide insight to the most common enquiries.

Chatbots are perfect lead generation tools as they can be preprogrammed to guide visitors along the journey toward becoming a lead (and hopefully a customer!). 

This often means they are used to help qualify leads before a sales team gets involved, while some of the best ones can actually direct an enquiry straight to a sales rep. Data suggests that replying to new leads in under 5 minutes gives you the best chance at success, so having the ability to either automate a response or alert a sales rep gives businesses a huge advantage.


Trend 2: Influencer Marketing

influencers dont wait in line

Love it or hate it, influencer marketing is here to stay.

According to social media scheduling tool Later, the influencer marketing industry is set to become a US$15b market in 2021, with over 60% of marketers indicating they will be increasing their budget spend in this area.

The rise in the number of influencers makes it easier for small businesses to get involved as you have a larger selection of influencers to work with, at a budget that is right for you.

There are also plenty of agencies that specialise in influencer marketing popping up, helping small business owners navigate the world of influencers and understand how to get the best bang for their buck.

We’re also seeing influencers stepping into more clearly defined niches, which is great for businesses looking to target very specific audiences.

The challenge, however, is how to tie influencer marketing back to revenue or lead generation goals. Using influencer-specific landing pages, discount or referral codes are a few ways to track the success of your efforts.


Trend 3: Lead Magnets


Lead magnets and gated content remains a successful tactic for generating leads.

They are cost effective, easy to create, and they tap into a knowledge bank that already exists within your company - all you need to do is get all your expertise down onto paper.

Lead magnets are a perfect tool for capitalising on website traffic, and are a good way to ‘close the loop’ on other marketing activities.

Let’s say you are very active on social media and it’s driving lots of website traffic. This is great, and it’s exactly what you want to happen when you use social media as a marketing tool. 

But simply getting visitors to your website is only half the battle, you now need to convert them to a lead, and this is where gated content comes in. When you collect personal details, in exchange for valuable information, you are able to tie social media back to business goals, as it is now responsible for driving website traffic that converted to a lead. Without a lead magnet, reporting like this would be impossible.

Trend 4: Conversion Rate Optimisation

I have a website

A very much overlooked aspect of lead generation is optimising your website to capture as many leads as possible, and make sure your website becomes the key marketing tool it should be.

If you aren't familiar with conversion rate optimisation (CRO), essentially it's the process of improving your website (and other digital touchpoints where your customers interact with you) to improve the number of conversions you get. 

A conversion can be any desired action you want a visitor on your website to take - such as subscribing to a newsletter, completing a contact form, downloading a resource, or making a purchase.

In this case, we want visitors to convert to leads, so we can use conversion rate optimisation to test our website and increase performance and the number of leads we generate.

We are predicting that many businesses will start to take advantage of the number of free and premium CRO tools out there, such as Google Optimise.

If you're interested in learning more, go and check out our Beginner's Guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation.


Trend 5: Personalised, Dynamic Content

As businesses begin to capture more data on their audience and leads, offering personalised content is an important way to ensure a smooth transition, providing useful, relevant information based on where they are in the customer journey.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point.

Let’s say you’ve got a first time visitor to your website, and you want to show them a pop-up. A good option would be to ask them to subscribe to your email newsletter, and continue building a relationship with them via email. 

Now let’s assume a repeat visitor comes to your website, someone who is already subscribed to your newsletter. Instead of showing them a call-to-action to subscribe, you’d be better off giving them a discount code, or a personalised reward based on their level of loyalty.

By personalising their experience, you are increasing the odds that they’ll take the next step in the buying journey. 

Now, for this to work you need to have a robust CRM that is integrated with your website. You also need the ability to show dynamic content based on lead and subscriber information. If you’re on WordPress you’ll find a few plugins to achieve this - WPExplorer has a great blog on dynamic content in WordPress here.


Trend 6: Personalised, Intent-Driven Outreach

Im a closer

For sales-driven organisations, particularly B2B ones, intent-driven data will become a key element of a successful sales strategy.

If you can collect data on what your leads (or website visitors) are doing while on your website, you can reach out with a personalised approach, offering the right solution at the right time.

For example, with HubSpot you can track the website behaviour of your leads to report on what pages they are visiting. You can use this to prioritise highly qualified leads, such as those who visit a pricing page, read multiple blogs, and check out your contact details.


Trend 7: Increased Focus on Sales and Marketing Alignment

sales funnel

While not technically a lead generation strategy, getting information flowing freely between marketing and sales has been proven to increase sales effectiveness.

Sales enablement is a purposeful strategy used to help sales professionals reach the right leads through access to data, while also providing them with useful information, such as ebooks and white papers, that they can use in their sales process

87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth, while almost all of the top-performing salespeople surveyed by LinkedIn called the marketing leads they receive either “excellent” or “good."

These two pieces of data highlight the importance and critical opportunities for businesses to get sales and marketing moving in the same direction.

Trend 8: Local and Voice Search

hey siri

A study by Voicebot found that nearly 90 million Americans own a smart speaker of some kind.

Many of us use voice search on our phones to find an answer to a question, or get advice on something close to us, such as “Hey Siri, where’s the nearest Mexican restaurant?”

According to BrightLocal, 54% of consumers want to have the ability to make reservations at a restaurant or bar via voice search, while 51% of consumers claim they would use voice search to find a local business near them.

For businesses, the SEO impact of voice and local search cannot be understated. You’ll need to setup a Google My Business account as well as focus on improving your overall SEO strategy to make sure you’re positioned to capitalise on the growth of local and voice searches.


Trend 9: SEO

Speaking of SEO, it continues to be important, and while not necessarily a ‘trend’, for small businesses looking to grow, SEO needs to be on your radar.

If showing up on the first page of Google matters to you, and if you want to avoid spending huge amounts of money on advertising, SEO is something you should be pursuing.


Trend 10: Content is (still) King

spectacular content

So much of a businesses online presence relies on the quality of the content they produce and share with the world, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

SEO is driven by content (as well as a lot of technical website stuff), social media runs on it, and so many visitors convert to leads because of the content that attracted them to the website in the first place.

Not only that, content helps with customer acquisition, particularly educational content that sales teams can use (i.e. sales enablement), and can assist in customer retention by providing additional value beyond your core business offering.

What Will Your Lead Generation Strategy Look Like in 2021?

There’s no doubt that 2021 will see some interesting new ways (and improvements on old ways) to generate leads for small businesses. These are some of the trends we are keeping our eye on and are helping clients with this year.

If you want to step-up your lead gen game in 2021, why not book a 15 minute chat with us to see how we can help you achieve your goals.

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