As the times change, so do consumer habits and your strategies for online lead generation should too. The expectations of today’s customers are different than those of customers in years past.  

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As marketing agents, sellers, and business owners, we must adapt to the ever-changing market and adapt our techniques in order to gain the most exposure and profitability.

Why is this important, you ask. Why is your business important, I ask. Put simply, you can create the best product in the world, but without customers or prospects, you have no way to sell your product. 

The objective is to gain high quantity, as well as, high-quality leads. A successful lead generation system can skyrocket your business by providing your sales staff, not only a decent quantity of prospects but also, providing prospects that are valuable.

What is Online Lead Generation?

The term, “online lead generation” refers to the process of generating leads for your business from the internet.

What is a lead? A lead is someone, a group of people, or an organization, who has shown interest in the product or service you offer. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t get bogged down in the details.

Lead generation doesn’t stop when you find a potential customer. You don’t just drop a random name in your sales associate’s bucket and move one. Your sales team will grow to hate you if this becomes a habit, trust me. A major aspect of lead generation is lead nurturing. A marketer not only uses lead generation to find customers but also to build relationships with those who are not yet customers, referred to as lead nurturing.

The marketing funnel: we’ve all heard it before, and the importance of understanding how it works is, to this day, still essential to all marketers. One of the most critical parts of the funnel is lead generation. As stated above. If you can’t generate any leads, you won’t have any business.

If lead generation seems to be a struggle for you or your company, you aren’t alone.

High-Quality Lead Generation

Not all leads are created equal, and as mean as it comes across, not every lead is a good lead. According to SlideShare, only 5-10% of qualified leads successfully convert into a sale. But how do you identify who is a “qualified lead”? It seems like such a grey area between ‘no good’ and ‘qualified’.

To identify who qualifies as a lead, you must first create an ideal buyer persona. An ideal buyer persona is a somewhat fictional person who embodies similar characteristics to your pre-existing customers: Age, gender, likes, dislikes, region, everything. The more demographics you are able to capture for your persona, the better your conversion rate will be, down the line.

Put simply, the pickier you are about which leads your pursue, the higher your lead conversion rate will be. Take those pictures of your ideal buyer personas off your refrigerator and put them to use. Segment your personas, and reach out based on those personas. Auditing your persona groupings is an ever-changing task. As the personas move down the buyer lifecycle, you can also move and combine the groups to more naturally appeal to them, in their current state. This will show you better results. Online lead generation can be difficult, and sometimes you may need to contact a professional. 

Lead Generating Tactics

A good lead generation campaign could contain a variety of different marketing tactics. These include, but are not limited to:

Lead generation doesn’t end when the lead is found. The process is continued. We call this transition time lead nurturing. This is the process of developing a relationship with buyers. This portion of the process focuses on the communication efforts that are geared toward fixing problems and meeting the needs of the potential customer. This may seem like a waste of time and resources, but the numbers on lead nurturing don’t lie. Lead-nurturing emails get 4-10x times the response rate compared to standalone emails.

Analyze Your Competition

Although spending your time focusing elsewhere may seem counteractive, this actually can be the best use of your time, if done correctly.

Take sports teams, for example. They spend hours huddled around a television, watching the past games of their competition. This allows them to see the strengths and weaknesses of each player and know exactly what needs to be improved in order to win. Instead of casting your efforts all over the place and wasting resources, pinpoint one target to beat and use your recourses in a more condensed but extremely targeted approach, using competitive analysis.

How do you perform the competitive analysis? First, you must know who your direct competition is. These will have the same industry, target audience, and size, as you do. These competitors are not huge department stores or big box locations. These are the companies sized similarly to your business. From there, you need to check out the competition’s marketing strategy: content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing. See which efforts seem to work the best for them.

If you can figure out what the competition is doing to generate leads and improve their business, you can figure out how to do the same for your business, and learn from other people’s mistakes. You don’t have to jump in head first, on this. Feel free to start simple: A good place to start would be, regularly checking your competitor’s social media for complaints. This is especially true if you start to recognize a trend they don’t seem to be addressing.  This shows an area for you to be the hero, so to speak. Find your competition’s weak spot, and capitalize on it.

Online Lead Generation Channels

Professional service businesses have, for the most part, been relatively slow at adopting lead generation techniques. Many still have the old school way of thinking, that referrals are the only way to generate new clients. The newer model is founded on building trust by showing your audience that you are an expert in your field and a business they can’t afford not to do business with.

Social Media Lead Generation

It should come as no shock to marketers, that the majority of their audience is on some form of social media.

So, go ahead, bite the bullet and create a calendar. Get in the habit of regularly posting on social media. Take time and plan your posts. These posts shouldn’t be all about you. Yes, they should contain your own content, but you should also share a decent amount of other’s content, as well. If a blogger or another website has a more helpful link, you will build trust by pointing your followers to the better link, instead of pretending you are the best. Let’s face it: no one is the best at everything.

Here’s where lead nurturing comes back to play. You will attract loyal followers by relationship building. As marketers, we are taught to put our best foot forward, only show the positive, minimize the negative, and spin the conversation whenever it may turn negative. However, because there is so much information readily accessible, there is no room for “spinning”. You need to be genuine, or hire someone who can be!

The Dialogue in Social Media

Social media needs dialogue in order to thrive. Your social media page is not the place to blast out a thousand ads about how great you think your company is (yes, we’re looking at you MLM’s). The goal is to interact with others, to help others, and build trust, over time. This is why it is important to share other resources and answer questions honestly. You want to be seen as an industry expert, not like the frontman of the late-night infomercials.

“People don’t care about your business. They care about the problems they have. Be the solution they are looking for.” -Melonie Dodaro

When marketers use terms such as brand “personality” and “character”, they’re more accurate than they may know. Over the past few years, psychologists have deducted that people make snap judgments based off two categories: warmth and competence. They subconsciously ask themselves, “What are the intentions?” and “Are they capable of carrying out these intentions?”

You are showing your customers that you are capable by posting relevant content, consistently, but how do you show your audience that you are “warm”? Simple. Show your face. Studies show businesses that have a “face to them” receive 32% more comments. Nothing is more personal than showing real employees, demonstrating genuine happiness and warmth.

Focus most of your customer service on social media to further prove your “warmth”. The old management quote holds true, “Positive in public. Negative in private.” Use your public platforms to display publicly how well you treat your customers. If comments go south, simply tell them you will help them through a direct message, or ask them to come to your office, so that you may assist them, in person, if possible.

 

Social Media Tracking

As you’re chatting away with your audience, you want to know if your efforts are actually bringing in more customers. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. You should pick which metrics you want, and stick with those to quantify results. 

These things take time. If you need help tracking your progress, tracking tools can save you tons of time. Some of these include:

  • Bit.ly
  • Twitter Analytics
  • Hootsuite
  • Twitonomy
  • Facebook Analytics
  • Quintly

Lead Generation Through Blogging

Blogging holds a very unique role in online lead generation. Do blogs generate a ton of direct leads? They certainly can when done the right way.

Blogging is one of the most effective ways to generate traffic to your website. By deploying quality SEO content in your blogs, you will be able to draw a good amount of quality prospects to your website. You could even take this a step further, and promote your blog posts on your social media platforms.

Blogging on a regular basis is a good way to keep your website fresh. By posting relevant content on a continuous basis, you are able to build your visibility on Google keyword searches. By doing this, you make your website more visible to more users, gaining more traffic, and thus, building more trust in your brand, while building credibility as a subject matter expert.

Blogging is an excellent way to nurture leads. Say, for example, you see a product/service and liked it, but you have never heard of the business, so, naturally, you are skeptical about pulling out your wallet. So, you turn to Google to see if they can find more information on the service/product, and you find that the company has not just one, but several in-depth articles about the industry.  The articles contain quality information. You find yourself learning things and are genuinely interested in what this stranger company has to say. Would that make your more willing to spend money on their product/service? Of course, it would. This is the perfect example of how lead nurturing works!

Companies that blog six to eight times a month, tend to double their volume. As stated several times before, you want to be seen as an industry expert, so, like social media, in every blog post, you should include hyperlinks to other blogs, as well as, calls to action. Blogs are one of the most natural ways to insert a call to action. After all, your blog is literally there to answer a question asked by your potential customers.

Getting Leads Through Live Chat and Chat Bots

Ok, I know the idea of live chat services and chatbots can be a little bit intimidating. The little robots can be so cute and can truly warm our hearts, but also, freak us out a little. I’m not talking about ‘taking over the world’ type robots, only a little chatbot to make your life, as a marketer or business owner, a little bit easier! With a little knowledge, you’ll be able to leverage chatbots for what they truly are: an incredible time-saving tool!

What are chatbots? Chatbots are programs built to automatically engage with messages sent by your prospects or customers. You can program your bot to respond in the same way every time or to respond differently to different messages. By adding keywords, they are “trained” to generate certain responses to certain questions.

Chatbots typically leverage mediums such as text, chat windows, and social media platforms to receive and respond to messages.

They come in all forms: from cute to downright creepy, but it can’t be denied that business bots are the way of the future! According to Facebook alone, 2 billion messages are sent between business and clients monthly. 56% of people would rather message than call (I know I do!). 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses that they can message.

One more time for the people in the back, 53% of people are more likely to shop with businesses that they can message.

That number is stammering when you think about it. Over half of your prospects will choose your business if they can simply message you, over a business that they can call. If that isn’t a reason to employ a chatbot, I don’t know what is!

Some of the chatbot services we like are:

Optimize Email

Even though email marketing may seem like a daunting task, think of it this way: you’ve already done half the work. If someone gives you his or her email address, they’ve already shown interest in your product or your business. So, the email begins with an initial outreach to potential clients. For this step, you will create a targeted list of potential prospects in your niche and reach out personally. Yes, I said personally. This is a critical step in gaining the trust of the oh-so-fragile lead. Nothing is a bigger turnoff than receiving a “one size fits all” type email.

One of the most obvious and also most forgotten points of email marketing is “email opt-in”. You’ve put in the work to get interested leads, and now it’s time to turn them into happy subscribers, that welcome your emails. Implementing an opt-in option ensures your followers receive anticipated updates from you, but it also helps you in the follow-up portion of your marketing efforts.

You want to continue to nurture your email leads, so even though it feels natural to coax your followers, you should never include the word “spam” in your emails. This encompasses all phrases and refers to phrases such as “we promise no spam”. Similar to the food, it shouldn’t be around, ever.  Even if you think it will help, it won’t: just the mention of the word, “spam” reduces conversions by 18%.

Include Strong Call to Action

The truth is, if you don’t give people instructions on what to do next, usually, no action will be taken. An SEO optimized blog from a good website should turn out high-quality leads. However, you don’t simply want an audience to read blogs and leave. You want them to opt-in to your email newsletter or podcast, or whatever free resource you’re offering. Make sure your content is good enough and your CTA is persuasive enough to make this happen!

Inbound links (link back to your site, from another site) are a good place to add a strong call to actions. In order to make this successful, you want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to say yes. Including the word, “because”, in your link, is a good psychological trick to employ. The word, “because” is typically followed by the information. Your audience is reading your blog to answer a question they have, so naturally, your audience will want to see ‘reasons why’.

Giving your audience something for free is another way to convert traffic. People who download something free from you are more likely to purchase something in the future. This technique employs the use of the foot-in-the-door technique. Ask for a little first, “yes”, and then gradually build on this.

A good call to action is always short and to the point. Be clear. Be persuasive, but don’t be pushy.

Calls to action can be precise while still being creative. Feel free to use your imagination to tailor your call to action to suit your brand’s needs.

Landing Pages for Conversion

One solid piece of advice: have your landing pages set up to convert website traffic into leads. Having a good call to action linked to a dedicated landing page is something that is often overlooked by marketers and website developers, alike.

As marketers, we tend to use a bit of psychology when we insert links into our sites. Here’s a few words or phrases for your landing page that we have found to be effective, and why:

  • Get Started- This makes the visitor feel as if they can take immediate action after the click. It’s somewhat empowering, don’t you think?
  • Don’t Miss Out- This takes us back to our kindergarten years. Even as adults, no one wants to feel excluded.
  • Shop Now- Women love to window shop. This invites your audience to look, without asking for money.
  • Sign Up Free- The word, “free”, always boosts conversions. Numbers never lie.
  • Act Now- This may be the gentle push that some of your prospects need, as it creates a sense of urgency.
  • Schedule a Visit- This is for your procrastinating audience. This sends the reader to a contact form.
  • Join Us Today- Young or old, everyone wants to feel as though they are a part of something bigger. So, let your audience know they can be part of your “group” by using this option!
  • Learn More-This is perfect for your more skeptical audience. It shows them that there is no commitment necessary. The feel better about clicking because, at this point, they are simply educating themselves.

Tailoring your website to get the most value out of your traffic can be difficult. Hiring a professional is the best way to ensure this happens! Learn more about our digital marketing services.

Plan Your Work and Work the Plan

This advice is two-fold. First, you will first need a marketing plan. Don’t just shoot in the dark. This is the biggest waste of time and resources I can think of! Take some time to set goals on how you will reach out and what methods you will utilize to reach clients. Second, being prepared is always advised. It helps to convert sales when your leads do call. A good marketer will always take the time to research, not only his or her product and company, but also, the prospects being reached out to.

The old saying still holds true, “Fail to plan. Plan to fail.”

Keep Moving Forward

The money’s coming in, so you don’t need to continue to “baby” your prospects, right? Wrong. This is one of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to their marketing efforts. Never forget the little guys who brought you to the top, and don’t take your foot off the gas when your business is up. Instead, use the momentum to keep pressing forward. As you gain more income, allocate more to your marketing efforts. This is how you grow your business exponentially!

If you don’t feel as though you are able to juggle and utilize email marketing, blogging, and social media, you may need to spend more time in the planning process in order to ensure these things are taken care of, or you may need to hire an expert. It is that important!

In order to make sure your investments are being allocated in the best way possible, you’ll want to create checkpoints, or small goals, to reach along the way. You’ll want to use analytics to see if you are reaching your KPIs (key performance indicators)

As you measure these successes, it is a good practice to use your success stories as leverage. After all, you’re in the business of gaining trust and confidence, why not use the success of “how many people are trusting you” as a way to gain more trust and more followers. It’s truly a snowball effect, in a good way!