You probably often run into terms like lead, lead gen form, lead generation, lead qualification, and probably have at least a vague understanding of what they mean. But what if you need to generate leads for your business now?
This article is about the lead generation process. That is essential knowledge for top managers, company owners and entrepreneurs in general.
Lead generation is the process of creating a database of potential customers — leads (contacts) — using various marketing tools. Leads guarantee future sales if you interact with them appropriately.
Top of the Funnel: Lead Generation Channels
For sales funnel to work, you need to fill it first. The list of ways to lure potential leads into it is enormous, so here’s an overview of some possible channels.
I would like to explicitly note that one of the pillars of digital marketing is constant testing and improvement. Therefore, it is vital to run a few lead generation campaigns across several channels and each of their variations, to find and figure out the best ones. Taking your business specifics into account is, of course, not to be overlooked in the process. That is called A/A testing, and it is just as important as mainstream A/B testing.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
Contextual advertising is excellent for marketing products, which has a formed demand. If you are not making money (positive ROI) on the contextual ads — it makes no sense to start working with other channels.
Here is our article striving to give a complete list – Paid digital advertising channels for business. There are tons of how-to guides already written, so it talks about nuances and directs you to the best industry guides (not written by us).
Social media networks
Lead generation via social platforms is also one of the distinct methods. There are two interesting points here:
- You can try to sell something that has no demand yet, i.e., contextual ads won’t work. You need to have a clear “portrait” of your target audience or better test a few in a row.
- You can do many marketing touches (the micro funnel). For example:
- You show a video
- Those who watched more than half of it, see several topic-related blog post ads.
- Only those who read those posts receive a direct purchase offer (e.g., “buy here” or “buy now and save up to $30”)
- Note, that website contributes to sales funnel a big deal and ideally should be part of it.
Lead generation strategies based on social media varies a lot. The most common for a b2b lead generation is LinkedIn, e.g.
- Sales Navigator and other LinkedIn owned tools
- To compile a list of companies to pitch and fetch decision maker contact details via LeadIQ or similar tools
In the context of the digital world direct marketing translates in email marketing.
- Emails to the owned list: one of the best channels in terms of ROI, but it takes a lot of time and effort. There are exciting options for young projects with the purchase of advertising space in mailings of well-established companies and projects.
- Cold emails. Some call it spam, some say it is a manual outreach at scale.
Content Marketing (SEO)
I think the digital industry came to the point when SEO is Content marketing and vice versa. Quite a few formats added up to the traditional texts. Here are some of them:
- Videos can bring a lot of traffic and drive up the number of target actions. Some studies have shown that over 60% of users identify themselves as “visuals.” That means they prefer a visual presentation of information. Having played on this, you have a chance not only to get more leads but also to convert them into real buyers.
- Check out Neil Patel’s guide to get an idea of youtube platform’s marketing kit
- Video content creation hacks:
- (1) Intercom on Shoot sales videos without spending a penny
- (2) we also have GRIN tech’s solution Promotional video production for Brands, Services & Products
- Guest posts can also provide a sufficient number of leads. However, it only makes sense to publish on large sites that have earned trust, which means that low-quality content should be avoided. Create engaging posts on your business and mention your services in passing — it works. Apart from a direct response copywriting there also other forms and means of online PR.
- Lead magnets & white papers. Create interesting collections of articles and offer them in exchange for contact information. One of the Australian companies Quoteroller used this method. Their SEO directory used to bring about 1,000 visits, but no leads. They added a form (with collections) where they asked for an email address, and began to receive about five leads per day. And that’s no longer a base for “cold” mailings.
- Lead quizzes. I suggest you read our (khm) gorgeous article Lead quizzes – advanced & awesome technique to get MOAR leads
As soon as Search Engine(s) start loving your website, the only thing left is to figure out how to convert them in leads for your sales team. While GRIN tech is not yet proficient with Conversion Rate Optimisation at scale, there is a solution we provide as a content marketing agency.
Offline methods (duh)
- Cold calling. Using a database of potential customers to call them directly has always been a popular tool for increasing sales. There are a few lifehacks and bottlenecks worth your attention:
- Consider hiring a call center. You don’t have to go through the horror of cold calls yourself. As an entrepreneur, you have more important tasks to attend. Try and test several call centers. We had a customer who had detrimental results with the first call center. The second proved to have well-organized processes, own CRM and a great account manager. The result was two signed contracts and 450% ROI just from the first series of calls.
- It is critically important to whom you are calling; therefore I recommend assembling the database yourself. For example, parsing catalogs of local and other businesses (have a look at web scraping for business)
- Meetings, presentations, conferences, etc. These are excellent assistants in attracting leads. Many users consider it to be an indication that your brand can be trusted
Lead generation marketing
So you have an advertisement up & running (and profit-driven of course). Where to direct this audience?
A vast topic by itself, so just a few life hacks and naked self-promotion (again):
- Work on the design of the “About Us” section. Include a value proposition in the headline, write an engaging text about you and divide it into blocks. This will might persuade the visitor to fill in the lead form.
- Are you not blogging yet? It’s time to start!
- I don’t mean traffic from Google here (SEO), but using your posts & case studies as landing pages for indirect sales. Take for example our article “How to analyze an SEO proposal” – while waiting for it to rank we also launched an AdWords campaign and added a sneaky CTA (try to apply your new knowledge analyzing GRIN tech’s proposal)
- That is one of the obvious truths of inbound marketing. It is common knowledge that a blog is an efficient lead generation tool, but few companies use it, and even fewer do it right. Stop lagging, create a content plan, hire one or two authors (or even a whole dedicated agency to implement a turnkey content marketing solution) and publish articles regularly. But even after driving traffic to your blog, your work isn’t done yet. Offer readers a lead-form to fill in after each post, thus helping potential customers to advance through the sales funnel. A reader interested in your posts will subscribe to the newsletter (editor’s note: not really)
- Create “evergreen” content. The term describes the type of content that occupies high positions due to its constant and high relevance. These are highly specialized and in-depth articles and choosing the right theme is the key to success.
- “Evergreen content” is a buzz word, but as we define it in GRIN tech is “contented with validated demand in Google search.”
One of the most effective ways to attract leads is a landing page.
The main components of a high-quality single page landing are:
- the offer — unique and attractive since the effectiveness of the whole landing page depends on it;
- lead-form — contacts for further communication with potential clients. The consumer gets the offer; you get the contacts;
- Call To Action — desired action. E.g., purchase, subscribe, sign up for a trial, etc. More on the topic below.
The topic is quite a time consuming, so we wrote 3752 words on a retargeting strategy called Cascade alongside with few hacks and a list of common pitfalls.
Call To Action (CTA): types
There are no universal answers, especially in Internet marketing. There can not be a single CTA button, suitable for all occasions. Therefore, slapping customers in the face with CTAs like “Click here,” “Buy now!”, “Download immediately” is a crime both against users and against your business.
Of course, every marketer wants to invent a universal button with a simple CTA, place it on all pages of the website and watch profits grow exponentially. In reality, CTA is much more complicated. Trendy resources are visited by a wide variety of people every day: casual visitors, potential customers, and even competitors. Expect different target actions from each of these groups.
A visitor must become a potential client or a lead; a lead must turn into a buyer and a buyer into a brand “advocate,” a follower. These people have different motivations, interests, and levels of awareness of the product. You need a call to action for each group.
It does not mean you need to invent hundreds of buttons — there are few basic types of CTA, you are going to need in the beginning.
Let’s take a look at them.
- Lead generation
Call to action is crucial to generate subscription databases and leads. That’s why you implement CTA in the first place — to convert visitors into customers. The logical thing to do is place your CTA on the most visited page of the site.
This type of CTA is usually posted on blogs: as a floating banner at the end of a post or as a button. Such calls to action should be visually attractive and convey information/offer. Visitors will only perform the target action if they know what to expect later.
- Lead Nurturing
Lead Nurturing, or drip marketing is a technology for converting a subscription base through a series of mailings or “Follow Up” letters.
It often happens that a visitor who has already become your lead is not in a hurry to purchase your product. What to do?
Seduce the customer with another attractive offer: something interesting, and most importantly — free of charge. It can be a trial version of a product, an e-book or a video course. It has to be something of real value.
But this time you make a combo to bring the lead to the purchase: an offer and drip marketing.
Such calls to action should be placed only on pages visited primarily by the target group.
- “Learn more” button
The most basic example would be such a button for posts on the blog homepage. Sounds obvious? But such micro conversion tracking can help you scale user coverage from 1% to 100%.
- Product or service demo
Might come in many flavors, for example:
- Video or screencast. Track engaged users.
- Schedule a call type of CTA, where you intend to pass leads directly to a sales rep.
What I want to test for a while already are screencast from 3rd parties (e.g., youtube bloggers) – this way you (1) reach to their audiences (2) have another form of social proof on your website (aka endorsement)
- Social networks
One of the simplest types of CTA is a share button. Social network buttons are the shortest way to express sympathy for a brand, and visitors are happy to use it if they consider your article is worth their attention. Therefore, do not forget to place such CTAs everywhere where it makes sense: blogs, thank you pages, etc.
- Promoting events
If you are announcing an event, you want people to follow and participate in it. We place such calls to action everywhere where our target audience may appear: main page, blog, newsletter, etc. This button will look more like a banner. Example below:
Without tracking the optimization of metrics, it is difficult to continue the quality work on lead generation.
Here are some indicators that require monitoring:
- Return on Investment (ROI)
- number of leads in sales funnel;
- lead costs;
- average transaction price;
- number of leads converted;
- the ratio of leads ready to purchase the total number of potential customers;
- Landing Activity;
- return of investments.
Do not save time by redirecting unprepared leads to the sales department. That is a mistake, and more than half of marketers make it (especially in B2B).
Along with the absolute quantitative criteria for evaluating the marketing strategy (ROI — return on investment, CR — conversion rate, CPL — the cost of lead, etc.), relative estimates can be successfully applied in web marketing. These estimates are just as important and significant.
The latter includes the ranking of the lead according to its qualification (Lead Scoring) — the level of interest and readiness to make a purchase.
TIP: even though we have a digital marketing analytics solution we do not set up proper conversion tracking until the first sale is made (just simple GA install that it).
Editor’s note: the following section is the case mainly for niches involving manual sales, e.g. real estate, b2b in general, etc.
So, now that we understand the concept of lead generation and some of its tools, it’s time to find out what sales lead scoring is. In short, this indicator helps to determine the level of readiness of new leads to move to the closing stage of the transaction.
Most often, the qualification depends on how the lead data obtained. Here are a few examples:
- Leads on job search websites
Job Search services offer to fill in a detailed CV form with contact information, work experience, and personal qualities. A registered user is highly interested in receiving job offers and is ready to accept a newsletter.
- A lead who has downloaded a discount coupon
A consumer who has left his contacts in exchange for a discount coupon. Such consumer does provide some personal information and is also considered interested in the company’s offer. Marketers of this service can divide leads database depending on what coupon a particular visitor has ordered, and offer them relevant information.
- Leads who received free content
The users who leave their contacts in exchange for free content are often not your direct potential consumers. Perhaps your interaction will end once the free content is delivered. Weed out disinterested members of the audience. E.g., by holding webinars and selecting the leads you need.
Lead qualifications allow us to understand whether it is necessary to continue to interact and “grow” a contact into a real customer: whether it is worth the time and material costs.
In the process of generating or Lead Nurturing, a marketer scores points to every manifestation of marketing activity. When the amount of points obtained reaches the reliability threshold, one can consider that the lead is ready for purchase and the marketer forwards the lead to the sales team.
Leads of this level are called SQL (sales qualified leads) — leads that are suitable for direct sales. If potential buyers require further “nurturing,” they are qualified as marketing leads (MQLs).
Not sure what is Lead Qualification? We got you covered with a sketch on Lead qualification – common misconceptions & pitfalls.
Well organized process of lead conversion
Generally, such a process consists of these four steps:
- Involve visitors into the conversion funnel and lead them to landings and websites to leave their applications.
- Evaluate leads: determine their willingness to close a transaction; send them to the sales department at the right time (MQLs, SQLs).
- Raise leads that are not yet ready for the primary conversion action.
- Evaluate sales results to improve the process.
Again, submitting applications directly to the sales department will not lead to anything encouraging.
Understanding the characteristics of a lead
The main difficulty for a marketer in assessing leads is determining the state of readiness of a potential client to purchase or conclude a contract right now.
Answering the following questions might help to develop a reliable definition of a ready lead:
- Does the lead have the authority to make a purchase?
- Has the company-counterparty allocated a budget for this?
- When is it planned to close the deal?
- Does the deal need final approval?
- Is now the right time to close it?
Look for applications that meet these two criteria:
- have the highest potential value;
- as close as possible to finalize the deal.
Many lead qualification systems are based on the use of the following set of interrelated criteria:
- Demographic — age, gender, income level.
- Psychological — personality type, pronounced preferences.
- Geographical — location.
- Behavioral — likes, dislikes, habits. These characteristics determine the most appropriate channel of interaction with a potential buyer — e-mail, website or social networks.
Business owners and marketers put a lot of effort in search of effective methods of lead generation. However, sometimes it is enough to take an existing and successfully working model and adapt it to your target group.
Here are several competent guides and original strategies (list of links)
Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) is a core lead generation software. There plenty of resources and reviews on out-of-box & cloud solutions. I’d recommend considering a custom CRM solution build specifically for your business because it is often cheaper than to adapt existing solutions like Salesforce, Hubspot, etc.
- Lead management across different stages
- Marketing automation
- More rigid analytics, i.e., bigger picture for management & marketers
To sum it up on the lead generation
Lead generation term is so diluted and therefore comes in so many forms. From a business owner perspective, I’d focus on turn-key solutions at first (outsourced lead generation) alongside with building such a system in-house. Both via trial and error method.
What an exciting feeling to see leads converting into new customers and long-lasting relationships.