There are a lot of lead generation companies out there, but sometimes when you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself. In this lead generation guide, I’m going to cover the method I use to generate leads without cold calling, cold emailing, knocking on doors, or any of the other antiquated (and painful) lead generation methods we all love to hate so much.
Lead generation is key to bringing in new business. Leads are people who are or might be interested in your product, service, candidate, organization, etc. Lead generation is how you find those people and get them to hop into your sales funnel.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Lead Generation
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to generate your own leads.
Step 1: Build Your Website
First off, you’re going to need your own website. Social media is great, but nothing beats having your own piece of internet real estate. (You should definitely utilize social media if you have the bandwidth, but it shouldn’t be your sole source of lead generation.)
And that means you’ll need somewhere for them to find you. Your website. Don’t have a website? Get one!
Don’t worry. You can make your own website. I know what you’re thinking, “Is web design hard?” No. You got this.
Once you’ve got your website, it’s time to start the process.
The Lead Generation Process
Here’s a flow chart that illustrates the guts of the inbound lead generation platform we’ll be creating:
As you can see through this lead generation process flow chart, you’ll drive traffic to your content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Traffic is the fuel for your lead generation engine.
Ads will lead to blog posts and directly to the landing pages for your offers. Then, through thank you pages and emails, you’ll work them through your funnel.
The Six Components of a Marketing Funnel
These are the essential parts you’ll need to build each funnel in your lead management platform:
- Traffic Source. This is how you initially get people into your funnel. It includes paid traffic (e.g., Google search ads or Facebook ads), and organic (e..g, social media or blog posts).
- Call-to-Action. This is the message you’ll use to entice people to take advantage of your offer.
- Landing Page. This is where you’ll tell them how great your offer is so they’ll want to download it (and give you their contact information). It will include a form through which you’ll collect your prospects’ contact information.
- Offer. This is what’s going to persuade your prospects to give you their contact information.
- Thank You Page. Here’s where you say thanks and provide the download. You can also use the thank you page to drive them deeper into the buyer’s journey by offering an offer for a later stage of the buyer’s journey here. Or you can just get more information by providing another offer targeting the same stage of the buyer’s journey, but with different questions on the form.
- Email. You’ll send emails to see where your prospect is at in the buyer’s journey. If they downloaded a Consideration offer, you might send them a Decision offer 30 days later to see if they’re ready to buy.
Your job is to combine these components in a way that will qualify leads and drive prospects deeper into your maze so that you can find out who’s ready to buy (and be there when it’s time to make a purchase).
Step 2: Develop Compelling Offers
The most important part of each funnel is the offer. This is the cheese at the end of the maze, and it needs to be something that your target market will find valuable at whatever stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in.
It needs to be relevant to your product or service, otherwise, you’ll bring all sorts of leads that will never actually buy your product. For instance, who wouldn’t want a $50 Visa gift card? If you offer something like that, you’re just throwing away money.
Be intentional about your offers. What information, tools, or resources can you provide your prospects at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
What to Offer
You’ll need offers for every stage of the buyer’s journey. These offers should provide an immediate benefit to your prospects.
Here are some suggestions about what to offer at each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness stage. For prospects in the Awareness stage, offer a checklist, tutorial, or a webinar (not about your product). These offers should have a broader appeal than offers further down the funnel.
- Consideration stage. For prospects in the Consideration stage, offer a white paper on different solutions to the problem you solve.
- Decision stage. For prospects in the Decision stage, offer a free consultation or a demo. At this stage, they’re looking for a solution in your category, and you need to provide an offer that will help close the deal.
Think about what sort of content would help your prospects at each stage of their buyer’s journey.
Let’s go back to our umbrella example. If you sell umbrellas, what can you offer to people who are just coming to realize they have a problem with getting rained on all the time? What can you offer to people who are looking at different solutions for dealing with rain? Finally, what can you offer to people who are trying to choose the best umbrella for their needs?
Always look at it through the eyes of your customers. What would be valuable to them?
Four Components of Good Offers
There are four important components of a good offer. These aren’t the only things you need to consider, but they’re the foundation of every effective offer.
- Target. Who’s the offer for? What stage of the buyer’s journey are they in?
- Topic. What will be valuable to that particular person at this particular stage of the buyer’s journey? If they’re in the Awareness stage, the topic can be fairly broad. But if they’re in the Consideration stage, you should focus on different types of solutions to their problem. If they’re in the Decision stage, you should focus on your solution to their problem.
- Format. What format make the most sense based on the target and topic?
- Call-to-Action. Every offer should include a next step. Whether it’s a link to schedule a demo, or a salesperson setting up a follow-up appointment, always include a way for the prospect to move further down your funnel.
Here are some format suggestions for each stage of the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness. At this stage, offer checklists and cheat sheets that apply to the problems your product solves.
- Consideration. At this stage, offer guides and kits to help them solve the problems your product solves.
- Decision. At this stage, offer free trials and demos to show them how your product is the perfect solution to their problem.
After you create a great piece of content, you have to figure out a way to get your prospect to hand over their contact information and download it.
Step 3: Design Landing Pages
If you’re like me, as soon as you finish creating a sweet offer, you’ll be itching to release it into the wild. But you’ve still got some work to do!
Landing pages are where prospects will go to download your offer. They’re the homes for your various offers, and they’re important for three reasons:
First, they help you advertise more effectively. Creating landing pages that are relevant to your ad copy will reduce bounce rate, increase your Quality Score on AdWords, and increase your conversion rate.
Second, you’ll get more leads with a good landing page because you’ll increase your conversion rates by using a different landing page for each audience you target. That and there’s no better way to generate leads than sending them right to a form to download your offer.
Landing Page Components
Every good landing page will contain these core components:
- Sales Copy
This should be a simple message in a big, bold font. It should clearly show what makes your offer special (your unique selling proposition). You can also include a smaller sub-head to give your prospect more information.
Focus on benefits, not features. It’s great that your umbrella is made of a high-tech, ultra-durable material, but that doesn’t matter to your prospect. Your prospect wants to know that he’ll stay dry for years without having to worry about buying a new umbrella.
Finally, make sure your headline is relevant to the ad they clicked to get there. Everything should flow from ad, to landing page, to offer without any surprises for the prospect.
Even if you’re not actually selling the offer for money, you need to sell your prospect and convince them that your offer is worth it. You have to convince them that it’s worth handing offer their contact information. Again, focus on benefits, not features.
When you’re writing copy, try Chip and Dan Heath’s SUCCES(s) Framework. To do that, check as many of these boxes as you can:
- Simple. Get to the very root of what you’re trying to say. Make sure you’re not including extraneous information, or presenting things in a needlessly complex way.
- Unexpected. Get your prospect’s attention by breaking a pattern. Create a mystery that you solve by the end of the copy.
- Credible. Provide testimonials, social proof, and specific statistics so prospects know you can back up your claims.
- Concrete. Don’t use abstract language. Use words that appeal to the five senses.
- Emotional. Appeal to their emotions. How do they feel when they’re dealing with their problem? How will they feel when they fix it?
- Story-based. Wrap your copy in a story if possible. It will keep people engaged and increase the likelihood that your copy will resonate with your prospects.
The more valuable your piece of content, the more questions you could ask. But, as a rule, don’t ask for anymore information than you absolutely need.
Every additional question is an obstacle that gets in the prospect’s way as they’re trying to give you their contact information and get to the offer.
There should be a clear call-to-action. You want them to click submit! Make the button stand out, and make them want to click it.
Landing Page No-Nos
A good landing page will not include:
If it doesn’t have to do with the offer, it doesn’t have any place on the landing page. Your landing page should have a single purpose: Get them to fill out the form to get the offer.
Continuing with the theme of having a single purpose, that means a single offer. According to Wishpond, “Landing pages with multiple offers get 266% fewer leads than single offer pages”.
Don’t give your prospect an escape. The only way off the page should be by clicking the button to submit the form. That includes your navigation menu.
VWO found that removing their navigation menu from their landing pages increased conversions by 100%!
Step 4: Optimize Your Funnel
Now that you’ve got your offer and it has a home on a landing page. You’re ready to build out the rest of your campaign. Let’s talk about how your offers and landing pages fit into the broader campaign (and how everything connects).
Another way to think of funnels is as lists of the steps your customer goes through to take the action you want them to take. As an example, let’s say you’ve got an Awareness stage offer, and your funnel follows this framework:
It might look like this:
- Facebook user sees an ad for your blog post called “The Dangers of Getting Wet” and clicks it.
- Then they read your blog post and, at the bottom, see a call-to-action promoting your “10 Things to Do Before You Leave the House on a Rainy Day” checklist. They click it.
- Your landing page copy convinces them to fill out the form so they can download the offer.
Now you’ve got their contact information, which is just what you were after. You can think of your overall lead management platform as a series of interconnected funnels.
I find that breaking it down into three funnels, one for each stage of the buyer’s journey makes it easier to be intentional about each step in the process.
Essential Funnel Components
Every funnel requires:
- A traffic source. You have to drive traffic into your funnel or nothing will happen. You can do this through in many ways, but ads, social media posts, and blog posts are some of the more frequently used options.
- A landing page. This is where you make the sale.
- A form. This is how you get their contact information. It’ll be on the form. You can also include one on the thank you page.
- An offer. This is why they’re here. It’s the thing that convinced them to give you their contact information.
- A thank you page. This is where you give them what they came for. You can also include a secondary call-to-action here to get more information from your prospects or to move them further down the funnel.
There are additional components that can be used to increase the effectiveness of your funnels, but these are the must-haves.
Fixing a Leaky Funnel
You’ll need to use an analytics tool to check your funnel for leaks. Are visitors clicking your ad, but then when they get to your blog post they’re bouncing? Maybe you should rewrite the post, link to a different post, or just send them right to the landing page.
Are visitors who download your Awareness stage offer never moving any further down the funnel? You might want to adjust your ad targeting or change up your offer to make sure you’re attracting the right traffic.
By paying attention to your analytics, you can see which components of your funnel are effective, and where you might be losing your prospects and make changes to improve your conversion rates.
Optimizing Your Funnel
You should always be looking for ways to improve your funnel. Split testing ad copy, calls-to-action, and graphics are some of the more frequently tested variables. You can also test different offers.
Be sure to get a large enough sample size before you make any changes!
Step 5: Nurture Leads for More Conversions
Like I mentioned at the start, almost half of the leads you generate won’t be ready to buy yet. That’s where lead nurturing comes in. Lead nurturing is where you follow up with your leads through email, social media, and other channels to continue moving them down the funnel.
By connecting multiple funnels together, your marketing and sales teams can follow up with your leads to make sure you’re top-of-mind when they’re ready to make a purchase.
Lead Generation Platform
To make sure you don’t lose your leads to a competitor, you’ll need to set up a conversion maze of interconnected funnels. Through this series of interconnected funnels, we’ll offer relevant content at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
These interconnected funnels, along with a good CRM, marketing automation, and an email provider make up your Lead Generation Platform.
This gives us a way to guide prospects to exactly what they’re looking for (without wasting your sales reps’ time on people who aren’t interested).
Remember this funnel chart? (I know, it’s been a while.)
As you can see, we start each funnel by generating traffic. At the top of the funnel, broad paid social campaigns and native advertising (through networks like Outbrain and Taboola) are your best bet.
These ads fill the top of your funnel. You can use them to send people to your awareness blog post, the landing page for your awareness offer, or both. The blog post directs them to the landing page for your awareness offer.
If they download the awareness offer, two things happen at once. They’re sent a confirmation email with a link to the download page included, and they’re sent to a thank you page that– in addition to the download they signed up for– includes a consideration offer, in case they’re ready to move further down the funnel.
You’ll want to set up a remarketing campaign to continue advertising awareness offers and blog posts to people who visit your page but don’t download an offer.
You’ll fill your consideration stage funnel with paid search ads that target people searching for solutions to the problem you solve. For instance, with the umbrella example, you would want to show up for searches for “how to stay dry in the rain”.
The paid social ads will be targeted at a remarketing list of people who have visited your awareness blog post and/or downloaded your awareness stage offer.
Like the first funnel, these ads lead to a blog post, landing page, or both.
The only difference in this stage is that you’ll also want to send an occasional email to contacts who have downloaded your awareness offer to see if they’re ready to move further down the funnel.
This funnel is like the others, but you’ll fill it up chiefly with search ads targeting searches with purchase intent (e.g., “where to buy an umbrella”).
In addition to the specific lead nurturing process detailed in the diagram above, you’ll want to send out value packed emails to your contacts from time to time. These emails can standalone as valuable pieces of content, link to a new blog post, or attempt to start a conversation with your prospect.
The keys to good email lead nurturing are:
- Always provide value. Your emails should provide real value to your list. Don’t send them meaningless updates or constant promotional emails. Send them valuable content that will help them solve their problem.
- Don’t email too often. How often is too often? That depends on your list. Some people are more sensitive than others. You’ll have to test your list to determine a good schedule.
- Focus on the buyer’s journey. 80% of your emails should address the current stage of their buyer’s journey. Segment your list by what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in. IF they’re in the Consideration stage, four out of every five emails you send them should be addressing their Consideration stage needs. Then, you can send the occasional Decision stage offer to determine if they’re ready to move down the funnel.
The goal of your lead nurturing efforts is to build trust with your prospects, continue to drive them down the funnel, and to detect when they’re ready to move on to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
Step 6: Put Your Lead Generation on Autopilot
So you know what to do. Now let’s talk about how to do it.
Since you don’t want to do all this stuff manually (who has the time?) you’ll need to figure out a way to automate the process. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there to help you do that.
What is marketing automation? According to Marketo, it’s:
“[A] category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so that companies like yours can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.”
HubSpot calls it:
“[S]oftware and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon – that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers.”
Basically, marketing automation way of using software to make lead generation easier and lead nurturing more effective. With marketing automation:
- You don’t have to manually repeat monotonous tasks to nurture leads.
- No prospects slip through the cracks because important sales and marketing tasks happen automatically and on a set schedule.
- It’s easier to scale your lead generation efforts because you don’t have to remember and do everything yourself.
So how do we know what to send and when? By tracking how and when our prospects are interacting with our content, we can set up triggers to automatically take certain actions when certain conditions are met. This is called behavioral targeting.
By using tools like HubSpot and MailChimp, you can follow your prospects around your website and tailor the experience to their current needs.
Behaviors to Track
Here are two important behaviors worth tracking:
- Page views. What pages have prospects visited on your site? For example, if they visited a pricing page, they’re more likely to be in the Decision stage. You might want to send them a Decision stage offer by email.
- Offer downloads. What offers have prospects taken advantage of? For example, if they’re downloading a lot of Consideration stage offers, they’re probably in the Consideration stage.
Tasks to Automate
Here are a couple of examples of lead generation and lead nurturing tasks you can automate with marketing automation.
- Confirmation emails. Send a confirmation email anytime a user fills out a form on your website and include a link to the offer in the email.
- Trapdoor emails. Send an email with an offer from the next stage of the buyer’s journey once a month to see if your prospect is ready.
- Check-in emails. Send an email to see if your prospects have any questions for you when they view your pricing page without scheduling a demo or making a purchase.
No lead generation guide would be complete without an explanation of lead scoring.
Not all leads are created equal. To determine which leads you should focus on (and to get an idea of what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re in) supplement your lead generation efforts with lead scoring.
First, identify your ideal customers. These are the ones that generate the most revenue for the lowest cost (or whatever other criteria make a customer “perfect” for your company). Then look at their characteristics and behaviors.
For example, if your best customers are companies with at least ten employees, ask for company size on what of your later stage forms so that you can give points for prospects that fall into that category.
Then if you find that people who visit your pricing page are more likely to buy, give points for that as well.
Once you’ve decided how to allot points, determine which scores indicate each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then you can set up automated workflows based on a prospect’s lead score.
One of the most important things to figure out is at what point marketing will hand leads off to sales. This is where sales/marketing alignment comes in. Your marketing and sales teams will need to sit down and figure out the best time for sales to start working leads without wasting time on leads that aren’t likely to close.
Now that you know the fundamental concepts of lead generation, you can determine how to apply them to your industry.
Start by working with your marketing and sales teams to define your target audience and the journey they take on their way to choosing a solution to the problem you solve. If you have any questions, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to help!
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