Home What Startups Get Wrong About Lead Generation

What Startups Get Wrong About Lead Generation

For most startups, lead generation is indispensable. It’s the central strategy they use to discover, index, and contact people who might be interested in their products and services. Without it, they’re basically in the dark, hoping for prospective customers to find their startup on their own.

Millions of companies have reliable lead generation strategies that provide them with high-quality, promising leads continuously. But lead generation is far from guaranteed to be a success. Most startups that dabble in lead generation or put together a half-baked strategy end up failing – or barely breaking even in terms of digital marketing ROI.

So what is it that most startups get so wrong about lead generation?

It’s actually a lot of things.

Some Startups See Lead Generation as Indistinguishable from Sales and Marketing

First, they see lead generation as another name for sales or marketing (or both). While sales, marketing, and lead generation are all certainly interrelated, it’s essential to draw a line between these different concepts.

If you don’t treat lead generation as the unique and independent strategy that it is, you’re not going to see the results you want. In line with this, you should be working with a genuine lead generation expert, not just a salesperson or marketer.

They Focus on Quantity Over Quality

This is true for many aspects of sales, marketing, and revenue generation, but it’s essential to focus on quality over quantity – not the other way around.

It’s tempting for a business to focus its efforts on generating as many leads as possible. And on some level, it makes sense. Every lead is a potential sale for your business, so the more leads you have, the more potential revenue you could generate. But if you only focus on numbers, you’re going to end up with low-quality leads – people who don’t fit your target demographics. These people aren’t familiar with your brand, and ultimately, people who are unlikely to buy from you.

They Spend Too Much Money on Vanity Marketing

Spending too little money on your marketing and lead generation strategies can be problematic, since you’ll end up with fewer resources than you need. But it’s also a problem to spend too much on strategy, especially strategies with little payoff.

Many startups fall into the trap of “vanity marketing.” In other words, they spend all their money on strategies that make them feel good about themselves or look better to the general public. On some level, this is a good idea; boosting your reputation isn’t going to hurt your marketing position. But if these strategies don’t offer a measurable ROI, they shouldn’t be your highest priority.

Don’t sacrifice tried-and-true, proven tactics for cheap tricks that artificially fluff up your business’s image.

They Expect CTAs to Speak for Themselves

Your product is so good it sells itself, right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can afford to put zero effort into your lead generation calls to action (CTAs). If you want random people to sign up for more information, or start interacting with your company, you need to hone those CTAs.


  • Prominence. People aren’t going to contact you unless you make the contact option clear and obvious. If your CTA is tucked into some out-of-sight corner, it’s not going to be effective.
  • Clarity. Your audience should also be able to intuitively determine what steps to take next. Simple guidelines, like clicking a button or filling out a form, allow for this; don’t allow ambiguity to infest your marketing materials.
  • Simplicity. Generally, simple CTAs are better than complex ones. Keep your content clean and minimalistic to reduce potential objections.
  • Urgency. Most people are procrastinators by nature; if you give your prospective leads a chance to reconsider, they’re going to take it. That’s why your CTAs need to imply some degree of urgency.
  • Value. Don’t forget about value. Most CTAs are a proposition of value exchange; make sure it ends up in the lead’s favor, or you won’t be generating many leads at all.

Too many startups expect the marketing work to be already done.

They Use Only One Channel or Tactic

Most startups benefit from lead generation campaigns that are omnichannel, tapping into the power of several, or even dozens of different marketing channels.

You should be leveraging the power of direct mail, social media marketing (especially on LinkedIn if you’re a B2B company), PPC advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), and even cold calling or cold emailing. Each of these channels has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they all complement each other.

At the very least, you should explore all these tactics early on in your lead generation campaign, so you get a better idea of what does and doesn’t work for your business, specifically.

They Focus Too Heavily on the Present

The best lead generation strategies are ones that are highly scalable. They work regardless of how many leads you want to generate, the number of people in your target audience, and the reach potential of the channels you’re leveraging.

It’s fine to start a lead generation strategy with a limited budget, a local audience, and finite, reachable goals. But too often, startups become locked in this position. As a result, they focus heavily on adapting their lead generation strategy for the present, while thinking little about the future. This, in turn, prevents them from seeing their full growth potential.

They Drop Leads Prematurely

Let’s say one of your leads doesn’t open the first email you send them. Or they respond with a “no thank you” to your first cold call. Does that mean you should drop the lead entirely? Many startups seem to think so; their salespeople mark the lead as irrelevant or not worth pursuing, then move on to the next lead.

But savvy startup marketers know that every high-quality lead has potential far beyond a single rejection or poor interaction. So it’s better to recycle these leads for second, third, and fourth opportunities; a steady, automated drip email campaign could be all it takes to pique their interest and motivate them to purchase in the future.

They Don’t Measure or Analyze Their Results

In all matters related to sales and marketing, measurement and analysis are crucial. It’s not enough to hypothesize that your strategies are working; you actually have to prove it. For example, you should be measuring dozens of variables related to your lead generation strategy, including the number of leads you generate from different channels, the quality of those leads, and how much you’re spending.

On top of that, you should be reviewing these data regularly to drop the tactics that don’t work, refine the tactics that are slightly lagging, and perfect the tactics that are currently leading to your highest ROI.

They Have a Fixed Mentality

Lead generation strategies aren’t something to plan like an architect; you should construct them to be fixed and unmovable. Instead, you should prepare them to be flexible and adaptable.

Over the course of your lead generation management, you’re going to be surprised to learn new details about your target audience. You’ll see emergent strategies among your competition. You’ll also witness the development of new tech tools to help you manage leads effectively.

If you want to succeed, you’ll need to incorporate these new tools and new ideas into your approach on a near-constant basis.


Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” lead generation strategy, and there’s no clear-cut advice that can make any startup successful with lead generation.

To be successful, you’ll have to do a lot of research, hire the right partners, and watch out for the missteps and traps that have compromised the results of countless previous startups.

But at the end of that journey, with a seamless lead generation strategy in place, you’ll be much better capable of getting the sales and marketing results you’ve always wanted.

Image Credit: Helena Lopes; Pexels; Thank you!

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Timothy Carter
Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & Law.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach -- preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee. Follow him on Twitter @TimothyCarter

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