To get results with lead generation, there are two paths you can follow:
- The fast and expensive way (paid ads)
- The slow and more profitable way (organic channels like SEO or LinkedIn outreach)
Both paths work, but obviously, which is best depends on your budget.
If you have a small budget, I’d recommend you focus on free organic channels.
If you have a bigger budget (at least $1,500/month), I’d recommend you start with paid ads to get some quick wins and at the same time work on free organic channels for long-term (more profitable) results.
In this article, I’ll do a deep dive into both lead generation strategies to help you decide which is best for you.
Tip: If you want help with implementing these lead generation strategies, be sure to watch my free training that explains how my lead gen strategy works in more detail.
Free vs Paid Lead Generation: What’s the difference?
Here’s a quick summary between free and paid lead generation.
As you can see, the main difference between organic and paid lead generation is the amount of money and time you spend on each type of marketing strategy.
Organic lead generation requires very little (if any) money. But it does require a time investment.
Paid lead generation requires money in advertising for it to work. But it often requires much less of a time commitment.
Both methods can work well, but which method is best for you?
Let’s find out in more detail…
By the way, if you want to learn how to use both free & paid lead generation strategies to get leads in your business in a way that is automated, profitable and scalable, watch my free Masterclass training here.
What are the best free organic lead generation marketing channels?
Here are some of the best organic free lead generation strategies:
1. Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Ranking higher on Google for keywords related to your business is one of the best ways to generate free organic leads.
Benefits of Google SEO include:
- Free leads. You do not need to pay for any leads that find you through Google organic search.
- Quality leads. Leads are often actively searching for a solution, so they convert quicker than other marketing channels.
- Predictable results. Once your website is ranking at the top of Google, the results are fairly stable each month.
- Builds trust. If your website appears at the top of Google organically, people often assume that your website is there because it’s the best result. So you instantly build a lot of trust with new prospects.
Problems with Google SEO:
- Requires a lot of time investment. To rank higher on Google, you need to create a lot of written content. It can take a lot of time and effort to create this content.
- Results take time. Do not expect instant or very quick results with SEO. Often it can take at least 6-12 months before you see results.
Tip: You can speed up the process it takes to get results from Google by creating more content more often.
To learn the best type of content to create to rank higher on Google as fast as possible, see Step 4 of this video.
2. YouTube Search (SEO)
Ranking higher on YouTube for keywords related to your business is a great way to get free leads for your business.
Benefits of YouTube SEO include:
- Free leads. You do not need to pay for any leads that find you through YouTube organic search.
- Quality leads. Similar to Google SEO, leads from YouTube are often actively searching for a solution, so they convert quicker than other marketing channels.
- Predictable results. Once your website is ranking at the top of YouTube, the results are fairly stable each month.
- Builds trust. A video where people can see or hear you can build trust with leads more quickly than written content on its own.
- Double the results. YouTube videos can rank at the top of both YouTube AND Google. This means you can double your results for some of your videos, without any extra work.
- Faster results vs Google SEO. YouTube videos typically have less search competition compared to blogs written for Google search. As a result, you can rank for competitive search terms much quicker compared to Google SEO on its own.
Problems with YouTube SEO:
- Requires a large time investment. To rank higher on YouTube, you need to create a lot of video content. It can take a lot of time and effort to create this video content.
- Results take time. Do not expect instant or very quick results with YouTube. Often it can take at least 6+ months before you see results.
Tip: You can also get free leads from YouTube by appearing on the YouTube recommended homepage. A high converting video title and thumbnail can help you do this.
To learn the best type of content to create to rank higher on YouTube as fast as possible, see Step 4 of this video.
3. LinkedIn Outreach
If your target audience can be found on LinkedIn, then LinkedIn is a great way for you to generate free leads.
Benefits of LinkedIn outreach include:
- Free leads. You do not need to pay for any leads that find you through YouTube organic search.
- Mostly automated. You can use LinkedIn lead generation automation tools to automate your LinkedIn prospecting. If you use LinkedIn automation tools, it will only take a few minutes a day to manage. Without LinkedIn automation tools, it can take a few hours a day to manage.
- Great for B2B. LinkedIn’s advanced search filters allow you to target people by job title, industry and company size. For certain types of businesses (such as B2B) it can be a very effective way to win new clients. However, to do this, you will need a LinkedIn Premium Sales Navigator account.
- Better than cold email or Facebook outreach. If you use the right LinkedIn lead generation strategy, you can generate a lot more leads compared to cold email, cold calling sales leads or messaging people in Facebook groups.
- Generates leads fast. LinkedIn allows you to generate leads very quickly (usually within the first few days of starting a LinkedIn lead gen campaign). However, leads can still take time to convert (see below).
Problems with LinkedIn outreach include:
- Leads take longer to convert. LinkedIn leads are not actively searching for a solution that you provide (unlike Google or YouTube leads). This means the leads may you generate may not currently be in the buying phase. Consequently, it can sometimes take longer for LinkedIn leads to convert into paying clients.
- Not very scalable. There are currently LinkedIn weekly limits to how many people you can connect to and message per LinkedIn profile. So it’s not very scalable.
Tip: Do not spam or pitch your services on LinkedIn. This is a very ineffective way to generate leads on LinkedIn (and it’s what most people are doing). To learn a better LinkedIn strategy (that will double the amount of leads you get and can still be automated) see Step 4 of this video.
4. Lead generation tools
There are also a variety of lead generation tools powered by AI that can help you generate leads at a much lower cost compared to running paid ads.
Even though these tools require some money, they are usually a lot more cost-effective when compared to paying for leads with ads.
What are the best channels to get paid leads?
Paid advertising is when you pay an advertising channel for ads to generate leads.
It’s recommended that you spend at least $50 to $100 per day to get the best results from any paid advertising channel.
Here are a few of the most popular advertising channels to get paid leads:
1. Facebook Ads
Facebook Ads has been a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. With its detailed targeting options, it allows advertisers to reach their ideal customer based on demographics, location, interests, behaviors, and much more.
The platform’s versatility supports various ad formats like video, image, carousel, and slideshows.
Additionally, Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences feature can help you target users similar to your existing customer base, increasing the chances of conversion.
2. Instagram ads
Instagram, being a visual-first platform, offers a unique opportunity for brands to connect with a highly engaged audience. Advertisers can use photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, and stories ads to showcase their offerings.
The relatively recent addition of Instagram Shopping also enables direct purchases from the app, bridging the gap between browsing and buying.
Instagram is owned by Meta so when you use Facebook ads you can also easily turn on Instagram ads as well.
3. TikTok ads
TikTok, the short-form video app, has witnessed explosive growth in recent years. Even you it has a predominantly younger user base, it also has a fast-growing older demographic too.
In fact, it has over 9 million users over the age of 55+ in the USA.
Options to run TikTok ads include In-feed video ads, TopView ads (which appear instantly when the user opens the app), Brand Takeovers, and even Branded Hashtag Challenges which can virally engage users.
4. YouTube Ads
As the second largest search engine in the world, YouTube offers vast advertising potential. Brands can opt for Skippable Video Ads, Non-skippable video ads, Bumper ads (short 6-second ads), and Display ads.
With YouTube’s detailed targeting, businesses can show their ads based on specific keywords, interests, and demographics. Additionally, TrueView for Shopping allows brands to showcase product listings directly within video ads.
5. Google Ads
Often the first platform that comes to mind when businesses think about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Google Ads offers a wide array of ad placements, including Search, Display, Shopping, and YouTube video ads.
With Google’s vast reach and advanced targeting options, advertisers can ensure their ads appear at the right moment to the right audience.
6. LinkedIn Ads
Especially beneficial for B2B companies, LinkedIn Ads allow brands to target professionals based on factors such as job title, company size, industry, and more. Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, and Display Ads are some of the formats available on LinkedIn to attract potential leads.
However, in my experience, generating leads for free using LinkedIn automation software is a lot more profitable than running LinkedIn ads alone.
7. X (Formelly) Twitter Ads
Twitter’s advertising platform (now called X) offers promoted tweets, accounts, and trends.
Advertisers can target audiences based on specific keywords, interests, and followers of particular accounts, making it suitable for businesses looking to tap into real-time conversations and trends.
8. Bing Ads
While Google dominates the search market, Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, should not be overlooked. Bing Ads can offer a lower cost-per-click (CPC) for certain industries and demographics, providing a cost-effective alternative to Google Ads for many businesses.
9. Buying leads
Here’s more information on how much it costs to buy your own leads:
How much does it cost to buy leads?
Once you spend $1,000 to $2,000 on an advertising channel, you’ll get your cost per lead. Once you know your cost per lead, you can buy leads (as many as you like) directly from the advertising channel.
With additional split testing, you can potentially reduce your lead cost.
This is something we help clients in our lead generation online course.
Benefits of paid advertising:
- It’s mostly automated. With paid advertising you spend money, not time, to get new leads, sales appointments, and clients. As a result, most of your lead generation can be automated (assuming your ads are converting well).
- And extremely scalable. You can get as many leads and sales appointments as you like (or that are possible within your market). If you need to scale up, all you need to do is increase your budget. Facebook ads (or any other advertising channel) will keep delivering you leads as long as new people in your audience are interested in what you offer.
- Retargeting: If you’re on a smaller budget, you can retarget website visitors on social media or with Adroll ads. This is a very cost-effective way to use paid advertising and only spend a small amount of money (typically $10/day) to win new leads and clients. However, it only works well if you’re already getting traffic from your website (e.g. from organic marketing channels).
Problems with paid advertising:
- Risky. There’s no guarantee of sales when running paid ads. Therefore it does come with a risk that you will spend money without getting a good return on investment. There are ways you can reduce this risk which is covered in Step 5 of this video.
- Not as profitable compared to other marketing channels. Whenever you spend money on ads, it will cost you money to acquire a new client. With rising advertising costs, this can definitely eat into your profits for each new client you win. However, many business owners are happy to make less profit per client if it means they can scale up and win more clients.
Multiple Marketing Channels with ONE strategy
Interestingly from all the marketing channels mentioned so far (both free and paid channels), you can generate leads using ONE strategy.
What strategy is that?
It’s by using an Automated Appointment Funnel combined with a video sales letter (VSL).
You attract clients to you with this strategy because you’re SHOWING them how to solve a problem they have.
If after watching your video sales letter presentation, they need more help, they can schedule a call with you to learn more.
You can see an example of my VSL to generate leads and more sales appointments by clicking here.
Paid vs organic lead generation: who’s the winner?
As you can see, paid and free organic lead gen channels each have their pros and cons.
So, my advice is to do both!
Both are extremely powerful ways to get more leads, sales appointments and clients in your business.
However, if you’re on a smaller budget, then it makes sense to only start with organic free lead generation channels first.
Once you’re winning clients regularly using the free organic channels, you can invest some of your profit into paid advertising channels when the time is right for you and your business.
Want to learn how you can use both organic and paid client attraction strategies to generate more sales appointments in your business predictably every month? Click here to watch our free lead generation training.
Ashley Davis (or ‘Ash’ for short) is the CEO & Founder of Skyline Social. For over 15 years, he has been helping business owners with lead generation. Ash specializes in helping businesses get high-quality leads, appointments and clients each month in an automated, scalable and profitable way. You can watch his free Masterclass training to learn more.