Investing in the right lead generation toolbox can make a significant difference to the quantity and quality of leads you can attract, convert, and retain.
Effective lead generation demands many different skills and enormous resources – but with the right lead generation tools you can cut corners and create a setup that makes your life a lot easier. The right tools can help you designing even though you’re not a designer, handle lead nurturing, create buzz on social media and a lot of other necessities.
There are very specific tools for things like creating easy infographics or converting blog posts into e-books which you can use as gated content. But in this post, I’ll focus on the essentials with 10 types of lead generation tools that cover most of your bases from traffic generation to lead capturing, trigger flows and analysis tools.
Best of Breed Lead Generation Tools
I lost count of the number of lead generation tools I’ve taken for a test-drive in my 10 years in the business, but this list includes the ones that stuck around plus a few newcomers that have disrupted their field in no time.
You can spend a fortune on lead generation tools if you have the money, but you can also do it on a shoestring budget. That’s why this list has a combination of entry-level, mid-range, and enterprise tools for each area where you need to get covered. This gives you the option to create a lead generation tool budget with all the “need to haves” and “nice to haves.”
I’m listing a “Best Choice” and cheap choice” for each area. The best is not necessarily the most expensive tool as a lot of enterprise tools are too complicated for most marketing teams in my opinion.
1. A Landing Page Platform
Why you need it: Because you need a place where the lead is your only focal point, and often your website will have to service way too many KPI’s to do this in an efficient way. The website has pre-defined footers, headers, and navigation you can’t edit for the individual page, and the CMS will restrict you in all kinds of ways.
That’s why a landing page platform is one of your most valuable lead generation tools. The good ones give you full creative freedom and isolate the visitors in a universe which only focus is to squeeze contact data out of potential customers.
The best choice: Unbounce. Cost: From $49 a month. I’ve been working with Unbounce for more than 5 years, and the tool just keeps growing on me. It’s flexible, and it’s fast to build pages with true drag and drop functionality without being locked in specific grids or tables.
The platform integrates directly with a range of other lead generation tools from this list – like Salesforce, Hotjar and Google Analytics. It’s also easy to integrate it with a range of marketing automation platforms. They often have their own landing page editor integrated, but I still haven’t seen the one that could beat Unbounce.
The cheap choice: WordPress. Cost: From $0 excluding hosting. Although not a traditional landing page tool, many of the available themes have landing page templates included. You don’t get the same flexibility as with Unbounce, but you can find decent templates that get you up and running on a small budget, and WordPress designers and developers are easy to find in all price ranges.
Contenders: Instapages, Leadpages, Lander.
2. An A/B Testing Tool
Why you need it: Because most sites don’t convert more than 5% of their visitors into leads. By implementing A/B testing and an optimization strategy, you can work continually with improving your conversion rates.
And remember: if you improve your conversion rate from 5% to 6%, it equals a 20% growth in traffic of the same quality as the traffic you already receive.
The A/B testing tool makes it easy to test new variations of your pages without having to involve IT, and you can act on statistics instead of gut feelings when you make important decisions regarding the future development of your website.
The best choice: Optimizely. Cost: Individual, but expect around $10.000 a year. Optimizely has evolved into an enterprise tool over the last few years with its functionality that covers much more than website testing. Today you can also test your apps, and Optimizely also offers advanced personalization. The good thing is that compared to other enterprise tools it’s far easier to use, and the testing editor is sturdy and stable.
The cheap choice: Visual Website Optimizer. Cost: From $588 a year. For many years, Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely were considered equals, until Optimizely went for the enterprise segment. VWO is still a strong contender, and it’s a very well-suited platform for SMB companies, although not as stable and fast as Optimizely in my opinion.
Contenders: Convert.com, AB Tasty, Maxymiser, Adobe Target, Google Optimize
3. A Marketing Automation Platform
Why you need it: Because you want to focus on the customer journey of the individual lead – and you want to move the lead through the sales funnel as efficiently as possible. A marketing automation tool can consist of numerous tools, but “the bread and butter” are individual lead tracking, segmentation into lists and the possibility to create email trigger flows based on lead behavior.
You can expect CRM integration to align marketing and sales, and most marketing automation platforms also come with lead scoring, built-in social publishing, and custom landing page and newsletter templates.
The best choice: Act-On. Cost: From $600 a month. Act-On is not among the most expensive marketing automation platforms on the market, but they consistently score high in vendor comparisons.
I like Act-On for many reasons: It’s quick to implement, it’s user-friendly, and there’s not a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles. Thus, the investment in getting started is minimal, and the road to ROI is a lot shorter.
Some might argue that tools like Eloqua or Marketo are stronger, but I have seen so many companies trying to get up and running with them, and it takes forever – plus they’ll have to use expensive consultants all the time to keep it up and running.
The cheap choice: Get Response. Cost: From $15 a month. If you just need a simple email cannon that can handle autoresponders, trigger flows and your day-to-day newsletter distribution, Get Response is a strong contender.
If you go for one of their larger subscriptions, you’ll also get individual lead tracking based on website behaviour, and it’s quite easy to use.
Contenders: Hubspot, Eloqua, Apsis Lead, Leadsius, Infusionsoft, Pardot, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Agillic.
4. A CRM System
Why you need it: Because your sales department needs a place to store information about leads and customers. The CRM system gives you the opportunity to organize your qualified leads, have all your contact data in one place, keep notes and make it available to every involved salesperson.
You can also assign leads and ensure that proper follow-up is taken care of – because, in sales, persistency is what separates success from failure. A decent CRM system will, of course, be able to synchronize with your marketing automation platform to enrich data and use all your client data to share better content to the right audiences.
A decent CRM system will, of course, be able to synchronize with your marketing automation platform to enrich data and use all your client data to share better content to the right audiences.
The best choice: Salesforce. Cost: From $25, but don’t expect to get far without a larger subscription and implementation fees.
Salesforce is a world-leader in CRM, and they have acquired a range of companies to make their offering one of the strongest and most versatile in the market – from the marketing automation platform Pardot and the email marketing platform Exact Target to the data management platform Krux. They also have data cleansing and enrichment
They also have data cleansing and enrichment software like data.com which makes Salesforce the perfect fit, especially in a B2B context. It’s relatively easy to use, and you can do a lot of custom setup to make it easier to use.
One word of warning: It looks like Salesforce is trying to create a closed ecosystem around all their acquired platforms – making it more difficult for other systems to integrate with them in the future.
The cheap choice: Zoho CRM. Cost: Free for the small package with 10 users. With Zoho CRM, you get a system that will let you do all the basics, but for a fraction of the price.
The free version is excellent for smaller teams, and you can grow with it. It’s fairly easy to use, although it lacks a bit on integrations to other systems (like marketing automation platforms which is essential) unless you know how to handle an API.
Contenders: Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM, Pipedrive, Hubspot Free CRM
5. A Lead Form Layover System
Why you need it: Because it’s one of the most efficient systems to generate leads, even though many people find them annoying. The fact is that done correctly, these form can be a constant source of leads, and you can utilize them in numerous ways.
You can run contests, promote gated content or even just use them to point visitors in the right direction across your website when you hold an event or webinar – or just want to tell them about a new blog post. You can even use them for customer service or “easy signup” solutions.
The best tools let you control design, placement and timing of the layover, and whether it should be triggered by specific URL’s, numbers of page views, time on site or exit intent.
It also allows you to integrate with your CRM-, newsletter-, or marketing automation system
The best choice: Sleeknote. Cost: From $69 a month. I’ve been working with Sleeknote more or less since it launched under the name Twami. It has evolved from a primitive pop-up box to a sophisticated lead generation tool that’s easy and fast to implement without having to worry about messing with your CMS to get it to work.
Because of its advanced cookie settings, you can get around showing intrusive layovers to existing customers, you can work with several different layovers within the same site, and it just “works.”
Sleeknote has integrations for most major systems, but the fact that you can post lead data to a hidden form on your website makes it easy to integrate with your CMS-, CRM-, email marketing-, or marketing automation system without having to bother about messing around with code.
Sleeknote is by far one of the most efficient ways to collect leads for your business, and as it’s fast to set it up, you can take advantage of their 7 days trial to experience it yourself.
The cheap choice: Sumo. Cost: There’s a free version, but you’ll need the $29 plan to take advantage of advanced features. Sumo has more features than Sleeknote for less than half of the price; it’s just not as user-friendly. But the many different types of layovers plus the pricing model makes it a good fit for bloggers and SMB-sites with a limited budget. It’s the go-to-tool for a lot of WordPress site owners.
Contenders: Unbounce Convertibles (beta), Optinmonster, ThriveLeads
6. A Quantitative Analysis Platform
Why you need it: Because people working within lead generation need full focus on key KPIs to generate as many leads as possible without breaking the bank. You need a tool which lets you analyze how your traffic channels perform, which landing pages are contributing with valuable leads, and where in the lead generation process that potential clients choose to leave you.
You also need an analysis platform that allows you to dive deep into demographic data about your key audiences so you learn how to target them with the best ads and the most relevant content. Easy report and dashboard setups are also a requirement to your platform of choice.
The best choice: Google Analytics. Cost: Free, if you can live with sampling in case you have a lot of traffic and don’t have a problem with Google owning your data (and hosting it in the US, which is an issue for a lot of companies in the European Union – especially in the financial sector). Google Analytics is the industry standard for web analytics, and there’s a reason why.
The free version lets you do basically everything you need to with your data. From a lead generation perspective, you get sophisticated event tracking, lead funnels, assisted conversion reports, and traffic source reports enough to spend your entire time looking at valuable data.
Another advantage of using the industry standard is that it’s easy to recruit people or hire consultants with vast knowledge of the platform.
The cheap choice: Also Google Analytics as it’s free.
Contenders: Woopra, Adobe Analytics, Piwik,
7. A Qualitative Analysis Platform
Why you need it: Because sometimes you want to supply your quantitative data with a more thorough look at customer journeys and individual lead flows. The possibility to watch screen recordings, set up polls or surveys and do user testing gives you valuable insights into the customer decision journey of your potential leads.
The best choice: Hotjar. Cost: There’s a free version, but you want to invest in the $29 plan to get sufficient data.
Hotjar is the Swiss army knife of lead generation tools. It’s built for website optimization on a foundation of heatmaps and screen recordings, but they kept adding more tools to the service since their launch 2 years ago (by the way: Their beta launch was a study in efficient and innovative lead generation – read how they got 60.000 signups in 6 months).
Hotjar is fast to implement, easy to set up, and you get data you can use to adjust your site in no time. I’ve personally used it since the early beta, and it’s one of the first tools I implement every time I start up a new client project to get the insights I need to move forward.
The cheap choice: Also Hotjar – it doesn’t get much cheaper
Contenders: Tealeaf, Crazyegg, Sumome, Clicktale, Mouseflow
8. A SEO Analysis Platform
Why you need it: Because getting free traffic from Google and other search engines is fundamental to becoming successful within lead generation. For many sites, Google is attributed to more than 50% of all traffic, and you don’t want to pay for more of that visitors than necessary through Google AdWords.
Your SEO analysis platform helps you find potential, pinpoints technical errors, advises you on content optimization and helps you analyze your competitors as well so you can take advantage of their weaknesses.
The best choice: Searchmetrics. Cost: From $69 a month, but you’ll get addicted soon enough and choose an enterprise plan. And Searchmetrics is an enterprise tool.
They’ve been crawling Google for years which means they have historical data on most search rankings for more than half a decade. This means that you can see how your visibility has changed over time right away even though you just created an account with them.
But this is not the only thing Searchmetrics does well – they have a range of reports which help you with anything from rankings to content optimization, backlink profiles, social visibility, and keyword research. They can even tell you quite a lot about your AdWords campaigns.
The cheap choice: Answer the Public. Cost: Free. If you want to make “search” a profitable lead channel for your business, you need to be able to understand which questions people in search for your product are asking – and then answer them. It’s often as simple as that. And Answer the Public is just as simple – just fill out your topic, and it returns all the questions or propositions used about it in a heartbeat.
This tool is a one trick pony, but the data you get makes it easy to create a lot of relevant content for lead generation. This makes it an invaluable SEO lead generation tool.
Contenders: Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Moz, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, Google Trends
9. A Social Publishing Tool
Why you need it: Because social media platforms are some of the best places to collect leads, but you need a tool to handle publishing so you won’t have to log into numerous different pages. The platforms also let you plan your time of publishing (something only some social media platforms let you do by de default), you can handle customer service, and even set up advertising directly from within the tools.
The best choice: Komfo. Cost: Individual, but it’s not one of the cheaper tools. Komfo is a full social media marketing suite with publishing, listening, advertising, and analytics included.
They’re known for their great support, and the platform is easy to use for larger teams with individual roles within your social team.
But if I have to mention one thing as their core strength, it must be their Facebook advertising tool that lets you use tags to control advertising, and utilizes an advanced algorithm which helps you place your advertising spend on the posts that contribute the best to your KPI’s.
The cheap choice: Buffer. Cost: There’s a free version if you don’t need too many social profiles, but the small paid plan costs $15 a month. Buffer is the tool I use for social publishing here on the site. It’s easy to use, has neat browser plugins and is quite reliable.
The best thing, though, is the planning functionality which I use a lot for content curation as I can set up specific time slots I want to publish in every day and then jut put curated content in line for publishing. Example: I’ve set up 10 tweets with the different types of lead generation tools to generate traffic to this post from two different profiles, and I only had to log in once to do it.
Contenders: Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Sprout
10. A social Listening Tool
Why you need it: Because every great salesperson knows that you better listen before you talk too much in a sales pitch. Social listening tools help you understand your audience, they tell you about the latest buzz in your niche, and they help you find shareable stories you can use for content curation.
You can also use a good social listening tool to find leads you would otherwise have missed. By setting up alerts for mentions of your brand name, your products, your services, or even your competitors, you’ll be able to join the conversation in social channels. In this way, your just a few friendly suggestions away from becoming a thought leader for the people who want to know more about your area of expertise.
The best choice: Buzzsumo. Cost: From $99 a month for the paid version. There’s a free trial with limited data and functionality. Buzzsumo is the perfect fit if you want to know what’s buzzing – hence the name. In seconds, you can see what’s getting shared on a subject, an individual, or a website.
You can also get knowledge about which kind of content does the best job on your website, you can analyze specific Facebook pages, and you can find influencers within your area of business.
One of the best functions is its alert system where you can make rule-based alerts and get a notification when a particular subject or story gets enough traction and social shares. This is perfect both for finding compelling content and weathering the potential social shitstorm.
The cheap choice: Mention. Cost: From $29 a month. Mention has been labeled “Google Alerts on Speed”, and that’s more or less what it is in its smallest plan. Mention crawls most sources online and will let you know when you’ve been mentioned. It’s limited in the number of alerts you can set up unless you choose a more expensive plan, but if you just want to know if your brand is being talked about, Mention does its job, and it does it well.
Contenders: Google Alerts, Pulsar, Crimson Hexagon
The List of Lead Generation Tools will Keep Improving
So – here you have it: All my favorite lead generation tools – tested for effectiveness and durability. But as the tool market is changing all the time (I’m currently testing 6 new tools on different clients and projects and there are some interesting ones in the future tool box), I will come back to this article and update it on a regular basis.
But what about you? What’re your favorite lead generation tools? Leave a comment here or on Twitter and let me know what I should test in the future.