You don’t want to be that random, pushy telemarketer that always calls at the exact wrong moment. Just picked up your fork? Check. Running out the door? Check. Pass the phone – it’s the telemarketer. Again.
Telemarketing, advertising and other types of marketing that use “push” tactics (these are all examples of outbound marketing) are the types of lead generation techniques that are no longer effective in the information-dense world in which we live in today.
Companies are seeing much better results generating leads through offering something to attract those leads organically, instead of attempting to awkwardly force their services on members of their target audience.
Now, what is lead generation?
The meaning of lead generation is this. It is the process by which companies set out to capture the interest of potential customers with the intent of getting them to buy a product or service.
The goal in lead generation is, obviously, just as you might have guessed, is generating a lead.
A lead is when a person has expressed interest in a business and, in doing so, provided that business with contact information so the business can contact them in sales attempts in the future.
The potential customers in this case will have provided their contact information in exchange for something of value, such as a coupon. That is the lead generation process, in brief.
In other words, a lead is generated through the collection of information that is received, typically, in exchange for something the potential lead values in at least some small manner.
Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind the fact that a lead can look different for each and every different kind of business.
There are two types of lead generation methods: outbound marketing (ineffective, as emphasized above) and inbound marketing (much more effective).
On the surface, you can see how outbound marketing is much less effective because it targets random people (often in an aggressive or annoying manner), hoping they will be interested in their products or services.
Inbound lead generation strategies, on the other hand, bring about targeted consumers who arrive because they are interested in the products or services a company is offering.
This happens when you type in “best shows to watch” in your search engine and are directed to Netflix.
Significantly, such customers obviously come on their own terms. For the customer, this is obviously much more preferable.
This covers the basics, but inbound marketing is, as with many things, more complex that it sounds and leads to a very smart marketing strategy.
This method is also able to to offer specific data, from how potential customers are reaching out, to how much each marketing strategy is earning, all of which is data that outbound marketing simply can’t offer.
If you want to generate leads, sales and ultimately grow your business, it is time to say goodbye to outbound lead generation and invest in inbound lead generation. Or at least do both.
Not only should you do this, but it is really a necessity if you wish to compete against others in your industry who are almost certainly employing inbound marketing.
If businesses fail to adapt to the modern digital landscape, they not only risk losing out to their competitors who realize its necessity, but they also threaten their entire business by making it seem less credible.
Outbound lead generation will likely create the impression that your company or product is not reputable and will hurt your overall image and brand, which is not something that many companies can come back from.
Moving on to the data of it all, HubSpot reports that more than half of marketers say that inbound marketing is the leading way to get into contact with customers.
It is also three times more likely to generate a higher return on investment over outbound lead generation techniques. So, what is the driving force behind online lead generation? What started this switch to digital lead generation strategies like this one?
First of all, consider that many companies are proficient at generating leads, but most new leads aren’t ready to buy yet. Inbound marketing is smart because it gets those leads a few steps closer to opening their wallets.
Inbound lead generation aims to create a relationship by allowing the consumer to interact with the company (via their content, via social media, etc.) before the word “sale” is ever even mentioned, creating trust and interest in advance of asking for anything in return.
This “lead nurturing” is put in place so that when consumers are ready to make a purchase, they are already familiar with the business and likely to be reminded of it.
Shifting Buyer Trends
It is the broader societal changes taking place that explain why outbound lead generation strategies are losing out to more strategic forms of lead generation. The audience is simply used to being more autonomous and often reacts negatively to situations that take its autonomy away.
Ultimately, it all has to do with the sheer volume of information we can access from our fingertips. This has paved the way for “self-directed buyers” who want to explore on their own, without pushy prompting.
Inbound marketing does a better job of taking advantage of potential customer’s interests.
Previously, people did not have the amount of knowledge about the products or services they were buying and would rely on salespeople to inform them, which conditioned them to be more accepting of pushy outbound marketing.
Today, we conduct our own research about products and services before buying them.
In fact, it has been said that many consumers are at the very end of the product journey before they even make contact with a company – they know what they want and are basically arriving to finalize the purchase.
The second point is that in such an information-rich world, we have a lot of products and services competing for our attention. Herbert Simon’s attention economics would tell us that as information becomes richer, attention becomes scarce. This, too, influences the buying process.
This means that buyers are increasingly tuning out traditional lead generation techniques like outbound marketing. In an age of information, most of it becomes white noise.
This, then, begs the question: what did marketers do about this? They adapted. Just as all savvy businesses should. They let consumers come to them (and, of course, help them do so).
This contact is facilitated by the web. From producing content to using social media platforms, there are a number of different ways in which consumers find businesses.
Inbound Lead Generation Process
To pull this all together, this is what the inbound lead generation process looks like when it comes to inbound marketing. You can conceptualize it in this lead generation process flow chart.
A visitor visits one of your marketing channels, such as your website or your social media platform. This website contains a “call to action” (such as a button or text) that offers some kind of value to the person. It may be an free e-book, a lesson, etc.
If the person clicks on the call to action button, they are directed to a form to fill out information (such as their name and e-mail address) on what is called a landing page. As you can see, in exchange for this free piece of content, the consumer provides his or her contact information.
With this, a lead is generated, and not only that, but the lead is already clearly interested in an area the business deals with.
Of course, not everyone will be willing to fill out a form. The offer has to contain enough value to tempt them to do so. Some forms will also collect more information than others, which will impact the likelihood of it being completed. As you will see, there is an art to this process.
Inbound Lead Generation Methods
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is the foundation of inbound marketing. It is the process of providing valuable content, making it more likely that people will opt in for free tutorials and eventually, conduct business down the line.
Content typically appears in the form of blog posts, but it could also be video content, podcasts, tutorials and more. The important factor here is not the type of content created, but that the content created is of a high-quality – in other words, content that is valuable. Here is a guide.
However, in order for people to even find your website to begin with, your page must be optimized so that when people type their search queries into search engines like Google, your pages are among the top in the search results.
Here are just a few of the ways that content marketing generates leads:
- It attracts the target audience to its website with high-quality content.
- High-quality content keeps consumers engaged long enough that they will provide their contact information. They are also more likely to share the content to increase exposure even more.
- It fosters the nurturing of those leads to facilitate eventual buying.
- It creates trust, brand awareness and loyal customers.
Content Marketing Tips For Lead Generation:
1. Identify your target audience to develop high-quality content for them.
2. Be consistent with posting – this develops trust and repeat visits.
3. Create great content. What is great data? For starters, it provides value and is supported by data. This is a very information rich topic that deserves more exploring.
Here is an additional source for how to create quality content that generates leads, which delves further into the topic that we will do here.
2. Website [CTAs]
Your website is where the actual process of generating leads takes place (more on landing pages to come). According to BrightTalk, 83% of B2B marketers found their website effective in terms of lead generation.
SEO is an expansive topic, but the basics come down to on-site optimization with title tags, target speed site and keywords, but also off-page optimization via link building. Here are some additional tips.
Website Tips For Lead Generation
1. Ensure that your website is user-friendly. Pages should have a lot of headings, lists and they should be easy to read. Likewise, your website itself should be easy to navigate.
2. Including a phone number on your website can increase credibility – this is actually a technique that a lot of the best lead generation websites use. Similarly, photos, testimonials and videos all have the same effect.
3. Calls to action (also called CTAs) are very important. In fact, every page of your website should ideally include a call to action. The thing about them, though, is that they have to be done in such a way that people will want to click on your offer for a free e-book, etc.
There are articles dedicated to this topic alone. HubSpot.com has a list of blog posts dedicated to this topic and is therefore, a great source for those looking to optimize their CTAs. Here are some additional tips:
- They should be visually compelling and in a colour that is opposite of the actual site while still staying true to your brand. They should be a couple of words (ideally, no more than five), action-oriented (an example is “Download”), be centrally located and be easy to understand.
- Personalized call to actions, however, can detect where people are in the buying process, converting 42% more people than basic ones.
- The content that you offer in exchange for your visitors’ contact information needs to have value. Keep in mind that every visitor is at a different stage of the buyer’s journey.
In other words, not all offers you make will appeal to each person. Be sure to offer different things to accommodate the varying stages of a potential buyer’s journey.
4. Another important aspects of your website in generating leads are landing pages and landing generation forms. They are so significant that they warrant their own designated section, even though they are technically part of your website.
3. Landing Pages & Lead Generation Forms
In order to generate leads, you need to obtain information from those consumers via lead generation forms. A basic generation form will ask for the person’s e-mail in exchange for an e-mail newsletter, etc.
Just like there is strategy involved in getting people to click on your call to action button, there is strategy involved in the lead generation forms (the part where people fill out their information in order to complete the transaction).
You will find a more detailed look at the anatomy of an ideal lead generation form here.
Lead Generation Form Tips For Lead Generation
1. Marketo found that the forms that generated the highest conversions were shorter in length.
2. Some of the best lead generation websites include forms on all pages. (The same study found that the most successful forms had five fields or less).
Now, what is a landing page? A landing page is where people will fill out their contact information. It is used to capture the person’s data that they filled out in the lead generation form, such as their name, e-mail address, phone number, etc. A landing page is not your home page, which is a common mistake that people tend to make.
HubSpot found that businesses that included more landing pages had greater conversion rates than those that didn’t.
As you can see, landing pages are one of the final pieces of the puzzle: they provide you with the information you need in order to convert your leads down the line.
Landing Page Tips For Lead Generation
Just like lead generation forms, landing pages should be optimized in such a way that they are crafted to be as effective as possible. Ideally, they should do the following:
1. Capture immediate attention but not in a way that distracts a potential consumer. Keep in mind that landing pages are designed to convert and you want to keep the design of your site simple in order to not distract them away from this purpose.
There are a lot of free lead generation tools and lots of lead generation software to help you with your efforts in generating leads, so there are plenty of options for you to explore.
The important thing is to get there, one way or another, because the most successful marketing teams are putting these systems into place.
This link provides free, customizable templates that you can use to create clickable call to action buttons for use on landing pages.
This is a free lead generation software tool to capture, track and convert leads.
This is one of many form scraping tools, used to gather all of your contacts into one database.
4. Social Media
Social media is not only capable driving traffic and creating exposure to your content, it is also important in terms of relationship-building with consumers as well.
How To Use Social Media To Generate Leads
1. Share links on social media pages as a means to drive people to landing pages, making sure to tell them you are doing so.
Pro Tip: Perform a lead generation analysis of your blog to determine which posts are generating the most leads and and then link to those. Here is how to do that.
2. You can also create additional leads via social media by holding a contest.
There are many inbound lead generation strategies, but these are some of the primary ones to give you a sense of what is possible.
The important thing is that you are generating leads and utilizing a method to do so (inbound rather than outbound) that is sustainable in the long term for building your brand and increasing your profit.