Leads are the lifeblood of every business. Generating a consistent stream of leads and email subscribers is like a daily teeth-brushing hygiene habit – it’s essential, it’s unquestioned, and it needs to be daily for it to work. While the glory days of 2010 are long-gone, when a ‘Subscribe to our email list’ form was enough, growing your email list and attracting new, qualified leads doesn’t need to be impossible, nor expensive.

In fact, these five strategies that I’m about to share will see you earning income, while also growing your email list and attracting leads into your business. These are tried-and-tested strategies that I’ve utilised, some for 15 years, to ensure that I always have a consistent streams of new leads through my door.

Ads won’t save you

One of the major ways that online business owners build their email lists is through ads. This can be expensive and very complicated. Outsourcing your ads can be great, but it’s a significant, recurring expense, on top of what you’re already spending each month on ads. Learning how to manage your own ads takes time and commitment. So ads are not something I recommend to new business owners.

When we’re advertising for email addresses, we’re interrupting people who are otherwise scrolling on social media, and we don’t necessarily gain somebody’s trust right off the bat. It takes time.

And, it doesn’t solve the problem of trust. Yes, an email funnel and excellent emails can do this, but this takes time, skill and commitment.

Kill me through networking

Ah, networking! What a godawful word. And yes! Of course – before you come for me – businesses are built on relationships. And yes, networking with the right people can be absolutely invaluable, life-affirming, and fun to boot (in the best cases, a tax-deductible holiday).

The problem with networking is it’s hit and miss, yes?

How many times have I walked into a room and immediately known I was in the wrong room? How many times has a business networking event caused me to doubt myself, my choices, my life? (Maybe I’m being melodramatic, but hey? It happens.)

Networking can be expensive, time-consuming, or even impossible, depending on where you live or if you have significant hindrances to getting out.

Online networking includes social media marketing. A lot of owners spend a hell of a lot of time, effort and overthinking posting to social media (or thinking to post to social media). And it’s very, very time-consuming and can be notoriously slow. Again, social media is a slow burn, and better for nurturing relationships than for getting in front of new audiences.

Borrowing other people’s authority

The five strategies I’m going to discuss have advantages that ads, networking and social media don’t – first, they’re appropriate for brand-new businesses. In fact, I used several of these strategies in my early years of business. They were crucial to building my network, email list, and business.

Second, they’re excellent at establishing trust and authority right out of the gate. They primarily work by borrowing other people’s audiences and hence, other people’s authority.

Finally, I don’t expect that every single one of these five strategies will be relevant to use. Instead, I recommend you choose one or two, and commit. Then watch your audience, leads, and email list grow.

Speaking at events

Speaking at events – both paid and unpaid – continues to bring me a steady stream of new leads, while growing my email list. For this, you’re going to need storytelling skills and speaking skills. Being a bonafide expert in your field doesn’t necessarily make you a great speaker.

Speaking skills and stagecraft can be learnt through observation. I love watching the drama of speakers and how they move their bodies around a stage, their body language, and how they use the cadence of their voice to provoke a response.

When the topic of your talk and the topic of your lead magnet are closely related, then it’s easy to segue into pitching your audience for their email address, with far less friction. Of course, you can also sell directly from stage, but generally, a reputable event won’t allow this of its speakers, especially if speakers are paid.

Works best when:

  • You have a memorable lead magnet which you can build your talk around, or a talk you can create a memorable, relevant lead magnet for
  • You have at least one slide with a QR code taking your audience to your lead magnet landing page

Not recommended when:

  • You’re a boring speaker
  • Speaking on stage is your worst nightmare.

Training on other people’s programs

In 2012 or thereabouts, I went to a yoga class with renowned yoga teacher Mark Breadner. As I registered for class, I gave him my elevator pitch, and he immediately asked if I’d like to be a trainer in his yoga teacher training.

Of course, I said yes, though I’d never done it before. This became one of the major methods that I’ve used to grow my leads and email list over the last 11 years.

I would be paid to teach and train in other people’s courses, typically on how to start a business, and how to do your own marketing, as a soloist. And students would come back, several months, or more often years later.

I’m still a teacher and trainer on other people’s courses, and I develop training on behalf of training institutes. This is great for developing and co-creating your methodology. You’re practicing your densely branded language. You’re practicing developing and sharing your opinion and ideas in a memorable, fascinating, interesting way – because boring should be a crime, right?

You need to have a different take on the same old thing if you’re going to be memorable and if these people are going to come back to you. Some people may immediately be ready to buy the next thing from you. And some people will come back years and years later.

Ideally, it’s really useful if the audience has paid (ie: it’s not a free training they’re participating in) and you can deliver your teaching or your training live, rather than pre-recorded.

Works best when:

  • You’re confident
  • You’re good at thinking on your feet
  • You have a niche

Not recommended when:

  • You don’t like teaching
  • You find interacting with your audience really uncomfortable
  • You’re not so interested in how to be compelling, interesting, and memorable

Paid live workshops

Paid live workshops can be a really quick and easy way of validating ideas for a larger course or a larger program that you want to develop. In the process, you’re making money and building your email list, raising your reach and visibility.

I’ve run quite a few different paid live workshops at the $97 price point and have immediately had $5000 or $10,000 worth of business off the back end – not because I had some amazing upsell offer ready, but because I gave new people in my audience an experience of my training, my approach, opinions, personality, and they were ready for the next thing.

Despite excellent intentions, over-delivering within the space of a one- or two-hour session isn’t good for your audience, nor your business. When you overwhelm your audience with information and insights, you make it difficult for them to take action.

Instead, it’s more likely they’re bamboozled with detail and stop themselves from starting. A confused, overwhelmed person isn’t an ideal client.

Works best when:

  • You have a clearly defined problem
  • Your price matches the perceived value of solving the defined problem
  • You have a memorable name or a different angle on an old problem
  • You’re already comfortable and familiar with training
  • You’re already comfortable and familiar with key digital aspects such as setting up new web pages, payment buttons, and email funnels

Not recommended when:

  • You’re a people pleaser who’s notorious for over-delivering
  • You feel resentful about selling value at a lower price point

Marketing other people’s businesses

This one is relevant and useful for those with a communications or marketing background. I came into digital marketing from public relations, so I was very used to writing and interviewing people. And when I first started my business in 2008, this was one of the major methods that I used to grow my audience, build my professional reputation, and get leads in through my door, while being paid at the same time.

I started my digital marketing agency in 2008, with a handful of clients who I looked after month in, month out, with website content. I was writing articles (they weren’t called blogs back then) and I’d write a handful of articles every month, for each client.

I identified the experts in each client’s particular sector or niche, and then I would reach out, introduce myself, ask to interview them and write up the interview as an article on my client’s website.

It was a win-win situation. I got paid, and I got marketing content. I didn’t need to do all the research as thoroughly as I otherwise would because I had an expert or three to interview. The expert got to meet me, see what I did, and gain publicity through another business’s website (plus email and socials, when we promoted the articles). In effect, I did them a favour right off the bat.

And the client, of course, got some fabulous experts featured on their website, which also helped them get found on Google. Your client needs to see the value of what you’re doing and be happy. This won’t work if you’re writing fluff or being obviously self-serving.

Ideally, the experts you’re interviewing are in the same niche as you and would benefit from your marketing or communications services (and really, every expert needs marketing/publicity). For this to work well, you want to be great at following up, be interested in other people, and good at building relationships.

Works best when:

  • You’re a marketer or writer, with interviewing skills
  • You’re good at building relationships and following up with people
  • You’re committed to your clients’ best interests and aren’t being self-serving

Not recommended when:

  • You don’t already have marketing clients that you’re creating content for

Writing for publicity

Writing articles for industry publications is something I did a lot more of 12-15 years ago. If you’re a writer, it’s amazing how much easier it’s becoming than in the 1990s, when the public relations industry was more powerful and acted as gatekeeper between business and media.

Because of social media, because of the internet, business and media is becoming closer and we don’t require the gatekeepers of public relations consultants anymore.

So for this method to work, you need writing skills. Of course, you need storytelling skills and it would help if you had trend-spotting skills as well. It’s also good if you know how to pitch the media.

You’re being paid as a writer and you don’t need media releases. Most of the time, you’re simply pitching the journalist with a one-to-one email. And of course, if you’re going to pitch, you need to be good at following up. There is so much following-up required that most business owners tend to underestimate that.

With this strategy, you’re paid to write articles in your niche, talking about your expertise in a kind of a subtle way. This can’t be too obviously self-serving, otherwise, you’ll probably be asked to take out ads. (If you’re being asked to take out ads, it’s a good indication that your pitch is not really newsworthy.)

Works best when:

  • You enjoy writing, storytelling, research and interviewing
  • You enjoy following the news and noticing trends

Not recommended when:

  • You thinking following up is “pushy”
  • You don’t like writing or it takes you too long.

On being memorable

It’s unlikely that all of these five strategies will work for you. Choose one or two strategies that play to your communication strengths and unfair advantage.

Your professional reputation is a major business asset: the word on the street about you, your business, whether or not you’re good or somebody to be avoided, as well as social proof, such as social media testimonials, media appearances, awards, etc.

When you’re borrowing someone else’s audience, you’re borrowing someone else’s authority, so you need to treat that carefully. These strategies are very, very different from advertising. Instead, these are a massive shortcut in gaining the trust of new people.

To find your partners for these strategies – who will employ you, have you talk at their events or conferences, train in their courses or programs – you need to be a good human. Model the behaviour you expect in others. Don’t be flaky. Be true to your word. Respond and follow up. Be grateful and enthusiastic.

Finally, for these strategies to really shine? You need to be memorable (no biggie). How do we make an impression so that people remember us, come back, look us up, and stalk us on social media?

Be kind. Be human. Be related. Be genuinely interested in other people. Tell your stories like they matter (they do). Own your opinions. Use densely branded language so you become known for your ideas and turns of phrase. Stop speaking jargon. Plain, powerful, specific language never goes out of style.

Enjoy the process of getting paid to build your visibility, grow your reach, and build your email list, far faster and more effectively.

Want to learn how? Join our Guest Speaking Masterclass