A functional lead and demand generation strategy is the key to successful sales processes. Strategically optimizing your online presence allows you to create a seamless, results-driven process for lead generation. Intrigue prospects by creating tiered content that echoes their needs and wins their trust. Anticipate their buyer's journey by meeting them where they are most comfortable. Harness the power of online lead generation and cut your sales costs while reducing your cold-calling practices to an absolute minimum.
Implementing an effective lead generation strategy is the key to great sales.
Creating content that speaks to the buyer's needs builds trust.
Meeting the buyers where they are leads to closed deals.
Lead generation is the starting point towards revenue for every enterprise out there. Whether they are reaching out to new customers or looking to grow their existing client base, companies need to stay visible and relevant to the people who are going to buy from them. That is what lead generation helps you accomplish. But what does the concept of generating leads look like in today’s complex business landscape and how can businesses hurdle the unique challenges of lead generation in today’s information age?
Apart from its role in revolutionizing the communication sector, the internet has been the driving force in reinventing the concept of lead generation by breaking down informational and execution barriers for companies in various industries. The subsequent spread of online-based lead-generation strategies has brought immense functionality to a wider range of retailers, namely the ability to acquire new customers with greater speed and reduced fees.
The point is that the process of lead generation has undergone substantial changes in recent years, thanks to new online and social marketing techniques. In particular, the abundance of information readily available has led to the rise of the ‘modern buyer’ and the emergence of new ways to develop and qualify potential leads. Despite this development, these new ways all face the same problem, namely the decreasing level of attention that prospects pay to important content. The underlying problem is that an abundance of information tends to be met by a paucity of attention. This phenomenon, also known as “attention economics”, was described by the social scientist Herbert Simon when he posited that “the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes.”
In the old world, before the lead generation revolution, the process of lead generation meant that the marketing team found/created a list of names of potential buyers early on in their buyer’s journey, and then passed those names directly on to sales. This was and in some parts of the world still is, in fact, a lot of work for the marketing team as well as the sales team, since most of these names tend not to be viable leads.
Buyers, at that time, expected to be educated by the sales team, and sales expected to speak to uneducated, early-stage buyers who were often unqualified. In the digital age, however, the buying process and, therefore, the lead generation process has been transformed. Buyers can easily access a variety of educational resources through search engines, social media channels, etc. Through content produced and distributed by business organizations, today’s buyer can learn a great deal about a product or service before even speaking to a salesperson. This makes your digital presence and specifically your lead generation strategies more important than ever.
Generally speaking, a lead is a person who has indicated some interest in your company’s product or service. In other words, instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased your contact information, you will be contacted by a business or organization you have already opened communication with.
For instance, you might have completed an online survey to learn more about how to get the best cloud solution for your organization. If you then get an email from the IT/SaaS company that hosted the survey telling you how you can acquire this particular cloud solution, it will be far less intrusive and irrelevant than if they just called out of the blue. From a business perspective, the information the SaaS company collected from your survey responses will help them personalize their opening communication with you and thus meet the existing needs and expectations of you as a potential client.
So what exactly is Lead Generation? Simply put, it is the process of attracting both strangers and prospects and converting them into viable business leads and ultimately customers. Lead generation falls within the second stage of the inbound marketing methodology. It occurs after you have attracted an audience and are ready to actually convert those visitors into leads for your sales team.
Generating both high quality and high quantity leads to fill the lead funnel is a marketer’s most significant task. Keeping a full funnel is, however, not that difficult and may even turn out to be the easiest part of lead generation. With the technological tools now available, a successful lead generation engine can be created that can keep the lead funnel full even when the marketer is asleep.
However, it is not quite as straightforward to create an outstanding lead generation process that only identifies high quality leads and produces a lot of revenue.
The reason for this is simple. Every business and every customer base is unique and might require a set of unique lead generation processes in order to attract enough leads. Also, in the age of globalization, online competition is getting more complex and diversified. This can significantly affect the lead generation process. Businesses therefore have to work on creating unique ways that naturally spur a prospect’s interest in the company and warm them up so much so that they want to buy from the company. This has them making the first move in reaching out to the brand instead of the brand making the first move to cold call.
Going now from the overall level of lead generation it is now time to take a look at the actual means of generating leads. This usually includes a so-called lead funnel. A lead funnel is a system that focuses on capturing a large amount of prospects and pushing them down from the top to the bottom end of the funnel, turning them into buying customers.
On a theoretical level, the lead funnel usually takes the typical AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action) to the next level, defining the stages of the buyers’ journey from browsing a website up to the point of sale. Most companies today have a lead generation process implemented, however, very few have updated them to suit the modern buyer and their journey. Therefore, it is time for companies to redefine their lead generation process and map their lead funnel: Companies need to understand where their prospects are in their buying journey so that they can devise an appropriate strategy to lure them into making a purchase. Mapping the lead funnel is extremely important as it helps businesses to devise strategies, create campaigns, build messages and measure their performance.
When viable data is paired with an automation platform like HubSpot, marketers will be able to achieve a solid lead generation strategy. A HubSpot funnel is a clear conversion path that converts leads from first contact to final purchase.
1. Lead scoring – a conversion funnel is based on the idea that leads are in different stages of making a purchase, which is normally referred to as the buyer’s journey. To set up a conversion funnel, you need to have some kind of lead scoring system so you know what relationship people have with your brand. The lead’s score tells you where that individual contact is located in your HubSpot funnel. It also tells you how to nurture them according to their position in the buyer’s journey. For example, someone who visits your blog for the very first time is probably at the top of the funnel. This lead will have a low score until they complete more conversion points with your brand.
The best lead scoring systems use demographics and firmographics as well as behavioral scoring (such as clicks, keywords, web visits, and social interactions). As a matter of fact, companies who use lead scoring see a huge lift in ROI, and their sales teams spend less time selling.
2. Lifecycle stage definitions – HubSpot uses very specific lifestyle stage definitions in their CMS. The lifecycle stage definitions are as follows:
You will need to use lead scoring to classify your contacts according to the appropriate lifecycle stages. Thanks to HubSpot, you can easily set up your criteria for each lifecycle stage with Smart Lists. This will flow people into the right lifecycle stage automatically.
3. Content for the buyer’s journey – HubSpot’s CMS is positioned around content. In order to set up a HubSpot funnel that converts leads at a reliable rate, you need to create content that fills all the stages of the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey consists of three stages. Each stage needs a different type of content.
4. Calls-to-action (CTA) – How do you move leads from one buyer’s journey stage to the next? With calls-to-action. Calls-to-action are graphics, buttons, or text links that encourage a conversion down the HubSpot funnel. These CTAs exist on your website pages, in your blog posts, and within emails. And with HubSpot, you can go a step further to optimize conversions and set up smart CTAs.
5. Workflows and Email nurturing – You provide content and calls-to-action to nurture leads down the funnel. But without email nurturing, it won’t be a solid enough strategy. Workflows complete the HubSpot funnel. They can be automated to keep in touch with leads over time. To do this, you employ a series of emails to send to the lead after they have taken a particular action. For example, if a lead downloads your top-of-funnel eBook, you can set up a series with 5-10 email messages that provide value and encourage a middle-of-funnel conversion.
What happens after you have established an outstanding lead generation process? You will need to qualify your prospects as leads. This is of particular importance as studies indicate that a failure to properly qualify prospects before taking them through the sales process leads to a staggering 67% of lost sales. And this normally results in a considerable amount of wastage of your valuable time and resources. So, here’s what you must keep in mind to qualify someone as a lead:
Lead generation tools help in developing marketing strategies by stimulating online engagement, generating qualified new leads and ultimately increasing sales. However, before brainstorming new ways of generating new leads, you need to ask a few but very viable questions, starting with what your customers want to see in their customer experience. So here is a list of tools that are critical in identifying what content to supply, which channels to use in meeting the targeted leads, and what designs to employ on the landing page, the forms and the CTAs on the website.
As discussed above, a call-to-action (CTA) is a button or message that calls on web visitors to take some sort of action. ‘Call now’ and ‘Save now’ are some of the words that spur visitors into action and can be used to generate leads. In understanding the lead generation channel as well as your audience, the call to action will be tailored to suit and appeal to the audience. Also make sure to link your CTA to a dedicated landing page.
It’s important to ensure that you optimize your CTAs to boost your lead generation efforts. Here’s how you can go about achieving this:
Dedicated landing pages help you to capture leads through the filling in of forms. A landing page is a web page that serves as the entry point for visitors who click on your banner ads or social media links; they are most frequently used to capture leads. Companies with 40+ landing pages get 12 X more leads since they are often the most critical elements of a lead generation process. They help companies to direct their website visitors to better targeted pages and facilitate lead capturing at much higher rate. Here are some top tips to optimize your landing pages for maximum lead generation with minimum efforts:
The offer which the potential customer receives should be valuable enough to warrant their willingness to share their details. Consider having offers that suit the various levels of the buyer’s journey. There could be a buyer at the beginning of the purchasing journey who may just be interested in getting information but not a product yet. Consider offering free tutorials, ebooks, or whitepapers.
This is one of the few digital marketing channels that have withstood the test of time. Despite turning 24 this year (2018), e-mail still tops the list of the most effective lead generation strategies. Most companies struggle to generate the open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates they would like to see. In fact, data from a recent study by MarketingProfs indicate th
at the average open rate for a B2B e-mail is 19.9%, and the average click-through rate is 5.4%. According to marketing solutions firm VerticalResponse, the average open rate for a B2C email is between 15-20%, and the average click-through rate is around 6%. What matters more in any lead generation strategy is how you use it.
The ‘modern buyer’ has short attention spans and intelligent browsing habits - they want personalized, relevant information at all times. The point here is that relevant, personal and engaging e-mail campaigns achieve more impact than impersonal, re-hashed content. Make sure that your e-mail calls-to-action (CTA), subject lines and copy stand out. The impact of e-mail marketing cannot be understated; in upgrading to an e-mail-based marketing automation solution, Thomson Reuters, for example, experienced a 175% increase in its revenue.
Besides, companies should also ensure that the timing and frequency of their personalized sales e-mails are spot on. Although there is no true “best” time of day to send your e-mails, there are certainly some best practices you can consider:
Content is king when it comes to marketing, since it is what attracts most of your customers in the first place. 88% of B2B marketers, for instance, use content marketing to generate leads in the various industries. If you operate within the B2B area, this means that your competitor is most likely using it. Enterprises should create and share online content such as videos, blog posts, social media posts and infographics, not explicitly for brand promotion, but also to stimulate interest in their products and services.
Content marketing aligns both your sales and marketing objectives. It also helps to show your brand’s expertise, authority and trust and therefore promotes your sales people as the experts in your area of operation. So, how do you go about content marketing?
In a noisy marketplace, marketers should always use action verbs in writing compelling headlines that will draw the attention of their audience. If you give adequate attention to your headlines (the structure, the keywords used, the length, the topic and the verb that appears in your headlines), you will generate targeted leads by increasing your search rankings and click-through rates. In fact, studies indicate that 73% of the buying decisions are made based on headlines. Additionally, 8 in every ten people will click on your headline only if it catches their attention. An action verb for your headline needs to be specific so that your message is a direct one. Action verbs make the difference between weak headlines and strong headlines.
In addition to strong verbs that are specific, it is essential to keep your headlines short. Recent research by the Guardian found out that a headline with eight words attracted a 21% click-through rate, compared to longer headlines. The reason for this is that people tend to forget longer headlines faster.
Make sure your homepage stands out when it comes to content marketing and lead generation. Companies need to remember that a high percentage of their traffic will flow in through their websites. Your homepage is the first place your visitors turn to if they want to know anything about your company. If you have been promoting your company online, you should expect your homepage to receive many visitors from social media and search engines among other platforms. It is important, therefore, that you have a powerful homepage with a basic call-to-action that encourages and warms your visitors to your special offers. It is essential that your homepage message, its design and all other elements on the homepage blend seamlessly with the overall objective of your business. You may want to do some research to ensure that the homepage in its entirety is personalized to your customer’s standards.
Every visitor to your homepage should find great pleasure and value in visiting your website. If, for instance, your homepage is about home cleaning, your messages and offers should all tie in with the overall objective of your business; your visitor should feel they have arrived at the right place and that their individual problems are addressed.
Implementing this tip will not only significantly reduce your homepage bounce rates (that could impact negatively on your SERP if it goes up). Satisfied visitors are also bound to share your link and attract more traffic to your homepage.
Remember to have messages on the sidebar that are consistent with the words on your homepage. And although the sidebar shows up with every page by default (particularly those on WordPress themes), you could consider setting it on permanent for the homepage.
Tandberg, a market leader in Teleconferencing, for instance, saw a 50% increase in their lead generation by simply blending their homepage CTA with other elements on their homepage such as their headlines, images, and subtitles.
What about webinars when it comes to content marketing?
We’ve all attended one. Webinars are some of the greatest lead generation tools that a company can use in their lead generation strategy. This is especially true for service providers, who do not have an actual product to market. Using a webinar these firms can position themselves as the experts in their field while collecting leads at the same time. Going along this line of thought, marketers rank webinars as the top five of their best lead generation tools with 52% of marketers believing that they are most effective in generating leads. Ready talk’s recent survey found out that 30%-40% of webinar attendees usually are turned into leads. KISSmetrics admits that webinars have been their number one strategy for growing their visitors to 518, 399, and leads to 16, 394 from 77 webinars.
Some of the advantages of webinars include:
So, how can you integrate webinars into your overall lead generation strategy, how do they work?
When it comes to creating a webinar, great content is key. With regards to the scope of your topic, it may be wise to consider a narrow but enriching subject that will give unmatched solutions rather than have a broad theme (it is not wise to have a little bit of everything to draw in a broader audience). It is best to attract a narrow audience with content that specifically addresses their needs.
Be specific with your objectives, precise with the topic and content; this will lead to better results, increased registration, as well as high-quality leads. Research indicates that 38% of the attendees will stick around if the topic and content shared is “killer’ quality; one that will yield significant results in their businesses or personal life. Webinars are more important for B2B marketers. Make your webinars a natural part of your content. Great content already builds trust with your audience.
Webinars could fall under the following categories: awareness/positioning webinars, sales conversion webinars, educational webinars, demonstration/sampling webinars and post-sale webinars.
One of the most significant challenges for most webinar producers is getting the numbers for their webinars. It is great to have large numbers (since the cost of organizing a webinar is the same whether one person attends or whether 1000 attend) whether they participate or not; they all form leads. The whole point is to get registrants who are potential buyers for your product (resist the temptation to go for just anyone). A compelling headline for your webinar would get more people investigating on the benefits of attending your webinar.
Selecting the right media/channels for reaching out to prospects is critical in achieving substantial participation numbers. Most attendees will come from your email list or that of your co-sponsors. Strategic use of the social and mobile media could expand your audience immensely. Your webinar titles and summary are also important elements for those deciding whether to attend your webinar or not.
Having a weak marketing plan or having none at all is common among webinar producers. Offering great content and a free webinar, however, is no guarantee for a successful webinar or a successful lead generation campaign. Realize that marketers and companies are operating in an environment with many competing messages, webinars and vendors. It takes some substantial effort on the part of webinar producers/marketers to achieve impressive results. This is especially true if you consider that we live in a very competitive business environment.
With great webinar tools like GoToWebinar, you can easily see the attendees’ core interests from the attendee report. You can then quickly forward the analysis to your sales page and get your offer, copy and CTA tweaked to maximize your product sales.
It would be good to have a dedicated webinar page for all your webinar activities, and to link both old and new webinars to your content. This will not only attract new visitors but also cement your relationship with existing clients.
The bottom line is that great content needs to be factual, authoritative, exciting and straightforward. The use of infographics, blog posts, videos and Q and A among others is good for enriching your content. Crowe Horwath created a total of 48 infographics, videos, and Q and A blog posts that targeted C-level personnel of large market cap financial institutions. The public accounting firm ended up generating $250,000 in revenues that were attributed to content marketing.
Search engine optimization can have a huge impact on lead generation. SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. No wonder, studies indicate that 89% of marketers worldwide rate SEO as the most successful practice for achieving objectives of improved lead generation. In addition, 57% of B2B marketers and 41% of B2C marketers say that SEO hugely impacts lead generation.
Ranking first page on Google, thereby increasing the number of visitors who come to your site through search queries, can really increase your sales, because:
1. You have more people to pitch to.
2. You also have more people who might want to find you, and actually do find you.
This is the power of buyer intent, meaning a buyer may come to your site since they are actually searching for something they want to buy – and that’s what you want in terms of quality leads.
It takes a combination of several factors to achieve a solid SEO strategy. It includes the implementation of relevant keywords, quality content, conversion rate optimization, content marketing, link building (think the topic cluster model) and social media marketing.
To help you stay ahead of the competition, here are just some of the many SEO tips for maximum lead generation:
Social media has proved to be a mainstay strategy in today’s business world. The statistics are staggering with YouTube being only second to Google when it comes to search. About every two seconds someone joins LinkedIn. According to a recent study by research firm Aberdeen Group, 41% of Best-in-Class companies have integrated social media with their lead management and lead scoring efforts compared to 27% of average companies. And 33% of those Best-in-Class companies have integrated social profile data into their customer or prospect records.
You can leverage platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram, depending on your niche. With LinkedIn, for instance, B2B marketers not only use LinkedIn to network but also to share content. To put that into perspective, there are nine billion content impressions in the LinkedIn feed every week. About 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions, including managers, VPs, Directors, and C-level positions and besides, content published or posted on LinkedIn has a good chance of getting in front of the target audience or a decision-maker, which means it must be high-quality and well-written.
The point here is that you need to create a strong social media strategy that combines scheduling and posting links, videos, images and gifs. Once in a while, you can market free offers that will require free email subscription. Once your leads subscribe, you can proceed to nurture and convert them via email.
Additionally, using Google, Yahoo, and Facebook among others as log-in avenues is a sure way to personalize your lead generation efforts. This gives you the power to address your audience not as a group but as individuals. Do you know why Trello, Flickr, Pinterest, and SugarCRM have an active following on the market? They allow users to log in using such accounts. Flickr, for instance, has 112 million users as a result of allowing their users to sign in using Yahoo.
Most digital companies have not yet discovered this hack as a means to getting more leads. The fact is that Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are very popular. And most marketers, companies as well as online entrepreneurs have Google, Facebook and Yahoo accounts.
Here is the secret; most people now store their details on these accounts. So marketers don’t need to have your prospects sign up a long list of fields with their data, most people are turned off with long forms. You can acquire more leads by limiting the number of fields they have to fill in the form. The Pinterest form takes roughly 15 seconds to sign up and Pinterest boosts of over 50 Billion pins. Google, for instance, has billions of users because, with one Google account, search users can access Google Analytics, Google Drive, YouTube, Blogger and much more. In the same manner, companies that allow users to come on board using these sites are sure to access more leads. For companies operating within the EU, however, there is an important caveat: they have to make sure that their lead generation processes as much as all their other online activities are in compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In a nutshell, here are some additional tips that will help you generate solid leads when it comes to social media marketing.
Don’t just stop at inbound marketing methods, mix it a bit with outbound marketing strategies. This approach may include:
Your audience no longer wants their attention bought - they want it earned. This means that your lead generation strategies need to be good enough to better meet the needs of your target market. In a nutshell, the following aspects constitute a good lead generation strategy.
Did you know that business organizations that excel at engaging with customers across multiple marketing channels have twice the retention rate compared to average merchants? And that is according to research from the Aberdeen Group. Marketers need to be where their audience is. Cross-channel marketing is a successful retail strategy because it follows your audience’s activity from channel to channel, effectively increasing sales opportunities at each touchpoint. For example, if a prospect is browsing a product on your website but abandons their shopping cart before completing the purchase, you can use cross-channel engagement to re-market the product they looked at via an alternate medium, including a Facebook ad, a Google ad or an email marketing campaign.
The point here is that marketing process has to be dynamic to suit changing times and channels. From traditional to online channels or integrating both modes of marketing to reach all potential customers, a good lead generation strategy needs to have a multichannel approach.
Studies shows that 55% of time spent with online retail occurred on a mobile device. This means that your website and landing pages need to be designed in a mobile-friendly manner. Also remember that over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices. Therefore, it’s important to SEO optimize your website for mobile. It will not only help you generate more leads but will also help you rank higher as Google provides better ranking to sites that are mobile-friendly.
It’s quite clear that the relationship between marketing technology and e-Commerce is arguably stronger than ever. Representing a market share worth well over $22 trillion, the opportunities for e-Commerce merchants to stake their claim are seemingly endless. As a result, new mar-tech solutions are constantly emerging to move the needle toward over $4 trillion in ecommerce sales by 2020. The bottom line here is that companies should have a personalized marketing automation tool in place . They should introduce a good lead generation tool, for instance, that will integrate easily with your existing analytics and CRM solutions. A customer relationship management (CRM) system holds within a one database customer information as well as the corresponding sales staff interaction with the customer. Understanding the sales cycle is important to generating leads and revenue.
Analyzing how much time is spent at a certain stage in the funnel and what fruit it bears is vital in target setting, staff allocation, and investment. The CRM can manage staff, allow a smooth handover of clients while getting an automated update on deals, the stages the deals are in and the progress of each sales representative. The buyer profile is also available in this database. This system gives a great leeway to choose who to involve in the lead generation process, at what stage and even a certain buyer profile that is to be shunned or followed-up.
Companies can choose to use HubSpot CRM, Salesforce CRM, among others. HubSpot CRM has the following features:
Salesforce CRM offers the following features:
Marketers need to leverage the best of lead acquisition and lead nurturing strategies in order to catch the attention of modern consumers and get heard through the noise. Data from MarketingSherpa’s Lead Generation benchmark report shows that companies that leverage lead nurturing see a 45% lift in lead generation over those companies who do not use lead nurturing. Lead nurturing refers to the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of when they buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready. When done well, lead nurturing plays an important role in your lasting relationship with both customers and prospects.
The amicable relationship between marketing and sales comes down to the handoff of leads. Specifically, the quality of those leads. Marketing is often all about volume: producing as many leads as possible. While the sales team relies on volume too, they depend on the marketing team to not just deliver leads, but to deliver qualified leads. This is where personalization can help to streamline that handoff, ensuring both teams get what they want.
Setting up a lead nurture program that transitions newly captured leads and nurtures them through qualification is ripe for personalization. After all, if you’re going to continue to send communication to a prospect and expect strong engagement, the messaging must be personal, relevant, and engaging. In other words, people are only willing to read or view content when it matters to them. To create a personalized lead nurturing program, you need the following things:
When it comes to lead generation, the more you test, the more you know. You can’t optimize your lead generation process unless you test it first. Companies can leverage A/B Testing, for instance, and platforms like Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) and Optimizely can help a great deal when it comes to taking your testing to the next level. A/B testing, or split testing, compares the conversion rates of two assets (such as landing pages, emails, or website pages) by splitting the traffic or email sent between both, and then comparing results. A/B testing your lead generation assets and campaigns is inherently simple, as you’re only testing a single variable at a time. This makes it easier to form actionable conclusions.
One of the stringiest changes to data protection law came into place on 25th May 2018 and this will definitely change the way organizations conduct their marketing activities in relation to lead generation. The General Data Protection Regulation is not only set to transform digital marketing in the EU but may ultimately bear upon international marketing practices across the globe.
Currently, the way companies and organization collect and process data when it comes to digital and direct marketing activities remains a grey area. There are instances where personal data is collected and processed without the explicit consent of the owner. Only a small percentage of companies care to incorporate data privacy and security requirements in their services and product development strategies. Personal data is often used by third party-marketing platforms without an express permission by the owners during data collection.
The bottom line is that business organizations will have to keep the GDPR in perspective and it should be more than just checking off boxes, they should make sure they are doing it right. In the end, this process can help enterprises improve their handling of customer data regarding protection, compliance and management among others.
When stats are put out that buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they contact the vendor, making it difficult for sales to influence the buyer’s decisions, this only means that in the age of the ‘modern buyer’ and the competitive business environment, marketers need to find new ways to reach their potential customers and get heard through the noise. Therefore, intense research and analysis is required for the best marketing strategies so as to achieve the desired return-on-investment (ROI). This is only possible through a solid lead generation strategy.