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Introduction

The concept of gaining new customers isn’t new. But if you’re finding that the old-school methods of purchasing lists, sending mass email blasts, and cold calling aren’t keeping your funnel full of sales prospects and generating revenue, it’s time to try a different kind of lead generation strategy.  

What Is Lead Generation?  

A lead is someone who indicates interest in your company’s product or service. Lead generation is the marketing process of attracting potential customers with the hope of nurturing them throughout the buying process to help convert them into a paying customer. And a successful lead generation campaign regularly brings qualified leads — or the people who are most likely to buy from you — to the top of the sales pipeline. 

Why Content Marketing Works for Lead Generation  

Until recently, marketing consisted almost entirely of outbound marketing — marketing that forces intrusive ads and promotions upon prospects whether they want to hear it or not. Banner ads, direct mail, and cold calling were the primary channels used to generate leads.  

Although there is arguably still a place for those tactics today, buyers have become much smarter and seek to become as much of an expert in the area they are looking to make a purchase decision as possible before ever even speaking with a sales professional.   

After the dot-com bubble burst, information (whether accurate or not) became easily accessible to hundreds of thousands of people at a time with just one website page. Advertising reached a whole new level of strategy with custom audiences, lookalike audiences, and targeted interests or in-market advertising available to marketers who sought a data-driven approach.  

With the rise of internet searches came a new age in marketing characterized by reaching and engaging with target audiences well before voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication occurred. This new trend recognizes that the modern customer uses the internet to find information on the products and services they need, compare prices and features, and even get recommendations on the best options available.  

Positioning your brand as the trusted resource by offering useful and relevant information customers want and are looking for is the No. 1 way to attract, engage, and convert more leads online. Let’s face it: Whatever they can’t find on your website, they’ll seek somewhere else, and it may or may not be accurate information they find. Appearing in relevant and common search queries related to your business, products, and services place you in the “highly likely to consider your company as a solution” bucket. It gives you a leg up on your competition, and it’s more cost-effective than putting all your eggs in the advertising bucket. Companies that leverage primarily inbound content marketing techniques experience a 61% lower cost per lead than outbound-dominated businesses. 

Where to Begin   

Whether you’re new to the concept of inbound content marketing to generate leads or you’re looking for a cost-effective approach, knowing the channels that are most likely to drive interest in your business is key. That’s why we’ve put together this Lead Generation Playbook.  

Chapter 1: Lead Quality NOT Lead Quantity 

No one likes to be pitched or feel like they’re constantly in a high-pressure sales conversation. Your website (and other online marketing messaging) has the ability to communicate one of two things:  

  1. You are a company committed to sharing information that will help the customer make the best decision possible. 

  2. You are a company that will stop at no end to convince you that the only right decision is you. 

Most businesses know that not every customer is the right customer for your business. Most businesses also know that if you do right by others and they still don’t become a customer, if they’re very satisfied with their experience with your company, they are very likely to recommend someone else to you.  

When it comes to generating leads online, quality should always outweigh quantity. Ask yourself this: Is your website generating consistent, high-quality traffic? If you’re not sure how to answer that question, consider the number of website pages a visitor on your website consumes. The more pages on average a visitor reaches, the higher the quality of the content you are delivering. Analyzing website traffic also consists of reviewing bounce rates, search queries, and average session duration.  

A Real-life Example 

Let’s put this into perspective a bit. When the FC Company began working with Elite in September 2019, they had one goal in mind: Generate more leads. We completed a website audit and created recommendations to attract and engage website visitors.  

Over the next year, website traffic significantly decreased, but engagement rates significantly increased with notable growth in the number of pages consumed during the average visit and the amount of time a visitor stayed on the website.

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How Does Your Website Stack Up? 

How do you improve lead quality? Become a trusted resource and advisor. Long gone are the days where a website’s sole purpose was to showcase who you are and what you do. If you want to become known as the expert in what you do, you need to deliver content that isn’t just about your business and why people should do business with you.  

We’ve entered a DIY era. Many customers initially are seeking answers to solutions that don’t necessarily mean doing business with you. Does your website indicate when a DIY solution is the right approach versus when it can be a costly decision? Alternatively, does your website offer valuable tips and tricks for making the best purchase decision possible — whether or not that’s your business?  

Not every website visitor is a high-quality lead for your business. Not only does this approach allow you to stand out by doing right by others, but it helps weed out unqualified leads before they waste the time to fill out a form only to realize you’re not the right solution when talking to a sales rep.  

Chapter 2: Top 5 Sources of Leads

Here’s a look at the top channels that help businesses drive traffic to their website and generate the most leads.

1. Blogs with CTAs

One of the easiest ways to begin generating more leads for your business is by blogging. More than 60% of consumers start their inquiries on search engines. Every time you publish a blog post, it’s a cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be crawling your site for valuable pieces of information that will best answer a searcher’s query. 

Blogging improves search engine rankings by indexing thousands of keyword phrases that may not even appear in other places on your website but can be found within the valuable nuggets of information you share with readers through an article.  

Blogging can increase engagement and even conversion through strategically placed call-to-action (CTA) buttons. Call-to-action offers should be based on your understanding of the buyer’s journey. For example, if you have written an article that compares X product to Y product, you likely would place a CTA to speak with a sales rep. Alternatively, if your article is more top of funnel — an educational piece of content that speaks to those just entering the buyer’s journey — and your article is based on “DIY Mistakes Not to Make When Repairing X,” a softer CTA such as “Subscribe to Our Monthly eNewsletter” or “Join Our Mailing List” is likely more appropriate.  

Pro tip: Keep in mind that just because you have a visitor on your website doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready for a sales conversation. In fact, in a recent study completed by Elite, website visitors on average visited six times before completing a form to speak with a salesperson and consumed more than 20 pages of website content, with the number of leads generated by form completions increasing overall by four times in Year One and six times in Year Two with strategic content marketing efforts in place. 

2. Content Offers

Although blogging will help generate traffic to your website, it won’t convert visitors into leads on its own. You need to develop lead magnets — or offers — that pique the interest of your target audience. 

Content offers are tools that provide value for your visitors. In some cases, content offers might be gated, where a form is used in exchange for contact information and permission to follow up. Gating content or choosing to leave it ungated is a strategic decision that is made based on the overall lead generation strategy.  

For example, pillar pages might be used to attract website visitors to valuable top of funnel (TOF) educational content and are one type of ungated landing page. Once a visitor has reached a pillar page, other CTAs such as “Download This Guide” or “Subscribe to Our Mailing List” might serve as the conversion opportunity in your lead generation strategy.  

One of the most common offers on websites is a Contact Us page. As much as you’d love for all website visitors to be ready to talk with you directly once they visit your website, most website visitors aren’t ready the first time they visit your website. 

Other offers that can engage website visitors might include white papers, eBooks, videos, quizzes, or checklists. A solid content marketing strategy offers content for website visitors in the initial stages of their research, visitors looking for potential solutions, and visitors who are seriously considering your business as a partner.   

Top-of-funnel offers are educational and create awareness of a problem or address a question that potential buyers might be looking to answer. Although top-of-funnel content doesn’t specifically address who you are and what you do, it positions your business as a trusted resource. Keep in mind that it can take as many as seven website visits before leads take action on a bottom-of-funnel (BOF) offer, such as filling out a Contact Us form to speak with a salesperson for the first time. 

Your content marketing lead generation strategy should also include content that focuses on different topics different buyer personas might be researching. Buyer personas allow you to identify unique traits of different audience segments. For example, you may find that the way men and women make purchase decisions when it comes to your business is quite different. Or you may find that there are differences in how older prospects make decisions as compared to younger ones.  

A solid lead gen strategy has defined buyer personas, tools that map how the buyer’s journey differs with different buyer personas, and content topics that are most likely to resonate with each unique audience.  

Simply put, more conversion opportunities equal more leads. By providing a variety of offers on your website, you increase your chances of generating leads that are at various stages of the buyer’s journey, allowing you to create a healthy pipeline of prospects.   

Pro tip: Your offers themselves are great channels for lead generation. For example, in an eBook, you might include links to other content offers you can download. As people share your eBook, they may discover other resources that you offer by the links within the content. Blog posts are another great way to guide visitors to a landing page. Include hyperlinks to landing pages within the copy of the post and include CTAs anywhere in your content — inline, at the bottom of the post, in the hero, or even on the side panel.  

3. Social Media Marketing

It’s no surprise that social media marketing plays a large role in a business’s marketing strategy in today’s digital world. But is your social media audience only full of brand fans, or has social media become a part of your lead generation strategy as well?  

Social media channels are a successful way to create brand recognition and loyalty from those already aware you exist. But how do you reach a broader audience and create new lead opportunities from social media?  

Social media marketing started with publishing. The goal was to create content that promoted your business and products on various social media platforms. Social media marketing has evolved in leaps and bounds. Social channels now have their own algorithms (mini search engines, so to speak) driving what content is viewed by various users.

Promoting articles and content offers on your social channels diversifies the content you serve followers, creating a balance between content that focuses on who you are as a company and your thought-leadership content. Social media also allows you to better understand what your customers are talking about and what they care about most. For instance, through social listening, you can find out what your customers’ greatest challenges and concerns are and then work to create more content around these topics. 

A strong social media presence also acts as a signal to search engines that your brand is valuable, credible, and trustworthy. So each piece of content that you post to your social media profiles is another opportunity to bring new visitors to your site. Promoting content on social channels also helps with search engine rankings, allowing for an additional channel for search engines like Bing and Google to crawl through.   

Pro tip: Think of social media profile pages as extensions of your website. In the same way that you would optimize website pages for page titles and keywords, audit your social media profiles to ensure they mirror your SEO strategy. 

4. Digital Advertising 

If you are looking to jumpstart an increase in traffic to your website, consider amplifying your inbound efforts with digital advertising, including search engine marketing and paid social promotions. 

The goal of search engine marketing (SEM) is to increase the number of visitors to your website by getting your content to appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). But unlike search engine optimization (SEO), which uses organic strategies, SEM uses paid tactics to gain visibility in search results. 

Although social media advertising continues to remain fairly affordable, search engine marketing can quickly accumulate to a large portion of your budget. A lead generation strategy that focuses more on paid traffic than organic traffic will see more peaks and valleys in lead generation volume than an organic strategy. For this reason, marketers must balance organic and paid strategies to ensure the highest return of investment possible from marketing spend.   

Pro tip: Dynamic advertising allows you to select multiple headline variants, along with artwork and supporting copy, and will serve up the top-performing headline, image, and copy that leads to the highest conversion rates based on data science.  

5. List Building

Email marketing with existing leads and customers can also be a lead generating opportunity for businesses.  

To build your email list, focus on your opt-in strategy. Be extremely cautious about buying and targeting email lists. Although it might seem like the fastest way to build a subscriber base, many lists contain contacts who don’t want you to cold call them and, as a result, may mark your email communications as spam. If this occurs too many times, it can put your domain authority at risk and prevent future email communications from reaching the intended received.  

Look for opportunities to grow your list through existing contacts by offering to email a copy of a content offer to a friend or placing a CTA to recommend your eNewsletter to someone else.  

Pro tip: Give people the tools to share and forward your emails. Don’t forget to add a “Forward to a Friend” link or social media sharing buttons within each email so people are encouraged to pass it on. Include a Subscribe CTA so the people receiving the forwarded email can easily opt-in to your mailing list, too.  

How to Create a Best-of-Class Lead Generation Engine 

Generating leads online has the power to transform your marketing. Creating valuable content and providing premium offers — while promoting them in multichannel environments — can reduce your cost-per-lead while delivering higher quality prospects to your sales team. 

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Chapter 3: Common Lead Generation Metrics

A successful lead generation strategy operates on a foundation of data. But merely measuring the volume of leads generated is not enough to gauge success. You need to track and monitor other data to see which channels convert best. 

There is no one-size-fits-all lead generation metric, as each business will have different goals, customers, and processes. And the key performance indicators (KPIs) you measure may need to evolve as you implement new strategies.  

If you’re just getting started, here are some of the most common lead generation metrics that you should be tracking: 

  • Website traffic: Basic website traffic metrics tell you how many people visit your site on a daily basis. Traffic sources are helpful to track because they tell you where the traffic is coming from.
  • Bounce rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on a particular page on your website and then leave without navigating away from a single page or clicking on any additional element. Aim for a bounce rate of 80% or lower. Anything higher typically indicates you aren’t attracting the most ideal audience. If your bounce rate decreases over time, your lead generation campaign is working.
  • Average session duration: A session is all the interactions a visitor has across your site until they have been inactive for 30 minutes or more. This metric helps you see the general level of engagement visitors are having once they land on your site. If you’re on the right track, the average session duration will improve over time.
  • Page views per visit: A page view is counted each time a user visits a page on your website. Pages per visit measures how many web pages a particular user views on a single visit to your site. When your page views per visit increase, it means that the changes you implemented must be working — at least in terms of driving traffic.
  • Conversion rate: Conversion rate is the percentage of your visitors that perform a specific action. When it comes to lead generation, this usually means form completions on your offer landing pages. The average landing page conversion rate is between 3.5% and 5%. Your conversion rate gives you an idea of the quality of your leads as well as the effectiveness of your marketing efforts overall. 

These will provide you a good indication as to where you stand on your campaigns so you can make adjustments and improvements accordingly. As part of your lead generation strategy planning process, ask yourself these questions: What will you measure? When will you measure? How will you measure? 

Chapter 4: A Holistic Approach to Lead Gen

For your digital marketing campaigns to be successful, lead generation isn’t enough. It’s not simply an “SEO problem” or an “advertising problem.”  

Not all leads are ready to buy, so you have to make sure that you have in place a solid lead nurturing strategy. Lead nurturing builds on the trust you developed during the lead generation stage with the goal of further educating the prospect, building their awareness of your company and its products, and making it more likely that they will choose you when it's time to buy.  

These middle-of-funnel prospects are prime candidates for more targeted marketing campaigns. Yet lead nurturing is often neglected because marketing is focused on bringing new leads into the business (TOF) and sales is focused on making the deal (BOF). 

A truly successful lead generation strategy not only builds brand awareness but also nurtures prospects and customers, qualifies leads, and ultimately generates measurable revenue.  

A Holistic Approach to Lead Gen

Effective lead generation typically requires a blend of paid advertising and organic search strategies. The marketing mix of paid versus organic strategies can vary from company to company. That being said, those who are mostly reliant on paid advertising strategies can see fluctuations in lead volume and a significantly higher cost per lead.

Companies that have been primarily reliant on paid advertising and wish to incorporate organic search strategies typically have a larger amount of spend allocated to paid advertising efforts and may choose to dial down the amount of advertising spend as organic strategies are put into place and organic website traffic increases. Alternatively, some companies keep digital advertising spend the same as organic website traffic increases. Adjustments to marketing spend in any category should be reliant on the marketing goals you have set.

Effective paid advertising and organic search strategies typically begin with a comprehensive search engine optimization strategy. From research, a targeted keyword strategy can be identified.

Buyer persona research also is very valuable during this stage of marketing planning. Buyer personas can help identify custom audiences for paid advertising strategies and can influence the way website or landing page copy is written to speak to primary audiences.

After keyword research and buyer persona research is completed, campaigns — either advertising or content marketing campaigns — are created and deployed.

Various offers (calls to action) are placed throughout the website to generate marketing and sales leads as shown in the infographic below.

Keep in mind that those who subscribe to a mailing list or eNewsletter compared to those who complete a Contact Us form are in different stages of the buyer’s journey. The type of offer a website contact completes should determine if marketing will nurture the lead or sales.

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Now that you know why lead generation is important and the most successful strategies available to you, it’s time to get started!