Developing a Strategy that Works
Every company needs new customers to grow. That means you need leads….and lots of them. Leads are the lifeblood of any co
mpany. Once nurtured, they can be converted into profitable customers, which in turn, will boost your business performance. Without leads, there’ll be no customers or clients, and no sales. If you don’t have leads, your company is doomed to fail.
So, how does a business go about getting leads? And once you have them, what are the best ways convert them into customers? This can be a challenge to accomplish, especially if you’re stuck on doing what worked in the past. The fact is, the tried-and-true techniques from just 10 or 15 years ago are often not effective anymore…not in today’s digital age.
Back in the “old days,” a company’s marketing department usually got their leads by “interruptive” outbound marketing methods like mass advertising, cold-calling, direct mail, networking and email blasts. After learning something about the product, prospective customers would then contact the seller to find out more. The company’s sale team would then educate these uninformed, early-stage buyers about the product and guide them through the purchase. The sales department was basically in control of the buying process because it was the source of the information the buyers needed.
With the growth of the Internet, the buying process has changed dramatically. Today, consumers are able to access a variety of information resources online to do their own research about products they may be interested in. In many cases, they’ll delay talking to sales people until after they’ve made their decision about what product to buy. When they do talk to the sales department, they may be just as informed about the product as the sales people selling to them. As a result, this can make it much harder for a salesperson to influence a buyer.
But that’s not the only challenge. Our world has moved from one of information scarcity just a couple generations ago, to one of information abundance today. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the same amount of information that was created from the dawn of civilization until 2003 is now created every two days. As a result consumers are overloaded with information. At the same time, they’re also getting better and better at ignoring messages they’re not interested in. Grabbing their attention and holding it is harder than ever.
What does this mean for your business? If your marketing department is going to have a meaningful impact on the bottom line, there must be a strategy in place so you can turn those digital “window shoppers” into qualified sales leads—and ultimately into paying customers. That process is called lead generation.
Lead generation in the 21st Century
Lead generation is the term for attracting prospective customers and capturing their interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing a sales pipeline. It involves collecting names and contact information from qualified prospects, who will be contacted by the sales department for the purpose of generating orders. Lead generation has always been an important part of the sales process, but due to the trends just discussed, it is more important than ever.
In particular, it’s critical that you implement the most up-to-date lead generation techniques and practices so you can be effective at reaching your target market. This means you’re going to need to find new ways to reach buyers and get noticed amidst all the noise and clutter on Internet. You’re also going to need to figure out a way for your target market to find you. The fact is, today’s buyers are far more savvy than they used to be. They’re not only doing their own research online about what products are available, today’s buyers are finding vendors for themselves—rather than the other way around (vendors finding the buyers) like in the past. This is why having a solid digital presence is so important for generating leads. You need to be there when potential customers start looking for a company to buy from.
But while digital marketing poses some new challenges, it can also make sales go much more smoothly. The biggest plus is your sales team can spend more time actively selling and closing deals, rather than waste time cold calling a list of unqualified leads. This means leads can turn into sales revenue much more quickly.
Nurturing your leads down the sales funnel
Of course lead generation is just the first step. After you make contact with your potential customers, you need to build a rapport and a connection with them, so you can turn as many of them as possible into buyers. The term for this is lead nurturing. The purpose of lead nurturing is educate qualified leads about how your business can help them, as you take them down the sales funnel.
A sales funnel is both a visual and marketing tool picturing the sales process. The funnel is widest at the top, because this is where prospects with varying levels of interest enter the picture. As you educate, inform and build trust with your leads, you can channel them down from the top of the funnel (where prospects are not ready yet to buy) to the bottom part of the funnel (when they are ready to buy).
This whole process can take some time. Remember, consumers no longer want to be “sold to” as in times past. They want to take their time to educate themselves and evaluate their product options on their own—before they make contact with a business. When they do make contact, they want to be listened to; they don’t want salespeople to “talk at” them as was often done with conventional sales methods.
According to the marketing research institute, Marketing Sherpa, 73 percent of leads are not ready to buy when they first give businesses their contact details (this when they’re at the top of the sales funnel). Another marketing research firm, Forrester Research, reports that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads than companies that do not do lead nurturing, and these leads are at a 33 percent lower cost. These stats underscore the importance of lead nurturing in the digital marketplace.
Lead magnets: A smart approach to lead generation and nurturing.
If your lead generation or lead nurturing – or both – needs a boost, lead magnets may be your answer. Simply put, a lead magnet is anything of value or a special offer you give to visitors to your website, in exchange for their contact information – usually an email address, but sometimes a telephone number and physical address as well.
Properly executed, a lead magnet can help your company generate a stack of new targeted leads. But that’s only the beginning. When your sales prospects give you their contact information, then you can start to build a relationship with them. Realize that some people may take weeks or months, from the time they first hear about your product or service, until they are ready to purchase whatever it is you are selling. Lead magnets allow you to stay in touch with potential customers and nurture them—until they are ready for the buyer (and repeat-buyer) stage.
Lead magnets come in many different shapes and sizes. One of the most common types of lead magnet is a free report or guide that’s delivered in PDF format. In addition, there are many other types of lead magnets that you can make available to your prospects. These include:
* FREE E-BOOKS
One of the most tried-and-true lead magnets, an eBook is most often a “how to” guide of some kind. The idea is to offer some practical information to your contacts, that relate directly to your business. So if you have a plastic surgery practice, you might put together a “What to expect from cosmetic surgery” guide for prospective patients. If you are a heating and air conditioning contractor, you could put together an eBook about “Proactive steps homeowners can take to prevent HVAC emergencies.”
You could hire a writer to write the book for you, or, if you have a blog, choose a topic and use the blog posts that relate to this topic as chapters for your book. When your eBooks educate your prospects about topics they are concerned about and solves problems for them, they will come to see you as a trusted, credible authority in your industry.
The email newsletter is another classic lead magnet. In it, you can share information with your contacts about your products, what’s going on at your company, industry news, your professional insights and even customer success stories. Because people must opt-in to receive your newsletter, you end up with a captive audience. Be sure to place a newsletter sign-up box in several locations on your website and social media pages so visitors can’t miss it.
This type of lead magnet is effective because it gets your contacts in the habit of opening emails from you, which can be a big help as you try to move them towards a sales. By providing consistent value in their inbox, your contacts will come to view you as a trusted expert. Furthermore, by delivering your newsletter via email, you won’t get lost in all the Internet noise.
* VIDEO COURSES
A video course or tutorial is an excellent way to educate your contacts about a specific aspect of your business and at the same time, build a connection with them. Usually the courses are delivered via email, either on a weekly or daily basis. These courses are typically fairly in-depth, and may elaborate on material you’ve addressed in your blog posts or elsewhere on your website. Whatever topic you cover, always incorporate the idea that your product or service is the ultimate solution to challenges your target market may be facing.
* CASE STUDIES AND WHITE PAPERS
Case studies and white papers are two types of in-depth reports that provide insights into your industry, which you can share with your contacts in exchange for their contact information. The case study focuses on a situation or problem that your company helped resolve for one of your clients or a small group of clients. Ideally, readers will be able to identify with the subjects in the case study, and thus envision how your company could help them.
A white paper is a report or guide which gives an overview about a problem consumers face, and shows how a particular product, service, technology, methodology or policy can solve this situation. The white paper uses facts, statistics and quotes from researchers and industry leaders to persuade and convince the reader that you have the solution to their dilemmas.
In general, white papers and case studies should be limited in length to 3 to 5 pages, to ensure readers will get to the end of the report and your call-to-action. If your report is longer, calls-to-action can be interspersed throughout the document.
You can generate a lot of leads with these types of reports, in addition to positioning yourself as an industry leader. Case studies and white papers are particularly useful when marketing high-end products and services, to reassure consumers that what you’re offering is worth the price tag.
* FREE CONSULTATIONS
If you are a coach or consultant of some type, offering a complimentary consultation or strategy session allows you to have a direct conversation with someone who is interested in your services. This is an excellent way to capture leads. Of course, you will have a time expense, but if you are selling high ticket services, it can definitely be worth the investment of your time.
To screen people who are not likely to become actual paying clients, ask respondents to fill out a comprehensive consultation request form. If someone is willing to fill out a long form, that is a good sign. Also, the more details you have about your leads, the better you can gauge whether you will be a good fit for them.
* QUIZZES AND SURVEYS
Just about everyone likes to take online quizzes, especially when the quiz is on a topic they’re interested in and it provides personalized results. The benefit for you is after users have invested time into answering the questions, they’re usually willing to provide you with their email addresses in order to receive the results. Surveys and pools can also work; once people are done giving their input, you can offer to email them the results of the survey as the lead magnet. To help with lead nurturing, offer your contacts something in addition to their results, such as personalized advice or a newsletter subscription.
Whatever topic you address, make it engaging, and have it relate directly if to your business. For instance, if you own a home recreation store, you could put together a quiz titled, “What kind of pool player are you?” Keep in mind quizzes get the majority of their traffic on social media, so try to address a topic that is likely to be shared. Be sure to embed the quizzes on all your social media accounts, as well as your website.
* FREE TRIALS AND FREE SAMPLES
Another way to drive contacts towards an eventual purchase is by offering a free trial or sample of your product. This can work with everything from consumer products that are shipped via the regular mail, to digital products and computer software that are delivered electronically. For instance, software companies offer free trials of their popular software to “hook” consumers. An author might promote an eBook by giving away a sample chapter. Fitness centers pull in customers by giving away one-month trial memberships. By providing free samples or trials, you reduce any inhibitions consumers may have about your product by allowing them to test it before committing to buying it.
* CHEAT SHEETS AND CHECKLISTS
Normally one-page in length, cheat sheets are quick reference guides that contain key information on a particular topic. Very often the cheat sheet provides “digestible chunks” of information about an especially involved or complicated subject. Checklists are similar, but are always presented in list format; for instance, you might list steps for implementing some procedure or give step-by-step instructions for accomplishing a certain task. The topic you address in cheat sheets and checklists should directly relate to the concerns and needs of your target market, and show how you can help. By doing so, you build a connection with them.
Exactly what lead magnet is right for your business depends on your marketing goals, your target audience, and what type of product or service you are offering. The key to creating effective lead magnets is truly understanding your target market’s problems and issues, what its members trust and distrust, and what makes them tick.
Help is just a phone call away!
Does all this sound daunting? Need some help with lead generation and conversion? Wondering what type of lead magnets would help your business? If so, contact Hughes Media now to request a no-obligation digital marketing evaluation and strategy session.
We have been assisting clients with customer acquisition, lead nurturing and conversion optimization for over 15 years. When you enlist our services, you will be getting digital marketing strategies that are sure to work. We’ll employ a variety of lead generation techniques to ensure your company name receives an in-depth variety of visibility tactics. That includes utilizing some of the lead magnets mentioned above, along with website optimization, press releases, blog participation, and more. Once we get going, we’ll keep you informed every step of the way so know exactly how your leads are being generated and how these methods are performing.
To schedule your appointment, please call us at 404-848-0487, or fill out our online contact form. During your evaluation session, we’ll identify any gaps in your online lead generation and marketing funnel. We’ll also look at your competitors and trends within your industry to see where you fit in and where you could be in the future. You will get a digital marketing strategy to empower your business and expand your company. Get started with us and grow!