The following four stages represent the lead-generation progression for our pay-for-performance (P4P) services. These stages also parallel our P4P trial process, which includes a consultation, a 2-week trial and then a 90-day trial to determine an ongoing P4P partnership.
In brief, the following stages represent our internal lead generation operations and services.
Whereas, the P4P Partner Process is a qualification sequence to determine which potential partnerships demonstrate the most promise.
STAGE 1: BASIC CONSULTATION – WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Although our Basic Consultation is not as elaborate as our complete Strategic Consulting & Plan service, in this case, there is no cost. More importantly, it provides a keyword foundation and general marketing direction, specifically aligned with one of your products or services.
As part of this stage, and as outlined in our P4P Partner Process, we build a temporary mini-website to feature one of your products or services, which will serve as the location for landing-page testing. (In Stage 4, we can relocate the landing page testing to your own website, if you prefer).
In this stage, there is no remuneration for Skyworks Marketing.
STAGE 2: PPC SNEAK PEEK
This stage coincides with our 2-week trial. We use real-world advertising metrics, as well as actual leads and sales with your product/service, to inform the potential for a pay-for-performance (P4P) partnership. In this stage, we typically use Google PPC Search advertising (see below for Display PPC) to ascertain the most preliminary data. This not only establishes a foundational benchmark for return on ad spend (ROAS) but also provides a benchmark for your closing ratio of these leads.
The primary purpose of this trial is to determine whether we can graduate to a 90-day P4P trial, or not.
Furthermore, the resulting data also informs the lead cost for the 90-day trial, should we evolve to that stage.
In Stage 2, we are typically administering one PPC Search campaign for one of your products or services, which is sorted out during our basic client consultation and attendant research in Stage 1.
Although our Basic Consultation and research is intended to provide some insight into revenue potential, nothing compares to real-world data — and Stage 2 is our first glimpse of actual metrics.
STAGE 3: OPTIMIZATION LAUNCHED
Stage 3 coincides with our 90-day trial.
Stage 3 is where the optimization of the existing lead gen campaigns materialize in a more meaningful way.
Stage 3 is where we also start expanding the types of lead gen campaigns. So, if your business has more than one product or service, this is where we start testing new campaigns in addition to the one we began in Stage 2.
Hence, Stage 3, can be defined by two primary activities:
Optimizing and expanding upon the previously launched campaign
Launching new campaigns
Stage 3 is also where remarketing begins
Stage 3 is where the lead generation starts to take on a more productive and profitable shape.
Finally, at the end of Stage 3, we take a new look at the remuneration to ensure it’s workable for both sides of the partnership. If any adjustments are needed, we do so prior to the next stage.
STAGE 4: PROGRESSIVE EXPANSION
Stage 4 is where the real work begins.
Stage 4 is where the most productive lead gen initiatives and results materialize.
Stage 4 is the goal of our clients, as well ourselves.
Stage 4 is founded upon a long-term partnership.
The specific lead gen services of Stage 4 will vary for each partnership, depending upon the specifics of the products and services we are promoting, in addition to the dynamics of the metrics that are guiding our efforts.
In Stage 4 the entire scope of our lead gen activities expands and accelerates. We not only build upon all successful actions from Stage 2 and Stage 3, but in Stage 4 we are motivated by mutual self-interest to use every service and tool at our disposal to amplify lead generation.
Although this can include all manner of online and offline marketing and advertising, the fundamental driving philosophy is to go earlier in the sales funnel to create demand, instead of solely catering to demand-response.
As a comparison, in Stage 2 and Stage 3, our efforts are focused on demand-response advertising, which means getting in front of those online prospects who are already interested in your type of product or service. These prospects have defined their interest by the keywords they are using in real-time to conduct online searches. For example, if someone is searching for “how to build a spacecraft,” we want to present them with advertisements for your spacecraft-building services. As simple as this may be in theory, there is a considerable effort that can be — and needs to be — continuously exerted over time to optimize this type of lead gen operation. However, for many products and services, this is not where the greatest opportunities abound.
In other words, instead of solely focusing our lead gen efforts towards those who have identified themselves as seeking your product or service via their keyword searches, we are seeking out those who are earlier in the sales funnel and who have not even started searching for your solution, which is about creating demand, or demand-generation.
Sometimes these types of campaigns produce better results than demand-response marketing. Other times, they don’t work very well. Hence, demand-generation campaigns can be less predictable than demand-response marketing. However, overall, it’s where the greatest opportunities await since the volume of demand-response prospects is limited.
Demand-generation lead gen marketing and advertising can include:
Stage 4 represents a dynamic and multifaceted approach to lead generation. It’s a never-ending process. It’s where the win-win aspect of the P4P partnership and mutually beneficial virtuous cycle truly blossoms.
It would be ideal if you could just launch a new lead generation campaign and have it work well enough that you now have an ample flow of highly qualified prospects reaching out to you every day. That’s every marketer’s goal, even if it’s unrealistic in most circumstances.
Every campaign has a cost. Yet, not every campaign is effective. And even for campaigns that do produce favorable results, they may be just barely profitable. Furthermore, even a campaign that might be deemed successful, including with good profitability, it still represents an uncertain future in terms of how long it will perform. Not only will the campaign eventually fatigue and become less productive, but there is a rising tide of ad costs which can eventually encroach on profitability. Furthermore, there’s the potential that watchful competitors may leverage your success for their own benefit. Meaning they may use your campaign as a model for their own marketing. This may diminish the effectiveness of your own lead gen advertising, since its appeal and vitality may be reduced by message dilution. And of course, there’s always the reality that competitors will improve their marketing performance completely independent of being watchful.
The solution is to not only execute multiple campaigns but to continuously test and optimize all campaigns across online and offline channels to increase productivity and reduce cost.
However, that conveys another problem of effective lead generation: it’s a lot of work. And you may lose money on lead gen marketing and advertising itself before the right combination of a number of dynamic elements (offer, messaging, etc.) produces enough sales to make it productive and profitable.
But to state the obvious, you need an ample supply of ongoing lead generation for your business to survive and you need even more to thrive.
Here at Skyworks Marketing, our value proposition is that we share the risk/reward of building and optimizing multiple unique lead gen marketing campaigns for your business: A true pay-for-performance partnership that is intimately invested in your success.
If you don’t care, or don’t have time to become acquainted with how we generate leads, that’s understandable and you can skip the rest of this article. But if you can spend a few moments perusing the following outline, then by virtue of having more insight into what we’re doing and where we are attempting to take your business, you’ll be in a better position to help us help you.
HOW WE DO LEAD GENERATION
Effective lead generation is a process. In fact it’s a never-ending, dynamic process of:
New campaign development
Campaign optimization and
Different types of campaigns are optimized along a path towards productive maturity whereby they are generating the most leads for the least cost. However, eventually, even the best campaigns will start to fatigue. As well, some campaigns never reach a truly productive maturity. In spite of all research and planning prior to execution, they may simply launch into the world without generating enough interest.
Campaign optimization is the most labor-intensive part of the process and as such, is outlined in its own dedicated section further below (see “Nitty-Gritty”).
In any case, old campaigns need to be replaced with newer campaigns. And if you need to start from scratch each time an existing campaign starts to fatigue, then there’s an inherent liability of losing lead flow while the new campaign becomes productive. Hence, the solution is to continually develop new campaigns while simultaneously optimizing (or else discontinuing) existing campaigns.
LEAD GEN MARKETING FUNNEL
Whether named a “marketing funnel,” “sales funnel,” “lead gen funnel,” or any other representation of the stages that a prospect moves through towards becoming a client, the various portrayals of a funnel serve as useful ways to visualize the path. Some such funnels are elaborate with many stages. Others are simpler.
Some marketers are dedicated to identifying and precisely dissecting as many stages as possible and this can be useful. On the other hand, another approach is to keep the funnel in mind as a helpful tool but to simply focus all efforts on the goal of more leads and let that be the primary touchstone. This latter perspective also represents a respect for the “messy middle,” which in brief, depicts the chaotic reality that consumer paths are not linear or always elegantly represented by the stages depicted in “funnels.”
Hence, my personal standpoint re the funnel stages happens to coincide with the video advertising funnel that Google outlines for its YouTube platform, which is depicted with only three stages.
By the way, having already stated my bias towards simplicity, one additional stage after the “action” (or conversion) step, is worthy of mention: to provide great service. This may seem intuitive, but it’s worthy of emphasis since if the latter step is minimized, it will lower future expansion.
Nevertheless, the idea of a customer moving through Awareness, Consideration and Action towards a conversion or sale may be straightforward enough that for many, it doesn’t require too much elaboration.
It’s certainly obvious that you need to get your product or service into the awareness of your potential customers and clients for anything to happen at all.
The stage of “consideration” may be undervalued by some who are keen on getting to the “action” stage. The latter may represent prospects calling or emailing your business; or filling out a form; or downloading a white paper; or subscribing to a newsletter; or making a sale; or in any other way that your unique business defines a conversion.
Yet, as important as that last “action” step is, underestimating the importance of the “consideration” stage can undermine your funnel. As an example, if your business has multiple products or services, you may be aware of experiences whereby existing clients made new purchase decisions from competitors because they didn’t know you provided the same. If that can happen with existing clients, the possibilities for lost business from prospects who are just getting to know you are limitless.
The point is not to over-emphasize any of these funnel stages, but to recognize that they each have importance, even if the very level of relevance may vary among prospects adn event marketers themselves. As an opposite example, sometimes (but not often enough), you can put your product or service in front of the right prospect at the right time and that connection can be so meaningful that the prospect skips over the consideration stage and quickly becomes a new sale. (It could also be argued that the consideration stage was, in fact, executed, but that it was instant).
LEAD GEN DEMAND-RESPONSE VS DEMAND-GENERATION
In brief, “Demand-Response” lead generation would be categorized as attracting prospects who are actively seeking your type of products or service. This type of marketing targets individuals who are currently seeking a solution you provide (often independent of demographics). “Search marketing” is the best characterization of this, which includes search engine optimization (SEO) as well as the search aspect of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Although search advertising is a good place to begin online lead gen for many types of businesses, in most industries, your top competitors are also advertising in this arena. All that means is that your search advertising approach will benefit from some experience to make a substantive impact.
“Demand-Generation” represents another strategy of going earlier in the sales process to identify prospects who are not actively engaged in seeking your product or service right now, but who might be in the future. Demand-generation often implies a longer sales cycle, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you can reach a prospect who hasn’t actively started searching for a solution to a problem, but your message catches them just as they recognize a need for your solution. In which case, this can represent a fast sales cycle. TV and display advertising are common examples of demand-generation.
Both of these lead gen categories have their own advantages and disadvantages and we use each to create the most predictable lead flow.
Not only that, we use both demand-response and demand-generation across all aspects of your marketing funnel, even though from an academic perspective, display advertising is usually associated with marketing and advertising efforts that are early in the funnel. Regardless, our focus is on practical results and any way that we can generate more leads, we’ll prosecute.
In brief, our lead generation processes represent a continuous and simultaneous activity of developing new campaigns, optimization of those campaigns and ultimately retiring those campaigns at different times. The factors that inform all that is testing and optimization.
LEAD GEN NITTY-GRITTY (TESTING AND OPTIMIZATION)
The most concise presentation of our overall approach is outlined in our Marketing Strategy. However, the following points from that outline elaborate upon five nitty-gritty items of that strategy which are built upon a foundation of testing and optimization:
Research keywords and product/service offer (message, price, shipping, guarantee, etc)
Create sales landing pages to split-test product/service offers
Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising to test and refine keywords, sales copy and offers
Refine landing pages to further split-test product/service offers
Iterate PPC and landing page refinements until “control” combination established
Researching keywords related to existing product and service offerings while also researching competitor product/service offerings may seem like no more than a formality to any brand that considers itself well educated on their own products, as well as their competitors. Nevertheless, it helps to bring us up to speed on the market dynamics of your industry and may still yield insights that can be enlightening to a brand that just hasn’t objectively analyzed their industry in some years. Although exploring keywords and competitive offerings never end, the beginning research is fundamental. We not only need to gain an overview of your industry but we need to conceive a marketing approach that might give us a beachhead into the same arena. Sometimes the approach is so obvious that it can be articulated by the brand in an early phone call. Other times, the approach may not have been previously envisioned by the brand. Either way, this is how we start the process of building a custom lead gen funnel that’s unique to your business.
#2 LANDING PAGES
In my experience, I find no lack in appreciation among business owners and marketers regarding the importance of landing pages — at least in theory. Yet, there are some who tend to marginalize the necessity to test landing pages versus the traffic sources themselves. Maybe it’s because so many landing pages look similar (at least to the casual viewer). Nevertheless, I consider that the greatest opportunity for increased marketing performance is right here where the visitor makes a decision.
Make no mistake about it. Some people consider that testing colors and images and the right headlines may only yield small gains in production, relative to the work involved. And sometimes that’s true enough. On the other hand, sometimes significant improvement can result from a better headline, all by itself.
And I doubt there’s many who would argue that better copywriting is not worth the effort; yet that’s a fundamental part of landing page testing.
More to the point: the aggregate of performance gains from testing all the basic elements in a campaign can be substantial.
But the most important part, in my humble opinion, is the offer. How is the value of your product or service presented? And is it truly compelling?
The offer depicted on your landing page is more than the product or service itself and includes elements that represent core value plus additional value, such as price, availability, delivery, shipping terms, quality statements, technical support, or free trials. A strong offer can do more for converting your traffic to conversions than anything else and it’s the most important thing to test on a landing page.
#3 PPC TESTING
Pay-per-Click (PPC) testing is the fastest way to generate meaningful data and answers about ads and landing pages, which includes price testing and all other aspects of the offer, as well as testing headlines and which specific benefits drive the most sales. It takes the guesswork out of myriad marketing decisions that are often based upon hunches or personal bias. For more info, visit Using Pay-Per-Click Advertising for Performance Testing.
#4 REFINE LANDING PAGES
It might seem redundant to revisit landing pages as a new step when it was just depicted. But it bears emphasis since there is considerable labor involved here and it can be overlooked by a busy professional. Refining landing pages and all that implies is where the biggest performance gains will be made. One goes back and forth between keywords, ads (as well as traffic sources) and landing pages. This is not a set-and-forget activity. It’s an ongoing process. And once you’ve optimized your landing pages to a point of productive maturity (which means further testing only yields marginal or no further performance boost), you need to develop new campaigns. A given set of ads and landing pages has a life cycle. How long it will be productive may be unknown in the beginning, but at some point, whether that’s days, weeks, months or even a few years, the winning combination of yesterday will need to be retired for the winning combination of tomorrow.
#5 ITERATE PPC AND LANDING PAGE REFINEMENT
Iterate is to do over again. Or in the case of PPC testing and landing page optimization: it’s to do over and over and over again. The goal of all this ad testing and landing page testing (which includes testing all the elements of the offer) is to come up with a “control” asset. That means an ad, a landing page (and offer) that are the current reigning performance champions for all your significant elements. It takes quite a bit of testing to establish the most productive performance. Every new test is designed to surpass the control ad or landing page. When you eventually reach a point whereby your control ad continues to remain as the reigning champion, you’ve found a winner (at least for now).
REMARKETING / RETARGETING
If you are at least marginally interested in the field of online advertising, you already know that remarketing and retargeting are where the best ad performance can most often be realized. In brief, remarketing and retargeting are ways we can show ads to people that performed some action but didn’t leave their information. Perhaps they visited your website, or your social media platform or perhaps they watched one of your videos. You can then send them new or different ads to further move them along the marketing funnel. And like PPC in general, you don’t pay unless they actually click on your ads.
Ideally, they will click on your new ads. But even if they don’t, you can keep your ads in front of your prospects as they move around the internet as a subtle reminder of your offer, and in this latter case, you don’t even pay — until they click.
For many online advertisers, this is the single, greatest advertising opportunity that is currently available to convert your ad dollars into results.
And for those prospects whose emails you do possess, you can generate a substantially improved performance if you send them emails as well as new ads.
Testing has been mentioned a number of times in this article and it’s the bedrock of all we do. Performance marketing is synonymous with testing and optimization. It’s what separates those who say “Marketing and advertising doesn’t work” from all the largest business successes in the world. And if the concept of testing is a relatively new idea to you — perhaps rising in importance in the recent era of data science and artificial intelligence — then you might be interested to know that one of the seminal texts on the topic of testing is about a century old. It’s called Scientific Advertising, written by Claude C. Hopkins in 1923. It’s one of my favorite marketing books.
Nowadays, testing is faster with the internet and more sophisticated with data science and artificial intelligence, than it was a century ago. But if you want to become acquainted with the most fundamental text on the subject, take a peek at Scientific Advertising.
LEAD GENERATION SOLUTION
The above outline is a workable solution to effective lead generation. It’s first and foremost a process. And it’s a never-ending process, at that. The process features research to create new campaigns, perpetual testing to optimize existing campaigns and ultimately retiring campaigns after their performance begins to fade, to then be replaced with newer and better performing campaigns. The process represents a virtuous and never-ending cycle of increasing lead gen performance to increase sales for your business.
Which of the three phases of lead generation represents your business? Although the phases are relative between any company and its respective industry, this article is intended to provide a simplified categorization of lead gen potential.
Starting out with Phase One, it could be stated that most struggling small businesses or languishing salespersons are in this category.
A business with a predictable flow of leads to sustain themselves sufficiently would be in Phase Two.
Phase Three represents an absolute abundance of leads, facilitating significant expansion or even market dominance.
Following is additional context for the three phases of lead generation.
LEAD GENERATION: PHASE ONE – THE STRUGGLE
This phase represents a low- to minimally-viable volume of lead generation. It can barely sustain a business or a salesperson and includes those businesses or sales reps that may be on the verge of failing. Although a minimally viable amount of lead generation may reflect an insufficient amount of labor in terms of prospecting, it can just as well represent a significant volume of labor that is not paying off. For example, someone in a position to make cold calls all day would represent a lot of labor; but also an unfulfilling level of satisfaction when no meaningful prospects are uncovered.
Phase One can include doing what may have been successful in the past, even though it’s simply not as effective anymore, due to rising ad costs or shifting dynamics in a specific marketplace. Shifting dynamics can include the increasing challenge of getting decision-makers on the phone. Although this is not a new challenge, it illustrates a reality that any salesperson or small business encounters when attempting to drum up new business when it’s becoming even more challenging than it was at an earlier time. Shifting dynamics can also include reduced demand and/or increased competition. Even so, these are not an excuse for not generating more leads through more effective means; it’s merely an acknowledgment of market reality.
Phase One lead generation might include salespersons or small business owners who review LinkedIn profiles and send out personal emails to prospects in the hopes of engaging some communication. This is workable for some, but it becomes less workable over time as the target recipients become less and less inclined to even read such messages, let alone respond to them.
Don’t get me wrong, if this type of lead-gen practice — or any type at all — is working for you, then, by all means, it should be continued. But for many, this type of prospecting constitutes an uphill battle of increasing costs and labor with reduced effectiveness.
By the way, Phase One also includes persons or companies that are new to the practice and as they get better over time, they can become more effective.
Regardless, the main point about the struggle of this first phase of lead generation is that if you don’t move to Phase Two as quickly as possible, you’ll either go away due to frustration and exhaustion, or you’ll be destined to endure an unenviable career.
LEAD GENERATION: PHASE TWO – RELATIVE SUCCESS
Although many businesses or salespersons complain about not enough leads or not a high enough quality of leads, the reality of Phase Two lead generation represents a relative success. The lead flow and resulting sales correspond well to the existing production level of your product or service. And more to the point, enough revenue and especially enough profit is being generated to keep the notion of “struggle” as a distant memory.
Bear in mind that Phase Two does not represent a specific type of lead generation; it can be any method that works well. However, it’s likely that there would be more than one type of lead gen production in operation.
If your business has strong competitors in the industry, then your lead generation efforts are likely tuned and optimized enough to enjoy the market share you’ve achieved. You are likely a stable competitor in your industry.
Alternatively, you might also be a small player that has carved out a profitable niche.
Another representation of Phase Two lead generation could be a business that has no strong competitors. In which case, it’s possible that your lead generation efforts are simply “good enough” relative to the lack of strong competition. Regardless, this can make for a successful business — for now.
Of course, even the concept of “success” itself is relative. For some business owners, having a profitable business with happy customer and employees is a model of success.
Yet, nothing stays the same for long in the business world. New competitors come into the industry. Old competitors get more aggressive. People in your own business may retire or move on to other careers or even to other competitors. Cultural changes, such as pandemics, artificial intelligence, or other major technological progress, can alter the very foundation of entire industries.
Success today should be enjoyed. But the hard reality is that it can go away.
Hence, the surest way to achieve long-term success for any business is continual expansion, which is an apt segue into Phase Three of lead generation.
LEAD GENERATION: PHASE THREE – MARKET DOMINANCE
Phase Three represents such an abundance of continuous new prospects, that you’re either the #1 company in your industry or you’re in the small handful of the top businesses that dominate your market.
The use of lead generation systems, automation and technology is by no means limited to Phase Three of lead generation. However, in Phase Three, it’s hard to imagine achieving this level of success without implementing such systems.
As part of Phase Three (or Phase Two), it’s important to appreciate that any abundance of leads from a single source, no matter how productive it may be, represents a risky foundation for your long-term business expansion.
In Phase Three, typically a business would have multiple streams of optimized and coordinated lead streams including offline lead gen (direct mail, radio, TV, etc), in addition to a number of online sources. This would also be an example of a multi-touch, custom marketing funnel, specifically tuned to your product and services.
A mature marketing funnel in Phase Three would likely include some or all of the following types of lead generation.
LEAD GENERATION METHODS
The following types of lead gen outreach are not limited to Phase Three. Yet, Phase Three implies multiple types of lead generation activities to provide a stable source of ongoing abundance of prospects and sales.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. Whether through Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon or any other platform, PPC represents a foundational type of paid lead gen. And once you’ve built a workable campaign, it can be readily scaled up.
Search PPC focuses on keyword and geographic targeting.
Display PPC features demographic and geotargeting.
Social media paid advertising would fall under the display aspect of PPC, which again is primarily demographic and geographic targeting.
Retargeting is arguable the most productive part of PPC, which provides the opportunity to show the same or new ads to earlier prospects who did not convert. If you’re aware that prospects need to touch your brand a number of times before they’ll make a purchase, you’ll appreciate why retargeting is vital.
The trick is to make PPC profitable, which can be more challenging in hyper-competitive markets or for low-cost products (which requires that you lose money on the first sale, and rely on follow-up sales to make a profit).
Furthermore, PPC can be a useful tool for uncovering high-converting keywords, which can (and should) be used to inform your SEO and content marketing.
Content Marketing. In brief, content marketing is about creating value for potential prospects of your products or services. Content marketing includes creating articles, videos, courses, infographics, reports or any educational materials that can help people learn about topics related to your products or services. The idea is to create enough valuable content that search engines will direct people to your website, who will simultaneously be engaging with your brand. It’s common to share content on social media and even use PPC to connect with prospects (and then retarget those who visited your content with ads about your products or services).
SEO. Some would categorize content marketing as a subset of search engine optimization (SEO), which is intended to attract prospects organically without paying for their visit. Although SEO should be integrated into any website, positioning SEO as a subcategory of content marketing represents a more predictable way to generate higher search rankings, which is the end goal of SEO. Regardless, this does not suggest that making your web pages friendly to search engines should be ignored, but it’s a longer-term runway towards creating leads today.
Social Media Marketing. Social media paid advertising (see PPC above) is a predictable way to generate leads. On the other hand, small scale prospecting can be accomplished, one-by-one, via LinkedIn or other more specific industry platforms. This method requires labor instead of cash. Nevertheless, if your business can gain social traction organically, this can be a productive source of lead generation.
Automated Email Marketing. In contrast to emailing prospects one at a time, automated email marketing includes inviting visitors (via PPC, content marketing or social media) into your email database where they will receive automated messages featuring content they need or want, sprinkled with offers to become a customer. Automated email marketing includes numerous personalization possibilities and offers high ROI relative to other channels. Compared to internet technologies in general, this may seem old-fashioned — because it has been around since the beginning of email — but it works. It’s not as effective as it was back in the 90s, but it’s still a tried and true form of lead gen in the 2020s.
Video Marketing. You already know from your own experience that in so many circumstances, videos do a better job of conveying a message than plain text or even photos. Videos can and should be integrated into every category of lead-gen campaigns. They can be featured via PPC, they are certainly a foundational part of content marketing, they can be the primary content on landing pages and they should be promoted via email. The very fact of their importance to all parts of lead generation is why it’s designated here as its own category of lead-gen.
Regardless of which phase of lead generation you might be in, no phase allows you to be complacent. It’s imperative to continually optimize and expand your lead gen initiatives — at least if you want to continue to grow.
There are a number of online lead generation models, and they all center around the concept of providing relevant, targeted, current (even real-time) sales leads.
In addition to continuing your own lead generation strategies – online or otherwise – an additional option is to outsource this activity. In exchange for payments on a per-lead basis, you can follow up with fresh leads as they come in.
Internet Lead Generation Agencies
There are outsourced agencies that provide online leads that can be used for a variety of purposes such as list building for e-newsletters or direct sales. The idea would be to call the leads immediately (for a telephone sales organization), or to plug the leads into an appropriate sales funnel.
Internet lead generation agencies may develop their own websites to capture leads and/or partner with other lead generation sources who have their own websites.
Various models of online lead generation exist, but typically, a consumer who encounters a lead-generation website enters their contact details in exchange for a free offer of some sort.
♦ In some cases, the info seeker would enter his/her information directly within a banner advertisement and the lead could be sent directly to the advertiser.
♦ A full-page lead generation advertisement may promote some free offer to encourage visitors to enter as much personal information as required to process the lead and for the individual to receive their free item. This type of online lead generation can result in lots of leads, some of which can be low-quality, including leads with purposefully inaccurate information, since the information was entered for the purpose of receiving something free and not as a result of a sincere desire to be contacted.
♦ Another common Internet lead generation model is through co-registration advertising (Co-Reg). Through this process, an individual is offered the opportunity to receive additional free information while registering for some other service. For example, while subscribing to a magazine or ordering printing services, a consumer might request additional information that is being offered. In other words, the demographic info provided by the consumer, as well as the service they were signing up for would indicate the category of lead. Following the same examples, someone who was signing up for a health magazine subscription and also requested info for a nutritional product might be categorized as a “Health and Fitness” lead or “Weight Loss” lead, depending upon the specifics of the nutritional product. A consumer who is purchasing online business cards from a printing service, and who also registers for information about working at home, could be categorized as a “Business Opportunity” lead.
♦ Pay-for-Performance (P4P) leads and sales represent another category of lead generation or sales programs. Some of the above examples might be conducted on a P4P basis, or not. Meaning, on the one hand, you pay for the leads regardless of their quality. And on the other hand, some P4P models might base remuneration on actual sales. Such will typically cost more, but of course, you’re not paying unless you get results.
These are not the only ways lead-generation agencies generate their inventory, but they are some of the ways that lead agencies can provide current, targeted leads to your phone or email inbox.
Like everything else in the marketing world, you would be wise to start small and test the effectiveness of a given online lead generation service (or several such services) and scale up your efforts for a lead source that shows promise.
Of course what is understood is that you have a lead processing activity already in place, to effectively utilize these paid leads, whether that might be calling the leads immediately, or including the purchased emails into your existing sales funnel.
There are many ways to generate leads. Heck, there are many ways just to take advantage of online lead generation, which is only one component of all the channels that can be used to drive leads to your business. (Check out Ten Lead Generation Models).
In the world of online marketing, incorporating email into a lead generation campaign would be considered a mature practice, since it’s been so thoroughly and routinely utilized going back to the 90’s. (I began my email marketing career back in 1995 and have never stopped.)
The accompanying graphic of a simple email lead generation flow chart depicts the flow of a stream of Internet visitors moving through a website, getting sorted into segmented databases and leveraging those databases to maximize marketing leads and sales.
Free Offer in Exchange for an Email Address
It all begins with some kind of offer – and it’s typically a free offer. This can be as simple as a free download that would be valuable to the targeted market segment. The download could be a PDF, or an audio program or a video, or even a multi-part email educational “course.”
The offer should be something desirable for your target audience. As an example, if you were generating leads to cultivate financial service clients, you would offer something of value to those types of clients. If you were offering leads to potential students for educational products or services, you would need something that specific target audience needs, and it should also relate to the product or service you are selling.
Regardless of what the offer is, it should be emphasized that it needs to be valuable. Over the years it’s gotten harder and harder to inspire visitors to part with their email address in exchange for downloadable information, and if what you provide is not truly deemed valuable by the recipients, then you will have lost the opportunity to convert those visitors into new customers. In fact, they might not be interested in anything you have to offer at any time thereafter.
Conversely, if you truly delight them with your offer, they may be inclined to consider that if you provided that much value for free, you’ll probably provide even more value for your paid products or services.
Do You Really Need More Info Than Your Visitors’ Email?
By the way, the more information you ask of your visitors, the less of them who will respond. Of course all marketers typically want as much information as possible from their potential leads, but that’s not always the best practice. In other words, if you ask for more info than their name and email (such as their phone number, and address, etc.) many visitors will decline your free offer.
It’s more acceptable to simply ask for name and email. Some marketers only ask for an email (and no name), knowing that the more visitors that they convert into their database, the more FUTURE opportunities there will be to get more contact information, and more importantly, MORE SALES.
Lead Generation: Quality vs. Quantity
Some marketers are willing to accept less potential leads, and instead, ask for as much information as they believe is necessary to qualify a lead upfront. This is simply a business decision. Do you want a larger volume of leads? Or do you want a more qualified stream of leads?
However, this particularly flow chart highlights a process that attempts to gain a higher quantity of leads AND a higher quality by guiding visitors through an initial two-step process. It’s simple and gives visitors more control over their experience while gaining more demographic information for the marketer.
More specifically, the initial offer in this example only requires name and email. However, once that is provided, an optional survey is presented, which has several qualifying questions, and also makes an optional request for a phone number. Since a visitor can choose whether to provide their phone number or not, most that do enter their phone number, can be considered to be amenable to a sales call. (Especially if you make it clear that someone will contact them if they leave a phone number).
By the way, if you want to make this simple flow chart even simpler, then the survey can be dispensed with.
This flow chart represents a simple, rudimentary and initial aspect of database marketing. In this example, ALL emails that are exchanged for the offer go into a central “All Prospects Database,” and those that give their phone number are segmented into a “Hot Prospects Database,” whom are immediately contacted via telephone as part of a sales process.
Of course, not all the prospects that are included in the sales process will be reached by phone and of those that are contactable, not all will turn into customers.
However, by way of the ongoing email follow-up campaign, which integrates more information about the topic that is of interest to the visitors (as well as additional marketing email messages), these follow up emails represent the crux of this campaign as they can continue on indefinitely until the subscriber buys a product or service or unsubscribes from the database.
Bear in mind that most prospects will “not” provide their phone number, which means the majority of conversions from inquiries to actual hot prospects will be a result of the ongoing email marketing efforts. It is only then, after those who are reading the emails get to know your business better, that they will select themselves into the “Hot Prospects Database” by contacting you to ask questions or to buy your product or service.
And the best part is that the entire lead generation process is automated up to the point that prospects enter the sales process. (If interested, you are welcome to contact me about which email services may be best for your business).
Email Lead Generation Conclusion
There is certainly more that one can know about online email lead generation, including testing the offers and landing pages, testing which survey questions yield the best results in terms of prospect engagement and qualifying the leads.
Furthermore, there is more that one can know about tuning the variables of quantity vs. quality of leads.
And there is definitely more that can be known about database marketing and lead segmentation, especially as it relates to gaining more demographic information from your email database as time goes on and as your readers receive more of your mailings.
But this simple flow chart does serve as an example of one method that can be used to construct an email lead generation campaign to increase your business profits.
Generating an ongoing flow of sales leads is the most fundamental component of marketing for every business that requires new sales to sustain itself and/or for established businesses that want to expand.
Lead generation includes any, or a combination of, the following:
♦ Broadcast Advertising: Infomercials are a prime example here. Not only is an obvious product being sold, but that sale results in a valuable lead for additional and similar products. Such products may be sold by the same company and/or the lead may be sold to other companies that sell similar products. (Radio advertising would be another aspect of broadcast media).
♦ Online Lead Generation: This is a very rapidly growing and evolving arena as new methods for online lead generation are tested and other ones are refined to produce greater results. Online lead generation includes pay-per-click models; search engine optimization activities; video marketing; downloading free (or paid) information in exchange for lead info; responding to surveys; registering for online services; webinars; in short, any way that you can observe or imagine how to inspire an individual to enter their name and email (or more info) online could be a component of lead generation. Some businesses may want to look into pay-for-performance lead generation opportunities, as well.
♦ Direct Mail: Lead generation through direct mail still works today, as evidenced by the amount of junk mail you and I continue to receive each week, in spite of the rising mailing production costs. Becoming effective at direct mail lead generation can make or break a lead-generating marketer, since the costs demand critical attention to testing, comparison and refinement. In my opinion, this is a fantastic proving ground for the development of any marketer worth his/her mettle.
♦ Event or Trade Show Marketing: This is a traditional form of formal and informal lead generation. The formal aspect of this is represented by all the ways that exhibitors desire to engage attendees at these expos. The informal aspect of trade shows is represented by the nature of many professionals who attend such conferences for the purpose of establishing new business leads through personal networking.
♦ Seminars or Training: You name it, and there are entities who provide seminars and training sessions for popular subjects, such as health, finance, insurance, software, marketing, etc. The seminars may be low cost or free and/or may be an important revenue stream in and of themselves. But for many such activities they primarily exist to generate leads. In recent years there has been a trend towards greater use of telecommunications, which includes teleseminars, and webinars, especially as an important aspect of online lead generation. However, in this paragraph, I’m primarily referring to its more established offline activity which is still a workable lead generation channel for some markets.
♦ Publicity and Public Relations: Getting people to call your business through mentions in the press is a very effective way to not only generate new leads, but it’s also a way to bolster each and every other method, too, since independent media lends greater credibility to your business. For some businesses, online press release services have become a primary driver of new leads.
♦ Whitepapers or Product Literature: Requesting free information from a company is a classic lead generation strategy that has been prominent forever and is one of the earliest methods on this list that was translated over to the online world. Because it is so commonly utilized, it is most effective with significantly unique and valuable research and/or some very creatively presented information to make it stand out in your industry.
♦ Email Marketing: Lead generation using email is still effective, even if somewhat less so than the past. When done well, it can be among the lower cost channels to identify and convert leads into sales. Of course spam is universally vilified, and we are not talking about that. We’re talking about email marketing, as a subset of internet marketing, whereby prospects are offered something valuable in exchange for their email address so that you can follow-up with them with more emails, about their interest and also advise them about your products and services.
♦ Telemarketing: In the United States, telemarketing was restricted way back in 2003 with the opening of the National Do Not Call Registry, which gives consumers the opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls they receive. Regardless, the list only applies to residential phone lines and not business lines. As well, telemarketing can be conducted to residential lines for political organizations, charities, surveys, and for existing business relationships.
♦ Social Media: Lead generation through social media channels is noted separately here, even though it is an online activity. Social media merits a special mention because social media channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., command such a large amount of Internet traffic. They have become a force independent of search engines and offer their own paid advertising opportunities. An important point to note is that for most businesses nowadays paid social media advertising is much more predictable at lead generating than just maintaining a social media presence and posting content.
Whether you are generating leads online or offline, the necessity for testing, monitoring, comparing and refining are the factors that will determine the best results from any lead-generation campaign or model.
Lead generation, as part of the marketing and sales process, boils down to connecting buyers with sellers. The overall process can be very short, such as when a consumer lands on a web page and determines that they will make a purchase right then and there. (For example, buying a book or a DVD).
However, for businesses that have more expensive and/or complex products, as well as businesses that provide service offerings requiring person-to-person conversations, there is an inherently longer sales process. Of course the more expensive or more complex the offering, the longer the sales process.
Lead generation is a vital component of establishing the initial flow of potential customers or clients (beginning with an “inquiry”), who would then move through a sales process, ultimately resulting in money being exchanged. Of course, not every inquiry will turn into a sales-ready lead, and only a percentage of the those leads will become qualified prospects, and in turn, only a percentage of those will become customers or a clients.
Lead Generation Statistics
The above chart represents “Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Product Type.” Pay particulate attention to the different color bars in each product type. The purple represents the “median” conversion rate and the green represents the top 25%. Your first goal would be to get your conversion rate up to the median and then optimize for the top 25%.
Suggestions for Improved Conversions
Improving your conversion rates is a never-ending process. Strive to regularly optimize your performance, or your competitors will pass you by.
It may seem obvious, but your ad and landing page should work together towards the same goal. The more directly they are connected the better. If your ad is for a specific product but the landing page takes the visitor to a category page, you’ve lost many potential customers in the first few seconds.
Split Testing: You should always test at least two ads a time. Keep improving your existing ads and endeavor to come up with new ones that will beat out your higher performing ad.
Make your text easy on the visitor: Your features and benefits calls to action should be simple to read and immediately accessible.
Emphasize your Call to Action: This is worth underscoring. Make it very and clear what the visitor should do. Buy Now. Watch the Video. Subscribe Now. It might seem too obvious, but these CTAs are proven to increase conversions.
Testimonials: Highlight that your product or service works. Show reviews and testimonials and quotes from the press.