Lead Generation has evolved. Has your Marketing Plan evolved with it?
by Duncan Lauder and Tom Bates
Recent economic, technological and social changes have changed the market place in a shift as transformative as the Industrial Revolution. That has created a large degree of uncertainty and fear – but it’s not 2010 anymore, it’s 2014.
As we mentioned in a previous post, business leaders and marketers face unprecedented challenges given today’s increasingly competitive landscape; fast changing technologies, the vast array of potential marketing channels, customer engagement, and they need to make sense of all of it.
How does a business leader manage in this landscape? Lead generation requires a mix of different strategies, tactics, and tools. Marketing tactics and channels are constantly bubbling up, some pop and others keep rising. It’s up to you as a business leader to know which is which and when to shift when your wrong.
But it doesn’t stop there – once leads begin to enter the system, the top performing companies track the lead source through a CRM and reach out to prospects at specific points through the CRM or Marketing Automation system.
8 Top Performing Lead Generation Tactics:
- SEO – 90+% of purchases are influenced by online research. Organic listings perform better than paid search listings over time and, as such, organic rankings for your company’s primary target keywords are key to your overall marketing success. SEO is a different ballgame then it was even a few years ago. Due to changes in search engine algorithms, tactics that were effective 2010 can now lead to massive decreases in website traffic, so choose a partner with a proven track record.
- Paid Search Advertising – Given most purchase decisions begin online, your company must appear on web searches, though sometimes it is not practical to rank organically for every term. Paid search offers the opportunity to target long-tail terms, (a several word phrase or question that can be used instead of single high-volume keywords) and expand online visibility into areas SEO can’t (such as the Google display network), all with the ability to set your own budget. Like SEO, AdWords has changed dramatically over the past few years, offering different options and services (“Search Network with Display Select” campaign type for example). Your Paid Search manager must maintain a working knowledge of the latest technology and best practices. A way to better ensure success is to partner with a person who has passed Google’s rigorous certification program.
- Content Marketing – Regularly posting high-quality content about your business’ products, services, and achievements works hand-in-hand with a solid SEO and social media program. Search Engine Land has posted a great article about the balance between Content Marketing and SEO, looking at it from a “left-brain” / “right-brain” perspective. Additionally, when written correctly, blog posts can be constructed to specific ally target long-tail SEO terms. Brag a little! Have you won any awards? Any great partnerships? Post about your latest product or process improvement. Blog posts are phenomenal ways to communicate with your audience and establish yourselves as experts in your field. Well written and optimized content can yield highly targeted visits to your website when syndicated consistently and effectively. Your blog should be submitted to and claimed on http://technorati.com/. You should also syndicate your content and push posts out through your social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc.)
- Social Media – Presents an opportunity to interact directly with your prospects and customers. It allows people to become fans and advocates for your business. Additionally, most social media platforms are excellent outlets to distribute posts from your blog and content marketing efforts. I suggest focusing on one or two platforms at first, whether that is LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+ and do it well rather than trying to do everything at once. Effective social media management requires knowing and engaging your customer. Your customers will want a dialogue. They will want to praise you. They will want to complain. They will want to ask questions. You will need to respond. Not all businesses are suited for social media, but ignore it at your peril, because it is not going away. Forbes recently posted an article illustrating the benefits of shifting from “old school selling” to social media education and communication and how businesses are benefitting from that shift.
- Guest Posts – Another way to increase visibility is through guest posting on your industry’s leading websites. Most websites welcome the opportunity to publish quality content, and when a link is included back to your company’s website you are boosting your SEO potential. Although this is a great way to establish expertise and thought leadership, guest posting should not be overused.
- Webinars – It’s no secret some of the leading companies are leveraging this channel more heavily. By demonstrating how to effectively use tools, especially yours, you have the chance to establish yourselves as experts in your field. Webinars are a cost-effective, powerful tool that can help you generate leads or create additional streams of income. Many webinar programs also tie in directly with your CRM system by collecting data from the attendee registration.
- Give Something Away For Free – OK, this and some of the other ideas aren’t brand new ideas, but they work. Giving away something of value for free is a great way to attract new prospects or reengage old ones. This is great way of demonstrating how you can be of service to the potential client, by providing them a limited, but valuable, example of what you can do for them. But don’t attach any strings, outside of something token such as providing an email address. Some service industry companies have been built on this premise.
- Effective Landing Page Design – Consider the prospective lead’s experience once you finally get them to your website. Everything has led to this. Given all the work that it took to get them there, is your landing page optimized to generate a conversion (a lead signup)? Think about your page from your customers’ perspective. Consider engaging some of your best customers for their feedback regarding their online experience. Is your landing page content clear, concise and direct? Does it have a strong, compelling call to action? Make sure it does! And if the lead does complete your contact form, how are you tracking that information? Because you need to in order to effectively calculate ROI.
Ok, your prospects have engaged. What do you do next?
It does not stop with getting potential customers to look at your site. A solid lead-nurturing program coupled with a versatile CRM system is a critical component of any lead generation strategy. This is where direct email communications comes into play. When it comes to lead nurturing, email marketing is the workhorse.
- CRM – A good CRM system will align your sales, marketing and service departments as well as organize your customer data and automate many of your currently manual processes. Some CRM systems can also functional as a basic marketing automation tool. In addition to integrating with a variety of platforms (your website contact form, email marketing software, your webinar platform, etc.) – a versatile CRM system can help track your marketing channels’ performance. This is a key step in calculating your actual marketing ROI. There are many ways to accurately track online behavior, techniques that were not readily available a few years ago (UTM parameters are an excellent example). Taking advantage of technology like this doesn’t need to be the realm of the Fortune 500, it just requires knowledge and implementation. [UTM’s are Urchin Tracking Modules, a product used to measure the impact of various ad placements] We work with Salesforce, www.salesforce.com, and they offer CRM products and services which can meet the needs of virtually any business.
- Marketing Automation – Marketing automation allows you to manage and scale the necessary communication stream to engage prospects and customers throughout their life cycle. The communication stream is highly customizable for your business. It can be as simple as a series of email communications or a more complex lead scoring model with a variety of prospect touch points at key stages of the sales funnel.
Marketing Practicality recommends that as a business leader you need to implement your lead generation strategies in a systematic, scalable and measurable manner that allows you to be flexible and respond to changes in the environment.
Test multiple lead generation tactics. Data indicates that SEO and Paid Search yield the best ROI’s, but each industry and business is unique so you must make good, data-driven choices. Don’t ignore other new or traditional channels based on bias. It would best serve you to optimize your marketing channels based on their individual performance. Diversifying your lead generation “best practices” and using a back end system allows you to analyze the most effective areas to invest your marketing dollars.
With lead generation, start with the low hanging fruit first. That means the web. Online leads are frequently the most efficient and cost effective form of lead generation as these are individuals or companies who have come looking for you. If you have to pick a place to start, begin with SEO, paid search and content marketing.
To sum up: measure, report, analyze, automate and adapt.
The pace of change is not going to slow down, quite the opposite, and the latest and greatest method is not necessarily practical to implement. The challenge is finding what marketing tactic is most effective for the dollar invested. That’s why I’m a big believer in implementing and measuring the most effective methods BUT regularly testing the unproven opportunities which show potential. In order for your marketing strategy to be effective, you need to focus on lead generation while accurately measure your marketing channels’ ROI! For assistance with any of this, please visit www.marketingpracticality.com.
Questions, Comments, Suggestions? Call or email me!
Tom Bates 215-817-6817 / email@example.com