7 ways to build an organic lead farm

A friend asked me where he should start with building his inbound strategy; ads are working well but how can he expand without blowing the budget? The obvious tactic we love to hate: spamming a purchased list (everyone does it).

Instead I shared what we're doing at FunnelCake to build our audience organically.


1. Tell your buyer a story.

Find what your buyer is passionate about related to your product, and tell stories about it. The trick here – this isn't about your product, it's about the people, practices, and things behind the product. Whether you make it a blog, a podcast, or whatever.

People love stories and most of all they share them. And if you get third-parties involved in your content you have another team promoting you to their audience too.

For us, we're interviewing B2B marketers about topics they're experts in. Intercom shares stories about building their company. Stripe talks about development techniques. It's all in who you sell to.

2. Make your buyer smarter.

Nobody actually knows what they're doing, though most of us want to be better people (I hope). Find something related to your product and teach people how to be better. This isn't about how to use your product to do their job, they don't care at this stage – that's for sales calls or your support site.

Turn relevent topics into how-to videos, blog posts, and ebooks. They're exceptionally effective. The chocolate chip cookie is infamous because of this strategy.

3. Show them you know what they care about.

Advertisers are becoming patrons of the arts and native advertising is the way of the future. Find independent bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers that resonate with your buyer. These will never feel like a "right" fit if you look only at audience descriptions. You have to test a few and let the metrics be your guide.

Sponsoring independent content will build enourmous good will, brand awareness, and supporters who will be with you through ups and downs. Look at what it's done for Squarespace and MailChimp.

4. Build an audience.

Make a newsletter your buyer will read no matter what. Sure, it's going to take you 6 months to build a large list – but it will be a great list, one full of opt-ins. Remember this isn't about you, so curate content your buyer will care about. Tell them stories. Make them smarter. And show them you understand what they care about.

You can throw in promos, articles from your blog – but make it about the content first. You're the bonus. By the way, we have a biweekly newsletter you should subscribe to. We have a 70% open rate because it's content people care about. I'm very proud of it.

5: Retarget your audience.

Retargeting is the only form of display ads that work. But you can't retarget stangers, which is why you need to build an audience in the first place. Once you have them in you can follow them around the web with retargeting campaigns until they get a restraining order or a new iPhone.

6: Have a voice.

We're bombarbed by generic messaging every day. Sharing a view on the world that's distinct will help you stand out from the crowd. Why is someone like Donald Trump, who we all agree should not be President, getting the most coverage? Because he has a distinct voice from the rest of the Republican party.

But there's a balance between being generic to be safe and being a loudmouth to get attention. Your voice should match your buyer's aspirations – whether it's sophisticated, quietly contemplative, or has biting wit.

7: Just do it.

Don’t make a big deal about trying something. Don’t announce This Is A Thing We’re Doing™ before you've tested it; that's a "I feel like I'm doing something!" exercise in vanity. You'll end up anxious when you have to deliver instead actually doing the work.

Go make things, share them quickly, and measure the shit out of them; keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Something small, but good, that generates you a lead is undeniably better than a perfect plan you never execute.

Once you know what works, you can GTD your strategies and calendars and Gantt charts to your hearts content. But you still need to play with new ideas and test your old assumptions.

That's my advice and how we're building our company. How are you trying to create organic leads? Let me know – I'm @markosavic on Twitter.