The 5 Best Lead Generation Applications for Small Businesses

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Small businesses can't afford to nurture sales leads that don't produce deals. Lead generation software identifies the most valuable prospects to focus on. The Ascent covers your five best options.

Quantity versus quality is the eternal yin and yang of lead generation. Your small business has a better chance to thrive when it has plenty of leads coming in.

Yet, the quantity of leads isn't the whole story; you need quality leads to prevent your sales team from spinning its wheels. The best lead generation software does both: It keeps your sales funnel full with the most promising lead prospects.

Here are our top picks for the best lead generation software for small businesses:

  • Agile CRM
  • Pipedrive
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub
  • Bitrix24
  • Pardot

What to consider when choosing a lead generation software

Most lead generation platforms are part of a larger customer relationship management (CRM) application. The best CRM software has features that facilitate marketing, sales, and customer service. And your CRM database, filled with lead, prospect, and customer information, drives your revenue streams.

1. Automation

Prospecting for sales means casting the largest net possible, which requires your sales strategy use automated processes when possible.

Whether it's generating business leads or applying a lead scoring model, CRM tools perform repetitive tasks related to lead management such as finding, researching, assigning, and nurturing leads. This frees up your sales team to focus on your most viable leads.

2. Integrations

The best lead generation tools don't exist in isolation. Instead, they must access information in your existing software -- accounting, customer support, marketing, omnichannel communication applications -- to generate leads.

They must also seamlessly communicate with other software; otherwise, target leads can languish unseen and inaccessible.

3. Analytics

Tracking multiple performance metrics, everything from prospecting productivity to lead nurturing success, is essential to refine your sales efforts.

Sales-related key performance indicators (KPIs) such as lead conversion rate, quote-to-close ratio, and average deal size tell you where you are now and help form actionable insights to achieve future objectives.

5 best lead generation software options for small business

Choosing the "best" software to generate sales leads for your small business requires you assess your current abilities and needs: size of your sales team, existing sales processes, and budget. However, the five options below offer something for everyone.

1. Agile CRM

Agile CRM automates marketing, lead management, sales, and service. It offers web analytics, a help desk, two-way emails, telephony, and other features in its easy-to-use platform. Agile CRM is best suited for mid-size companies, but smaller businesses and startups will like its free version.

Agile CRM's lead generation tools include:

  • Custom landing pages and smart forms
  • Website pop-ups
  • Email finder
  • Telephone autodialer
  • Personalized lead generation

Another useful feature lets you acquire leads in bulk at LinkedIn. Company searches at LinkedIn often identify multiple contacts to save, so select them all, apply filters, or manually choose the ones to import into Agile CRM.

Agile CRM uses multiple pulldown menus with different options to filter LinkedIn search results.

Filter your LinkedIn search results to add only the most promising leads to Agile CRM. Image source: Author

Agile CRM offers live chat customer support 24/5, phone support from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST M-F -- you can also pre-schedule calls -- and email support. Self-service options include a knowledge base, setup guides, and training webinars.

Agile CRM has a free version that supports up to 10 users and three paid plans that range from $14.99/month, per user to $79.99/month, per user. You'll get substantial discounts if you pay one or two years at a time. The free plan doesn't include all the bells and whistles, but it allows you to test drive Agile CRM's basics.

Read The Ascent’s full Agile CRM review

2. Pipedrive

Pipedrive is an easy-to-use CRM with smart marketing tools to help sell your products and services. Designed by sales experts, Pipedrive's intuitive main dashboard displays the current status of every sales funnel stage to keep lead generation and management front and center.

Pipedrive lead generation tools include:

  • Smart forms
  • Outbound lead prospecting
  • Automated leads routing to the most suitable sales reps

One useful Pipedrive add-on is LeadBooster, a customizable website chatbot that fields queries and collects information from your visitors. Create a "playbook" for your chatbot that aligns with specific business objectives: more leads, more meetings, lead qualifying and routing, or live chat with website visitors.

Pipedrive has four conversation templates to customize your website chatbot.

Customize your chatbot based on sales objectives. Image source: Author

Pipedrive support includes 24/7 live chat and self-service options such as a knowledge base, training tutorials and videos, and user forums. You may not need much help because The Ascent rated Pipedrive as the easiest-to-use CRM software.

Pipedrive has three monthly plans, which range from $15/month, per user to $59/month, per user, and an annual-only plan for $1,188/year, per user. Its lowest-level plan lets you define your sales pipelines and activities, and each successive tier adds more lead generation tools.

Read The Ascent’s full Pipedrive review

3. HubSpot Marketing Hub

HubSpot Marketing Hub is a full-fledged digital marketing solution that includes lead generation, customer service, and collaboration functionality. HubSpot coined the term "inbound marketing." Easily create email campaigns, segment content by target audience, and monitor the performance of each campaign.

HubSpot Marketing Hub’s lead generation tools include:

  • Smart forms and pop-ups
  • Automatic web searches for more contact information
  • Automated email creation
  • Live chat

Unified customer records ensure each employee has access to the same information and can review an entire communications history.

A HubSpot contact record showing contact details, conversation history, and other information.

The HubSpot contact dashboard provides a comprehensive overview of each potential lead. Image source: Author

HubSpot Marketing Hub support options, depending on your plan, include live chat, email, and phone. Or, use self-service resources such as its knowledge base, training videos, and community forum. Have more specific needs or questions? Check out the HubSpot-approved third-party solution specialists.

HubSpot Marketing Hub has three plans, which start at $480/year and go up to $38,400/year. It's not a CRM application but integrates with HubSpot's CRM, which is free with a limited number of contacts. Adding more contacts to one or both applications costs extra.

Read The Ascent’s full HubSpot Marketing Hub review

4. Bitrix24

Bitrix24 is a full-service CRM that manages your leads, messages, tasks, calendars, contacts, documents, and more. Create leads, record information, assign tasks, close deals, sort records, and report information with tools for project management, social networking, email marketing, and phone management.

Bitrix24's contact center has over 20 lead capture tools for email, phone, instant messaging, live chat, and social media.

Lead generation tools include:

  • Landing page generator
  • CRM smart forms
  • Social media marketing

Bitrix24 makes it easy to build smart web forms to capture lead information. Using a form template, add fields for contact info, company, deal, quote or invoice, or your own custom fields.

Choose which fields are required and/or verify entered information. The form creator also prompts you to add missing fields to ensure information is captured and routed correctly.

The Bitrix24 form builder guides you through the smart form creation process. Image source: Author

Bitrix24's main support comes from its knowledge base, which the company says can answer 95% of user questions. If your question is in the remaining 5%, email the customer support team. Other options include webinars, how-to videos, and assistance from Bitrix24-approved third-party support vendors.

Bitrix24 has a free plan that supports unlimited users, and paid plans with more storage and features that range from $24/month for two users to $199/month for unlimited users.

Many of the lead generation tools are only available with upper-tier plans, but the free version lets you play around with the Bitrix24 interface and its basic features.

Read The Ascent’s full Bitrix24 review

5. Pardot

Pardot is a marketing platform targeted at Salesforce software users. More than a Salesforce add-on, its tools boost brand positioning through automated marketing and generate leads for your sales pipeline. Like all Salesforce products, Pardot isn't cheap.

Pardot lead generation features include a landing page builder, smart forms, organic and paid search, and social posting and profiling.

In-depth analytics track performance in multiple areas:

  • Analyze lead sources
  • Build life cycle reports
  • Align automated lead scoring with revenue generated
  • Determine your most engaged prospects
  • Identify top-performing content

The lead source report below shows lead generation by online channel.

Pardot's lead source report uses a bar graph.

Filter lead source reports by industry and individual marketing campaigns. Image source: Author

Pardot users have access to Salesforce's basic online support options, telephone support for critical issues, and email support with a two-day reply time. Pardot-specific resources include a knowledge base, installation and troubleshooting guides, training modules, and live "office hours" with Pardot experts.

Pardot has four plans that range from $15,000/year to $180,000/year. This is out of reach for many small businesses, but you also get what you pay for: Salesforce is hands-down the CRM software market leader, and Pardot leverages its capabilities for those who can afford it.

Read The Ascent’s full Pardot review

Maximize your lead generation

Regardless of your business's size, lead prospecting is a cornerstone of success. Streamline your sales efforts with lead generation software that uses automation for the grunt work and allows you to focus on closing deals.

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