Generating leads at the top of your online Sales Funnel is about undertaking activity to drive people to your website. Once there, you need them to take an action so you can capture the lead! This means asking them to subscribe to updates, promotional deals or other valuable content you’ve developed (like a tip sheet or ‘how to’ guide). These provide an incentive for them to give you their email address. 

The aim of this is to BUILD YOUR LIST. The good old email address turns your suspect (which you don’t know) into a prospect (which you have permission to nurture towards a sale). You can’t do much with suspects but you can start to build trust and nurture prospects toward a sale. 

Lead generation at the top of your online sales funnel consists of three key initiatives:  

1) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO),

2) Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – such as Google Adwords (also called paid traffic), and

3) Social Marketing – free informative content (such as blogging) and Social Media Marketing (social sharing).


SEO is about optimising your website content to ensure you rank well in Google searches of keywords you wish to rank for.  If you don’t already have an SEO provider, this should be a priority.

Paid Traffic / Pay Per Click (PPC)

Such as Google Adwords, Facebook and Linkedin Advertising.  Google Adwords in particular is a job for the specialists. Facebook advertising is something you can probably work with and learn. Linkedin has a Sales Navigator Lead Generation product. Here’s a 30 minute Linkedin Sales Navigator tutorial video with some good reviews on YouTube.


Blogging is your secret sauce. With an understanding of the needs and desires of your buyer personas and knowledge of the Google keywords you wish to rank for, you can write to each persona about a particular topic.  Each blog page is a searchable page.  So if you consistently add these to an SEO optimised (and mobile friendly) website you’ll see some significant improvement in leads generated at the top of your online sales funnel.

Social Media Marketing

In its simplest form this is about sharing valuable content (like your blog) and distributing it to your various social media followers. Your aim is to get engagement around that content. One way (but not the only way) to think about social media is as a distribution network that helps spread your content.

The more engaging and shareable your content, the more you’ll drive traffic to your website (while also growing brand awareness). For example, I have about 900 connection on Linkedin so every time I share or publish something valuable to my timeline I have a captured potential audience of 900. You can imagine the kind of distribution you’d get with a Facebook following of 1000’s of people. 

A Responsive Website

Your website needs to be responsive – meaning it’s easy to use on a mobile or tablet. Your website is the cornerstone of your business. In the age of the self-educating buyer it’s your front door to almost ALL of your new prospects and MOST of your past clients who might be considering more of your services or updating past work.

Capturing Leads on your Website

Once you get people to your website you need to get them to subscribe. As mentioned, when you have their email address the person goes from a suspect to a prospect.  You can then start the process of nurturing those leads through your sales funnel. 

Offering a Lead Magnet to Entice Subscription

Many of the people that visit your website will not be ready to buy – but you don’t want to lose them. You need to CAPTURE them in your online sales funnel by giving them something for free in return for their email address. This list building is a core part of the process of content marketing where you ‘help’, not ‘sell’ to get their business.

Your lead magnet doesn’t have to be complicated.  It need only be a 1-page tip sheet, a list of ‘things to consider when…’ or a 1-page graphic showing a relevant ‘how to’.  It can be anything as long as it’s valuable to your clients.


Once someone’s opted in they’re a prospect in your online sales funnel. Now your job is to nurture them through the funnel from Interest to Desire to Action. There are lots of all-in-one software products out there that have the mechanics to do this. But, at a simple level, regular email marketing using something like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor is a great way to get this process underway. 

Buy Online

It’s only when people get close to making a purchase of your services that you need to start involving people and enquiry lines. By this stage most of the hard work of answering your prospects’ questions will already have been done online through the content on your website. Your site has already done the heaving lifting for you!

Alternatively, you could include a Live Chat option on the site like Zopim and help desk software like Zen Desk to make sure you don’t lose leads at the top of your online sales funnel.

Final Thought

Generating leads at the top of your online sales funnel is not a sideline to marketing anymore  – it is marketing. In the age of Googling and self-education companies that recognise buyers are now buying differently can re-calibrate their approach to meet this. These companies will not only win, but they can also create barriers to entry to new competitors and put real distance between themselves and their current competitors.