When most people talk Lead Generation, they never start from the real beginning. They tend to assume you already have an email list and several committed blog subscribers. Their advice is usually helpful if you were trying to move from hero to superhero, from 500 subscribers to 1000 subscribers or move your website from 1,000 hits to infinity. But how about if you were starting from the very beginning?

If you’ve done any research on lead generation, you should know that good and consistent content helps to build your reputation and thus your brand, an automation platform will help scale your marketing initiatives (See: Marketing Like a Boss! The SMEs guide to Inbound and Marketing Automation), social media will help spread your message and solidify your reputation as a thought leader.

But if you’re nowhere near superhero, if you’re still battling with less than 50 unique website visits a day, less than 200 Twitter followers of which 100 are your competition, very little content and an empty email list, how do you even begin to build that email list? How do you get real followers on social media? How do you get people to check out the content published on your blog? How do you create that initial buzz?

Some businesses start by marketing to family and friends, others buy their initial list, some businesses go on LinkedIn and do endless research to create their first list, and while those might help you with numbers that make you feel good – family and friends might re-tweet, like or share your posts, they rarely generate sales. Buying lists or a complete reliance on LinkedIn can lead to spamming and eventually hurt your brand.

So how exactly do you go from zero to hero and create real and authentic leads? Here are 5 steps that start you off on the right track.

1.Start with a Campaign

Regardless of what type of business you’re in, always start out with a campaign, not several campaigns and not no campaign – one campaign – a concentrated effort that aligns your marketing channels around a single message and goal. Even though you have a website, you must have one or more landing pages for your campaign (More about landing pages and building your first Inbound Campaign).

2. Must Do Paid

As a new business, no matter how great your blog posts are, no matter how good your product or service might be, in this digital age, to be noticed, you have to start with paid. Paid comes in various forms; Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Marketing and Content Promotion. You don’t have to do them all at once, you need to figure out which works best and focus on it. For instance, many years ago, I tried to use every channel to sell my fiction book, including Google AdWords. I didn’t do enough research to realize that people wouldn’t be looking to buy books on Google. So I did get a few clicks but I didn’t get any sales. My channels were Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Your paid campaigns MUST lead people to your landing pages and not your homepage, about page or service(s) page.

Layout a 4 months initial budget. Never assume that you’ll start to make sales immediately. These days, sales is a process. At this stage, you should be building your list not trying to make a lot of sales. How you continue to nurture these leads is going to be a big determinant of your success.

 3. Start Building Your SEO Immediately

While you’re using paid ads to create initial exposure, ensure that you’re building your site to rank high on Search Engines especially Google. Almost everyone starts their search on Google. While ranking high takes time and consistency, with the right strategy, you can start ranking for certain long-tail keywords in weeks on your landing page(s) and then you can continue to build from there. Be careful how you implement SEO. While there is endless advice online on how to rank high, the best way to rank high and avoid getting blacklisted on search engines is if you build your content for people and not for search engines.

 4. Leverage Competition

I remember working with a startup a few years back who had a unique twist on a popular service. They got VCs interested and even got very decent funding but the company never took off. They were so scared that the competition will steal their idea if they revealed it on their website or marketing campaigns so their uniqueness remained a secret they were willing to reveal only when it was time to make the final sales pitch. They never got there. They tried so hard to keep their content away from competition and keep it as broad and generic as possible, not offering any real value. In this digital age, you have to be able to work with your competition, sometimes even build an alliance. As a Digital Marketing Agency, we follow several other agencies on Twitter, and LinkedIn and they follow us as well, we share, re-tweet and like each others posts, I learn from them and hope they do from me. In many ways, they help us push our message further understanding that the digital marketing industry is big enough for all of us.

5. Old Fashioned Networking

This might be the digital age, but old fashioned networking is still highly essential. Join meetup groups, after work networking groups like networkafterwork.com. Attend conferences and seminars and if you can afford to, sponsor and speak at some of these events. Exchange business cards and make sure your business card has all your social handles.