With increased competition and tighter budgets, the current marketplace demands that you make the most out of every lead that comes your way. Your lead generation process therefore needs to be super-efficient and consistent, which is something that this post hopes to help you achieve.
Below, I'll discuss a few lead generation techniques and ideas that will deliver you the best results for your efforts. Although there is some overlap between the areas, I'll split the process into three parts for the sake of ease - direct marketing, lead nurturing and digital/online marketing. The idea here is that each part should mesh into one cohesive, integrated lead generation process.
Direct Marketing - Using The Phone To Generate Leads
Telemarketing has a a very poor reputation these days, although in this case you aren't strictly using the phone for sales - you're simply going to use it to identify new prospects for use over the medium to long term.
There is a world of difference - both for you and your prospect - between desperately trying to sell something over the phone to hit target and in using the phone to build up a nurturing list over a period of time. This is a medium-long term strategy and won't work as a quick-fix sales campaign.
In my experience, one of the best ways to use the phone now is to look at the fist call as being nothing more than an introduction with a view of then placing your new contact on an automated lead nurturing track, which I'll discuss a bit further down.
Digital Marketing - Using The Web For Lead Generation
Without doubt, one of the most efficient lead generation techniques you can use is that of online lead generation. A couple of important studies show that leads generated through digital, inbound methods:
- are an average of 62% less expensive that those generated through traditional outbound methods
- help businesses who generate 40% or more of their leads this way grow an average of 4x faster than those who do not (Hinge Marketing Study)
The fine detail of this practice is too much for this single post, although the idea here would be to use online lead generation methods such as SEO, PPC (such as Google Adwords), Social Media ad other forms of online advertising to draw more leads into your lead nurturing system.
Good search rankings and efficient PPC campaigns can drive high quality traffic to your site, which you can then convert into a lead by offering a free e-book in exchange for a name and email address, for example. While not all of these leads will be ready to purchase at the time they arrive at your site, they most likely will be at some point.
By having them secure in your marketing automation process, you'll make sure that you have a good chance of getting the call whenever they come to market.
Lead Nurturing - Generating Leads Through Existing Data And Relationships
Essentially, I'd go so far as to say that lead nurturing is the pin that holds your entire integrated lead generation strategy in place.
It's worth talking about this specifically because most people think of lead generation as being the process of gaining new leads or sales. That is certainly part of it, although something that is often overlooked is that it is easier to generate new leads and sales from prospects with whom you have already been in contact with, even if it was only one phone call six months ago, or an email sent after an online enquiry was made.
It's also the ideal way to take care of new leads that you generate either online, or through direct methods.
Therefore, I'd say that one of the best decisions you can make for your marketing strategy is to implement an automated lead nurturing process, designed to 'warm up' leads and contacts who:
- May have purchased in the past, but aren't really 'active' customers
- May have enquired previously - or have been in touch with you - but weren't quite at the point of purchase at that time
- You spoke to some months ago during your list building calls
- Recently left their details through your site, but don't have a time frame in mind as to when they will be ready to purchase
The process of lead nurturing is so powerful that it can make the difference between having a great sales year and a terrible one. The best way to think about a lead nurturing process is to imagine as an engine that constantly guides your prospect through the buying process until they are ready to become customers.
Another way to see this type of process is to imagine it as a super-efficient sales and marketing employee for your business, one that never stops working towards generating business for you. Having this set up will also address a couple of serious problems experienced by almost every business, although most are unaware that they even exist:
- The average company will lose between 40% and 80% of sales leads as the move through it's sales funnel due to poor management (Yankee Group Study)
- Only 20% of prospects you talk to are actually sales ready - the rest will re-enter the market within 24 months and potentially be found by your customers (Eloqua)
By working with a marketing automation process, you make sure that all of your leads are kept in play and that you stand the best chance possible of gaining their future business.
However, for most of us the reality is much different - at least at the early stages anyway. All of our free time is spent trying to figure out how to get new customers on board. It seems like a never ending struggle to keep order books full.
But, there is something we can do that will at least reduce the amount of time we have to spend trying to find new clients - and we can do it in a way that means we're actually more efficient and successful. Sure, we can always pick up the phone and try to drum up new business, although wouldn't it be much better if prospects were knocking our door down rather that the other way around?
Well, this can be achieved and the best way to do that - in my opinion - is to have some form of an automated online lead generation process set up.
Automated Online Lead Generation
I'm sure you can work this out, but just in case it's not clear, an automated online lead generation process is a system that you have set up on the web, which runs 24/7 in the background generating leads for your business. At it's simplest, it can be a single Google Adwords/PPC campaign and a contact form, although more complex systems can involve the following:
- custom/campaign specific landing pages
- lead nurturing campaigns (email based)
- automated prospect segmentation
Let's take a closer look at each of these to see how they fit into the process. What you want to achieve here is to set up a system that does as much of the leg work as possible so that you can spend your valuable time on other parts of your business, or indeed on personal interests away from your professional life.
Good Quality, Relevant Web Traffic Is Very Important
The first thing to say about this is: 'Don't forget that for all of this to work, you will need to have traffic flowing to your site in the first place' :-)
There are a lot of ways you can achieve this, including:
- Improved organic search rankings
- PPC (Pay-per-click) campaigns
- Social media campaigns
- Email marketing
However you do this, it's really important that you succeed in driving good quality and relevant traffic to your website - without it, the other elements simply won't have a chance to work as well as they should.
Custom/Campaign Specific Landing Pages
A good online lead generation system will have well designed landing pages for each element of the campaign. For example, if one part of your campaign is promoting your small business marketing service, then you'll want your marketing to divert visitors to a landing page that specifically caters for that service. By doing this you ensure that your conversion rate will be as high as possible as the landing page is more specific and relevant to the prospect.
Please see my 'How To Design A Killer Landing Page' post for more information on this.
Prospect Segmentation and Customer Profiling
Whether you generate your leads online, offline or through a mixture of both, prospect segmentation can really help you convert more sales.
The system then uses this information to send targeted communications that are perfectly targeted to your prospects needs. Fully functioned systems can cost tens of thousands of pounds and are therefore out of the reach of most small businesses.
However, providers such as FLG360 offer entry level software that will track emails, what links are clicked and it can also automatically move prospects from one lead nurturing track to another based on how they interact with emails and links. It's definitely worth a look.
So, the three elements above - combined with good quality web traffic - should mean that you have a steady drip feed of incoming leads that you can bring on board as customers. This will give you more time to focus on other areas of your business as well as on your personal life.
Having A Responsive Follow-up Process In Place
Now this part is super-important - there's no use in having a well optimised lead generation funnel in place if you aren't able to follow up effectively when needed. This is something that 'inbound only' proponents seem to forget - at some point, you are just going to have to get on the phone and talk with a prospective customer personally.
The only exception here would be if you were in a e-commerce only business. However, if your sales process relies on a one-to-one engagement - like the majority of service businesses - then you'll have to take care of this step.
It's also really important that you follow up quickly. How quickly? Well a study by the Harvard Business Review showed that if you don't call back within an hour, the odds of your lead being converted can be reduced by over 70 times.
Even if you leave it more than an hour you are running the risk of your competitors stealing your new lead (remember, the chances are that multiple suppliers are being considered - not just you).
So, the point to remember here is simple, but very, very important - make sure that you have a process in place that allows you to call back a lead within an hour at the absolute maximum. To help achieve this, here are a couple of things to think about:
Make sure that you get instant notifications every time a lead comes through your website/other avenues - email or SMS alerts work well here
Look into hiring a freelancer that can be on hand to get back to leads when you are tied up with other aspects of running your business
If you take care of this step well, you'll begin to see much improved lead conversion rates instantly. If you don't, you'll be effectively wasting all of the time, effort and money invested in step one - it's just not worth ignoring this part; no more than one hour for follow up, ideally much quicker.
You can get to the source here.
Putting It All Together - Integration Is Key
As you will have probably worked out by now, I think that the best lead generation campaigns are those that are taken over the medium to long term in a consistent manner. The studies above show that you need to be able to nurture leads over a relatively long time-frame in order to see the best results for your effort.
I think that an integrated lead generation approach - one that uses a lead nurturing process to enhance the return on both direct and digital lead generation campaigns - is the best way to ensure that your sales pipeline doesn't ever fall short. I also think that this is true whether you need to generate leads for a service based business, or whether your business is product based.
All of these processes and systems are relatively easy to set up and get going with. They don't have to be expensive - all they require is a little effort and a willingness to learn.
Thanks for reading,
By Alan MacDougall
Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.