6 Lead-Generation Tools for Small Businesses

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Small businesses need a constant flow of new customers if they want to succeed, and yet finding those customers and generating new leads has become a struggle for the 32% of merchants who say their current marketing strategies aren’t generating as many sales leads as they’d like.

Hyperlocal platforms aimed at fulfilling consumer service requests are becoming increasingly attractive to these small business owners, since these platforms generally involve a minimal investment of time or money on the part of the local merchant. Rather than paying upfront for advertisements that may or may not generate actual leads, business owners can sit back and wait for leads to come to them.

Here are six lead-generation tools that small businesses can use to attract new customers in their local areas.

1. Zaarly
Zaarly is a free tool that consumers can use to find products and services they want, at prices they’re willing to pay. Each time a consumer posts a request on Zaarly, the platform sends texts, push notifications, and emails to merchants who’ve signed up to provide services for that category or keyword. Merchants can then respond to consumers through the messaging system with price quotes and availability information. Zaarly works with merchants in a wide array of industries, from childcare and catering, to construction and graphic design. Zaarly is completely free for both merchants and consumers, however the platform does take a transaction fee when merchants opt to accept payments online.

2. Localmind
Localmind is a hyperlocal service that businesses can use to connect with potential customers already in the nearby vicinity. Localmind users post their questions on the mobile app—generally things like, “Can you recommend a bar downtown?” or “Any recommendations for a good café with late night hours?” Tech savvy business owners can then respond to these queries with information about their own establishments, allowing them to target nearby customers in real-time and bring in people who might not otherwise know they exist. Localmind is free for both consumers and businesses to use.

3. Thumbtack
Thumbtack is a local marketplace that lets people find and book professional services online. Service professionals in virtually every industry—from hairstyling to housecleaning—can create free listings on Thumbtack, which consumers come across when they search for specific services they need. If a consumer is interested in booking the service, he or she contacts the professional directly to schedule an appointment. Merchants that pay an additional subscription fee of $8 to $50 per month can use Thumbtack’s opt-in leads program, which sends leads directly to their inbox each time a consumer makes a service request on the site.

4. Redbeacon
Professionals in the home services industry can use Redbeacon to generate leads from motivated consumers in their local areas. The platform invites consumers to post their service requests online, and then sends those requests to its roster of “RB Pros.” Professionals who are interested in taking on the job can submit a price quote online or request to see the jobsite in person, and the consumer can schedule an appointment with the pro that he or she has chosen through Redbeacon’s online scheduling system. Professionals pay a 25% commission on the price they’ve quoted as soon as the job is scheduled, or a flat fee of $14.99 or $24.99 for each on-site estimate.

5. TaskRabbit
Although TaskRabbit is typically thought of as an errand service, the site also provides a number of useful tools for small businesses in certain industries—like carpentry and catering—that are willing to take a cut off the prices they usually charge. TaskRabbit users post the tasks they need to get done, and service professionals bid on how much they’re willing to do the jobs for. The lowest offer typically gets the job, and professionals are paid through TaskRabbit online. TaskRabbit charges businesses nothing to bid on projects and tasks, and adds a 15% service fee to the price of most offers, as opposed to subtracting that fee from the merchant’s final check.

6. Urgnt.ly
Urgnt.ly is a tool that service professionals can use to snag last-minute jobs that need to be done in a hurry. Individuals in need of immediate assistance—typically because they’ve burst a pipe or gotten a flat tire on the side of the road—log on to Urgnt.ly’s website or mobile app to find professionals who are currently available in the nearby vicinity. The closest provider who’s checked-in with Urgnt.ly—signaling his or her availability—will be notified via text, phone call, or email with information about the Urgnt.ly user in need of assistance. Urgnt.ly is free for consumers. Providers are charged a “small fee” each time they respond to a request made through the service.

Know of other platforms that businesses can use to generate leads online? Leave a description in the comments.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.