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Lead generation without spending a penny

Lead generation on no budget

Lead generation, it’s one of the top marketing challenges for small businesses. Add to that the lack of budget and then things start to get interesting (or should we say hard work!).

I know because I am one and it’s always on my list to do. I’ve been to business coaching that tells me – focus first on cutting costs – but the reality is that if I don’t have any leads, I don’t have any customers, and if I don’t have any customers I don’t have any business.

So I’ve put together a list of 4 of my top lead generation methods that cost absolutely nothing.

However, before we start, we need to answer one key question:

Who is your audience?

I know it’s so cliché. I’m a marketing person, I’m bound to say that! But it’s true. This is the very first thing you need to work out before you start any of the below, because the reality is that you can’t be all things to all men all of the time.

It’s much better to focus on one audience who you know will bring in the revenue that trying to reach out to everyone. You simply won’t have the time, budget or energy!

For those of you who haven’t worked this out, it’s OK, have a look at this post

Done that?

Now on with the tactics of finding those leads. These are just a few that I’ve found work really well


Networking is a great way for people to get to know you, how you can help them and even how they can help you. It’s personal, it gains trust early on, and allows you to showcase your talents. A word of warning though – make sure you go to the right networking groups – where you audience is.

If you’re a local business who is offering cookery courses for those over 40, think about free networking groups such as ‘Ladies who Latte’

If you’re looking at larger businesses, think about networking groups such as ‘Chambers of Commerce’ or ‘Institute of Directors’ – there is often a cost involved with the bigger networking but think of it as a ‘good lunch’ and then technically it’s free!

There are so many networking opportunities out there, take advantage of the free trials, try them out and work out what is right for you and your business.


Again a great opportunity to showcase your talents and what you can do. It doesn’t have to be necessarily about your products, but can be your journey to where you are now.

Ultimately, in the same way as networking, it gives people a flavour of who you are, what your expertise is, and lets people sample your products in advance, without having to spend any money.

Product sampling:

Try before you buy is always a great thing. That can be a free consultation, free samples of your product, overnight trial before you buy . Again it’s about gaining trust in you and your product. And it doesn’t need to be expensive.

Take samples of your product along to your networking meetings for the others to try. Offer ½ hour free advice over the phone. It cost you nothing, but helps to build a reputation.

Think about where your audience spends their time. If you’ve got a toddler product, why not think about chatting to the local leisure centre or library, setting up a stall at peak times and letting people try for free. Often the cost is minimal, but it means you can get people to try your product as well as get to know you.

Run an event yourself

Whilst I haven’t done this myself, one of my networking buddies realised that there just wasn’t a networking group that catered for her audience, so what did she do? She set up her own. And it’s paid dividends. It doesn’t cost her anything because she charges a nominal fee, but it does bring her the businesses she wants to work with.

Another way is to run taster events for your service. It’s a really effective way of getting interested parties to understand what you offer and how you can help them. Don’t get me wrong, you will get a lot of hanger ons, but once every so often, you will strike gold and it will make it all worth while.

So there you go – 4 ideas on how you can do lead generation with no budget.

I'm running a course 'Marketing for Free', where you'll be able to get even more ideas, find out more here​

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