If you are a business owner searching for new customers, then you probably have heard about lead generation services and at least a few of the many lead generation companies available today.
Lead generation is the process of tapping into your target market and creating interest among potential customers. The goal is to get their attention and contact details so you can discuss their needs and requirements.
Simply explained, a lead is a person or organization, depending on what type of business you operate, that can potentially become your customer. For example, if you are a residential plumber serving a particular area in your city or county, all homeowners in your service area who aren’t your customers yet are possible leads.
While it may seem a little too challenging to get in touch with all potential customers one by one unless you operate your business in a small town with few homeowners, online lead generation companies make it easier, simpler, and quicker for you.
Once you understand how lead generation works and how you can take advantage of these platforms that are readily available, you can expect your customer base to become larger over time. Most certainly, you can expect your business to grow too.
What is Lead Generation?
Now that you already know what a lead is, it is time to learn what lead generation means.
Lead generation is one of the many steps of the marketing process wherein you attract business prospects or qualified leads. You are going to attempt to increase the interest of those who you’ve tapped as leads. The ultimate goal would be to convert them into paying customers.
Not all leads are qualified leads. For a lead to be considered qualified, the individual or potential customer must have given their information to you willingly.
How do you get qualified leads? Potential customers could have sent you a message, filled out a contact form, or expressed interest in working with you or hiring you.
Leads can be purchased. There are lead generation companies selling databases of leads such as contact details of homeowners in a particular service area that they gathered from somewhere else.
The chance of converting this type of lead into an actual customer through cold calling is quite slim. We won’t even get started with the cost of having to hire call center services for outbound calling or telemarketing.
Especially if you are a service provider, once again a plumber, for instance, or an emergency service company, you can’t simply start cold calling random numbers in your area and expect some of them to coincidentally have a bathroom or drainage problem right then and there.
Finding qualified leads isn’t exactly simple and easy if you do this manually such as the example stated above. Many small businesses do not have the budget to hire an entire sales team.
Thankfully, the Internet has plenty of marketing tools and resources available including online lead generation platforms that can help you speed up the sales process.
A Brief History of Online Lead Generation
Before the Internet, lead generation was done mainly through mass media. TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers were used by companies to spread the word about their product or service to as many people as possible.
However, small businesses don’t have as much marketing budget as big companies. Many service providers rely on flyers, phone books or directories, or the always reliable word of mouth.
In the 1990’s, many households started getting connected to the Internet. Online directories started becoming the primary source of information for many homeowners looking for the services they need.
Angie’s List, one of the most popular online databases for contractors of all time was founded in 1995. Over the years, it continued to gain popularity and became the go-to website for anyone looking for home service contractors. After it merged with another lead generation platform, it is now known as HomeAdvisor Powered by Angi.
Aside from HomeAdvisor, some of the top and best lead generation companies found online include Thumbtack, Houzz, Yelp, and more.
How Lead Generation Works
Lead generation plays a large role in inbound marketing. Briefly explained, inbound marketing is when the customer comes to you, requests for information, and willingly offers their details.
Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is when you “interrupt” your target audience with information or content that they did not ask for.
So, how does lead generation work and why is it an effective form of inbound marketing?
Here’s an overview of the lead generation process:
- A potential customer discovers your company through social media platforms, your blog, or your website.
- This potential customer voluntarily responds to your call-to-action (CTA) by clicking the contact button or a link to your website or landing page.
- Once on your landing page, the potential customer will then check on the products or services you offer. You can include some special offers there to convince the customer to get in touch with you or to directly make a purchase or hire you.
- If you provide a phone number on your website, the customer might get in touch with you directly. They may also choose to fill out a form so you can contact them. This makes them a qualified lead.
The process seems simple and pretty straightforward. However, having those potential customers discover your website or social media platform in the first place is already challenging as it is.
It requires a lot of SEO work and sometimes even hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of ads just for you to have some customers find your company and click on that button for them to get to your landing page. Having them fill out a form afterward isn’t even a guarantee.
This is where online lead generation companies come into play. They will bring you the leads you are looking for.
Note that we are not downplaying the importance of your website and social media platforms. They play crucial roles in digital marketing and growing your online presence.
Many times, even after finding you on online directories and lead generation platforms, customers would check out your website first to see what you have to offer before they decide to contact you.
So make sure you include an impressive website and social media profile in your digital marketing plan.
Top Online Lead Generation Techniques for Local Service Providers
There are several ways to generate leads online. If you are a local service provider, you can reach out to your target market and convert them into paying customers by using effective lead generation techniques.
Let’s dig deeper into the different online lead generation techniques available so you can choose which one would work best for your business. Note that you don’t have to choose just one – you can take advantage of all these techniques if you believe that they would be helpful to your company.
Lead Generation with Google Ads
Getting on top of Google search results is a lot of work and takes quite a bit of time. Staying there requires consistent SEO effort. You do have an option to sign up for Google Ads.
Google Ads instantly places you on top of the search results when a target customer searches for your assigned keywords on Google. You do have to bid and still compete with other contractors who also paid for the same target keywords.
Once a customer clicks on your Google ad, they will either be taken to your website’s homepage, contact page, or landing page. This is why you should make these pages attractive and impressive.
Google Ads is a form of PPC (pay-per-click) advertising solution. You will be charged by Google each time a customer clicks on your ad and there isn’t any guarantee that those who click those links would end up becoming paying customers.
So, make sure you have a call to action button and forms that your page visitor can fill out to make the most out of the money spent on Google Ads. This is the best and probably the only way you can turn those site visitors into qualified leads.
Lead Generation with SEO
SEO or search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website and its contents so that it would appear on top of search results organically.
Aside from having valuable content on your website, backlinks help a whole lot in SEO. This can be done by signing up on online directories, lead generation platforms, and other online marketplaces that allow you to link back to your website.
Paying attention to your website’s SEO allows you to improve your business’s online presence and create awareness about your company. Generating leads by bringing organic traffic into your website will definitely increase your chances of getting more paying customers from those leads.
Lead Generation with Social Media
Social media marketing through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn or Tiktok have become great ways to generate leads for businesses, big and small.
In fact, the amount spent on social media advertising has increased consistently over the years. From more than $40 billion spent on social network advertising in 2020, this amount jumped to close to $49 billion in 2021 and an expected $56 billion in 2022.
Since there are around 7 in every 10 Americans who use social media, it is certainly one of the best ways to generate leads for all types of companies.
Lead Generation with Referrals
Many small business owners do not realize yet the value of lead generation with referrals. Aside from getting referrals from your current and previous customers by word of mouth, you can get referrals too when your customers provide reviews or feedback about your service.
Make sure you have a reviews or testimonials section on your website and your social media platform. Also, encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews.
Many potential customers base their decision on who to hire based on feedback from previous customers. Especially for home service professionals, having some great reviews on your website or social media platform can definitely help your business.
Online Lead Generation Platforms
There are lead generation companies that sell databases of potential leads. There are also online lead generation platforms.
Some top lead generation companies that have convenient web platforms or mobile applications include HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack. Customers look for professionals to hire here since hundreds and thousands of home service providers from practically every corner of the country create their profiles on these platforms.
You might have considered hiring a pro for lead generation service or even building your own sales team only to realize that it’s a little too pricey to do so. Especially if you are just starting out a small business, you might find these lead generation methods impractical.
Instead of getting a database from lead generation services companies that contain random contact numbers of people that don’t necessarily need your service, you will receive inquiries from homeowners who are specifically interested in what you offer.
The customers will come to you!
Although these platforms do not guarantee a sale at all times, there’s still a higher chance that you meet a true customer that will eventually pay to get your service.
Note that some of the best lead generation companies with online platforms such as we have mentioned above are not always free.
HomeAdvisor charges an annual fee on top of the price you pay for leads. It is free to create a profile on Thumbtack but they charge for the leads.
But still, many business owners claim that this method is still more practical compared to hiring a lead generation company or building your own sales team.
Let’s get into detail about these lead generation companies below.
Can Online Lead Generation Companies Help Your Small Business?
There are plenty of different types of lead generation companies, but not all of them are effective or useful for all types of businesses.
For instance, companies that offer lead generation services by giving you purchased leads or databases of contact information do not necessarily benefit home service providers as much as they would benefit other sectors such those in the financial or healthcare sector.
Other lead generation strategies include Facebook lead generation, Twitter lead generation, LinkedIn lead generation, PPC lead generation, and B2B lead generation.
There are, however, online lead generation companies that specifically target potential customers in the home service and home improvement sector. Some examples include HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack.
Yes, online lead generation companies can help your small business. The platforms we have mentioned above are not merely online directories. They can help you capture customers’ information, their requirements, and project details.
Should You Invest in Online Lead Generation?
As earlier discussed, there are different ways to generate leads online. One of the most effective and simplest methods would be to sign up with online lead generation companies.
It’s important to note that an online directory is not necessarily an online lead generation company. Directories can also get you leads especially when a potential customer ends up clicking the link to your website or gives you a call directly.
For this post, however, we will be discussing digital marketplaces that specialize in generating leads for local home services – companies like HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, Houzz, Yelp, and more.
These digital marketplaces or online lead generation companies have a platform of potential leads or customers actively searching for companies that offer the services they require.
Depending on the platform, signing up for an online lead generation company may or may not be free.
HomeAdvisor, for instance, charges an annual fee to contractors signing up on their platform. There are additional fees for the leads. On the other hand, signing up with Thumbtack is free. You will, however, have to pay for the leads being sent to you.
Is it worth the investment? Definitely.
There are thousands of contractors on these platforms and some of them are your direct competitors. If you choose not to invest in these marketplaces that have thousands of potential leads, you are missing out on opportunities that only those on the platform can enjoy.
So, if your competitor is on that platform and you are not, then chances are they will get hired by a customer that could have been yours.
Some of the Best Lead Generation Companies
Once again, to clarify, we will be focusing on lead generation companies operating on an online platform today. We no longer have Angie’s List but we have HomeAdvisor powered by Angi now. There’s also Thumbtack and Houzz among many others.
There are so many opportunities for you to find new leads – qualified leads, more importantly – in these platforms.
Note that we are not claiming that the “offline” lead generation service offered by traditional lead generation companies is not beneficial. They are, too.
But if you own a small business, especially if you are just starting out and still working on a small marketing budget, hiring lead generation companies to do the work for you might be a little too expensive.
Also, remember that lead generation service doesn’t guarantee you paying customers.
Sure, 37% of the world’s population still does not use the Internet. But that leaves you with over 60% of the population who might just need your services one way or another.
So, whether you decide to hire a lead generation company or not, please know that signing up for online lead generation platforms can truly be beneficial for your business.
Let us now discuss some of the top platforms that can help you find quality leads – more leads that will get you closing deals one after the other.
Remember how Angie’s List was so huge back then, nothing seemed to come close to all the professionals and consumers signed up for their platform. And then there was HomeAdvisor.
Now, imagine these two giant platforms merging together. That’s one huge platform that can give you all the relevant leads you will ever need!
HomeAdvisor powered by Angi is undeniably one of the largest, if not the largest lead generation company, which can help you in improving your online presence, assist you in your sales process, and give you high-quality leads.
The platform promises consumers that they can help these users find trusted local pros for any kind of home project.
So, if you are a small business or local service professional offering anything from everyday handyman services to landscaping to cleaning to moving services and so much more, this is the platform you must sign up for.
How Does HomeAdvisor Work?
A customer gets on the HomeAdvisor platform and gives details about the type of service they require. They will be answering a series of questions that will lead them to the right professional.
HomeAdvisor can qualify leads using the ProFinder Technology. A consumer will be given up to four pre-screened professionals. These professionals, you included if your service is the one the customer is looking for, will then connect with the customer to discuss their project.
A customer may also choose to contact the professional directly. The appointment setting can be done directly on the platform, too.
As a contractor, you can set up your preferences and budget so the platform can generate qualified leads for you. It is not even a complicated lead generation software. It is as simple as using your other favorite applications on your phone or on the web.
Make sure that you are creating an impressive HomeAdvisor profile. Also, remember that lead generation is just one section of the sales funnel. You have to find ways to impress the customer to win them. Delight them so that leads generated by the platform can turn into paying customers who would eventually leave great reviews on your HomeAdvisor profile.
Thumbtack for Pros is another great platform that offers some of the best lead generation services you can take advantage of.
As earlier mentioned, Thumbtack will not charge you anything to create a profile on their platform. You do have to pay for leads as you get them.
Customer acquisition cost on Thumbtack depends on the number of leads you will be getting. You can always make adjustments with your budget and lead preferences directly on the platform.
How to Get Started With Thumbtack
You simply need to sign up as a pro on Thumbtack to get started. Enter your business name, address, contact details, and all the services you offer. Add a detailed description about your business too.
When you already have a profile, you can start setting up your preferences on Thumbtack so you can get exact match leads.
Unlike the leads you will be getting from a typical lead generation agency where you pay for everything whether they’re quality leads or not, you only pay for leads that actually reach out to you on Thumbtack.
Once again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all those paid leads will automatically become paying customers. However, this method decreases the chances of paying for fake or invalid leads.
Thumbtack will only make you pay for a lead when a customer chooses to contact you specifically.
Especially when you’re on a tight budget, you will appreciate how you can set a weekly budget on Thumbtack. This gives you more control over your marketing budget.
Houzz is an all-in-one business lead generation software for contractors and design pros. As its name suggests, the service professionals found here are mostly in the home building, home design, and home improvement sectors.
Aside from being a great lead source, Houzz makes project management a lot easier for contractors like you. Appointment setting and communicating with clients is made easy using their web or mobile app.
What You Can Get Out of a Houzz Profile
Houzz can be considered a lead generation company, but it is more than just that. Here, both contractors and customers can create mood boards, use 3D planners, find products and supplies, track expenses, and so much more.
It’s like having your very own account manager and project manager!
It is definitely great for business development and showing customers exactly what they can get from you even before you meet them for the first time. This platform can help you save time and minimize effort especially when a potential customer is not a guaranteed sale yet.
There are three types of plans you can sign up for in Houzz – Starter, Essential, and Ultimate. These cost $65 to $399 every month.
If you are in the home building and design industry, Houzz is like having your own dedicated management team, marketing agency, content marketing team, sales team, and so much more.
Depending on the Houzz plan you sign up for, you can take advantage of their features and software solutions including CRM consulting, proposals, estimates, takeoffs, invoicing, online payments, and many more.
Create a Strong Lead Generation Plan to Win Customers
Dedicated sales and marketing teams are necessary and essential for many businesses. However, a small business usually does not have the resources or budget to hire sales professionals and sales teams just to get them more customers.
This is where online lead generation companies come into place.
You do not need to hire call center services for outbound lead generation or appointment setting services. You don’t need to conduct your own market research or lead research just to find high-quality leads. You won’t even have to do lead qualification on your own anymore.
Everything from social media marketing to content marketing to sales outsourcing to email marketing and so much more is made available in online lead generation companies such as the ones we have discussed above.
You can sign up with one or all of them, depending on the type of business you operate.
You do not have to hire a lead generation agency anymore. Make online lead generation a part of your digital strategy and marketing strategy for you to be able to get more leads that can actually become paying customers in due time.