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Lead Generation Software: The Complete Guide

Karen Axelton
Small Business Lead Generation

The phrase lead generation software may sound boring but before you judge, let me tell you there is a lot to love about it! The very words “lead generation” means it allows you to get new customers, which I’m sure is your main mission. This type of software or platform also allows you to manage your relationship with potential and new customers. That said, there is a TON of lead generation software out there.

Each type of lead generation software is unique with pros, cons and a variety of pricing options. Don’t worry we’re here to guide you! In this article, we’ll review some common features of lead generation software before getting into tips for selecting the best software for your business to get more customers. Finally we’ll fuel your search for more leads with 10 popular lead generation tools for small businesses.

What to love about lead generation software

For a small business, the benefits of lead generation software can be a game-changer. According to one study, the typical B2B sales rep spends more than eight hours a week, or more than one full work day, researching and qualifying sales leads. That's not even counting the time needed to actually reach out to those leads, keep track of interactions with the leads, and try to make the sale. 

That's where lead generation software comes in. Using tools to automate different steps in the lead generation, management, and nurture process can help keep things organized. Any meaningful list of leads can quickly get out of hand if not managed correctly. Using tools will also save your sales team tons of time when it comes to researching new leads.

In addition to saving time, effective lead generation tools can also reduce human error. For example, with no need to manually enter lead information into a database, your employees are less likely to make mistakes. When interaction with leads is automated, sales staff don't have to worry about forgetting to follow up with a prospect. Let’s take a look at how lead generation works to see these benefits in action.

What can lead generation software do?

Lead generation can be done right and wrong, but most importantly what can it do for you? That depends. Some lead generation tools are part of a larger software suite that incorporates customer relationship management (CRM), social media marketing, email marketing and more. Others are standalone apps that integrate with your existing sales and marketing tools so the granular functionality of each is case-by-case.

Here are some functions lead generation software typically offers that can benefit your business:

1. Maintaining contact information

There are so many ways to contact prospects these days that it can be hard to keep up. Phone numbers change, and people switch jobs. Having current contact information is vital for making the sale, especially in industries that have a long sales cycle, or when following up with leads from long ago.

Lead generation software should either manage your contact data to keep it updated, or integrate with your existing CRM tools. This ensures you always have the information you need to stay in touch.

2. Capturing lead information from online interactions

For many businesses, the majority of their leads come from the web. This is where lead generation tools can be extremely valuable. They can capture lead data based on prospects' interactions with your business online, such as downloading a white paper, filling out a contact form or taking action on a particular landing page.

3. Scoring leads

Not all leads are ready to buy — in fact, most aren't. That's why it's so helpful if lead generation software scores leads for you based on their stage in the sales funnel. This allows your salespeople to spend more time and effort on the leads that are closer to making a decision, while still nurturing those that are "just looking."

4. Nurturing leads

Even those leads that aren't ready to buy need to be nurtured along the sales funnel. However, this can be time-consuming and since the payoff is far in the future, salespeople may tend to ignore the task in favor of focusing on qualified leads. 

Lead generation software can give you the best of both worlds. It can automate lead nurturing for prospects who are still in the research stage, so they stay involved with your business, while freeing up your sales team to give more attention to prospects who are close to making a purchase.

For example, lead generation software typically generates emails or text message interactions based on prospects' past behavior, and then automates the process of sending them. Of course, you can customize these emails or texts to your business and the situation, so they don't "feel" automated.

5. Providing notifications and reminders

There's nothing worse than losing a potential sale because you didn't respond to a prospect quickly enough. And even if you do respond right away, you can still lose out on the sale if you fail to properly prepare for a presentation or forget a scheduled follow-up call. Lead generation software acts as a kind of personal assistant, automating: 

  • reminders to your salespeople to reach out to leads
  • appointment set-ups 
  • sending follow-up emails or text messages


6. Identifying where leads come from

If you're like most small business owners, you get nervous about putting money into marketing when you're not sure if it's paying off. Here's another way that lead generation software offers value: It shows you exactly where your leads are coming from. When you know which marketing efforts are driving the most leads, you know where to keep putting your marketing dollars. 

But that's not all. Lead generation software can also show you what's not working. That gives you an opportunity to try to improve those campaigns. For example, maybe very few people are filling out your contact form. Why is that? It could be because your call to action on the page isn't effective, the page is hard to find, you're asking for too much data, or a variety of other reasons.

Armed with this information, you can make changes to the contact form and use the information from your lead generation software to see whether your changes are working. Being able to fine-tune your marketing is one of the most valuable aspects of using lead generation software.

What's the best lead generation software for your business?

The best choice for your business depends on your industry and your needs. To narrow down the field so you can make a good lead generation software comparison, start by asking yourself and your sales team a few questions: 

  • What sales or customer relationship management software do you already use?
  • What features are essential in lead generation software? For example, if your salespeople are on the road a lot, or if rapid response is expected in your industry, you'll want lead generation software with an easy-to-use mobile app or maybe one that connects to a desktop app.
  • What is your budget? Lead generation software is available at a wide variety of price points, so having a budget in mind will help you eliminate some options.
  • How many users will the software have? Different tools are suited for different sizes of companies. An enterprise-level product probably isn't right for a small business. 
  • What type of customer support do you need? If you're in a 24-7 industry with no downtime, you will want 24-7 customer support. 


In this post, we’re covering lead generation software for general business use, but there is also lead generation software for specific industries, such as lead generation software for real estate. No matter what industry you're in, look for web-based or cloud-based software rather than software that needs to be installed. Aside from its many other benefits, web-based lead generation software ensures that you always have up-to the-minute data.

Third Party Software Reviews

G2 Crowd, Capterra and Software Advice are three good software review sites where you can look for lead generation software for your business and do a lead generation software comparison. All three sites allow you to sort and filter based on the type of software you need, number of users, user reviews, specific features and other key factors.

To get you started, here's an overview of 10 of the most popular lead generation software based on number of users, suitability for small businesses, and user reviews. Products are listed alphabetically.

9 lead generation software tools for small business

#1 Act-on

Act-On

Designed for small marketing teams, this marketing automation software offers tools to generate and manage leads, score leads, track website visitors and manage email marketing. It integrates with most leading CRM products.

Pros: Users give Act-on high marks for its email marketing features and appreciate the Act-on University courses that teach them how to make the most of the platform.

Cons: May be a bit unnecessarily complex for small companies that just need the basics.

Price: Plans start at $900/month for up to 2,500 contacts.

 #2 Agile CRM

This lead generation software helps generate, nurture, qualify and convert leads via landing pages, forms, website pop-ups and more.

Pros: Incorporates telephony and customer service functionality in addition to marketing and sales automation. If you’re visually oriented, you’ll like the drag-and-drop interface (above). Users like the low price, which makes it affordable for startup businesses, and the ability to test additional features for free. They also rave about customer support.

Cons: Some users find the interface a bit clunky.

Price: Free for up to 10 users; paid plans start at $8.99/user/month.

#3 Hatchbuck

Designed for small to midsize businesses, Hatchbuck combines sales automation, marketing automation and email marketing features to help users capture leads and manage both leads and existing customers.

Pros: No long-term contract required. Users say Hatchbuck is easy to learn, easy to use and offers the basics that small business owners need.

Cons: Not as fully-featured as some competing platforms.

Price: Prices start at $99/month for up to 2,500 contacts.

#4 HubSpot

This all-in-one marketing software platform helps companies of all sizes create a web presence, convert online traffic into leads, manage and nurture leads and more.

Pros: Hubspot is both popular and highly rated among small businesses. Users like having an all-in-one tool instead of different platforms to manage social media, content marketing, email, etc. If content marketing is a big part of your marketing plan, you’ll want to check this platform out.

Cons: Hubspot’s basic platform is free, but additional charges for more functionality quickly add up, with prices as high as $1,600/month for the Professional Growth Suite. Both cost and features may be more than some small business owners need.

Price: Free for basic version; premium options start at $50/user/month. 

#5 InfusionSoft

Infusionsoft offers CRM, marketing automation, lead scoring and management and email marketing in one suite. It also includes e-commerce functionality and the ability to invoice and accept payments.

Pros: Customers (especially ecommerce companies) like the all-in-one aspect of the platform that saves entrepreneurs time. This is the only platform reviewed here that incorporates e-commerce functions.

Cons: Users are required to pay between $299 and $1,199 for Infusionsoft’s Kickstart onboarding. Some users say it’s hard to maximize all the features without paying for additional support.

Price: After 14-day free trial, prices start at $30/month for 500 or fewer contacts.

#6 Lead Liaison

This marketing automation software for B2B/B2C marketing and sales helps companies qualify, manage, create and nurture leads.

Pros: There’s a wide range of add-ons to help customize your platform. While it’s not yet as popular or well-known as many competitors, Lead Liaison gets great reviews from users, who rave about the company’s helpful customer service and the wide range of features.

Cons: Plentiful features mean a bit of a learning curve; the cost of add-ons can quickly add up.

Price: The “Omnibound” package, including both inbound and outbound lead generation and lead management tools, starts at $650/month.

#7 Net-Results

This marketing automation solution’s features include lead management, lead scoring, marketing list management, an email builder and social media management.

Pros: All-inclusive, tiered pricing based on number of contacts; every price level gets the full suite of features. Users say it’s intuitive to learn and love the unlimited customer support.

Cons: Some users would like more detailed data reporting.

Price: Packages start at $800/month for 10,000 or fewer mailable contacts.

#8 SharpSpring Software

This software offers customer relationship management, marketing automation, mobile and social marketing, sales team automation and customer service.

Pros: Popular with small business owners, this platform offers month-to-month payment plans with no annual contract. Customers give SharpSpring high marks for its unlimited, free customer support and training.

Cons: This platform offers many opportunities for customization, which can be a blessing or (if you prefer more templates to DIY) a curse.

Price: Starts at $450/month for up to 1,500 contacts.

Power up your business with lead generation software

Take some time to investigate each of these lead generation solutions, ask other users what they think of the products, and talk to your sales team about the options. By making the right choice of lead generation software, you can really power up your business.

Now that you know how to get more customers, go make that phone ring! Just make sure you know what to say when all the new customer calls start coming in.

Image Credits

Feature Image: GratisographyRyan McGuire
Screenshot 1: Act-On
Screenshot 2: AgileCRM
Screenshot 3: Hatchbuck
Screenshot 4: HubSpot
Screenshot 5: InfusionSoft
Screenshot 6: Lead Liaison
Screenshot 7: Net-Results
Screenshot 8: SharpSpring
All platform screenshots by author. Taken October 2018.

Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.