A Marketer’s Guide to Lead Generation Online

If you’re a marketer in business that relies on lead generation, you know the importance of generating high-quality leads to keep your sales pipeline strong and to support your business goals.

woman using laptop computer

As one of your core responsibilities and focus areas, you have probably experienced a noisier and more crowded digital world recently. We understand these challenges and have created this guide to share solid strategies to help grab attention and entice your audiences to share their contact info, build your lists, and nurture prospect and customer relationships.

Focus on lead quality

One of the first things we recommend is to revisit or create a clear picture of exactly what a quality lead is for your business. We have all been there – you try a new strategy to build up your list, only to find that many of your leads aren’t what you were looking for. It’s quite common for the marketing team to ramp up their efforts and increase the quantity of leads going to the sales team, only to have the sales team respond that the leads aren’t what they are looking for. If the lead generation process isn’t focused on quality then they might not be a good fit for what you offer, or your messaging isn’t relevant for their stage of your defined buyer’s journey.

Sometimes the metrics you use to measure for success contribute to this issue. If your focus is only on the number of new leads generated, you may be wasting your or your sales team time. It’s important, and often more challenging, to generate a significant amount of quality leads.

What makes a quality lead? This would be a prospect who is a likely candidate to make a purchase from your business. How you measure this can vary depending upon your lead-generation activity. For example, you might determine interest (or quality) from:

  • Downloads of your lead generation content
  • Indicating certain interests on a form (e.g., where you have a list of items and say “check all that apply”)
  • Contacts made directly with your sales team
  • Signing up for a free trial
  • Attending an event (in-person or via webinar)

Marketing teams are typically required to demonstrate ROI for their activities and lead quality plays a huge role in defining and demonstrating success. Establishing an exact picture of who you need to attract can save you from unnecessary marketing spend and time spent trying to locate prospects who aren’t the right fit.

Many marketing departments establish some form of lead scoring which applies points for various characteristics of the lead. For example, points might be assigned for the lead being in the target demographic, working for a target company, and displaying certain behaviors. It’s up to you to create a system that makes sense for your company, is understood across different departments, and is measured and used to inform future strategy.

Quality leads come from knowing your target customer and understanding what will draw them in. Click To Tweet
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Identify where to find your leads online

Creating a clear description of an ideal lead will help you narrow down where to find them. There’s no sense in spending a large amount of your budget producing YouTube videos or running Facebook ads if your target audience doesn’t participate or engage within those channels.

Here are some ideas for where to look for leads:

  • Social media channels (try Pew Research demographic data for an idea of your most likely channels)
  • Online discussion forums or groups
  • Lists of conference attendees – these are often published online
  • Yelp and other online business directories
  • Quora – start by following people who are in your niche audience and finding questions that you can answer
  • SparkToro – research what your audience talks about and which websites and social networks they regularly engage with
  • Subscribers to your podcast, or to podcasts that cover a similar niche
  • Inbound strategies – where you draw the audience to you via your content

Where you hone in on your audience and narrow down to the best choices is important so you can accurately devote time and budget to the places you’ll receive the most engagement. Your lead generation strategy should be built around your audience, your capabilities (in house and/or with your agency partner), and your budget.

Generating leads on your website

Your company website is one of the most obvious channels for lead generation. However, some businesses don’t maximize the lead-generation potential of their website. Building relevant messaging, images, pages, prompts, CTAs and other functionality for your target audience makes it easy for them to share their details and engage with your team.

A useful place to start is by performing an audit of your site. What are your most popular pages? Where are your current leads coming from and how are they signing up? What topics seem to draw the most interest? When you know these answers, you can improve and optimize your user experience to nurture visitors and gain more quality leads.

Here are some additional areas to focus on:

  1. Your landing pages – Do they grab attention in less than five seconds? Do you have compelling headings and are the pages customer-focused? It’s important to focus on the customer and their needs, and offer something of value to them. You can also optimize landing pages by showcasing testimonials as social proof of your products or services. Lastly, it should be very clear to the visitor what their next step should be. Your call to action should be straightforward and easy to follow.
  2. Your email sign-up forms – Building an email list is a key lead generation strategy for most companies, however, people don’t simply hand out their email address. You have to give them a compelling reason to do so and share what’s in it for them. Look for any points of friction with your sign-up forms. These may include having too many form fields for people to fill out and asking for info you may not need at the first point of interaction.
  3. Your lead magnets – Are your lead magnets generating leads or could they use a refresh? The sweet spot for lead magnets tends to be when you address an issue that is pressing to your audience, provide enough information to deliver value, or give them a quick win, and at the same time, leave them wanting more.
  4. Sleeknote writes about evergreen lead magnets – those which will invite readers to keep returning and created with content that isn’t time-sensitive and always useful. One example they provide is a sports shoe store selling a guide on “How to Run 10k in 30 Days.” One of their key points is that lead magnets work, however, you do need to review them from time to time. Part of the evergreen idea is ensuring that the lead magnet still retains value over time, which may require periodic updates.
  5. Your overall user experience – The experience a visitor has when they land on your website will inform whether or not they feel compelled to sign up for your email list or for your lead magnet. If their experience is awkward, clunky, or if they don’t understand immediately what you can deliver for value, it’s not likely that they will sign up. Part of your lead-generation strategy should be to conduct a review of your website user experience. To optimize for leads, look for any ways to smooth the experience and reduce friction.

Using your content to generate leads

Content marketing is a part of inbound strategies which draw visitors to you. Your SEO practices are another form of inbound marketing. Content works in your favor for lead generation on three counts: 1) it helps to improve your SEO and drives traffic from search; 2) it can be shared and bring in more potential leads, and; 3) it helps to engage your audience around something they care about, while demonstrating your business is an expert in that area.

An important reminder when using content marketing as a lead generation strategy is to not skimp on quality. Arguably, content creation can be one of the most resource-heavy strategies because it requires a high level of research, planning, and execution. Content done poorly could end up costing you leads.

Content marketing has been a common practice for several years and according to surveys of marketers, it is still an effective strategy. 84% of marketers have a content marketing strategy and 79% have the priority goal of generating leads via content.

The key to lead generation via content marketing is to deliver value to your audience. This means helping them with something important to them, in a format that they prefer to use. Over time, the format and how you can offer help or deliver value changes, which is why reviewing and updating your popular content regularly is important.

Here are some other tips:

  1. Survey your audience to gather their views and preferences. How do they prefer to consume content and what sorts of topics do they care about? This helps you define ways to attract more people who are similar to your best customers. Invest your time and resources in ways that provide the most bang for your buck. For example, if your ideal customers don’t want to watch long-form video, you don’t need to make the investment in creating this type of content and can focus your budget in other areas.  
  2. Consider choices that help to increase your visibility. For example, content may be syndicated to other websites, or audio and video recordings could also be published on other platforms that support those mediums. Be sure to include your CTA within your content each time – people still need clear direction for how to take the next step.
  3. Focus on content experience. A WordStream post highlights how annoying features, such as pages riddled with pop-ups, can drive an audience away. However, interesting interactive elements, or other types of highly engaging content, have a higher probability of keeping your audience engaged and hopefully generating their interest in signing up.
  4. Know how people are getting to your content so you can make an appropriate lead-generating offer. This means you should track the keyword phrases people search for to land on your content to understand what they were hoping to find. For example, if you landed on this post by typing in “how to generate leads online,” it would make sense for us to have a CTA for supporting services to meet the immediate need you’re looking to solve.
laptop computer and paper notepad

Chatbots and live chat for lead generation

Chat has increasingly become a key channel for marketers. Thanks to ever-developing AI technologies, businesses can harness chatbots to interact with website visitors and/or have employees in the background for live chat.

Chat is part of an overall conversational marketing trend, catering to the desire people have for a quick response. One report from Drift found that responding to a new lead within five minutes is critical for retaining that lead, yet only around 7% of companies meet that demand.

A chat function is an opportunity to be there on the spot to answer questions from a potential lead. Chatbots can be automated to greet leads quickly and provide responses to questions. On the pro side, they can answer basic questions almost immediately; the con is that chatbots may lack a sense of context or humanity, and may not be able to answer all questions (although this is part of how the technology is evolving).

Live chat expands the opportunity to answer all questions from your visitors and in addition, understand context and nuance. The downside for many companies is that live chat isn’t automated and requires a staff member to be available which may or may not be within your budget. 

A key tip for using chat to generate leads is to ensure your integrating the platform with your CRM. Ideally, you’d want to capture anything the user puts in the chat (such as their email address) and have it fill directly within your customer data for follow-up and tracking purposes.

Finally, make sure your chat is genuinely useful! Chatbots can be a mixed bag in terms of providing substantial answers. If you opt to use a chatbot, make sure you spend the time to build out the functionality, content and answers so it will be valuable to your audiences.

Generating leads on social media

Generating leads on social media means more than just getting likes on a post – it also means convincing people to share personal information that you can use to keep in contact with them such as their email address or getting their permission to contact them via the Messenger App.

Which social media platform should you use? The one (or two) channels where your target customers are most likely to be found. As of this writing, Facebook remains the most popular and has the largest audience of engaged users (Source), however, if your ideal customer doesn’t engage there, make sure to do your research to find other social channels to reach them.

Regardless of platform, here are some key strategies to generate leads via social media:

  1. Optimize your social profiles. They should be complete and should offer means for potential customers to contact you, sign up for your email list, and/or be directed to an appropriate page on your website. For any contact channels you add to your profiles, you need to make sure you’re supporting them – it’s not a good plan to enable Messenger if you’re not going to be regularly monitoring and responding.
  2. Add call-to-action buttons. Facebook offers this directly on your profile page. For channels such as Instagram, you can create your own CTA in your profile description, e.g., “click here for …”, or you can add an action button.
  3. Create compelling clickable content. Social media is a good way to direct people back to content on your website, where you should offer CTAs. Analyze how your posts perform to determine which are the most effective.
  4. Confirm all clickable links go to user-friendly pages. And optimize for mobile, too. We’ve come across more than one link that goes to a page with a popup that is near impossible to close, which is a frustrating experience for users.
  5. Utilize the platform’s lead-generating ad format. Most social platforms have these. For example: Facebook and Instagram have “lead ads,” LinkedIn has “lead gen forms” and YouTube has “leads” as a goal option on their ad formats.
  6. Offer the right incentive. Depending on your business type, providing exclusive offers or discounts can help entice visitors to share contact info. For example, several e-commerce brands offer discounts if customers agree to sign up to receive messages via Messenger.

Remarketing for lead generation

Remarketing is an important tool for lead generation because it helps you maximize the ROI of your paid marketing spend. Remarketing or retargeting means you target people who have already visited your site or interacted with you in some way and research shows those people are more likely to become buyers.

There are multiple tools available for remarketing, which all work in a similar fashion. They use cookies or pixels to track those leads, then present them with advertising in various places they visit on the internet. The most common networks that offer remarketing are Google, Facebook, and Pinterest. Some additional examples include Adroll, Criteo, and Retargeter.

Whichever channel you use, it’s important to keep the retargeting relevant to why the person visited in the first place. For example, if they clicked on an ad that had a particular topic or CTA, the chances are that is why they clicked on it. You can use a similar CTA in a slightly different way to test if this helps you generate quality leads.

Generating leads through referrals

Referrals from your current customers are an excellent way to generate leads and have been called the most valuable form of marketing. Your customers often refer people who are in the same field or industry, most likely another highly qualified lead, and with the advice that you are someone they can trust, the relationship is already off to a great start.

Exploring ways to set up a simple and attractive way for your customers to make referrals is important and can be a valuable way to gain high quality leads and new customers.

Basic referral programs allow you to offer rewards and set up an automated system that makes it easy for people to refer. With 78% of marketers saying that referral programs generate good or excellent leads, it’s worth the time to define a tool that could work well for your business and customers.

A few examples of referral software include:

What makes a referral program successful for lead generation? The first step is asking people to refer. Your referral program shouldn’t lie hidden somewhere on your website and should be a regular CTA for customers. Second, know your customers and offer the right incentives to provide extra value and gratitude for their time and recommendation. Lastly, consider building it into an existing process, such as after a sale or follow-up communication, to help make it easy for your team and customers.

Final thoughts

Focusing on quality over quantity for lead generation will save you time and money. And sharing valuable and timely content that serves your audience’s needs is a great way to build your lists and build trust in your brand.

Quality leads come from knowing your target customer and understanding what will draw them in. From there, make it easy for them to become a lead – it should be as frictionless as possible across your lead channels. And remember to revisit your ideal customer to inform and update messaging, offers, channels and processes accordingly to meet their needs. Do you or your team need help with lead generation strategy and execution? Contact us today to learn how our team can help

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