Lead generation is how you take website visitors and convert them into leads. These are leads that your marketing and sales team are excited about because they help to drive bottom-of-the-funnel sales -- like accelerating leads into sales opportunities and sales opportunities into new clients -- that provide you with scalable, predictable revenue growth.

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Traffic Generation

Traffic generation needs to happen before we have lead generation. Whenever we ask CEOs and sales directors of small and medium-sized businesses, “What is the biggest struggle that you're facing in your company right now that relates to sales and marketing?” Lead generation always comes up very high. Sometimes a word comes in front of qualified, quality, targeted leads. But with regard to needing more leads, there’s a non-stop thirst for leads.

Historically, people generated leads with the traditional marketing and sales playbook in many ways that don't work as well as they used to. For decades, sales teams relied on cold calling and cold emails. But cold calling is not terribly effective today because no one answers their phone anymore without caller ID.

Cold emails are an uphill climb as well. Between Google Priority Inbox and aggressive filtering, getting messages through to people you don't have a pre-existing relationship is tough.

In general, the marketplace has spoken. They've gotten tired of getting interrupted for selfish reasons. That's the reason why you see people paying for satellite radio -- when they're in the car, they don't have to get interrupted non-stop by obnoxious commercials. When they're watching TV at home, the DVR started it. Still, subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have proved that people are fed up with getting interrupted by annoying crap. They're willing to pay for subscriptions to avoid it.

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80+% of Decision is Made

In a digital-first world, people do tons of research before they get to you. So much so that as much as 80%+ of their decision is made up before you have an opportunity to get a chance in edgewise.

How are we going to be relevant in that first 70%?

We have to have a way to attract strangers into visitors and convert those visitors into leads. Why do we need to convert visitors into leads? Because unless your company is selling something at a very inexpensive price point that’s seen as an impulse purchase, more than likely, there is a sales cycle. There's a buyer’s journey -- sometimes it's days, sometimes it's weeks, sometimes it's literally years. But we need to understand and measure and try to optimize and improve our ability to close sales faster at the right price points in the right kind of context.

It starts by having a relationship with those people -- with people that fit the buyer personas.

The first step is being able to convert those visitors into leads.

In a digital-first world, people do tons of research before they get to you. So much so that as much as 80%+ of their decision is made up before you have an opportunity to get a chance in edgewise.  How are we going to be relevant in that first 83%?

What are the key things to be able to do? First, we must understand who these people were trying to generate leads. What is the buyer persona we’re trying to develop a compelling offer for that says, “Wow, this looks pretty helpful. Yeah, I'll give them my business card for what's on the other side of that landing page.”

In a business-to-business (B2B) context, you’d look to have somebody type in their first name, last name, email address, and maybe a few quick questions. With lead generation, most of the time, people that are new to this are not asking enough, or they're asking way too much.

They often don’t ask enough because their lead generation or content offer doesn’t have a high perceived value. It doesn’t have high perceived value because they don’t know what they are doing -- they haven’t taken the time to do thorough buyer persona research. They need to understand the common problem that’s driving them nuts. It would resonate if you made the title and headline of your eBook checklist, planning guide, webinar event, or offline event. They would say, “How do they know!”

It’s all about turning website visitors into leads.

The first thing we need is premium content. Premium content is so good that people will take off their anonymous masks and tell you who they are in return for access. It’s like a type of currency. They are paying you for data and information.

Premium content is different from a blog post, a podcast, or a video on YouTube that doesn’t require any opt-in to get access. Premium content needs to be good enough that people are willing to give you some information about themselves to get access to what's on the other side of that landing page.

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Calls to Action (CTAs)

The next thing we need is calls to action (CTAs). We need to understand where we have reached, where we have existing traffic, and how we can get that traffic from one place to another to get them to your landing page. In some cases, we're putting a call to action in an email that we send out to a targeted list of people that are that buyer persona but have not yet converted that we want to reconvert.

Calls to action can be used in email. Calls to action can be used on social media. When you share a status update about a premium content asset, you have a call to action on your Facebook post, Twitter status update, and LinkedIn post. You can also use calls-to-action on paid social --  that's essentially what you do most of the time if you're taking one of the status updates, one of those posts that you would have done on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You’re amplifying it to get it in front of new people that match the targeting profile that you're using.

Calls to action can be used in email. Calls to action can be used on social media. They definitely can and must be used strategically on your website. If you look at your website traffic and you see, for example, five pages with the most traffic or ten pages with the most traffic, look at what's going on with that page. Look to see what that page is all about, and if you have a piece of premium content and a call to action that matches up where it makes sense to put that in a highly visible area on that particular website page.

Your blog posts should be the same way. The goal of every piece of content you share is to have a highly relevant call to action that tells somebody exactly what to do next and why they should do it.

You’re looking to take someone from one place on your website, email, or social media and get them to your landing page to get access to premium content.

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Landing Pages

A landing page is a specialized website page whose entire purpose is to convert a visitor into a lead. We look to get rid of as much extraneous nonsense as possible. We eliminate navigation menus and links because we want to ensure that nothing is confusing them. Think about having lunch or dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. They have a 30 or 40-page menu with a ridiculous amount of choices. If you put 30, 40, or 50 choices in front of someone on your landing page, your conversion rate would be non-existent. Visitors would be so confused they’d throw up their hands and say, “I can’t make up my mind.” They’ll back-button out.

Make it simple for them. Give them one choice -- to opt in and convert. If you do your job right and listen to your buyer personas aligned with your SMART goals, you should get a decent conversion rate of at least 20-40%. It all starts with having good, solid landing pages.

When people are new to this, they often aim to generate dozens, hundreds, or thousands of leads per month. But they don’t have nearly enough landing pages and premium content to do that effectively.

If your company has three different buyer personas that you’re looking to reach (CFO of a financial services company, head of sales at a software company, or a technology director for a K-12 school district), they all care about different things. If we try to talk to them all about the same topics, one size fits none.

Premium Content

So at the absolute minimum, we need three different columns with three different buckets of content to reach each of those people with something that's driving them nuts or the biggest challenge they’re facing.

But we don't just need premium content for that initial attraction to turn somebody from a stranger into a visitor and a visitor into a lead; that's just the beginning. That’s the top of the funnel. In order to accelerate people into sales opportunities, we need to continue to provide them with premium content that adds value that’s relevant to who they are and where they are in the buyer’s journey.

Our lead generation, premium content strategy, and calls to action should be grounded in who they are and where they are in the buyer’s journey. It helps to prioritize your efforts if you set SMART goals (goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound).

The Bottom Line on Lead Generation

With SMART goals, you’ll know what you’re working towards and how to quantify the business impact. If you want to go a step further toward what a lead is worth, and you want to get your Board or CFO especially interested in funding these initiatives and investing at the right level, make sure you talk about what the average lifetime client value (LTV) is for the particular buyer personas.

As a starting point, benchmark what you’re investing today. This is called the Cost of Client Acquisition (COCA). Ensure you understand what a particular buyer persona is worth to your company over its lifetime after repeated or recurring purchases. Understand where you're starting from -- your fully loaded sales and marketing costs of acquiring a customer today.

Those are some of the things that help you have a proper and thorough discussion about setting your lead generation strategy. Start with buyer personas. Start with where they are. Understand the extremely important building blocks like premium content, calls to action, and landing pages with forms that are relevant for the perceived value of that offer to that buyer persona.

What types of lead generation is your company doing? Share your thoughts in the section for comments below.  

To learn more about lead generation, enroll now in our free 7-day eCourse: Go-to-Market Strategy 101 for B2B SaaS Startups and Scaleups.

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