What is the purpose of marketing, if not to generate leads?
I mean, of course, brand awareness and customer engagement are important, but the goal of those two activities is ultimately to drive sales leads.
They might not be seeking to do it straight away, but in the long term, we’re all hoping that those potential customers that are ‘aware of our brand’ are going to turn into leads at some point.
Still, there are specific tasks that successful marketers undertake to generate leads for the marketing and sales machine.
What are they exactly?
Well, you’re about to find out...
Lead Generation Process
To really get your head around how all of these lead generation tactics work, and where they fit in the overall picture, you need to understand the flow and process of lead gen.
The typical lead generation process looks something like this:
- A prospect discovers your business through one of your marketing channels e.g. social, blogging, PPC ads
- The prospect clicks on your call to action (CTA)
- That CTA takes them to a dedicated landing page on your website
- The prospect fills out a form on that page, and their details are delivered to you via carrier pigeon, or directly into your CRM. Up to you.
Of course, this four-step process, like the Pirate’s Code, is really more of a guideline. In some cases, the form fill may not exist on a landing page but directly within the ad itself. Or perhaps they visit you 5 times from CPC ads before they finally click on that CTA. You get the point.
Also, because each of your different marketing channels will appeal to prospects at different stages of the buying process, not every lead is created equal. It’s important to know which leads you’re targeting with each of the tactics we’re about to share, as this will dictate any internal processes and lead nurturing thereafter.
The Three Types of Leads
There are three main types of leads your company may be aiming to generate, which align with the three main phases of the customer buy cycle.
|Lead Type||Buyers Cycle Stage||Customer’s Need|
IQL (Information Qualified Lead)
Leads of this type are only recently aware of an issue and are simply looking for help to solve that problem.
MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) AKA Prospects
Leads in this phase have decided the problem is too great to solve on their own, and are seeking a product or service to help. Your job is to show them how your company can do that for them with things like case studies and whitepapers.
SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) AKA Opportunities
These leads are primed and ready to purchase, they just need that final push, such as a demo, trial, or discount code.
Just as your content strategy should be targeting and providing value to customers at all stages of the buyers’ journey, your lead generating machines should be prepared to receive each of the three types of leads and nurture them accordingly.
1. High Frequency, Long-Form Blogging Strategy
You’ve probably heard of blogging, it’s kind of all the rage in content marketing and inbound marketing circles. At the very least, you’ve definitely read one or two blogs (this is one).
But how exactly do blogs turn readers into leads, and how do you get from a “here’s what I did today” blog post to a lead generating machine?
You make sure your blogging strategy adheres to these four guidelines.
- Provides incredible value
- Includes content upgrades & CTAs
That’s probably sparked a few questions, so let’s provide a bit of clarity:
How high is high-frequency?
One way to answer this question is to consider the posting frequency of brands who are killing it in the blog space. Huffington Post, for example, posts about 2000 blogs per day.
Wait, what. 2000 blogs per day!?
That’s pretty unachievable for most of us. The good news is, you don’t have to write anything near this.
Once a day seems to be the guideline on everybody’s lips, however, this is probably better suited to websites that are solely devoted to blogging. For most companies, 2-3 times a week is the perfect middle ground.
That’s quite a bit less than 2000 times a day, which just goes to show that frequency isn’t the only important thing when it comes to producing a lead-generating blogging machine.
How long is long-form?
There’s an argument for short-form posts that goes something like this: “People have short attention spans, so they prefer short reads.” This might be true, hence the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) acronym you’ve no doubt seen on the interwebs, but short articles don’t provide much in the way of strong lead generation.
Posts below 600 words are great for getting comments, but they aren’t going to generate leads. That’s because they aren’t really saying anything, or delivering any value. More on that soon.
Instead, you should consider creating long-form blog posts above 2500 words. The majority of page one ranking blog posts sit in this range, with several breaking the 3000-word barrier.
Why? Well, aside from the obvious fact that they are likely to contain more instances of the article’s keyword, as well as semantically related variants, the main reason is that they are highly educational.
How incredible is incredible value?
The value that each blog you publish provides is what ultimately turns them from interesting reads into high-performing lead generators.
This should be followed by: “Is this going to have a significant impact on their life?”. If the answer to the second question is YES, then you’ve ticked the incredible value box.
And what happens when you give a prospect something incredibly valuable and highly actionable? They want more.
That’s where your leverage lies in turning your blog into a lead generator.
Content upgrades and CTAs
Now is when you jump in and ask for their details. But you can’t just expect your prospect to hand them over for nothing!
Yes, I know, you’ve just given them something incredible that they can put into action right away, but that’s just your motivator.
What you’ll find within every lead-generating blog post is a call-to-action, typically some form of content upgrade that offers the prospect even more value that they can’t resist.
Oh look, here’s one I prepared earlier:
2. Persona Targeted Content Mapped To The Buyer's Journey
Creating marketing personas is one thing. Using them is another.
One of the biggest benefits of having well-researched and well-documented buyer personas is being able to use them to guide your content creation.
With every piece of content you create, the first step should be to refer to your marketing personas.
Because you need to envision exactly how the content you’re creating is useful to them. This also means understanding their typical buyer’s journey.
We all know the basic outline of the customer buying journey:
But if you only have a partial understanding of who your potential buyers are, and the journey they go through, you will only ever get partial results from your lead generation marketing efforts.
For example, when your typical customer is in the consideration phase, what is it exactly that they are considering?
Chances are there are a number of factors they are evaluating, and knowing this information can help you to form specifically-targeted content that maps to their individual journey.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Trainual is an interactive employee onboarding and training SaaS which takes business processes and SOPs out of your brain and into a simple to use web-based learning environment.
Knowing that a huge chunk of their customers are remote-only companies, Trainual have crafted a whole library of resources to help with remote working, from templates to videos to remote working tools.
This is a highly-effective top of funnel lead generator, as it understands that businesses that are working remotely face a number of challenges, and are constantly looking to solve them.
3. Digital Advertising / Immediate Lead Generation
Not all lead generation tactics are a long term game.
Though inbound strategies are certainly the golden boy of the marketing world right now, digital advertising and outbound tactics still have their place.
Digital advertising is particularly effective for influencing immediate lead generation. Let’s take a look at three common forms of digital advertising for lead generation:
- Social Media
- Google Ads
- Display Ads
It’s hard not to see how social media is such an effective platform for digital advertising.
I mean, we’re all guilty of jumping on Insta or Facebook at least once a day, and when you think about the number of people you can reach (about 3.5 billion), the opportunity is almost scary.
Of course, not every channel is suitable for every business model, but you’re unlikely to find yourself without a social media platform that works for your company.
The main way to use social media as a form of digital advertising for lead generation is through paid ads. These ads show up as Sponsored content in your feed, like this:
To make your ads successful lead generators, you’ll want to make sure your copy is succinct, and your offer (and value) is obvious. Take this ad from HubSpot for example.
There are less than 20 words in this entire ad, and it’s pretty obvious what they’re offering: a completely free CRM for sales.
Why keep it short?
Because people aren’t going to engage otherwise.
Think about it, they aren’t there for your ad, you’re interrupting them while they’re updating themselves on what all their friends had for lunch that day.
So, keep it short and sweet, make it obvious what you’re offering, and make sure your CTA is compelling.
With over 3 billion Google searches every day, there’s a huge opportunity to be had with Google Ads.
Of course, ranking organically is the ultimate goal, but that takes time. And if you’re not on page one, the truth is that you just aren’t going to get found.
Which is why beating out the organic competition with Google Ads is always a winner.
Even Google pays for Google Ads!
Just like with social media advertising, Google ads get you directly in front of your customers and gives you a quick opportunity to redirect them to a targeted landing page (which will speak of shortly).
You know when you’re crafting a bit of copy for your next Google Ad, and you’re seeking a synonym for that word you’ve used twice already?
So you’re scrolling through Merriam-Webster and, what’s that…?
That little box at the bottom there? That's a display ad.
Display ads are another great way to get in front of a potential new audience. The trick here is to make sure you advertise on websites that are relevant to your customer persona, otherwise you could be wasting your time.
Unless, you opt for a remarketing campaign, which we’ll get to in point four.
Targeted Landing Pages
Now, with all three of these digital advertising formats, your call to action should be redirecting your prospective clients to a dedicated landing page.
Well, expertly crafted and strategic landing pages have better shot of converting that visitor into a lead.
Considering the other option is to send them to a page that’s already on your website, you can see why this is true.
Landing pages are essentially dedicated pages on your site, not accessible from the nav bar, that are specifically designed to sell your stuff and generate leads.
Typically, they are pretty spare when it comes to content, with generally only a few lines of copy, a sharp image or two, and well-crafted call-to-action.
Here’s what they generally look like:
Pretty simple right?
This is the landing page the user is taken to when clicking this ad from Monday.com:
The best part is, these pages can serve as the landing point for campaigns on multiple platforms. Let’s say you’re running campaigns on several social media platforms, as well as on Google Ads and through display ads.
If all of these campaigns have the same goal, then they can all funnel into the same landing page!
This is a favourite lead generation tactic of any content marketing agency.
Remarketing, also known as retargeting, is the process of targeting specific web users based on their previous internet history.
Here’s how it works:
- The prospect views a piece of content on your website, perhaps a well thought out and helpful blog post
- They don’t happen to engage with any of your CTAs or content upgrades (sad face), and exit out of the page
- A tracking pixel on the web page identifies that the user has left without an action, and engages with your specified advertising type (such as social media), and displays a relevant advert for your service, product, or for a free content offer you have available
Here’s an example from Hootsuite, whose website I literally just visited:
Remarketing is a powerful form of digital advertising as rather than targeting web users based on a set of defined criteria, you’re actually advertising to people who’ve been on your website, and have engaged with your content previously.
Your offer and call to action in remarketing ads needs to be finely tuned, and incredibly compelling. If you just chuck in the same copy and offer you’re using in your blog posts, you probably aren’t going to win much.
Because that customer has already seen it, and ignored it.
Simply throwing the same message at them in places they aren’t expecting is likely to just frustrate them.
So, try another angle, and don’t be afraid to run an A/B test or two.
5. Free Trials and Freemium
One of the most effective forms of lead generation marketing for SaaS companies is the free trial.
Skipping straight over the free content angle (though you can always do both), you’re giving your prospect instant access to your software and allowing them to experience it for themselves.
But why would I want to give it away for free, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of generating leads?
Because by giving your prospect a taster, you’re not only showing them first hand how your company can help solve their problem, you’re giving them a chance to begin embedding it into their daily workflow.
And when that happens, it’s super hard for them to justify going back to how things were before, and your conversion rate skyrockets.
Think about a tool you use every single day, and imagine if you had to give it back at the end of the month and never use it again.
Yeah, you get the point.
The other option is to adopt a freemium model.
Popular among SaaS companies and mobile games alike, freemium products work on a tiered system, where the bottom tier of the product is completely free, and additional features can be accessed by opting for a paid subscription, like this:
Like anything, there are pros and cons to each approach:
6. Referral Systems
What better way to generate leads than through word of mouth?
Your current customers should be your biggest advocate. After all, if they aren’t excited to recommend your company to a friend or colleague in need, how much have you really impressed them?
Of course, people love incentives, and are far more likely to recommend and refer if there’s something in it for them.
It doesn’t have to be much, and there are several ways you can incentivize a referral system:
- Free gifts
- Monthly discounts
- Gift cards
Now, most companies will incentivize paid customers, not just leads, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do both!
Consider providing a small incentive for lead referrals, and a larger incentive if that lead becomes a customer. That’s a sure way to make sure the lead referral engine keeps turning, and the best part?
It doesn’t take any of your time, or ad spend!
Video content is absolutely blowing up right now.
I mean, it has been for a while, but it's still on the rise. And while written content like blogs are still the best way to climb up the search results and convert those readers, webinars are probably the best and most affordable way to host a live event that can generate a tonne of leads in one go.
The best way to use webinars a lead generator is to bring on relevant guests who:
- Are able to teach your audience something
- Are an expert in a specific area where you perhaps aren’t
- Have their own audience that you can tap into
There’s no point in hosting a webinar if your prospects aren’t going to learn anything from it...
That might be obvious, but what might not be obvious are the benefits of bringing another subject expert on board for your webinar.
The value here is that it enables you and your guest to have an in-depth discussion, where you both teach and learn from each other, and your audience in turn learns from the both of you!
Plus, because they’ve got their own following (hopefully), it expands the reach of your webinar and maximizes your lead generating opportunities.
Of course, you could throw all of this advice away and just buy a lead list, right?
Well, yes, but the advantages of running your own lead generation marketing campaigns are threefold:
- You can target prospects who are directly relevant to your company
- They have told you that they are interested
- You can test, improve, and retest
You’re probably starting to realize that inbound tactics like content marketing are generally the best bet for generating leads.
So, if you’re ready to start seeing the leads pouring in, you better give us a call.