Stay Ahead of the Game: Effective Lead Generation Strategies in 2017

Stay Ahead of the Game: Effective Lead Generation Strategies in 2017

Contribution from freelance writer Jackie Wills

Lead generation, like almost everything in the business world, is a fluid and ever-changing paradigm.  Sticking doggedly to strategies that worked in 2015 may result in a business seeing a depressing decline in lead generation numbers in 2017.  Staying ahead of the game is crucial to quality lead generation in a competitive marketplace, and in order to do so, it stands to reason that a business should be constantly analysing the range of lead generation strategies that are available to them, in order to ascertain which are the most successful, and which will suit their business model most comfortably.

In order to analyse which lead generation strategies are going to be the most useful and profitable for a given business, it is necessary to break down which strategies tend to be the most successful.  There are numerous channels used by B2B marketers to generate leads, including online directories, re-targeted adverts, rented lists, live events and affiliate marketing, but there are four channels which stand out as being the most efficacious.  A number of different surveys have been undertaken, and top spot tends to differ based upon which institution organised the poll, but there are four channels which consistently register as the strongest: Email Marketing, Search Marketing, Social Marketing and Content Marketing.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing has been a mainstay of lead generation for two decades now, but the proliferation of email sign ups and heavy spamming means that there are diminishing returns for traditional email marketing techniques.  However, new advances in marketing automation mean that many businesses have had great success in using this refined version of an old technique.  Marketing automation software allows email marketing to be both automated and, crucially, targeted and personalised to each potential client, by using data from the business’s CRM and metadata from their website and landing page.  Instead of ‘spamming’ thousands of emails to every person who has ‘signed up’, i.e. entered their email address into your system, each person will receive a marketing email that seems to anticipate their needs.  A fine example of this is the case of Paper Style, a business that sells wedding cards and invitations.  They created a dual marketing sequence, split by whether the potential customer was buying for their own wedding, or for a friend’s. Each sequence had its own order, which was devised based on an analysis of their previous sales data.  Brides-to-be, for example, would require different products than Maids-of-Honour; the former purchasing wedding invitations, for example, and the latter bridal shower invitations.  The order in which they purchase products also tended to be sequential, with, for example, wedding invitations first and ‘Thank You’ cards last.  By devising these two parallel marketing sequences, every potential customer who had entered their details could be, by way of an initial email, sorted into the appropriate marketing sequence.  This then allowed the automated marketing system to send personalised marketing emails which seemed, to the customer, to anticipate their needs every step of the way.  The results for Paper Style spoke for themselves, with, among others, an impressive 330 % uptick in revenue-per-mail.

Search Marketing

Search marketing is a product of the paradigm shift in marketing and sales that has occurred over the last two decades due to the monolithic growth of the Internet, and in particular Google.  The fact of the matter is that, for many people, the first point of call when looking for a new service or product is a Google search.  This being the case, achieving and maintaining optimum organic SEO rankings on Google is one of the key channels for generating leads. The ever-evolving complexity of Google’s ranking algorithms means that it is a great deal more difficult to achieve high organic rankings than it was a decade ago, however, that can also be a plus point: it is much more difficult for businesses to ‘game’ the algorithms, which means that a well-conceived and executed SEO strategy can pay dividends. The reality of search marketing now is that it is inextricably linked with our next topic: content marketing.  The SEO strategies of a business need to be aligned with their content strategy, and achieving a symbiosis between the two is crucial to achieving the first-page ranking that is needed to deliver good quality business leads.

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is increasingly important in an age when people are used to being on the receiving end of a great deal of information.  Whether B2B or B2C, potential clients and customers expect it.  This presents its own problems, but also its own opportunities: with so much information and content out there, much of it becomes, at worst spam, and at best nothing more than background noise.  However, this creates a space for companies that can make their content stand out from the crowd, and deliver information that is both targeted and, most importantly, helpful to the prospective customer.  This dichotomy of problem-and-opportunity is a theme within Content Marketing, as the sheer range of possible content means that is possible to waste time and money on creating content that will have no demonstrable impact upon ROI rates, but likewise the opposite is true; a judicious choice and deployment of content can generate a huge amount of interest.  Content can also act as what is known as a ‘lead magnet’, in as much as they can offer an incentive for potential customers to provide their email address.  Many people are wary of doing so because of the proliferation of spam messages and mailing lists, and are much more inclined to enter a company’s email system if they ‘get’ something before they ‘give’.  Content can be deployed in such a way with superb results: offering a free E-book, or webinar, access to interviews or even a free trial are often very successful in generating leads, as well as beginning a process of engagement between the potential customer and the business.  Furthermore, content such as blogs can perform a dual function: working in tandem with Search Marketing strategies to improve Search Engine Optimisation, while also engaging the potential customer in a personal way, leaving them feeling like they have tangibly benefited from their experience.

Social Marketing

Social Marketing is a slightly different animal, in that it can be broadly seen as an off-shoot of both Search Marketing and Content Marketing.  Of course, there are leads to be generated by using a business networking site such as LinkedIn, particularly because, aside from networking, it can also provide a lot of data. EKA, a risk management software firm, used LinkedIn in this way – profiling network prospects, mining data to provide both market analysis and individual data profiles for companies, and mapping networks to identify viable connections- and created a $2 million sales pipeline in a matter of a few weeks.  However, it is more common that a company’s social marketing amounts to little more than spamming promotional announcements on Twitter.  In the case of social media platforms such as Twitter, it is more strategically useful to utilise Social Marketing as a tool of Content and Search Marketing, in so far as it can be a useful medium for directing people towards the high-quality content that will boost SEO rankings and engage the potential customer, both of which will, if done correctly, be effective lead generation strategies.  It can also be a useful tool for establishing and promoting business brand identity, something that is crucial to standing out in a crowded marketplace.  If your brand identity is established then it can make generating leads that bit easier, as potential customers can already be at a certain level of engagement before they have even hit a business’s landing page or explored their content.

Integrated and Reactive Approaches

In essence, successful lead generation strategies have to be flexible, reactive to customer-habits and realistic about changes in those habits.  Flexibility means the innovative combination of aspects of each of the four major lead generation channels discussed, using data driven analysis to discover what works best for a given business.  Being reactive to customer-habits is also a data-driven practice: for example, customers today, whether in the B2B or B2C sectors, are distrustful of what can be termed ‘traditional advertising’, and this can be seen by the fact that up to 80% of potential customers ignore paid ads on Google.  They’re just not interested.  As the old sales adage goes, people don’t like being sold to but they like to buy.  This is why moving away from ‘traditional’ advertising or marketing methods, and into an integrated method that seeks to promote customer engagement and personalised promotional marketing emails is proving to be a more successful model.  This is why a channel such as Content Marketing is so important – 80% of decision-makers surveyed, from a wide range of businesses, preferred to imbibe information about a company through articles and other content, as opposed to ‘traditional’ adverts.  Adverts, in that sense, have lost their power to engage, and offering people content which they feel educates them and allows them to make an informed choice is now a far more successful model.  This may not always be the case – re-activeness, remember, is crucial to successful lead generation strategies, but it is certainly the case in 2017.

Another aspect of this reactive approach, for example, is creating a scoring system for leads, such as awarding a numerical points score for acts of engagement, such as opting-in to an email system or downloading an E-book, and subtracting a numerical points score for acts of disengagement, such as unsubscribing from an email list.  A system that scores and ranks leads allows a company to respond in real-time to the reaction of customers and potential customers to their marketing strategies, as well as identifying potential customers who are primed to take that step into becoming actual customers.  This streamlining of lead analysis can also help to save time and money by efficiently deploying their lead follow-up resources.

Invest in Strategy

Effective lead generation strategies require just that; strategy.  Throwing money at out-dated models of marketing and lead generation is only going to waste both the initial marketing investment and the time and effort of the staff who are responsible for turning cold leads warm.  For lead generation success in 2017, willingness to be adaptive, flexible, analytical and innovative will give a business a far greater chance of staying ahead of the game.

 

How to Contact Leads

How to Contact Leads

This article is part of our three step guide on lead generation basics. For this step, which is the third and final step of lead generation, we discuss how to contact leads. This is arguably the most important step, which can be anything from marketing automation to personal contact, because it’s where the beginning of a sale truly begins to take shape.

A quick recap of what we previously talked about:

In the first step, we talked about what a lead and lead hacking is, in the second step we outlined the process of lead qualification, and now we will share the best practices of lead contacting.

What do you do once you’ve identified a lead?

This article is about what to do once you’ve identified a lead. While there is no absolute answer to this, there are few things you should be considering to make the strongest introduction possible.

The items you should be considering include:

  1. Lead name (a person or company)
  2. Contact details
  3. Subject matter

You will need 1 and 2 (pre-conditions) in order to make contact and talk (step 3).

Customer example question:

“I have a question regarding on how to follow up on possible leads. What if I notice a company is coming back regularly to check out our services, how can I best contact this company? Mail, phone? I don’t want to look like a stalker. Is there any proven strategy or best practices on this subject?”

Much depends on your company’s sales workflow. Is your product high-end – with service contracts, or are you targeting SME (small and medium enterprise) clients. How long is your sales cycle, do you provide a demo, do you have a dedicated sales team to contact leads, etc. These parameters will define the structure of the dialogue.

In some cases the lead will get in touch with you, and in some cases you will be initiating contact. Lead generation software (keeping track of potential clients) helps in both scenarios because you can see what your lead is doing (what they are interested in) and their level of interest. “Strike while the iron is hot”.

Once you have contact points and subject matter, you should make contact. Try a combination of both telephone and email. Telephone takes more energy, and is more effective when you actually get to speak to the right person. We’ve learned that a combination of both telephone and email works best.

We’ve also learned that, in terms of best practices, you want to make an initial call (or email) that is short and sweet. Narrow the conversation down to a single deliverable, if possible.

Important: once you make a promise, any promise, no matter how small – make sure you absolutely 100% follow-up. This is trust-building.

How can LeadBoxer help you to contact leads.

LeadBoxer, or any other lead generation software, automates the process of determining who to call and/or email. Many established B2B sites receive hundreds or even thousands of visitors (potential leads) on a weekly basis. Time is often of the essence here. It is not humanly possible to screen all traffic, although it may be a good idea to have different people sort traffic, and do the actual contacting. This is where the software comes is. By “qualification” we mean an automated system for sorting potential leads and ranking them based on qualifying metrics. Allowing you to contact leads which you might have otherwise missed.

Why are Warm Leads Better for Your Business?

Why are Warm Leads Better for Your Business?

Anyone involved in sales and marketing knows that developing sales through cold calling (cold leads) can be a thankless and frustrating task. In the modern age, though, an effective digital marketing strategy can mean that prospective clients already know all about your business and are ready to convert into customers with just a little encouragement. Welcome to the world of warm leads. An effective web presence and strong social media engagement means that the word is already out there regarding your business. People will be aware of your service and your unique selling points, and the whole sales dynamic becomes easier and more successful. This means better conversion rates and less time wasted on trying to develop interest in your product or service from scratch.

Is cold calling dead?

Everyone has experience of a cold call, whether it is a telephone call from a double glazing company, an unsolicited email offering you car insurance or a catalogue through your letterbox. Cold calls do generate some sales leads, or nobody would be doing them, but generation and conversion rates are poor. An increasing number of people block unsolicited calls and emails, and there is a school of thought that cold calling is no longer worth the effort. In the majority of cases, cold calls get you off on the wrong foot with the customer and put you at an instant disadvantage. They are suspicious of you and your motives, they never asked you to call and you probably interrupted them in the middle of dinner. Not the best start for a successful future.

What are warm leads?

A warm lead is someone who has already shown an interest in your product or service. They might have taken a look at your website or signed up for an email newsletter. Or perhaps they have followed you on social media or read an article or blog post that you have published. At the very least, you can be confident that warm leads are aware of and are interested in your product or service and have demonstrated an interest in learning more about it. They are far more promising than cold leads, as the initial “foot in the door” part is not necessary. There will not be the same level of suspicion and reluctance to engage. Many warm leads will approach you, rather than you having to chase them, but there are others that just need a little push in the right direction.

Getting hotter – qualified leads

A qualified lead is one that is a step further on in the buying cycle. While warm leads are aware of what you have to offer, a qualified lead is one that specifically needs that product or service. For example, if you operate an Italian restaurant in New York, then warm leads might be those who look at your social media pages and sign up for newsletters. They know something about your restaurant, and might be prepared to give it a try if they were in the neighborhood. Compare this with someone who has googled “Italian restaurant in New York” – this is a qualified lead, as it is someone who is specifically looking for a service just like yours.

Focus on Warm Leads

SEO experts Search Engine Journal carried out some research on warm leads versus cold, and the results are remarkable. They concluded that search-driven leads have a 14.6% close rate compared to just 1.7% for cold leads. This is simply because warm leads are already better prospects. Cold calls mean a lot of wasted time on prospects who have given no thought to your offering.

Identifying warm leads

The digital age is all about big data. There is more information available regarding every part of a business than ever before. Everyone who clicks on a link, conducts a search or uses an app leaves a unique data stream. The amount of data that’s being created and stored every day is truly mind-boggling, and it just keeps growing. The company that makes the best use of the data at its disposal is the one that will gain an edge over its competitors, but in the grand scheme of things, only a small percentage of data is actually analyzed and used to make critical insights. By making use of online lead generation tools, you can identify who is visiting your website and why. This gives you some useful information as to what people are looking for, and how they are driven to you. It provides a ready-made list of warm leads for you to develop into paying customers.

Evaluating your best leads

You can achieve unprecedented conversion rates by using the latest proprietary algorithms to rank those warm leads and make sure you focus on the ones that are likely to bring the highest prospects of a completed sale. Traditional sales strategies have relied on what is known as the BANT approach to evaluate leads. In short, this evaluates the following parameters:

  • Budget: does the potential lead have the funds available to buy your product or service?
  • Authority: is your prospective buyer in the position to make the purchase decision, or will they have to seek approval from somebody else?
  • Need: do they have a specific need that the product or service will satisfy?
  • Time frame: are they in the market for your product now, or at some future date?

Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with the BANT approach, and it has become the go-to sales qualification methodology. However, it does have certain flaws and limitations. For example, the implication is that Budget is the first and most important consideration, when in reality, most people will agree that Need is most important. What is it that people want, what problems are they facing or questions do they seek answers to that have driven them to your business? Customer need should really be the first consideration of anyone in sales, and in order to understand that, you need to know your customers.

Understanding your customers

Customer personas are the basic characteristics of your customer base. They might include basic demographic information such as age, gender, income level and employment status, as well as non-identifiable personal data, including geographic location, personal goals, past behaviour and lifestyle. Through personas, you also learn why they are looking to interact with your business and what needs they think you can satisfy. This information is of critical importance as it helps you decide where to focus your marketing efforts. Traditionally, companies have defined their most valuable customers as those who spend the most money. However, that may be over-simplistic, and there are plenty of other factors to consider, including the following:

  • Acquisition costs: How much did you have to spend on sales and marketing to win this type of customer? If acquisition costs are high and returns are low, then it could be time to rethink your methods.
  • Retention costs: What do you need to do in order to keep your customers? Do they expect a large amount of communication, support or training? In general, acquisition costs are higher than retention costs, so it makes sense to do whatever you have to, in order to maintain a close relationship with your customers and give them no reason to look elsewhere.
  • Average purchase size: On average, how much does your customer spend on a single purchase? Consider this question not just in the aggregate, but by each persona or customer type. Bear in mind that people often make purchasing decisions on the basis of value, not just on price. Ask yourself whether you might sell more to any customer segments through carefully targeted promotions and by developing an awareness and interest in other product lines. Social media coverage can be great for promotions like this.
  • Lifetime value: Single purchases are great, but repeat purchases are better. How much does each segment spend with your business over the course of their lifetime? This metric says a lot about the overall relationship that you have with your customers.
  • Customer satisfaction: To what extent are your customers satisfied with your product or service offering? Can you identify groups of satisfied and dissatisfied customers? If so, what makes one group happy and the other group unhappy? This is a great way to identify areas for improvement, or it could be a case of needing to communicate better to manage customer expectations.
  • Value alignment: Are your target customers actually the people who are buying from you? If not, then who is? Knowing this will help you to further refine your customer segments, and to make sure you are perfectly aligned.

By examining the above metrics, you will have better knowledge than ever about your customers. Armed with this knowledge, you will be in the ideal position to develop those leads that can bring real long-term success to your business and ensure you maintain that all-important competitive edge.

In our next article that you can find here, we have discussed our best Lead Generation strategies for 2017.

LeadBoxer Wins the 2017 Lead Management Software Award

LeadBoxer Wins the 2017 Lead Management Software Award

At LeadBoxer we have always let our customers’ needs determine product development. Our lead identification platform has improved dramatically in recent years, and our efforts were confirmed when FinancesOnline, a popular software review platform, distinguished us  with the Lead Management Software Award for both creating efficient sales opportunities, and for our lead generation capabilities.

The platform’s review team prepared a thorough examination of our software and concluded that LeadBoxer meets all of their quality criteria to be recommended both to SME’s and Enterprises.

(more…)

How to contact leads with LinkedIn

How to contact leads with LinkedIn

What can you do with leads identified by LeadBoxer?

Scenario: you have installed the LeadBoxer lead pixel into your website. A few days later, you have a list of companies who are interested in your products and services. You are not 100% convinced that you want to call them up and say “Hey, I saw you clicking around on our website, what’s up?” One solution would be to contact leads with LinkedIn.

People are looking for specific information. Therefore, if you can help them get the information that they need, you are helping them, not bugging them.

In this case, we recommend an indirect approach as you can see below.

Best Practises

1. Targeting When you see that a company has visited your website, target them through LinkedIn
(obviously, you can use any alternative to LinkedIn – which is just the example given here).

2. Strategy The strategy is to know that a company is interested – and give them information that makes them aware of your services. Keep in mind that if a lead is actively looking for a solution to their problem, they will appreciate good information.
Note: surfing behavior is Goal-Oriented. People do not visit (B2B) websites because they are curious as to what they look like. People are looking for specific information. Therefore, if you can help them get the information that they need, you are helping them.

3. Use lead/visitor activity – meaning clickstreams; to know what your leads are actually interested in and speak to the content/ subject-matter of the pages they visited. In other words, use a prominent bit of the text on the pages visited in the subject heading of your communication.

4. Locating decision-makers – (for example) if you product/ service is related to staffing, find the person(s) responsible for Human Resources.
Note: locate the company on LinkedIn and then you research who is responsible for Human Resources, etc.

5. Advertise –  You can then advertise via LinkedIn in order to post content on that person/ company’s LinkedIn personal feed.
Click here for a blog post we wrote on LinkedIn advertising.

So how do I contact leads with LinkedIn

Step-by-step

a) Locate the company identified by LeadBoxer on LinkedIn
b) Find the person or persons responsible for the problem you solve
c) Send a LinkedIn invite request
d) OR use Chrome extension called (email) Hunter – to locate their email address and email them
e) OR send relevant materials via LinkedIn advertising (see above)

Happy Hunting!