At its core, lead generation can be described simply as the generation of contact information for people that have interest in the products or services of your business. How each business goes about generating interest, however, is not as simple as the above definition. What works in generating leads for one business may not work for the next. Every company, most likely through trial and error, needs to build marketing channels that deliver leads.
Finding the right lead generation channels is essential to the sustainability and growth of a company. The right marketing mix is one that generates enough leads at the top of
Like lead generation for any business or service, lead generation for generating new SEO clients can be done effectively in many different ways. This post will holistically examine the different types of lead generation that your business can use to acquire new SEO clients. It explains the pros and cons of each lead generation technique and provides examples of companies that have used them successfully.
The lead generation tactics discussed in detail in this post will be broken into two overarching categories – Gathering Names and Lead Nurturing & Qualification. Gathering names is collecting contact information, while lead nurturing and qualification occurs when contact information has already been collected, where the objective is to qualify the lead by gauging how interested the contact is in your services – cold, warm, hot, etc. Let’s get into each tactic to better understand what it is, how to perform, and the pros and cons.
Buying Leads (Super Cold)
One approach to gathering names is to purchase leads from another company. Finding a reputable provider for your sector is essential. Since you don’t know the origin of these leads or how they were generated, there are a number of things to consider and questions you’ll need answered before committing.
- What is the cost per individual lead and are there any minimums?
- How recently has the information for each lead – name, address, phone number, or email – been updated?
- Have these leads been given an opt-in or opt-out?
- Is the list of leads rented or owned?
- How were the leads generated originally?
- How many times has this same list been sold?
- Have you sold this list to any of my competitors?
Purchasing leads certainly has its benefits, which starts with the enormous amount of time you’ve saved for your companies’ marketing and sales departments. By cutting out the leg work that is normally needed to gather contact information, you’ve not only saved time, but you’ve also increased efficiency in allowing your sales and marketing teams to dedicate more time to nurturing the leads and converting them into customers. Speaking of efficiency, if you’ve bought a high-quality list, you know that the leads are qualified. Your sales team doesn’t have to qualify the leads as thoroughly. Instead, they can simply garner each lead’s interest level and schedule sales appointments or demonstrations. In addition to the above mentioned, buying leads comes with a hidden benefit – a fixed cost.
Like all types of lead generation, buying leads is not independent of downsides and obstacles. Even if you have vetted the lead selling vendor carefully, you may find that some of the leads are low quality or outdated. Since you can’t always be certain of the original source of the lead, you can’t be sure of when the leads were generated and what the leads’ current interest is in the products and/or services your business offers. Finally, we have the issue of uniqueness. The leads you’ve purchased aren’t guaranteed to be unique, meaning competitors of yours may already have access to the very same leads.
Inbound Marketing has become an incredibly popular form of marketing in recent years. SEO and Inbound are heavily researched online as small businesses are always looking for resources and potential partners using search engines. Full scale Inbound campaigns are very complex with several moving parts, but at its core, the idea behind Inbound Marketing is simple: attract visitors to your site organically and convert them into leads by being a great resource. Other types of digital marketing rely on garnering someone’s attention through PPC, display and retargeting ads, whereas Inbound attracts visitors through the creation of interesting and compelling content. Ultimately, you want your site to act as a sales funnel, starting with unique content on your blog to attract visitors, targeted emails and convincing messaging to move visitors down the funnel, and lead capture forms to convert visitors into qualified leads.
Before diving headfirst into an Inbound marketing strategy for lead generation, it’s important to set up your website for success. Essentially, you need to eat your own dog food. What I mean by that is that your site needs to be representative of your SEO skills. If your site is user friendly and well search engine optimized, it can go a long way in convincing site visitors that you’re an expert in the field and therefore, they should trust your company with their business.
In an Inbound campaign, your website is the major component of your sales funnel, and the design of the site needs to allow it to act as such. Your company may employ some of the most talented writers, designers and storytellers on Earth, but if your site isn’t structured properly, your inbound campaign will be one that just sits in the mud with its tires spinning.
You might be asking – what components of my website do I need to be consider and what questions do I need to ask before beginning? We’re glad you asked.
- Website Structure
- Content Alignment
- User Experience
There are many benefits of an inbound marketing strategy, starting with how closely it aligns a companies’ sales and marketing teams. Forcing sales and marketing teams to work together ensures their messaging to prospects is consistent and on the same page. Outside of the benefits of alignment, inbound lead generation also helps position your brand as a thought leader in the space, especially as more and more potential leads are attracted to your site due to quality content. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all within an inbound lead gen strategy is that the quality of the leads are often much higher than the average lead. The leads generated through inbound marketing are ones that are already aware of your company and have taken an interest in your products or services. One big benefit to work in here somewhere – while there are upfront and ongoing costs, if done well you can get a large number of qualified leads for very little cost per lead.
For as great and effective inbound marketing can be, there are aspects that some might consider to be downsides or barriers to entry. The first of which is your website design. If your company website isn’t set up to be the top of your funnel, a redesign is likely required and that tends to be an expensive and time-consuming task. Speaking of time-consuming, not only will an inbound campaign eat up the time of your writers, developers and graphic designers, it can take months (and a lot of patience) before your site is pulling in quality organic traffic.
Content Marketing is the practice of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and unique content to attract the right audience to your site. It has a remarkable number of similarities to an Inbound campaign, but I would like to specifically call out Content Marketing as a vehicle to capture names through the use of e-books, whitepapers, webinars and your blog. This content essentially communicates your company messaging to your prospects and customers without selling to them. Instead of pitching your products and services, this type of content makes the reader more intelligent and empowered. The belief with this strategy is that if a business consistently delivers valuable content to its potential clientele/customers, those customers will reward them with buying their products/offerings/services. A lot of the best practices, obstacles and benefits of Content Marketing campaign closely align with those of Inbound and Search Engine Marketing, but there are a few unique qualities, too. The strongest content marketers in the field are ones that have excellent writing skills, expertise of the subject matter they’re writing about, and networking skills that allow them to promote the content effectively.
Prior to launching a content marketing campaign for lead generation, it’s important to consider the following and be able to answer a few questions.
- Do you have the budget needed and resources required for a full-scale content marketing campaign?
- Do you or does anyone on your team have the writing chops to produce in-depth content with high frequency?
- How will you measure your success and ROI?
- How does content marketing align with your other lead generation and marketing efforts?
- How will you promote your content so that it reaches your target audience? Entirely organic? Paid channels?
- Is your content compatible for all device types?
So what are the benefits of content marketing for lead generation? It begins with the influx of traffic your site will receive. If your content is written and positioned well, it will not only bring organic traffic, but highly relevant traffic, delivered from search engines and various social media channels. Some of the best pieces of content elicit an emotional response from readers, which can lead to a higher percentage of leads generated. Increased engagement with your target audience is another benefit, along with increased brand awareness, inbound links, and the ability to establish yourself or company as a thought leader.
The biggest hurdle to beginning and then committing to a full-scale content marketing campaign is the sheer amount of time and effort that one requires. Tasks like building out a strategy, creating an editorial calendar, editing, publishing and promoting can eat up a lot of employee hours. Once those tasks have been conquered comes the challenge of making sure your content is thoughtful and insightful, is produced with high frequency, and encourages your readers to take your desired action.
SHOWCASING YOUR EXPERTISE – THOUGHT LEADERSHIP – Offline Education and Engagement
Putting your own extensive SEO and marketing knowledge on display – becoming a thought leader in the space, so to speak – can be a great way to earn leads for your company. Earning leads by showcasing your expertise can be broken down into two categories: personification of content and gated content that lives on your site.
Personification of content involves showcasing your expertise through by speaking at company and networking events. What better way is there to show an audience of professionals – potential customers, even – that you have expertise in a field and a great grasp on what customers need, pain points, advances in technology, etc. than to put your knowledge on display publically? Speaking at events not only puts your expertise on display, it allows you to connect with potential customers and partners on a more personal level, which helps to build trust.
There are a few different ways this can be effectively approached. One approach that can have a lot of continuing value is to engage and educate other SMB’s in your community, or even on a national level. If your business is regionally focused, organizations like the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce are excellent opportunities to get involved and put your expertise on display. Other entrepreneurial groups, like SCORE, for instance, provide opportunity for speaking engagements and networking as well. If your business is vertically focused, like the facility management industry, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), is a great group to get involved with. Outside of organizations, less formal tactics – like meetup groups, networking Happy Hours and dinner parties offer opportunity to connect and educate in a more relaxed setting.
CREATING FREE TOOLS
Making a proprietary tool on your site that site visitors can use to gain insights into a portion of their business can be a very effective strategy for capturing qualified lead information. This practice has been gaining in popularity as website development has become more advanced, allowing marketers to collaborate with developers to create some nifty tools.
Tools that provide value and educate clients on the health of their website or business are very effective at generating leads. Site visitors are normally willing to provide their contact information in exchange for information about their website, SEO and local listings. Some companies, like WordStream and their AdWords Evaluator, Yext, and HubSpot’s Marketing Grader are excellent examples as well.
The obstacles with this tactic center around web development and cost. The tools can be expensive to build and maintain. It’s recommended that if you don’t have web developers on staff that you have one on retainer should you have any issues with the tool not working properly. To minimize develop time and costs, many firms like Yext and UpCity allow partners to white label these free tools. This is a great way to add that value with little to no cost.
Referral marketing promotes your products and services to potential new clientele through referrals of your current clientele. Normally, referrals happen by word-of-mouth, by encouraging your customers to talk about your brand or product as much as possible. In an ideal world, your clients need need little encouragement to promote your brand as your exemplary work causes them to gush about your services.
In the digital world, referrals can exist on your website in a few different forms. Having a “Clients,” “Companies We Work With” or simply having a client’s logo on your site are forms of soft referral. Those company names and logos act as trust points for the visitors to your site, especially those that are considering giving your company their business.
Many companies will take this form of referral to the next level, adding testimonials from current clients to their site. Testimonials can be a highly valuable form of social proof and they give legitimacy to the value claims of your products and services.
Incentive-based referrals have become increasingly popular as well, in part thanks to how easily companies can track the source of the referral through web analytics (Google, Omniture, etc) and reward the referrer easily. Companies like DropBox and Dollar Shave Club do an excellent job of taking advantage of and optimizing this practice. For service-based agencies, the best vehicles to capture reviews, empower customers and show off their success stories are through sites like Yelp and Google Reviews.
The first step in generating referral leads is to ask your clients some questions.
– What do your clients like about your service? What do they love about it?
– What are their dislikes with your current offering?
– If they could, what would they change about it?
– Gain insights: Find out why they chose you over your competitors
There are multiple benefits of choosing to run with a referral marketing program for lead generation, starting with the fact that it’s very focused and targeted. The referrals come from your network, so there is already a trust factor built into the engagement before it even officially gets off the ground. The trust factor also produces other benefits, such as a reduced price of acquiring each lead and a shortened sales cycle. Furthermore, the leads you acquire through referrals from your network can be less price sensitive – they’ve already been “sold” on trust and therefore you won’t have to undercut any competitors’ prices.
As with any form of lead generation, there are a few obstacles to consider when employing a referral marketing campaign. While you can control the language in testimonials and the way testimonials are laid out on your site, you have no control over the messaging through word of mouth referrals – you can’t control how your clients speak about you. It’s also important to consider there is no easy way of measuring a word of mouth referral campaign.
Phone Call Outreach & Qualification
Now that you’ve successfully captured contact information, you can move into to qualification process. Using cold calling to generate leads is a tried and true option. It’s a practice as old as time itself. Well, not that old, but it is traditional, especially when compared to the digital tactics we’ll discuss further in this post.
Before starting a cold calling campaign, it’s important to know where the list of contacts and their phone numbers came from. The lists generally fall into two categories – cold leads and warm leads. If the list came from another company, those leads are considered cold and the phone calls are a form of interruption marketing since you’re interrupting a professional’s day to promote your products or services. It’s important on those calls to introduce yourself, company and the products or services you sell, but also equally as important to gather as much information about the lead as possible.
On the flipside, if the lead list was generated from a networking event or a lead capture form on your website, for example, then these leads would be considered warm. The lead has already shown some form of interest in your product and has some familiarity with your brand. This allows for the process to be less interruptive and the phone conversation can focus more about qualifying the lead and setting up a presentation, rather than spending time qualifying.
One of the biggest benefits of a cold calling campaign is that you don’t need much to get started – all it takes is a sales rep and a working phone. Furthermore, cold calling can lead to the discovery of other pertinent information, including but not limited to: customer pain points, current needs and desires of prospective clients, and competition – who the competitors are and what they’re offering.
Some tips for effectively qualifying your leads are to lead with value. Spend the first 10-15 minutes on your call giving them insights into their business. With Free Tools and SEO Analysis Reports, you should be able to instantly let your contact know where they stand versus their competitors in the industry – which is great insight.
As for obstacles associated with cold calling, one is that prospects/leads are very good at avoiding phone calls. Do Not Call lists and cell phones making blocking and avoiding calls even easier. For those prospects that do answer your calls, they can often become irritated easily as you’ve interrupted their day, and this can make the selling process more difficult. Other cold calling naysayers point to the fact that cold calling has low conversion rates and it’s an unfocused form of marketing, which can result in a loss of trust with the prospect.
Even with all the advancements in tech that allow us to reach consumers in new ways, email marketing remains one of the simplest and most cost effective strategies for nurturing a lead.
Well, for starters, it’s not only a proven practice, but also one that happens to be inexpensive and doesn’t require a staff of 10 marketers to do effectively. Additionally, it’s a medium that is universal – allowing you to reach an enormous audience – and one that nearly all consumers are familiar with.
Although it’s one of the oldest practices, components of email marketing now are much different than they were in the 90s’ and 00’s. For one, the technology that allows us to create beautifully formatted HTML emails has advanced, and tools like MailChimp, AWeber and Constant Contact are available for free or little cost. They are easy to use alloying one-man teams and small businesses owners to manage and maintain a full-scale email marketing campaigns. As the technology to create more complex emails has advanced, so too have email filters – like spam – which makes it more difficult to send out “cold” emails. Some thought leaders have gone as far to say the cold email is dead, and that best-practice email marketing campaigns today consist of nurturing contacts that have visited your site and shown enough interest to provide their information – whether it be to subscribe to your blog or download an e-book or case study – but haven’t demonstrated enough interest in your offerings to be considered a true lead. Effective email marketers then take that contact information and send thoughtfully constructed emails in order to nurture and peak that contact’s interest in your products and services. (source: http://blog.hubspot.com/insiders/email-marketing-lead-generation)
Before launching your first email marketing campaign, it’s important to consider a few things and make sure you’re able to answer a few questions.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are upsides and downsides to using email marketing for lead nurturing. Aside from benefits I’ve alluded to above –proven practice, low cost and not needing a team to produce – email marketing provides users other benefits as well. One major advantage is the brand awareness you can create and build upon through thoughtful and carefully constructed emails that let your contacts know you’re still there and have something to offer them. Emails also allow marketers to demonstrate their expertise in an area, through the sharing of relevant information and insights from your field that position you as an expert and a “go-to” source of information.
The obstacles begin with garnering attention. Email marketing is a crowded space and small businesses are hit with a multitude of emails from companies on a daily basis. It can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and get your audience to open your emails rather than just sending it straight to their trash. Even for those contacts who open your emails, there’s no guarantee that the content was even read.
Acquiring SEO leads, and ultimately, SEO clients, is as competitive a space as it has ever been. Positioning your company’s site in the top of the SERP for a number of different queries – acquiring SEO clients through good SEO, essentially – can certainly be an effective strategy for your business, but it’s not enough. Marketers have to get creative and find the right marketing mix that delivers a surplus of quality leads. The right mix likely follows a period of testing, trial and error, but it’s an important process to go through, as which lead generation techniques work for one business don’t necessarily work for the next.