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
- Campaign retirement
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.
Avid hiker, bicyclist, motorcyclist and long-time advertising pro. Founder of Skyworks Marketing, Nonprofit Fire and Our Ventura TV (cable TV). One career highlight was working on a small team that built a business from nothing to over $100 Million in 3 years. Skyworks Marketing provides video advertising and lead generation services. We create custom marketing funnels that provide the highest-quality leads and sales.