The internet has created a drastic shift in the customer journey making lead generation more complex. Gone are the days when customers seek out a sales representative from a company to provide them with expert advice on solving their challenges. Customers now have a wealth of information at their disposal and can make decisions online without the help of a sales person.
Lead generation strategies have changed to accommodate for this new customer journey. It is more critical than ever to get your content in front of a prospect during the research and discovery stage. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute reported that 70% of B2B marketers surveyed say they are creating more content this year than they did in 2016.
As a small business owner with limited resources, you need to be strategic in your lead generation tactics to optimize sales during this period. Here are some tips that you can implement right away.
1. Have a Solid Lead Generation Plan
When planning your lead generation techniques, you must first start with an analysis of the needs of your target audience. You can begin by interviewing your sales team about common questions and concerns they encounter with prospects. You can also reach out to current customers about topics that they find useful as well as their content consumption habits. Which publications and blogs do they follow? Do they subscribe to company branded newsletters? This will help you ascertain their content preferences.
You can then start developing buyer personas that will help guide your company’s content development. Buyer personas are general characteristics describing the ideal customer you would like to target. This will help you see your prospects as individuals rather than a collection of statistics. You will be able to empathize with them as you internalize their problems and pain points. This results in content, messaging and offers that are tailored to their unique needs.
Set realistic goals and identify key metrics to evaluate whether your campaigns are effective in achieving your objectives. Develop ways to track which strategies generate leads, and more importantly which ones convert to actual customers. This can be managed through CRM systems such as Salesforce or Hubspot. Your CRM system gives you the ability to find patterns in your customer’s behaviour and help predict what your customers may want from your business in the future.
2. Develop Lead Magnets and Irresistible Offers
While compelling blogs and articles play an important role in grabbing the interest of your prospects, the fact is most people will only visit your website once and never return after they have the information they were looking for. It is critical to capture relevant contact information using lead magnets.
Lead magnets are content that your audience needs and will be willing to exchange their contact information for. Great examples of lead magnets include: training videos, webinars, white papers, podcasts and exclusive interviews with industry experts. Lead magnets will encourage your prospects to sign up for email newsletters or follow your social media accounts as well.
By creating these in-depth articles or videos that give your audience an inside look into your industry, you are also establishing yourself as a go-to thought leader in your field.
3. Use Owned, Earned and Paid Media to Your Advantage
To leverage content, you must first differentiate them into three main types: Owned, Earned and Paid. Understanding and taking advantage of each type is important to lead generation success.
Owned media is content and digital marketing channels that you control. This includes your branded website, blogs, newsletters and social media accounts. The main objective for developing owned media is to help warm up leads and keep them engaged as you move them through the sales funnel. The key is focusing on providing value rather than creating overt promotional messages. This enables prospects to see you as a trusted partner in their success and helps you stand out from the competition.
Earned media allows your owned media content to reach a larger audience through the digital word-of-mouth. This happens when customers, the press and the public repost your blog, share your social media content, or write reviews and testimonials about your products and services. Earned media is essentially a stamp of approval among members of the community and is seen as more trustworthy than owned media. One important indicator of your online reputation is your organic search result ranking, thus a good SEO strategy is vital to reach as many community members as possible.
Paid media creates more exposure for your brand by buying ad space or paying for sponsored content. This allows you to generate more traffic towards your owned media properties through targeted campaigns. Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn provide advertising opportunities to boost your sales. However, you must first understand where your target customers do their research or gather information before any purchasing decision. Otherwise, you might just be wasting money on unhelpful advertisements that won’t reach your potential customers. Pay Per Click and display ads are other methods that get the attention of your prospects. Be sure to A/B test ads to see which ad copy or graphics are most effective in generating clicks.
It usually takes a combination of these three types of media to optimize sales. While the cheapest option is simply to focus on your owned media, it will be difficult to expand your reach especially if you are just starting out and do not have enough website traffic or a sizable social media following. Owned media may seem cheap but may cost you more in the time you need to scale it.
4. Be Strategic in Qualifying Leads
Once inquiries start coming in, a lead qualification process will allow you to separate serious buyers from the rest and maximize conversions. One useful sales tool is the B.A.N.T framework from IBM. This stands for:
B = Budget – Does the prospect actually have the funds to buy from you?
A = Authority – Who is the main decision maker that has authority to approve the purchase? Who else in the organization will need to sign off on this decision?
N = Need – What is the prospect’s problem? Can you provide a solution?
T = Time Frame – When does the prospect need your product or service? How long will he/she take to make a purchase decision?
Though this approach may seem a bit simplistic, it is a good starting point and forces your sales and marketing teams to ask hard questions to avoid wasting time on dead ends.
5. Continue to Cultivate Interest Through Email
While it’s easy to simply send mass emails to your database of prospects, you will find that because customers are more knowledgeable and fickle than ever before, they will go with the company that takes the time to gain their trust and build their relationships. It pays to take control of every step of the buyer’s journey by listening to their needs and carefully providing the information and answers they need at each point.
According to The Annuitas Group, nurtured leads makes 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. Email is the most direct way to send tailored content to a specific lead.
Creating customized emails for various recipients may sound daunting, but you can use various CRM tools that allow you to communicate with your target at appropriate times. CRM lets you to customize messages and schedule them depending on the kinds of leads you are nurturing. You can start by categorizing your leads via their browsing activities, demographics, and purchase history. You can further refine your buyer personas as you gather more data on your prospects and be able to develop more compelling email messaging.