What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation in marketing is the process of attracting new visitors and converting them into leads who have expressed interest in what your company offers.
This can be accomplished through all manner of channels and approaches. Modern lead generation – especially in the B2B arena – primarily uses digital channels, and today’s marketers need to keep up to date on the latest tools, trends and techniques.
The state of marketing has changed dramatically in recent years. The abundance of information on the Internet means that buyers are being constantly surrounded by various forms of marketing material, and they’ve gotten very good at filtering out the noise.
Buyers rely less on companies’ advertising to teach them about potential solutions to their problems, and more on their own ability to research and learn for themselves and make an informed decision.
The buying process transformed into something new.
This meant that marketers everywhere had to rethink their strategies entirely. What had worked for years – telemarketing, TV commercials, billboards and so on – were no longer the most effective strategies.
This gave rise to modern lead generation marketing.
Digital Lead Generation Strategies
The marketing strategies that are used for lead generation can be broken into two categories: inbound and
outbound. A good approach will involve a holistic plan that takes advantages of the strengths of both categories to
maximize lead generation.
Inbound marketing is a strategy that emphasizes the all-important digital presence a company needs to maintain. With potential buyers performing their own research and deciding for themselves what’s right for them, it’s crucial that your company is in a position where the buyer naturally finds you and decides to engage with you.
This is the core of inbound: potential leads find you on their own and engage with your content. In doing so, they’re gradually guided along their buyer’s journey until they’re ready to make a purchase.
When it comes to inbound, the challenge you face as a marketer is how to get your content in front of the eyes of the right audience.
Strong Content and SEO
Since buyers are now searching for information about products or services they need, getting your info on their screens is key. The problem is, all your competitors are doing the same thing. There’s an overload of information about any given topic, and it’s all accessible with a quick Google search.
To stand out and cut through the noise, you need two things: exceptional content and strong search engine optimization (SEO). These two go hand in hand and form the basis of inbound marketing.
If your content is extremely well-written, informative, valuable and engaging to the reader, that builds trust and confidence in your company. Plus, great content is more likely to get shared or linked, which builds your reach and helps your SEO.
SEO is what gets that awesome content seen in the first place. Ideally, someone searches for their problem on Google – “How to grow a sales pipeline”, for example. The top result is your blog post, “11 Awesome Ways You Can Grow Your Sales Pipeline Right Now”. They think ‘Hey, this is exactly what I’m looking for’ and click the link.
Then they read the article, and gain some new, useful ideas. They see your call-to-action asking them to subscribe to your blog, and because your article was so helpful, they go ahead and sign up.
That’s the core concept of inbound marketing.
Of course, it takes a lot more work than just writing up one awesome post. You need to build up a strong network of content that’s engaging, informative, and well-optimized for SEO.
This isn’t limited to your blog posts – all of your website content should be created with both quality and SEO in mind.
Your website is the most important part of your online presence. This is where you need to convert your visitors into leads – whether that means getting them to sign up to your blog list, newsletter, request a demo of your product, or another action.
To make this happen, your website needs to be well designed and tested for conversion rate optimization (CRO). Your best tool for this is A/B testing – change one element of your page, such as making your form shorter or using different text for your Call-to-Action. Test that version of the page against the original, compare their conversion rates, and keep using the one that did better.
It’s worth spending a lot of time and effort perfecting your website and landing pages, because that’s where your potential leads become actual leads.
In addition to A/B testing, you can use visitor behavior analysis tools and heatmaps to see exactly how people are engaging with your site. You can then focus your efforts on the elements of your site that are already getting the most engagement, maximizing the effectiveness of your optimization.
This is a common lead generation method – it seems like every company out there has a blog. The reason for this is simple: it works. Blogs are a fantastic way to bring in organic search leads. This is one channel where you need to be uncompromising in both quality and SEO.
Figuring out what to write about can be hard, so here’s a tip to get you started. You already know what your company is an expert in – what problems do your products or services solve? Answer that question and find related topics.
For example, Moz has top-notch SEO gurus. Their blog posts educate people on topics related to SEO, such as link building.
Once you have an idea for a topic that will provide value, the next step is to perform keyword research around that topic. Look for a short-tail keyword first, for example “link building”. Look at the top results in a Google search of that keyword.
Can you compete with the top-ranked results? For keywords like that, the answer is probably “no”, as the top spots are all taken by long-established heavy hitters in the industry.
However, when you type “link building” into Google, it gives you a number of suggested searches. These can make great longer-tail keywords to focus on. You might do better writing an exceptional article about “link building outreach” and ranking for that, than attempting to compete with big names like Moz and Backlinko for rank.
Picking a keyword that you can reasonably expect to rank for is a strong first step. A few other things to consider when writing a blog post are:
- Internal links (links to other pages on your site) are both valuable and easy to add. If the anchor text matches up with the keyword your other page is targeted at, you’ll get even more benefit from the link.
- Image alt text should be relevant to the image, and also ideally be a long-tail keyword relating to your post. You should ensure that you have one image in your post that has your main focus keyword as alt text, too.
- Try to get your keyword (and other related keywords) in your text as much as possible without sacrificing readability. If you try to cram your keyword in so much that a reader can tell you’ve done it (called keyword stuffing), not only does it make your content sound unnatural, your Google rank can be negatively impacted outright. Google is good at recognizing when someone is trying to game their ranking system and penalizes them for it.
- Read your copy back to yourself out loud. If a word, phrase or sentence sounds off, change it.
- It’s a good idea to work your keyword into a H1-formatted header. This will probably be your article’s title, but it’s worthwhile to check whether your blog’s formatting styles the title as an H1.
More and more marketers are adopting video content as part of their overall lead generation strategy. It’s a powerful, extremely engaging format that doesn’t have immense barriers to enter. You can make a decent video with nothing more than the camera on your phone and an interesting topic to talk about.
You can also invest a lot of time and effort into making top-notch, slick videos with great production value. How important this strategy is for your business ultimately comes down to your industry and audience.
Overall, video is rapidly gaining traction as a lead generation tool, particularly on social media platforms. It requires more time and effort than, for example, writing a blog post, but it can have immense payoff.
Your goal with all this content is to generate leads. Most of the time, you’re providing value and hoping that your audience will convert based on how great your content is. Gated content is the opposite – the visitor has to fill out a form in order to access your content.
This approach works best for high-value, premium pieces of content such as white papers, case studies and in-depth guides. You can even put video content behind a gate.
You could simply place a description of what your gated content is on your landing page with the sign-up form. Another tactic is to give a teaser – make a small portion of the content openly available and place the full piece behind a gate. The goal with this is to entice people to sign up so they can access the rest of the content.
This works for videos, too. Let people watch the first bit of the video as a teaser, and then add in a form to continue playing the video.
To determine where best to place your form in your video, consider two factors: your video’s description, and the actual content.
If your video’s title, description and thumbnail all give a strong and accurate picture of what’s in the video and why it’s valuable, placing the form at the beginning of the video may be a good idea. People will be happy to sign up for something they’re being told is worth their time.
If you have entertaining, charming content that’s fun to watch and also delivers value, having the form at the end of the video might be the better option, as people will be more likely to watch until the end. Having just received valuable information in a fun, engaging way, they’ll also be more likely to sign up.
Ideally, of course, your videos hit both those marks. Ultimately, you should perform A/B testing to determine what gets the best results.
Website Visitor Identification
With all your inbound efforts bringing traffic to your website, it’s important to convert as many of those visitors to leads as you can. If you’re in the B2B arena, you can take advantage of a powerful website visitor tracking tool called Clickback WEB.
When someone visits your site, it checks whether their IP address belongs to an individual or a company. If it’s a company, it gives you information about that company and their visit to your site. It also provides contact data for leads at that company, allowing you to add them to your outbound contacts.
It’s a great way to bridge the gap between inbound and outbound marketing, and tap into a much higher percentage of your overall website traffic.
Where inbound marketing is a slow and steady process, often taking long periods of time to build up its effectiveness, outbound marketing is faster and has greater potential for rapid returns.
Outbound means reaching out to potential leads, rather than waiting for them to find you. Generally, this form of marketing is more highly targeted than inbound, and can push leads down the funnel faster.
An optimal lead generation strategy combines both inbound and outbound, with each complimenting the other, in order to create a steady stream of leads entering the funnel.
Email is one of the top lead generation channels, returning on average $38 for every $1 spent.
Outbound email has incredible potential for bringing in leads, but it can also be tricky to execute properly. There are many factors that go into a successful outbound email campaign, and creating excellent email content is only one of them.
You need high-quality contact information from a reputable source, which has been verified and filtered again by a third party. You need a strong sender reputation, proper technical configuration of your email platform, and more.
Many of these problems can be handled by using the right email lead generation software. Clickback protects your sender reputation, verifies your contact list on upload (so you don’t have to pay for a third-party service), and checks your email content for any words, phrases, and links that could hinder deliverability.
Successful outbound email is a fairly in-depth topic on its own. If you want to learn more about it, read How to Send Mass Email Successfully: A Step-by-Step Guide.
It can be extremely difficult to make your content rank on the front page of Google for the best keywords in your industry. Google Ads (and other PPC platforms) let you skip to the top.
You set up ads tied to particular keywords, and those ads will show up at the top of the page for those keyword searches. When someone clicks one of your PPC ads, you’re charged a certain amount (depending on how high you bid on that keyword, among other factors) and that person is directed to your landing page.
It’s a simple concept, but there are an incredible amount of moving pieces that go into determining which ads show when, for which search terms, and how much each click costs.
The barrier to entry is almost nonexistent, however. You can operate on as large or small of a budget as you wish, and all you need to do is create a short, punchy ad and a solid landing page.
This channel is extremely focused, and you can go into great detail about who you target, when, and with which ads. You can jump in quickly and refine your strategy as you go. Once you’ve got your keywords and strategy working well, PPC can generate extremely high-quality leads.
Along with PPC text ads that show up on Google search results, there is a second type of pay-per-click ad called Display Ads. These are visual ads that appear around the internet according to your targeting settings. You can choose particular sites that you want your ads to appear on, and you can also make use of re-targeting.
Re-targeting functions by tracking a cookie attached to a potential lead when they visit your site. Once they have that cookie, your ads will appear on sites that they visit afterwards. This can be a highly effective tactic, as it focuses on people who have already displayed interest in you by visiting your website.
Test, Test, Test
We mentioned A/B testing a few times on this page. Apply that to everything and never stop testing. There’s always room to improve, and what worked a month ago may not be as effective now – trends and behaviors are constantly evolving. Your marketing needs to evolve with them in order to remain viable.
Social Media Presence
The advent of social media drastically changed how marketers engage with their audiences. The ability to directly engage with potential leads through social media gave businesses the opportunity to generate much more buzz. Branding changed, too – companies like Wendy’s have been extremely successful in growing brand awareness and image by adopting a humorous, clever voice on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. They engage with potential customers and other companies, and in doing so grow their business.
Social media posts are a chance for potential leads to engage with companies on an informal basis through comments. Even customer support can take place in a comment thread on a post – in fact, many people expect a personal reply when they make a comment on a company’s post, particularly if it’s about a negative experience they had.
Simply posting updates about products and upcoming events can generate traffic to your website and build trust with potential customers.