Leads can make or break your business, and it hurts to spend tons of time and money on lead-gen tactics that don’t work. So, how do you attract WARM leads so you actually are talking to people that want what you have?
I’ve used the strategies from this guide to generate thousands of leads, fine-tune the lead qualification process, and beyond that, this guide features original contributions from some of the industry’s most respected thought-leaders. I can’t wait to share it with you. Read this 40-minute guide to becoming a Lead Generation Legend.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Consult the Council of Badasses
Experts Share Ideas for Generating Leads in 2020
Chapter 2: Target Practice in The Courtyard
Targeting the Best Strategies – Ranked By Experts
Chapter 3: Hunting For Your Food In The Wild
10 Lead Generators + Optimizing Sites For Leads
Chapter 4: Hunger For Bigger, Greater Conquests
Nurturing Your Leads + The Lead Qualification Process
Chapter 5: The Wizard With The Magic Potion
Easy Next Steps to Get More Leads Soon + Attributes
Chapter 6: Slaying Your First Monster
Advanced Tactics That Lead to Endless Leads
Chapter 7: The Rise of The Phoenix
Closing More Deals Starts in Lead Generation
“Focus on selling and you’ll get rejections. Focus on value and you’ll get conversions.” – Venngage
What is a lead? A lead is a potential buyer who shows some interest in purchasing your product or solution. A lead may fill out a contact form, make a phone call to your company, or fill out a form in exchange for some resources on your site. Ideally, a REAL lead wants to buy what you have and has expressed interest in it.
The problem with the lead generation field now: The over-saturation of methods and lack of clarity around what moves the needle is terrible for small business owners trying to get their leads up. There are tons of consultants, software companies, and agencies trying to get your money, whether or not their solution fits your needs. On top of that many marketers are optimizing for LEADS rather than CLOSED DEALS, and thus organizations are wasting effort on very unqualified prospects.
Why not having enough leads can be extremely negative: Having a salesperson spending their time on old, less effective methods like cold-calling — or spending time on super COLD leads — can burn them out. It can also turn their attitude cynical or otherwise waste the energy of a critical team or individual within your business.
Review Expert Opinions
Before you jump into lead generation methods willy-nilly, I strongly suggest consulting respected experts in the industry — some of whom are insanely generous with their strategies. Beyond these awesome contributions from 8 highly-respected marketers – I recommend curating for yourself your own ‘Mastermind’ of sorts – rhythmic phonecalls with people smarter than you, books, podcasts, and other ways to make next-level lead generation knowledge a habit in your environment.
8 Well-respected lead generation + SEO experts answer: “What’s your #1 Lead Generation Strategy for 2020?”
“Leveraging the power of Facebook retargeting ads. Our technique is fairly simple. We post super in-depth articles and case studies about the work we do at my agency, The Search Initiative. We then follow up with readers via Facebook retargeting, which can help us hone in on our customer demographic. Because all attribution is accounted for, we know our numbers. Spend more, get more leads. It’s like clockwork.”
Matt Diggity, Founder
“The #1 thing you can do to get more qualified leads is to nurture existing leads that you already have. I’m talking about newsletter subscribers or people with free accounts. I used to believe that you can put up a page that will magically bring on targeted leads with their credit cards in-hand. And if you bid on the right keywords on Adwords, you can. But it’s usually too expensive to run long-term. Instead, I recommend bringing in leads using top of the funnel content (like blog posts and YouTube videos). Then, nurture those leads over time. That way, when they’re ready to buy, you’re the first person or company that will come to their mind.”
Brian Dean, Author
“Here are three of my top tips for increasing sales via SEO:
- Create an online community for your customers to connect, share their experiences, and ask questions.
- Repurpose your top-performing content.
- Answer the most common questions for your topic/product/service while incorporating question and answer markup.”
Britney Muller, Sr. SEO Scientist
“In the new year, we’ll be using a couple of agency growth hacks. We’re going to be leveraging a couple of unicorn SQL generators – this means attacking SQLs from a couple of directions: getting more leads, and automating lead qualification. We plan to increase lead volume with high-leverage activity like click to messenger ads and intent-based email outreach. Click-to-Messenger ad benefits are numerous: get more leads for less ad spend, resulting in a lower cost per acquisition. Intent-based email outreach marries your outbound efforts with intent-based signals to increase the odds of effectiveness. Outbound is important if you want to reach SQLs. We want to automate lead qualification. Conversational agents (chatbots) shine at asking questions to figure out if a lead is qualified. You can save user responses to a lead profile, as well as get a lot of instant lead data through Facebook. Hook a bot up to a Facebook post, and you can automate the lead generation and SQL qualification funnel!”
“Have great clients and let them be the sales force. People underestimate how in the world where a client can Google a new company, or hit up their friend and ask ‘who have you worked with,’ [how important great work is.] I believe the best strategy is to do such a good job for your clients that they want to refer you. Do little things for them that show you’re not nickel & diming them. We do little things, like if we kick off a project with a client – they get a gift card to donate to one of the charities of their choice, and every holiday we do that. It’s always been about humanizing yourself to your clients, be good to your clients, and you’d be amazed at how far that can go.”
“Here at Ahrefs we don’t have salespeople, so we don’t need to generate “SQLs” at all. But our #1 strategy for attracting new customers is the educational content we publish on our blog and our YouTube channel. We get 250k+ visits per month to our blog from Google alone (not counting social traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic, etc.), and we get 300k views per month on the currently published YouTube videos. This amount of content moves a “cold lead” to a “qualified buyer” on complete autopilot. People just search in Google and YouTube for help with their SEO and they discover Ahrefs. That’s how our company is growing by more than 50% YoY without a single salesperson in our team.”
“When it comes to lead generation, my favorite thing to do is create a variety of different types of content and advertise them. I’ll then nurture people further down in the funnel until I’m able to establish a cost-per-acquisition for any of the channels that I’m promoting content on. Following that, I’ll scale the content creation output, the advertising, and segments of people who start coming into the funnel. I then nurture them with lower-funnel tactics like remarketing, email marketing, push notifications, and social media updates. These are my favorite online digital tactics, but at the same time, I’ve always been a strong supporter of building lasting referral partnerships. If you can tap into one strong referral partnership, it can double your leads overnight. Really as you grow, you need to build a set of systems to address all the different types of lead generation platforms that are out there.”
“My current strategy for growing leads and one I will be using this year is to set up giveaways. You can create a competition where anyone can enter by submitting their email address and sharing the giveaway. You should select a specific product or service that your target audience would be interested in winning, making it easy to grow your list of qualified leads.”
Create your own lead generation mastermind with books & podcasts
To get wisdom and perspective. Podcasts/key people/books are super important. You should set yourself up for success by curating great information and identifying trustworthy sources and making it easy to learn regularly.
- Best 5 Lead Generation Related Podcasts: Building a StoryBrand with Donald Miller, Marketing School with Neil Patel, The GaryVee Audio Experience with Gary Vaynerchuk, Duct Tape Marketing with John Jatcsch, Perpetual Traffic by Digital Marketer.
- Three great alternative methods for learning lead generation:
- Being part of Facebook groups for SEO and lead generation.
- Setting up rhythmic (i.e., every two months) calls with other folks like me or ahead of me in my industry that understand lead generation.
- Identify 5 article-writers that you respect that share lead generation tactics in your industry, and make a habit of reading and interacting with their Linkedin articles, and blog articles. I go further and try to get these folks on our podcast – and podcasting is also a great way to network and get around super-smart people more often.
- Three top lead generation books are “They Ask, You Answer” about content marketing from an inbound sales perspective, “The Conversion Code” about Facebook ads and marketing funnels, and “Predictable Prospecting” about other types of lead-gen and prospecting.
Predictable Revenue Summary:
The Current Lead Generation Landscape + Challenges
Why Lead Generation Campaigns Fail:
- They have poorly executed or put-together strategy
- There’s not enough quality marketing content to support their efforts.
- Their website or landing page isn’t compelling or effective.
- Follow through and follow up is weak.
What people say their biggest lead generation challenges are:
- Lead quality
- Lack of staffing
- Data to drive campaigns
“Don’t think of your leads as leads, Instead think of them as people who are frustrated because understanding and buying your product is too hard. Your job is to make it easy for them to learn your product and get started.” – Andy Pitre, VP of Product, Hubspot in a Lead Generation Guide for Venngage
The hard part: Attention is painfully scarce. Facebook, Instagram, and Google have co-opted our attention spans, used neuroscience to hack our brain, and addict us to their apps. Authors like Tim Wu have explained this phenomenon in “The Attention Merchants” – and are encouraging us to be aware of what they are doing and spend our attention more frugally – like we would budget our money.
The Changing landscape: People are educating themselves. According to Forrester, “buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor.”
Target the Best Strategies For You
Before you get smitten with strategies and scamper off to try every single one, it’s strongly suggested that you slow at the beginning so you don’t end up building a plan that’s targeted incorrectly.
This is why we suggest first asking “Who is it for” – and spending a lot of time there before moving on.
Who are your absolute best customers? Who are your highest value customers? Who does your company offer the most value for? Who does the company like working with and have the best results with?
Who is it for – why that’s important
- Who is the audience?
- Who owns their attention currently?
- What do they care about?
Make a list of answers to these questions – and it will sincerely help you spend your time and effort on the right activities.
Ideal Customers / Persona’s – best methods for targeting:
- Good – Persona worksheets – Extensio User Persona, is a great option, Digital Marketer has a Customer Avatar Worksheet, and Hubspot has a Persona Templates, all built with the same purpose. To plot ideal customer types, what they have in common – identify motivations and “channels” where they might spend a lot of time.
- Better – Identify 3 existing ideal customers and get their photo, (WHO in the organization comes to you – not just the company name) their key problems around the time they came to you, why they choose you. Identify what platforms, publications, and events own these individuals’ attention. We offer this format on our ‘Ideal Marketing Plan’ template that you can download for free.
- Best – Taking a look at the percentages of where all of your highest value customers (or all of your customers by revenue) and where they came from. List them out in a spreadsheet, and detail what method you attribute them coming to you under (Referral, Organic, Outbound, etc.). Then, use Google sheets or excel to graph them out in a pie chart. This is a fantastic way to see what’s working and double down on those methods. Make a copy of our template for doing this – to make a similar graph to the one below.
According to this method, the effort then gets distributed back into the above tactics – for example, if your graph looked like the above:
- Referral systems and doing good work are squarely top priority.
- What increases referrals? Brand-building activities like video marketing, social media, established referral agreements, quarterly asking your referral partners, and getting systems around that. Suprise and delight campaigns for existing customers perhaps could push up your chances of getting more leads from the ‘good work’ category.
- Perhaps because of the control that’s possible with SEO + PPC – those get 50% of the marketing budget – while speaking and events remain essential for a brand-building perspective.
- Of course, for your company, the breakdown of where your existing leads are coming from should be a top priority to identify where you should spend money. But you should also consider the money spent. So, if you spent 50k on PPC and gained 50 new clients, but spent 50k on SEO and only gained 10, that’s a real breakdown. Use this info to prioritize, and mix in new methods that you’ve identified as ‘blue ocean’ or growth opportunities and ‘white space‘ in the market that competitors haven’t clogged up yet.
“Blue ocean strategy is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost to open up a new market space and create new demand.
It is about creating and capturing uncontested market space, thereby making the competition irrelevant.” – Check out the book Blue Ocean Strategy for more.
Lead Generation Methods Ranked by Marketing Experts
We asked 10 marketing experts to rank these lead generation methods in order of effectiveness from their point-of-view. They are ranked 1-18 with quotes from these experts on their favorite:
- Search Engine Optimization
- “SEO has always been our number one lead source and favorite method. When people are doing a Google search for your service or product, they generally have buyers’ intent and are looking to make an immediate or near decision. Unlike interruptive marketing, which is messaging and targeting individuals with the hope that a small percentage will need your products or services every time you advertise them.” – James Leff, JSL Marketing and Web Design
- “Referrals are our number 1 closed deal source, but SEO is the #1 thing we have control of on our marketing (referrals are harder to ‘push’ on) – so A. use SEO to get more new contacts and do an amazing job for them. B. Use surprise and delight existing customers, use video and social marketing to increase referrals, and systematize referral systems and bumpers / internal accountability around referrals in place to increase those.” – Tim Brown, Hook Agency
- Tap into a referral network
- “I love the high value of a referral. It comes with trust baked in.” – Ryan Crozier, AgencyBoon
- “I chose tapping into my referral network because, so far, it’s proved to be the only lead gen tool that allows me to “skip the line.” With any other method, a lead that drops into my lap is likely to be shopping multiple offers. If someone’s referred me directly, I come into the first conversation at the top of the pile.” Eric Johnson, You Betcha Video Marketing
- “Building a strong network is the most effective lead generation method. Be specific about your ideal customer, and your network will be your best source of high-quality leads.” Griffin Roer, Uproer
- Tap into engaged communities on Linkedin, Facebook Groups, Quora
- Google Pay-per-click – “I’m a big fan of leveraging multiple channels for ultimate success. Paid media for short term wins and organic search for long term initiatives.” – Nick Leroy, NickLeroy.com, ICF Next Head of Search
- Co-branded content and strategic partnerships
- Guest Blog on websites that own your ideal customer’s attention
- Video marketing – “Where we’re getting the most clients from in 2019 is video marketing via YouTube. We’ve been able to get clients outside our local market from this channel. The other high value lead generation channel we have is referrals from happy clients because successful business owners know other successful business owners.” – Lockedown SEO
- Your e-mail list, and more e-mail opt-ins
- How-to blog content, Content Marketing
- Facebook Ads
- Influencer marketing
- Offering free help to a community or a good cause – “My favorite technique is really a hybrid of several of my top lead gen techniques. Most of our business comes from referrals, but this is augmented with engaging on social media with our audience, combing those things is a powerful combination. In Digital Marketing, the power comes from a well-executed cohesive strategy, not a series of individual channel events.” – Trevor Stolber, STOLBER Digital Marketing Agency
- Optimize your social presence
- E-mail outreach.
- Direct Mail – “Direct mail is a tried and true lead generator. When done correctly, direct mail will outperform digital media for consumer engagement, recall, and purchase. Where digital ads may grab consumer attention quicker, direct mail marketing holds consumer attention longer, generates stronger emotions, and has a bigger impact on consumer purchase decisions.” – Dale Filhaber, Dataman Direct
- Physical networking
- Trade shows
- Door-to-door canvassing
Inbound vs. Outbound Lead Generation
Marketo defines “Inbound Marketing” as “the process of helping potential customers find your company—often before they are even looking to make a purchase—and then turning that early awareness into brand preference, and ultimately, into leads and revenue.”
A massive piece of inbound marketing is CONTENT. Content Marketing Institute, a leader in this field and methodology, refers to Content Marketing as, “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Outbound, on the other hand, is an essential component for most companies. Still, from a marketing perspective, I believe it’s best to use outbound to amplify inbound efforts and target specific opportunities. Outbound marketing is “using outbound channels to introduce your message and content to your prospects.” This is often done through rented attention (ads, other people’s publications, and platforms) vs. trying to turn your site or platform into a lead-generation magnet (rented attention.)
We believe that building trust with content allows companies to build that trust before prospects are ready.
“Cold calling leads to cold leads – inbound turns into revenue faster. Become a trusted advisor so you get much cheaper attention that’s owned vs. rented on someone else’s app or platform.”
According to another survey, the most effective tactics include, “Company website, conferences, and tradeshows, and email marketing. Meanwhile, the least effective ones are “… direct mail and print advertising.”
Why “Buying Leads” may not be the best idea
“Choose your analogy — alcohol, drugs, health — but when you outsource the majority of your lead generation to a third-party, you are setting your company up for a very unhealthy and risky addiction.” – ContractingBusiness.com
- If you’re overly dependent, if the lead quality goes down – what control do you have?
- Whose lead are you paying for, are you sure your other marketing efforts didn’t increase the chance that lead gen company got the click?
- You want to OWN your company assets. You also want to own “the data” – remarketing (targeting ads at people that visited your site or the landing page) is massively valuable in marketing, and if they are the ones that own it (a lead gen company), then how do you re-use it later?
- Control – you want to be able to drive down your cost per lead over time, by increasing the messaging on the ads, etc. If this is all in their hands – how can you do that?
Often companies that ‘sell leads’ – have a lot of leads that are ‘price shoppers’ – meaning they are looking for the best price always.
- Not the best value.
- Not the best customer service.
- Not the most experience.
These people have opted into a ‘good deal’ – and have no allegiance to your brand or company.
This means you’ll have a much harder time selling them on value, customer service, or anything else you’re trying to make the trademark – if you’re a premium services company.
So as much as we might suggest mixing in some lead buying as part of a well-rounded stack (or at least vigorously testing it) steer clear of making it your primary or even 20% of your lead-generation efforts.
What is your Cost Per Lead and what is the average for your industry?
- Start by looking to figure out what you’re average lead costs you.
- Is that good? How much should a lead cost?
- Are you set up to track leads accurately?
- How does your cost per lead stack up to the industry average?
Cost per lead is a stepping stone to several other stats that can drive a business’s success. Here are a few other ideas from LionTree Group:
- What’s the company’s average job size? (Divide annual revenue by number of jobs sold or transactions)
- Research your industry to find benchmarks including cost per lead, cost of marketing as a percentage of revenue, closing rate, average job size.
- Calculate the lifetime value of a customer
- Create a top-line annual revenue goal and reverse engineer the math to formulate a path to achieving it. Here’s how you do the math according to Lion Tree Group:
Step 1: Revenue Goal / Average Job Size = Number of Jobs needed
Step 2: Number of Jobs / Closing Rate = Number of Leads required
Step 3: Number of Leads X Cost per Lead = Your Marketing Budget
Lead Scoring %
Not all leads are created equal. Some of them are much more likely to close – and salespeople should be spending the most time on those. Here are a couple of crucial ways that a CRM or sales team might handle lead scoring:
Explicit Lead Scoring:
Explicit lead scoring is based on reportable/measurable info— this includes information you can gather through your research, and conversations with the prospect. This can be done manually, and allow your team to prioritize based on the discussions and research you do about explicitly / data-driven elements related to their situation.
- Type of Industry / Whether that’s in your sweet spot – or is an ideal customer for your company.
- Size of the Company – or – Annual revenue for B2B
- How close they are to making a decision – for B2C and B2B
- Job title/role of the primary contact
- BANT: budget, authority, need, and timeline
The closer the prospect is to your ideal customer persona, the higher the lead’s score would be.
Implicit scoring is based on information that you can reasonably guess about the person or company — and can be connected to their:
- Quantity of Website visits
- Ebook downloads
- Checklist downloads
- Newsletter subscriptions
- Amount of clicks on e-mail marketing
- Social media follows
Of course, certain online signals should be given more weight than others, based on whether your sales and marketing team believes these signal intent to buy.
“Higher lead scores should be awarded to behavior that corresponds with further progress through the buying cycle.” – Nutshell CRM
Important Reminder: Software doesn’t make leads or do real marketing
A CRM doesn’t create leads, and won’t sell them for you.
For small businesses – people often get in the trap of spending half their marketing budget on software that doesn’t do any of the work.
You can spend 10k a quarter on Salesforce, but it’s not going to do the hard work of the salesperson to build a relationship, rapport, and set expectations with your prospects. Just like you can buy 30k a year SEO software, but there still needs to be people who write the content, who build links, and do on-page and technical SEO.
Software is excellent – but as of yet, most software doesn’t generate leads or do your SEO for you. Ensure there’s room in the budget (i.e., most of it) to get the real hard work of marketing and sales done.
You need humans to wield it, and when the software is amazing, it makes those humans jobs a lot easier. (i.e., SAP, Salesforce, Moz and Ahrefs) 😉
10 Quick Lead Generators
Yes, going for quick wins and quantity doesn’t always lead to the warmest of leads. But having systems in place for getting names and e-mails so your salespeople can at least start warming them up further is crucial to having a long-term sales pipeline and not just focusing on the 5 hottest prospects in your sales people’s funnel.
- A Checklist – What pain point do your ideal customers struggle with? Service them with a quick checklist for addressing that pain point on their own, and you have an ideal lead magnet.
- An Audit – Perhaps pair it with FOMO (Fear of missing out) – we’re offering free audits to the next 3 people that respond (on social.)
- White paper – Any blog series, or sought after blog post that draws traffic or gets the most social shares is potentially ripe for expansion, but a white paper is usually more in-depth and
- An Audiobook – Alright this one’s not quick if you don’t currently have a book, but
- Opt-in Monster – Use a tool like Opt-in Monster or ‘Hustle’ WordPress plugin to create popups, slide-ins, and other offers all over your site. Just make sure to keep them tasteful and appropriate, so your bounce rate doesn’t go up from the clutter.
- A Company IP Identifier on Your Website – Turn random website visitors into leads by using tools that turn IP Addresses into company names – such as Lead Feeder, Lead Boxer, or Lead Forensics.
- The content “upsell” – Take your best piece of content on your website, and make an even more in-depth version and add a form to the bottom of the post and ask for name and e-mail to access.
- Linkedin Insights Tag – The best thing to happen to B2B marketers since, well… Linkedin! Install the Insights tag, and you’ll be able to see what company anyone who is logged in on LinkedIn (even in the background) is from.
- Original Research / Survey Results – Does your company have useful data for the people that are interested in what you’re selling? Package those insights up into graphs and statistics and make it pleasant to look at. Then, offer it as a download on your website.
- Discount with FOMO to E-mail List – Offer a brief discount that ends on a particular day and promote it to your e-mail list.
Optimizing your website to get the most leads possible + Important Metrics to Measure
The perfect page from a lead generation standpoint:
- Consistency – Headline is consistent with the messaging of the ad, or what you’ve optimized the page for to get more search traffic. Benefit-driven copy – Quickly talks about the benefits the visitor might receive from purchasing. Authority and/or provocative copy to not feel un-interesting – It’s easy to bore people — assume they have no time and are scanning the page.
- Big visuals – Ideally video, and supporting images that clearly explain quickly what, why, and how this will benefit the visitor.
- Bullet Points – People are scanning, and bullet points to drive home the benefits that they receive will grab some attention.
- Social proof and trust factors – Not just testimonials, but a photo of the person who gave it, where it was given (a Google logo, and five-stars to support the visual quote will help increase visual interest.)
- A clear call-to-action and a short form. – I know it’s tempting to start adding all kinds of fields to your form to filter out bad-fits, but as much as you can do it – get that information in a follow-up questionnaire, or in some other way. Make the button big, bold, and contrast the color with the rest of the page.
- Include benefits and features further down the page – Ideally, I prefer landing pages that can be used for both paid ads and organic effort. Part of making a page ‘search engine friendly’ is including a good 700+ words, and it’s easy to do this if you explain any key benefits and features, and possibly put some FAQ’s in show/hide’s at the bottom of the page.
Tools to increase your lead generation’s effectiveness:
- Google Analytics to figure out where you have dropoffs and fix. Check out our article “Google Analytics Basics (+10 Ways to Improve Your Site Now Based on Analytics)”
- HotJar to get heatmaps
- Inspectlet to record visitors on your site and look for usability issues.
- CTA Templates from Hubspot
- Optimizely or Google Optimize to do A/B tests
- UserTesting.com to get user tests done on your site and look for issues.
The essential metrics to measure on your site:
- Bounce rate.
- Conversions (calls using CallRail or similar, and contact form submissions – how to track.)
- Time on Site
- Leads (as separate from conversions that weren’t actual leads)
- Which pages are performing the best as far as traffic?
- Which pages are converting the most traffic into leads?
Creating long-term success
Many marketers know how to generate shitty leads, but when is it appropriate to use marketing automation? When is it smart to switch to a manual salesperson?
Is the lead qualified? Meaning – is this the type of person or company that fits within your sweet spot if you’re a services company – or have you seen people with low budgets like this one don’t usually close. If so – counting the lead as a ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’ and not a ‘Sales Qualified Lead’ makes sense, throw them in a ‘lead nurturing’ automation campaign like a drip-email campaign and let your salespeople tend to the best opportunities.
A few useful terms / Checklist for sales things to track related to leads:
Cost Per Lead – Take your total marketing budget, and divide it by the number of leads you’re getting. Do this for each channel to understand what leads are costing you on each.
COA – or – COAC – Cost of Acquiring a Customer
TOFU – Top of The Funnel Marketing
MOFU – Middle of the Funnel Marketing
BOFU – Bottom of the Funnel Marketing
Website Lead Conversions – A submitted contact form, or phone call
MQL’s – Marketing Qualified Leads
SQL’s – Sales Qualified Leads
Closing Rate – At what percentage are SQL’s turning into closed business.
Where on the ‘buyers journey’ is your prospect?
If your marketing is solely focused on the red-hot leads that every salesperson prefers – you are living hand-to-mouth.
What about the people who are 2 years away from making a decision? Do you have anything for them?
Some of the most patient lead-generation systems are the most effective. This is because although these kinds of prospects are not buying tomorrow, they appreciate your help in learning about your offering, maybe doing some work themselves until they can afford you.
The critical question to ask is – are we treating every prospect like they are ready to buy, when in fact, some are just now starting a buyer journey and are still 6 months out?
Offers for different parts of the journey
What about free templates?
What about how-to guides?
What about letting them get in on the fun of the community – rather than just treating them like a pariah if they aren’t ready to buy?
I once paid $300 for a half-hour of a well-known marketing agency consultant’s time to have him brush me off rudely because my agency wasn’t yet over 500k. I would be a perfect client for him now, 1.5 years later and past the 1million mark.
But instead of treating me with respect, and maybe making a little sale or giving some value nugget, I will probably always tell other marketing agency owners to avoid him.
- Awareness – For instance: You write broader blog content. Within the blog content, there’s a free e-mail course that share’s some ‘do-it-yourself’ how-to’s ideal prospects would like.
- Interest – For instance: Someone who is looking for what you do, you attract them with an ‘ultimate guide to finding a [your type of company]’ and share a free checklist for making a good decision. “10 Things to Watch for When Choosing a Roofer” for instance.
- Decision – You offer them a detailed plan – A mini competitive analysis, or a “free consultation,” a “free workshop with your team.” You should identify things that can be decently low expense and time for your side but can offer a lot of value to a prospect. Some kind of “entry offer” perhaps.
- Action – How can you decrease resistance and increase FOMO. “If you sign before March 31, we’ll give take 2k off the project” – or “We are accepting only 2 more clients in December; otherwise we might have to make the kickoff date a bit later.”
- (Upsell) – Creating content for existing customers is huge since upselling is probably the number one way many service-based businesses could increase their revenues now.
Best tips for nurturing leads with email
So many companies have “Top of the Funnel” marketing and “Bottom of The Funnel” sales, but have very little “Middle of the Funnel” effort.
Particularly smaller businesses could really benefit from some e-mail nurturing follow up.
Even Mailchimp now allows you to drip out e-mails – just make sure your e-mail follow-ups are:
- Not about your company
- Centered around the company
- Should not be a sales pitch
- Continually improved
Once you get a basic drip campaign set up – move to different segments.
- If they expressed interest in a particular service, the drip campaign could provide value there.
- If you do B2B work, and they identified themselves or came in through a particular niche or industry landing page/offer – make sure the copy and follow-ups reflect that. Make different drip campaigns for at least your top niches served, so the copy and messaging can all be super tight around what those types of clients are looking for.
Get More Leads Quick
Sometimes you don’t want to hear about ‘Middle of the funnel’ marketing because you need to fill your sales people’s pipeline NOW. Well we certainly don’t want you getting stuck in this mindset, here are some ways that are more likely to get leads fast.
10 Ways to Get More Leads Quick
- Upload a LinkedIn Video – share a creative tactic around the problem your company solves. At the end – share a quick sentence that clearly states a tightly defined ideal customer and let them know you’re open to a free consult with them.
- Create an “Ultimate Guide” – make sure it’s targeted at your ideal customers, and end it with a compelling offer.
- Figure out your most profitable niches and make landing pages for them.
- Drive traffic to niched landing pages via Google Search Ads, Facebook, and Linkedin
- Modified Broad Match PPC Ads – The query must contain terms designated with a plus sign. The order of the query does not matter. Keeps your spend somewhat tight, but get’s a pretty specifically targeted audience
- For B2B – Create a LinkedIn Lead Ad
- For B2C – Create a Facebook Lead Ad
- Every quarter make sure you’re asking your referral partners to connect you with someone. Have a tight list of what an ideal prospect looks like, share that with them – and ask if they might connect you with ONE prospect, this week. (Keeping it to a tight ask (1 referral,) and tight timeline will make it more likely for them to pull the trigger.)
- Attend a networking event where ideal customers attend. Make a goal to get at least 5 cards from people that need what you have. Don’t spam them when you get home, instead, connect on Linkedin, and maybe give them something of value if possible that relates to your conversation.
- Give 10 leads out to others – The joyful giver is much more likely to have generosity reciprocated. The catch is, you have to give without expectation of receiving. In general, BE the person that gives out referrals. Anytime you see a need, be on the lookout for other businesses or solutions that will serve that need and share their info with the person in need. Make a daily or weekly habit of connecting people directly via e-mail and watch your inbound referrals go up significantly over the next year.
Just remember, you CAN throw money at marketing and get some results. But you’re much more likely to get OPTIMIZED results by ensuring the messaging is super tight first and by having a handle on the best channels that hold your ideal customers’ attention. Then, by slowly ramping your paid efforts, in particular, up slowly and surely, you’ve tested whether or not they get closable leads or not.
Once you have identified the avenues that get closable leads – do your best to double-down and support those channels and efforts first and foremost.
Habits not one-off strategies
Once you identify which methods work for a company the most, it’s about systematizing the most effective habits, not just trying this or that once or twice a year.
The reasons habits are so important because so much of generating leads is about showing up consistently.
Showing up in people’s social feeds creates an air of familiarity.
People do business with people they ‘like, know, and trust.’
So the one-two-three of created repeatable, long-term, and scalable systems for lead generation:
- Educated Guesses on Key Channels: Identify what’s worked in the past and look for where the white space is for your niche, what channels are your specific ideal customers using.
- Experiment & Have Fun: Try a ton of methods – but be creative and use your intuition around where your ideal customers hang out and start making habits out of showing up there and being useful to them.
- Double Down with Heavy-duty Habits: Push hard into the methods that start to pay off – make solid habits around the most effective methods, and see if you can scale up those methods with the help of others time.
10 Attributes of a Powerhouse Lead Generation Marketer
- Experimental with tons of different approaches – and makes sure their done well
- Doubles down on what works – after trying different tactics, take the best and push.
- Collaborative with sales – sales have great content suggestions that prospects want.
- Focused on closed deals, and the types of leads more likely to close
- Has a mastery of nurturing campaigns like e-mail automation
- Ability to wield trustworthy and persuasive web design or landing pages
- Understands how to identify images that will capture attention and persuade
- Helps a prospect imagine themselves benefiting from the solution with killer copywriting
- Regularly polishing their on-page SEO skills to turn pages into Google magnets.
- A/B tests Ad copy on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and anywhere ideal customers are.
Strategies For Endless Leads
Quick wins are great – but what if you’re now on the part of the adventure where you want to create long-term systems that churn out solid leads – even when you’re not pushing out effort at that moment? Pushing into advanced content marketing techniques, positioning your company well, video, and optimizing for closed deals, not just leads will make you a lead generation legend + your sales teams best friend.
Ensure you’re positioning the company well
Is your message clear? Or are you confusing people?
Clear messaging is the secret to making sure your long-term lead generation systems are running efficiently and giving you the kinds of leads your salespeople can close.
This is why company’s have slogan’s and key themes in their marketing efforts – so that it gets stuck in your head, and when the right situation presents itself, or you need something like what they have, that slogan activates in your brain.
But repetition is key to this kind of memorability.
If your slogan is “We make the complex issues of licensing simple,” and your salesperson isn’t using that kind of language — or the PPC ad says that, but the landing page doesn’t – statistics tell us that you’re much less likely to convert.
Come up with a tight brand story – make sure the themes of that story are present throughout your ‘sales story,’ and hammer a few themes home from Ad or content, to a landing page/lead form, to sales conversations as well.
Great key messages. Consistency in messaging. Repetition.
If you haven’t yet – please, please, please check out ‘StoryBrand’ by Donald Miller and use his convenient ‘brand script’ to boil down the critical components of your brand story and build your messaging off of that.
One super effective way to increase the flow of leads and keep it at a high level is making systems around video testimonials.
1.) Make sure you do such great work, that ideal customers want to volunteer their time to do a video testimonial.
2.) If you spend more time on one type of video marketing this next year, this is the place to hire a professional team. Do your best to help the story be more about THEM and their experience, and how their lives have improved. Not about YOU the company trying to promote your services.
3.) Have the video person talk to the customer about things besides the company and their situation (or their business if it’s B2B) casually before going straight into the content of the video. Suggest that they start the camera recording covertly, and chat away for a little while and stand off to the side, having a sincere conversation. Then, work into the key questions for the ‘interview.’ Once again, they should be about their success, their home, their business, and focused on how awesome they are or how their situation has improved first and foremost.
What we want is for the next ideal customer to imagine themselves in that position – experiencing the benefits of your product or service. Splice in other shots of the home/family enjoying the space or office/team and problem-solving etc. – as much as possible make them look like the hero of the story.
Support your salespeople with content that answers key objections
- It’s too expensive.
- We may do this ourselves.
- We’re holding off till Q3.
- I need to ask my husband or wife.
- I may not want to go full custom, but instead possibly go the cheap route.
Every single objection that’s come up 2-3 or more times should be turned into a piece of content marketing.
This is not only to support your sales team, but it also saves you time – and allows you to put your best foot forward once, and then share that piece of content each time a particular objection comes up.
For instance – we have a good amount of people who want a website but are trying to figure out if they should work with someone for half as much as us, that builds on a WordPress “theme,” rather than creating a completely custom solution as we do.
So we identified the critical pain points of going the cheap route and made a 1.5-minute video that talks about the ‘dad’s clown suit’ issue with website themes. They often have a bunch of extra features that go unused but still leave visible elements on the front end of the site leading to a weird looking website. Because this often resonates with their experience – having seen weird looking websites before that were suffering from this – we can kill two (or 50) birds (objections) with one stone by having this video at the ready.
Create a “Brand story video” to tell your best customer’s stories
Have you realized we’re gung-ho on video yet? A ‘brand story’ video is a video that’s intended to give the whole brief version of your ideal customer story as quickly as possible.
Core to this can be ideal customer testimonials, a few key team members sharing why you love these customers, and why you guys love going above and beyond to get the results for them.
A brand story video is a great way to scale out the ‘brand script’ tool mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Ideally, this video can go all over your website and social media next to your call-to-action to help decrease friction and move ideal prospects to action.
Heavy-duty content marketing for ideal customers – re-marketing
If someone visits a critical service or industry landing page. Do your best to create segmentation – to tighten up your messaging on those pages, of course, but also to create remarketing that matches up with those visitors and what they’ll respond to. Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Display are great places to create segmented audiences and hit them with a tight pitch for their industry or their unique situation (as determined by the types of pages they visited on your site.)
Event marketing, trade shows, partnerships in the industry
As you understand, your ideal customers identify the events and industry influencers that hold their audience. Many guides have been dedicated to this topic, but event marketing, tradeshows, and partnerships are a massive opportunity for long-term networking, niching, and lead generation. These are best understood when paired with respect for BUILDING YOUR BRAND, not just getting as many leads as quickly as possible and closing them.
Improving your referrals
The best lead generator is ‘good work’ – but if you’re responsible for increasing the closed business or the leads of your company, this realization doesn’t help unless you’re on the implementation side.
Systems around referrals are probably the #1 thing people can do to increase leads – and is often the most overlooked.
Here are 5 systems you can put in place now to get more referrals:
1.) Commit to following up with your existing customers once a quarter. Create the e-mail template, make it heartfelt and ask for ONE introduction this week. You can even write the email for them and swap out key results if appropriate that you’ve gotten the customer or client on each one you send.
2.) Make a video series that includes influencers in your niche, and make them look amazing. Even just doing a video with 5-10 industry niche experts a year allows you to tap into their audience as well, and positions you as one of the ‘cool kids.’ Tag them on social, put them out on Linkedin, and find other ways to promote them.
3.) Keep a groomed and curated referral partner list with all of the folks that send you business in your industry, or that serve the same audience. Send them an e-mail asking for “ONE introduction this week” every quarter, and find ways to make it easy for them to you in any way you can. Even if they don’t choose to send the introduction, this keeps you top of mind – along with doing your best to send them a referral quarterly as well.
4.) Make a business card with a bulleted list with your ideal customer attributes on the back, and anyone you network that you know is not a perfect client, share this with them instead. As clear as you can be about the types of referrals you need, the more likely people will think of you when they hear of a person or company in that situation.
5.) Identify the partners who are more likely to refer with an agreement with 10% or what-have-you and write out 3 agreements ever quarter. Some folks need an excuse to spend an hour curating a relationship for you. Some people certainly love giving referrals, but their time is expensive, to sit down – do an introduction, and help ensure fit with a referral partner is a lot easier if they have a small percentage on the deal they’re sending your way.
For each of these systems, make sure you have ‘bumpers’ in place – like calendar alerts, an accountability partner, or delegate to a member of the team and make it part of their employee scorecard.
“Bumpers” – are excellent in general for everything in this guide.
If you think in terms of systems and habits – you’re much more likely to get a significant return on your marketing efforts.
Emphasis 80/20 and habits around the 20% most effective Lead generation methods FOR YOU
Just to review the guide so far:
1. Target your ideal customers, and ensure your messaging is super focused on them and the benefits they’ll receive.
2. Prioritize the activities that super-smart people generally concede as the most impactful marketing activities, and that makes the most sense in your situation. (Referral systems, SEO, PPC, Video Marketing, Content perhaps?)
3. Create Habits related to those – and ensure they’re getting done daily, weekly, and monthly (by someone else if you’re over a certain revenue marker and have no time.)
4. Create Bumpers and accountability. Assume the smart side of your brain is reading this guide, but the dumb part of your brain will kick in Saturday morning when it comes time to record that video or write that blog post – how can you get accountability or reminders in place, so you don’t need to be sharp as a tack to follow through.
5. Identify the 80/20 habits (20% of the habits that get 80% of the results) that worked FOR YOU and spend twice as much time on those.
It doesn’t matter what the experts say. You have more information about your situation than anyone else. Identify the lead-generation activities that make the most sense for you – and avoid the scammy, constant requests from possible vendors and software to change the strategy.
There are too many vendors, too much software, and too many ‘directories’ like Yelp that want to spam your inbox and fill up your voicemail and tell you how to do business.
Get smart people around you – trust your instincts and double down on what worked.
The problem with Lead Generation now
If you’ve had ten leads and not one of them closed, the problem may not be your salesperson. It might be that you’ve optimized your lead generation efforts for “Marketing Qualified Leads” instead of closed business.
That is, our marketing team is not CLOSED BUSINESS focused. They’re trying to hit arbitrary ‘lead’ numbers that don’t affect the bottom line.
How do you fix the ‘marketing qualified leads’ / garbage problem?
By talking an unromantic look at what lead sources and methods have resulted in the most CLOSED BUSINESS – in the past year.
Where did those customers or clients come from? For us – taking a look at these numbers revealed that 67% of closed business was coming from Referral and ‘Good Work’ that we’d previously done, whereas only 20% or less of our time was spent on these activities.
What is a company to do in that scenario? Stop all of our PPC, social media, Video Marketing, Speaking at events, and SEO?
We decided to pivot our efforts on our other marketing efforts to help support referrals. Videos that are meant for current clients, industry influencer roundups, social media that tags referral partners – if 67% of business is coming from referrals than you best believe we’re going to ensure the level of the quality of work is the #1 goal for this next year.
Optimize for closed business.
Don’t optimize for glamour metrics like SQL’s.
They are a giant distraction – and you could spend 5 years of your marketing career stuck there.
This is why Sales + Marketing needs to be extremely tight.
Here are 5 ways to tighten up on that connection:
- Make sure you have clear attribution for every closed deal. (As much detail as possible about why and how they found you and shared with the marketing team.) Keyword-level attribution if they found you on search, but beyond that, what was the key pressing need for that lead.
- Have your sales team create a doc and write down every question that gets asked more than once so you can create videos for each of those questions. (Make it easy to make those videos / lower the bar if you need to a bit.)
- What deals is management / or YOU killing? Write down the past 5 deals that didn’t go through from something on the company side, not the prospect. What marketing efforts are being expended to create those leads? Get attribution for them – then see if you can push that effort in any of these cases and put it towards avenues that end in real closed business.
- Write down the pages on your website to convert, the blog posts that attracted the actual closed deals, the videos that led to signed proposals – and share them with your marketing team. This is PILLAR content and should be promoted way more than anything else.
- If salespeople are wasting too much time on unqualified leads – find ways to weed out the garbage in marketing. For example, next to your contact form, you could include “we serve businesses over 1m in revenue” or “We are a premium remodeling company, doing jobs of 250k+”. Or ask people to ‘apply for a free consultation’ rather than giving everyone one.
Once you reach 20-30 leads a month+ or your salespeople are having a hard time giving the appropriate amount of time to your best leads – Marketing should be a FILTER, not just a MAGNET.
The fundamental principle here is making sure you’re optimizing for closed business, not SQL’s.
Closing More Deals
The best lead-generation marketers – are paying attention to closed deals. I understand your first order of business is getting leads, but don’t, like me – waste 5 years of your marketing career pretending like closed deals don’t matter.
Beyond Leads – closing more deals and how that starts in lead generation)
Marketers need to stop acting like sales-people are the devil.
If you are trying to generate leads, then sales-people are insanely important in making sure that those leads don’t go to waste.
Sales is hard.
I was a marketing director at an agency, and I was responsible for MQL’s – Marketing Sales Qualified Leads… and the salesperson was concerned with qualifying those leads further as ‘Sales Qualified Leads’ – but at the end of the day, marketers should be most concerned with CLOSED BUSINESS.
Because if certain types of leads don’t close, then we should stop trying to generate those leads. Ultimately marketers and sales-people that have a close relationship will be able to dominate much better than those that compete with each other for credit.
Salespeople are amazing – and the best salespeople:
- Identify clear criteria for qualified, legitimate leads
- Follow up
- Ensure that there are clear expectations, and educate along the way
- Ask for the business
- Get the signature
- Ensure that they follow through on what’s promised – and that the team has buy-in when it’s a service-based business.
How can you ensure more closes? – A few strategies to increase closing percentage:
- The Assumptive Close: “When should we kick off the project – do you want to get a tentative date in the calendar?”
- Ask directly: “Well – we feel like this is a great fit. Would you like to work together?”
- Draw out objections: “If we can get you ____ and ____, is there any reason that you wouldn’t do business with our company?”
- Throw in a big extra to seal the deal “If I could throw in _______, would that convince you to sign the proposal today?”
- Make it clear you’ve heard them loud and clear. “I know you said you need to have a solution in place by [date]. Working backward from that day and factoring in implementation and training time, it looks like we’d need to have a signed contract by [date] to meet that deadline. Can you commit to that signing date?”
Closing starts at the beginning of the conversation with your prospect.
Salespeople should be asking what the most significant benefit a prospect is looking to receive, and when they follow should
A.) Always be drawing the prospect’s attention to a key metric that they are looking to achieve.
B.) Ensure that you have 10 good ‘value adds’ that you can always share with a prospect. Have them saved as e-mail templates or in a Google doc, so you don’t just end up spinning your wheels “do you have any questions on the proposal?” — which feels needy and can exhaust your prospects’ patience.
Our next expert roundup / comprehensive guide will be about “Using Video to Increase Closed Deals” – so keep an eye out for that towards the end of January!
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