In marketing, lead generation is the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into products or services of a business (thanks, Wikipedia). Leads are obviously primed for the sales team, and often leveraged for list building, newsletter lists, etc.
Lead gen can directly impact revenue growth and the overall health of your business – important stuff. But let’s be honest, if you want to make sales, you need qualified leads.
What is a qualified lead? TrackMaven defines a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) for businesses as a lead that fits the qualifications, or standards, that a lead must possess as determined by marketing… for example, they may have to fit within certain revenue numbers, have a certain number of employees, or from a certain vertical.
So how can you find the lead gen strategy that will propel your business forward? It’s all about finding the right channels that reach your customers & prospects. But the B2B and B2C buying process has many relatively new nuances and changes frequently given the addition of new media and social networks, and the overall influx of noise from advertising, email marketing blasts, etc.
There are lots of resources out there sharing tips, best practices, and new ideas. As we love to do (have you read our Startup’s Guide to User Acquisition?), we pulled together a quick guide of must-know info from experts in lead gen, summarizing the top points so you can quickly learn the take-aways. Let’s get started:
Lead Generation – A Complete System – Duct Tape Marketing
VENTUREAPP Brief: John Jantsch is an expert on lead gen and created a must-read guide, but mostly we loved his list describing the channels you can choose from (and ultimately focus on).
- Referral Marketing– This includes word of mouth, referral partnerships, and intros from pleased customers or partners. John also wrote the book on referral marketing (literally) – Referral Engine – check it out to learn more about how useful this strategy can be.
- Public Relations– Typically this means getting the attention of – and hopefully coverage from – local, national and vertical media outlets. Check out our read on what do when you’re ready for PR.
- Online Advertising– Anything from PPC, social ads, display ads and retargeting. Here’s a good resource to strategize & budget for paid ads.
- Offline Advertising– Remember this? It still has a place in lead generation – TV & radio spots, magazine, direct mail. Scott Gerber of Bplans lists 9 tips for making your offline advertisements super effective.
- Content Marketing– By producing educational and valuable content that your prospects want to read, you can increase traffic, subscribers, and leads. If you need help you’re your content marketing, check out this list of content marketing providers.
- Sales Playbooks– John is a big believer in creating specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing and converting leads. VC firm OpenView Partners interviewed Jeff Boissoneault, VP of Sales at Highspot, and he provided the tips & components that go into a killer sales playbook.
- Email Marketing– Anything from newsletters to automated email campaigns & drips based on conversion actions. Copyblogger is a great resource for email marketers that are hoping for high open rates and equally impressive engagement & conversion.
- Utility Marketing– According to John, this includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing and brand awareness. These resources might not get you a sale that same day, but it’s building a trustworthy reputation with your prospects.
- Influencer Marketing– Again, word of mouth and influencer marketing builds credibility and reaches new audiences that trust said influencer. There are entire businesses dedicated to helping you with this strategy, and ClickZ highlights five tips to get you started.
- Search Engine Optimization– John mentions on page and off page optimization activities aimed at generating organic search engine traffic, but it can be confusing if you’re not familiar. Here are the top SEO experts to work with.
- Partner Marketing– Big businesses are well aware that co-marketing activities with marketing partners are very effective. MarketingDonut pulled together why and how small businesses should consider partner marketing.
- Social Media Marketing– Engaging and building a following on social networks is critical for businesses to reach their customers. Here’s a list of social media marketing providers that can help your business.
- Online Events– Wondering whether online webinars & demos will move the needle for your business? HubSpot tells you how to make a webinar great.
- Offline Events– Offline events can fall under various categories – workshops, demos, conferences, customer appreciation events, etc. Here’s a guide on how to throw an event for your startup.
- Speaking Engagements– Getting your executive team & spokespeople in front of physical crowds, whether it’s a local panel or national conference, can be very impactful. Need speaking tips? This article by the CEO of Webfor on Forbes.com gives some very good tips to nail your next speaking engagement.
- Community Building– By building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to your business, you are bringing together folks that could quickly become customers. HubSpot does a great job of creating a community around inbound marketing with Inbound.org. Here are some other tips from small business leaders on Small Business Trends.
5 Low-Budget Lead Generation Strategies for Small Business Owners – Quickbooks Blog
VENTUREAPP Brief: If reading the list above gave you anxiety, then this list should make you feel better. Jasyon DeMers of Quickbooks highlights the channels that will likely get you the most bang for your buck, if budget is an issue. In general, spending on lead gen is a lot less risky than user acquisition, and your costs per lead vs. cost per user should reflect that.
After discussing online webinars, email marketing, PPC, and others, Jayson makes a good point – “Each company is unique, with unique leadership, a unique model and unique customers. At least one of these strategies, however, should function as a suitable long-term institution in your marketing and advertising budget. Experiment with different variations and different approaches, and take note of which tactics work and which ones fall short. If you put in the effort, you’ll eventually fine-tune any lead generation strategy to be more effective.”
VENTUREAPP Brief: Anum Hussain, a growth marketer for HubSpot’s Sidekick product discussed lead gen from an inbound marketing perspective. We like this article because it dives into the mechanics of lead gen.
What info do you need to determine whether a lead is qualified? Ultimately, it’s up to your standards, however these are typically a good start (you can likely do a lot of research on your own based on the first three fields, if you want to limit what you ask for):
- Full name
How do you get this information? Anun highlights the actual components of the lead generation process.
- Landing Page: Incredibly important to follow best practices to convert those prospects that find you through your lead gen channels.
- Forms: These forms will capture the information of your lead, and will help you figure out if they are qualified. According to Mintigo, 88% of users leave the wrong information when filling out an online form, so you will likely need to test the various fields to determine what you need & what your prospects are willing to tell you.
- Offer: By offering these leads a special deal or free offer that expires after a certain amount of time, you will likely see greater conversion.
- Call-to-Action: There are so many resources out there about how to create compelling call to action (CTA) that directs leads to take action (fill out a form, claim an offer, etc.). You will need to test different ways to capture visitor’s attention and interest with copy, images, colors, buttons, etc. CrazyEgg writes a lot of tips on how to optimize your CTAs.